SummerSlam week has ended and one of the top stories to come out of it was former NXT Champion Bobby Roode debuting on SmackDown Live Tuesday night. The way Roode was positioned on that show and the rumor mill’s commentary both tend to lean towards main roster Roode being “Babyface Roode”. Yeah, it confused the Hell out of me too. The top heel at NXT comes off of a 203 day championship reign to become a babyface less than three days later. But, it’s not like the transition from NXT to main roster ever really makes much sense. We’ll look at some strange main roster transitions that rival “Babyface Roode” in this piece. Enjoy!
A power tag team that still holds the record for the longest NXT Tag Team Championship reign at 364 days. When they were called up to the main roster, many expected them to be a major player in the WWE Tag Team Championship scene. But nah, they were ridiculed on commentary, made to look like complete jokes, and taken out by the APA and the New Age Outlaws. Yeah, legacy teams from the Attitude Era. Way to break some new stars. From there, the Ascension have twisted in the wind, finally getting some attention as a part of Breezango’s “Fashion Files” but never finding even remotely the level of steam they had coming out of NXT after that record-setting reign. The pessimist in me believes that the Authors of Pain (rumored to be called up soon) will find a similar fate as the Ascension unless someone has learned from the mistake they made with the Ascension.
Aries debuted at NXT as a vaguely heel singles wrestler. After an injury, the powers that be decided to promote him to commentary on 205 Live. As a vaguely heel commentator he seemed fine. The implication became that when he was cleared, he’d be a vaguely heel Cruiserweight division competitor. Okay, makes sense. But Vince (or someone) began to notice on 205 Live, a show that generally has zero crowd reaction, Aries was getting chants from the exhausted and burnt out crowd. So, naturally, we got “Babyface Aries” for the duration of his run at 205 Live. Which never felt right. It’s possible that Aries could have been an effective face, but definitely not the way he was being booked. It’s not a real surprise after losing to Neville four times, Aries called it a day at WWE asked to released from his contract. Why WWE insisted on making Aries a babyface is beyond me, since the man appears to be a natural heel. And, this is why “Babyface Roode” troubles me.
Another white-hot tag team from NXT when they were called up, it appeared American Alpha were destined for big things on SmackDown Live. Instead, they got a very brief title reign, lost to the Randy Orton version of the Wyatt Family, and disappeared off TV for weeks. I mean, don’t get me started on how badly the main roster handles their tag divisions – it’s one of the many reasons I no longer watch the main roster programming. But, wow, these two guys are actually doing “okay” now because Jason Jordan became Kurt Angle’s illegitimate son, moved to Raw, and worked the first SummerSlam Kickoff Show match in front of 1/20th of the audience. And, Chad Gable is likely going to have Shelton Benjamin turn heel on him within weeks – assuming WWE doesn’t just forget about the angle because it’s the tag division on the two-hour show. Definitely not the main roster future I expected from American Alpha
Adrian Neville was “the man” at NXT with a 287 day reign as NXT Champion. His main roster call up seemed obvious but then it happened… and yeah. Someone decided it’d be a good idea to make him “just Neville”, have him wear a cape, and have commentary put him over as a superhero. It did not go well. The blessing in disguise for Neville was a leg injury that caused him to miss WrestleMania. However, that took him off TV long enough for 205 Live to be a thing that existed. Neville swooped into 205 Live, became the Cruiserweight Champion as a division-killing heel, and is easily finding the most success he’s had since leaving NXT. Why WWE didn’t just push him as the same guy he was down at NXT baffles me. Why we had to do the half-baked “superhero” thing that nearly killed his character makes no sense. At least him becoming a massive heel appears to have worked and “heel Neville” is a thing of beauty.
Bo Dallas was NXT’s “Adrian Neville” before NXT had Neville. Yes, that Bo Dallas. The same Bo Dallas you would see get murdered on Raw and who would typically work Main Event or Superstars. Do yourself a favor and watch some episodes from “Bo Dallas’ NXT”. Bo is on point as a self-important heel that can deliver in the ring. Why his main roster gimmick was “positive guy who gets destroyed by everyone” is a mystery. Bo clearly had the goods down at NXT but was never given a real opportunity to shine after his call up. Situations like Bo’s handling post-NXT show the massive disconnect between NXT and the main roster – despite NXT supposedly serving as the feeder program for talent. Seeing the way Bo has been used on the main roster makes one shocked when you remember that talent like Alexa Bliss and Kevin Owens were also NXT call ups.
Now, don’t get me wrong… for every Bayley or Enzo Amore that appears to have lost the shine they had at NXT, there are still talents like Charlotte and Finn Balor (among others) that retain at least some of the buzz they had at NXT.
But, really guys – babyface Roode? You’re going to try to make that a thing? Really?