WWE has cultivated such a rich crop of talent in recent years that they are primed for the emergence of several new stars. The use of the WWE Performance Center as a proving ground for up and coming talent has been a game changer in the way WWE prepares talents for the main roster as well as how they develop characters and personalities ahead of their television debuts.
Here we examine the top 10 talents poised to be breakout stars.
Elias - Coming from the International Wrestling Cartel on the independent scene, Elias has been in the WWE system since 2014. He has made strong connections with the WWE audience despite his character portraying a heel persona. He has managed to get over and has an ever growing fan base that have expressed their desires to see him wear championship gold. Elias would appear to be on the path to reaching that goal. He has a smooth delivery in the ring and puts on quality matches with virtually all of his opponents. It may be time for WWE creative to Walk With Elias.
Drew McIntyre - McIntyre has has a unique relationship with WWE. Originally portraying the chosen one character and being handed the WWE Intercontinental Championship very early on in his initial WWE run. His push came crashing down and WWE relegated him to the under card as a member of the frightening gimmick 3MB. After his initial WWE release, McIntyre explored independent promotions around the world and captured championships in various locations. He became a premium talent in Impact Wrestling, winning their world championship along with acquiring the Impact Grand championship. He captured the Evolve Championship, the WCPW title, and the ICW Championship along the way as well. All of the attention led him back to the WWE family as he debuted with NXT in 2017 jumping directly into the NXT Championship picture. He captured the title from Bobby Roode and would eventually drop the belt to Andrade “Cien” Almas which resulted in an injury that sidelined him until after WrestleMania. When he returned, he immediately aligned with Dolph Ziggler and has been on fire since. The general feeling is that he is being primed for a tag team championship run which will eventually lead to his turning on Ziggler and positioning him in the thick of the championship hunt. Regardless of the plans right now, if done correctly, McIntyre is a talent that can be positioned as a focal point of the brand and whose in ring ability is off the charts.
Aleister Black - Black is a unique presentation of talent to say the least. His edgy and gruff look gives him the appearance of being a Gene Snitsky knock off but with some of the in ring psychology of Jake “the Snake” Roberts. He can put on fantastic performances that are very poetic or can deliver the hard hitting style needed for the bigger challengers. He is one of NXT’s finest and as its champion has continued the tradition of WWE putting the NXT championship on their most deserving wrestlers. Black has an extensive history of working for European promotions including ICW, Progress Wrestling, and wXw under the name Tommy End and has brought his exclusive style to the United States where he has been accepted by the fans. The concern with Black’s character is that he is pivotal for the NXT brand which may prevent him from being called up to the main roster. This is a blessing and a curse as his value is so high that WWE creative will be hard pressed not to bring him to Raw or Smackdown Live. A move to the main roster would put him in position to get lost on an already deep talent roster. The hope is that WWE allows him to be the face of NXT for at least another year where his inevitable promotion to the main roster must be handled carefully to insure they capitalize on the loyal fan base he has garnered in NXT.
Velveteen Dream - What an incredible story for Patrick on Tough Enough to develop into one of the most valuable homegrown talents in WWE. He had a short career on the independent scene but his talent was never in question on Tough Enough and there was always a hope that he would mature and have a shot at making his way to WWE as it was clearly his ultimate dream. Once making the move to the WWE Performance Center, the creation of Velveteen Dream was a smooth one that culminated with the arrival of a character that provided an emotionally charged presentation combined with an intriguing set of in ring skills that have allowed him to be featured in some high profile matches on the NXT brand. His match against Aleister Black at NXT Takeover WarGames earned him high praise and solidified him as a must see attraction. After competing at NXT Takeover New Orleans in the North American Championship Ladder Match, he has built a strong case for being one of the brightest emerging stars on the entire NXT roster. He is another talent that WWE needs to support and cultivate as a future mega star. Recently he received a huge endorsement from John Cena as potentially being “The One” for WWE going forward.
EC3 - This one is nothing short of frustrating and rewarding at the same time. EC3 was already featured in the WWE developmental system when he wrestled as Derrick Bateman. He had an extensive career in both Florida Championship Wrestling and eventually NXT. His release in 2013 was a head scratcher when you saw his potential and his amazing look. It would seem that he was cut from the desired WWE mold. When he hit the independent scene, he would perform for various promotions until signing with Impact Wrestling debuting as Ethan Carter III, the kayfabe nephew of then TNA owner Dixie Carter. He would have great success there capturing the Impact Grand Championship and becoming a two time TNA World Champion. With his performances in TNA, it was a matter of time before WWE would come calling again. In Early 2018, WWE came to terms with EC3 for his return to the NXT brand where he retained the EC3 name and was immediately thrust to the top of the card. It had the feel of an old school talent acquisition from classic WWE vs WCW days. He was an instant draw. Now WWE has a unique challenge. EC3 and John Cena have been trading barbs and expressing the desire to face one another. This would be a great way to bring EC3 to the main roster. That is something that should have happened a long time ago if WWE would have realized what they had. Instead his main roster debut has yet to come to fruition but with his trajectory clear, it is obvious EC3 will be main roster bound sooner than later.
Ricochet - There may not be any signing by WWE in the last several months that was met with so many high aspirations and fanfare than the arrival of Ricochet. He is known for his amazing high flying presentation is borderline insane and may never be duplicated. He has a career highlight reel that is flush with intense moments from WCPW, Rev Pro, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Chikara, IWA Mid South, Evolve, Dragon Gate, Lucha Underground, and a host of smaller promotions. He has held championship gold all over the world including the PWG World Championship and two time winner of the Battle of Los Angeles Tournament, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, two reigns as Lucha Underground Champion, and the Chikara Lions Cup. He is poised to continue adding to his many accolades as his instant push in NXT was felt at NXT Takeover New Orleans when he competed as one of the six men in the North American Championship Ladder Match. He has received two five star ratings on his matches by the Wrestling Observer which is a feat that many superstars fail to attain even once. With all of his unique moves and his amazing athleticism, it seems virtually impossible for WWE to botch his introduction to the WWE Universe but stranger things have happened. All things considered, Ricochet should have a long and prosperous WWE career complete with main roster championship gold.
Keith Lee - Keith Lee has yet to debut with NXT but his signing made waves. He has been a top draw for companies like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Evolve, and various other companies on the independent scene. He is a former WWN Champion having defeated Matt Riddle for the title later losing it to Austin Theory. He also won the PWG World Championship from Chuck Taylor and later relinquishing the title to WALTER. He is another talent that has performed all over the world and who is ready for big things in the WWE family. With Lee, the future is and should remain NXT. He is a great addition to their roster which will allow him to garner a larger fan base that may lead to a call up to the main roster at some point but with his recent successes on the independent scene and the emotional departure shows from PWG and Evolve behind him, he prepares to transition to the WWE Performance Center where his already fantastic move set will no doubt increase and his role in building the NXT brand should be a big one.
Lars Sullivan - Lars Sullivan has the appearance of a Nordic freak who no one would want to cross paths with. His assent in NXT has been a slow one but that was a necessary evil as his mic work left much to be desired early in his tenure. He has been making a strong push to become involved in the NXT Championship picture and appears to have put himself into position to do so at NXT Takeover Chicago. He is not yet ready for the main roster but he presents an opportunity for the future that may fill a critical need going forward. At some point, WWE will need to have someone who can pose a threat to Braun Strowman. Lars Sullivan can be that guy. He is a physically imposing figure and one that looks the part. If WWE creative are careful and keep him looking string, he will be the perfect talent to challenge the “Monster Among Men”. In the meantime, he continues to hone his craft and build on his in ring skills as another promising homegrown WWE talent.
Tomasso Ciampa / Johnny Gargano - I know this includes 2 talents but they have been linked together for such a long time that moving either to the main roster without the other would send the wrong message. Both deliver five star quality matches. They bring a level of intensity to their matches that should be a lesson for younger NXT talents follow. Their match at NXT Takeover New Orleans left fans wanting more. Their feud was built up in a way that felt organic and shocking. They have delivered on all levels and a move to the main roster only seems to make sense. They will clash at NXT Takeover Chicago in a Street Fight that is sure to deliver yet again and only furthers the notion that they are both in line for long successful careers in the WWE family. Unlike many of the other talents listed, both Ciampa and Gargano can be moved to the main roster without leaving the same void that others may and their addition to the main roster would allow them to continue their rivalry on a bigger stage.
Undisputed Era - This is also a bit of a cheat as it includes 4 separate talents competing as a faction but Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, and Roderick Strong all possess the skills and wrestling savvy to be a force on the main roster. They currently control the majority of the gold in NXT with Adam Cole being the inaugural NXT North American Champion and the “Freebird Rule” allowing Fish, O’Reilly, and Strong to hold the NXT Tag Team Championship. They have all toured the world and headlined shows for Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling. They are as seasoned as any faction in the business and would be a welcome addition to either main roster brand. The concern with the Undisputed Era is that moving 4 talents to the main roster leaves a huge void on the NXT brand which WWE creative may not be willing to do. The issue with that is that they may choose to split the group before they move to the main roster which would be a travesty. They deserve and have earned an opportunity to move to the main roster together and have a Nexus Type debut setting them up for a feud with 4 top names. It would be a great moment to see the Undisputed Era battle the Shield at some point. For now we have to pray WWE creative doesn’t ruin a good thing.
The End Result
When you examine all of these amazing talents, it is clear that WWE has positioned themselves to deliver new and exciting talents if their characters are cultivated correctly. Many of them have large fan followings from their time on the independent scene. Others have etched their mark in places like Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling and are waiting for the call to come to the main roster. Still more have made that leap and now are on the cusp of being elevated to championship status. One thing is for certain, all eyes will be on these talents for the foreseeable future with high hopes for their long term success.
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