We knew well in advance NXT stars would have a role to play in WWE’s brand split, and a few days before the draft, we even knew how many would be cast for Raw or SmackDown from the start.
Last night, seven wrestlers got the call. Some we expected. Others surprised, and names high on a lot of fans’ wish lists stayed in Orlando (for now).
Let’s take a look at the ones who did get tabbed for promotion. If you’re a main roster-only viewer, get to know them. If you’re a long-time NXT fan, consider how they’ll handle the transition... who will be the next Charlotte, and who will be Emma (Santino’s partner version)?
We covered the boys earlier. Next up, the ladies.
Accomplishments: Has twice earned #1 contender status
Background: Jax is from the Anoaʻi family, so she has relatives throughout WWE and wrestling history - including The Rock and Roman Reigns. She comes to sports entertainment relatively late in life, signing with WWE when she was nearly 30 (she recently turned 32).
The former model received rave reviews from trainers early on in her career when she worked house shows as Zada. Vignettes began airing for her last Summer under the name she now works under, and she’s been pushed steadily ever since. Initially, that involved the six-footer serving as muscle for Eva Marie during her character-heavy main event run. Jax spun out from that, however, and earned a match with Bayley at TakeOver: London
Written off for about a month due to a storyline injury incurred in that title shot, she was booked as a monster on the way to The End..., even getting her win back from and returning the kayfabe injury to the Hugster. Her second opportunity to win the Women’s title ended as the first did when she lost to Asuka.
Jax has another match set against Bayley tonight (July 20) on NXT which looks like it will end her run there.
Scouting report: Probably the most intimidating female WWE has employed since Awesome Kong/Kharma, Jax has a great look and is learning how to use her size to tell a good old-fashioned pro wrestling story. Her best outings have been against ring generals in her two title matches, but she’s improved consistently with each chance she’s received throughout her brief career, which indicates she’s learning from those interactions.
Her character comes across better in matches than during her promos at times, and all involved still seem to be figuring out how to portray someone both gorgeous and monstrous.
Prospects: There’s little doubt Nia is going to get opportunities based on her family ties, if nothing else. If she continues to capitalize on them the way she has to date, she’ll likely have an impressive résumé when she’s done.
Accomplishments: Title opportunities against Sasha Banks & Bayley, managed Blake & Murphy as NXT tag champs
Background: After a television debut in Triple H’s WrestleMania 30 entrance, Alexa began working on NXT regularly in 2013. Like Mojo Rawley on the men’s draft list, Bliss has been on NXT since it began its rise to prominence first on Hulu and then the WWE Network.
Portraying a spritely good girl character that matched her size (5’ 1”, approximately 100 pounds), she was essentially prominent enhancement talent until her feud with Carmella intersected with Enzo Amore & Big Cass’ issues with NXT tag team champions Blake & Murphy. The trio began helping each other, and Bliss officially turned heel to form BAMF (Blake, Alexa, Murphy Factor). They would defeat their New York/New Jersey rivals, but eventually lost the titles to The Vaudevillains & Blue Pants (Leva Bates) in Brooklyn.
Bliss got her win back from Blue Pants and started to outshine her “boys”. She was the first challenger for Bayley after the champ ended her program with Banks, coming up short in a television main event for the title. The woman fans call the Pixie Hulk then resumed her rivalry with Carmella, missing out on another title shot as a result, but winning their final match... in NXT.
Scouting report: The switch to playing a villainess was a revelation for Bliss, whose character work propelled her up the card even before her in-ring ability called for elevation. In the past six month or so, the technical ability is catching up, and she’s gotten even better at weaving her gimmick into the story she tells in her matches.
Many compare her to one of her influences, Trish Stratus, and at his point, it doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Prospects: Provided size doesn’t influence how she’s booked (and that’s never been the issue for women that it is for men in WWE), there’s no reason to be pessimistic. The 24 year old has time to get better, but even if she’s plateaued, her gimmick is easy to understand and she’s proven she can connect to audiences as a wrestler or manager. More than title runs, she’s someone you can see Vince McMahon finding ways to keep on screen.
Accomplishments: One-time #1 contender, televised main roster appearance at Roadblock
Background: Signed since 2013, the 28 year old former personal trainer was introduced in an angle where Enzo & Cass got her fired from her “job” as a stylist, so they convinced William Regal to give her a look at NXT.
Her rollout was a little rocky, both because the second-generation wrestler was still green, but also because her character read arrogant and fans were worried she would break up the popular Zo & Cass team (Creative was hinting at a love triangle at one point, but wisely backed off). The Princess of Staten Island starting acting like a proper babyface during the trio’s issues with BAMF, and then got a favorable reaction despite some bad matches when she worked a series opposite Eva Marie in the Summer of 2015.
On the house show circuit, not only was she paired with Amore & Cassidy, but she often teamed with real life friend Bayley. Her popularity began to soar as a result, and she grew into her crowd-pleasing persona. A singles push on TV began early this year, and culminated in a match against Bayles for the Women’s title that coincided with a tag rivalry between “Baymella” and Jax & Eva.
Scouting report: The 28 year old has an impressive moveset, but it doesn’t always smoothly integrate into her bouts and her progression as a worker sometimes feels like two steps forward, one step back (or at least sideways). After a rocky start building a relationship with NXT audiences, Carmella has really connected, however, and she knows how to capitalize on that goodwill in promos and matches.
Prospects: Of the women promoted in the draft, Carmella seems the riskiest. She’s still at a point where her ringwork is dependent on her partner. And while her spirit is infectious, the same could be said for past call-ups who flopped with the wrong presentation. It will be a challenge for her to start strong without Zo, Cass or Bayley. She can do it with some help from Creative, but if they don’t “get” how to sell her, it could go bad quickly.
Check back at our look at the three men who are headed to USA Network from earlier today. In the meantime, how do you think Nia, Alexa & Carm will do on Raw and SmackDown?