Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, no major wrestling show has struggled more than NXT. The international nature of the brand has severely limited the roster, removing key wrestlers like Cruiserweight Champion Jordan Devlin and former Tag Team Champion Pete Dunne from the equation due to travel restrictions. The black and yellow brand lost all momentum after NXT Takeover: Tampa Bay was canceled and some storylines didn’t see a proper blow-off.
With the NXT Championship stuck in limbo thanks to the uncertainty surrounding the Velveteen Dream and fans responding well to AEW’s return to live tapings, WWE needed to give the show a shot in the arm to compete for fans’ attention on Wednesday nights.
Fortunately, a slew of signings have recently debuted and early returns show this new crop of superstars injecting some new life into a brand that was growing stale. The introduction of Karrion Kross, Scarlett Bordeaux, Timothy Thatcher, and Shotzi Blackheart has given NXT plenty of new talent, and the four have already been booked as big-time players in their brief WWE careers.
After weeks of mystery and teases, the real-life couple of Kross and Bordeaux made an unforgettable in-ring debut on the May 6 edition of NXT. Their first entrance was one that wouldn’t feel out of place at a Takeover, or even Wrestlemania, and immediately made the pair look like a force to be reckoned with.
WWE clearly has faith in Kross’s abilities as a performer, as it immediately put him into a feud with NXT’s top face, Tommaso Ciampa. NXT is sorely in need of credible, dominant heels beyond the Undisputed Era. The recently turned Johnny Gargano could fill that role, but looks to be starting a program with North American Champion Keith Lee. Kross and Bordeaux have the potential to be main event level talent on NXT and a high-profile match, possibly at the recently announced NXT: In Your House, against someone like Ciampa shows how much faith WWE has in its pair of budding stars.
Thatcher is another recent NXT signing that was thrown right into the fire, making his debut by filling in for Pete Dunne as Matt Riddle’s partner and NXT Tag Team Champion. The pairing didn’t last long, as Thatcher turned on “The Original Bro” on the May 13 edition of NXT, costing them the titles and starting one of NXT’s hottest feuds.
The two squared off in Wednesday’s hard-hitting main event, with Riddle countering an ankle lock for the pinfall victory. Thatcher took exception to the loss, attacking his former partner from behind and putting him in a Fujiwara armbar that had Riddle tapping and screaming for help.
The show ended with a crazed Thatcher staring into the camera while Riddle’s futile screams echoed throughout the WWE Performance Center. NXT has immediately established Thatcher as a threat to everyone on the roster by brutalizing the former MMA fighter. The two have wrestled in other promotions and will no doubt have a physical match at NXT: In Your House. A solid feud with Riddle would vault Thatcher into contention for the North American Championship — and eventually, the NXT Championship.
One of the newest additions to the women’s division looks to be making an immediate impact. In Blackheart’s second NXT appearance, she eliminated Shayna Baszler from a battle royale. Later that month, Blackheart entered the women’s Royal Rumble, lasting until the final seven competitors before being eliminated by Baszler, who eliminated a total of seven wrestlers from the match.
The 29-year old made her most recent appearance tagging with Tegan Nox against Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez. The NXT Women’s division is deep and full of talent, but WWE has already positioned Blackheart to be in the next wave of title challengers after Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley move up to the main roster on a full-time basis.
The young Australian has begun getting time on Raw and NXT in recent weeks, looking good in a loss to Nox on Wednesday. The 21-year old is still a raw talent but flashed enough potential to be considered a part of the future of the women’s division.
Keep Reading: WWE Resurrects In Your House Branding for NXT TakeOver
A group of recent NXT signings could be just what WWE needed to reinvigorate its Wednesday night brand.