There’s a lot going on in the WWE during this Royal Rumble weekend. Despite being out with an injury, John Cena kept the WWE Universe buzzing by posting a picture of AJ Styles on Instagram while the Internet Wrestling Community debates whether or not the Bullet Club will debut at the WWE Royal Rumble 2016 alongside Finn Balor on Sunday. In Orlando on Friday night, an episode of WWE NXT was taped in which fan-favorite Bayley defended the NXT Women’s Championship against the “Princess of Staten Island” Carmella, and Sami Zayn squared-off against Samoa Joe to determine the No. 1 contender for Balor’s NXT Championship.
Perhaps the biggest news to come out of this year’s Royal Rumble weekend, prior to the event itself, is the confirmed NXT signing of Austin Aries. This is an era where spoilers are posted minutes after tapings and the WWE Universe and IWC know almost as much about backstage happenings as the writing staff. As huge as the moment would have been if the Austin Aries debut was a surprise for WWE NXT, there’s no way the WWE would have been able to contain something that big for even a day, much less for more than five weeks when the debut airs on the WWE Network.
NOTE: The following contains spoilers for Austin Aries’ debut, which takes place on the episode of WWE NXT on the WWE Network, scheduled to air on March 2.
NXT’s corporate headmaster Triple H teased a “huge surprise” via Twitter just hours before the event. Many assumed that it was related to A.J. Styles and the Bullet Club, as it had been confirmed that Styles was in Orlando for the weekend. NXT has become the hippest hot-spot for wrestlers to make a splash, making rumors abound regarding potential new faces at Full Sail University. While people have been postulating when WWE would finally sign Austin Aries, there wasn’t any strong indication that he’d debut this weekend.
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) January 23, 2016
Not only did “A Double” debut at NXT this weekend, but his first feud was established before he even stepped foot in the ring. As confirmed by Top Rope Press, after NXT General Manager William Regal announced his arrival, the “Lone Wolf” Baron Corbin attacked the former ROH and TNA World Champion. Baron Corbin vs. Austin Aries seems likely for NXT TakeOver: Dallas during WrestleMania weekend.
Now that WWE has officially confirmed the signing of Austin Aries and all-but-confirmed the signings of the Bullet Club, the IWC has even more to discuss about how Aries will fit into the picture. While he never had any affiliation with the Bullet Club, NJPW or Finn Balor/Prince Devitt, he would certainly fit the bill if the WWE wants to start a faction or program around Finn Balor, A.J. Styles, Karl Anders and Luke Gallows.
Of course, as they love to remind their viewers on a very regular basis, “anything can happen in the WWE.” With the Royal Rumble less than 48 hours away, it’s entirely possible that the WWE could put Aries in the 30-man battle royal and scrap the segments they’ve already taped for NXT. It wouldn’t even be completely uncharacteristic of the WWE creative team to simply break continuity and allow Aries to debut in the Rumble Match and air his debut in Orlando a month later.
Whatever happens on Sunday, we know for sure that Austin Aries is contractually under the WWE umbrella.
The WWE Royal Rumble 2016 airs this Sunday on the WWE Network at 8/7c. The WWE Network airs WWE NXT weekly on Wednesdays at 8/7c.
[Image via WWE]