Right now, NXT is searching for the next top babyface for the company since Shinsuke Nakamura has departed for SmackDown Live. Based on the success of the two previous top babyfaces, Nakamura and Finn Balor, there will be some very big shoes to fill. Right now, there are a few names on the table, with someone needing to rise to the top.
One name is Kassius Ohno, who still has a strong reaction with the crowd. Fans across the country positively react to him when his music hits, and they love his acrobatic exhibitions while in the ring. However, since his return in NXT, Creative does not seem to have much stock in him being the top guy. At first, he was inserted into the NXT Championship hunt to rival Bobby Roode. However, his rank has faded since then, and he came up on the losing end in a mixed tag match against Sanity at NXT TakeOver: Orlando while keeping on his Ohno jersey.
Another name is Drew McIntyre, who is scheduled to start competing on NXT programming after being shown in attendance at NXT TakeOver: Orlando. He later confirmed that he has indeed signed with the promotion. Obtaining a great level of popularity in numerous promotions, such as Impact Wrestling, EVOLVE, ICW, and 5 Star Wrestling, his stock significantly rose since his last appearance for the WWE in 2014.
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter went into detail regarding McIntyre’s last-minute deal and him being a top name for the ITV project.
“The Galloway deal was put together at the last minute, as it wasn’t finalized until Saturday morning. Galloway was not earmarked as one of the names for the ITV project, perhaps due to the U.K. television exclusivity aspect of the contracts because aside from the crew that worked the first tapings, the ‘want’ guys for the project were Galloway, Magnus (who will be there and has returned to TNA) and Will Ospreay (who was not on the list of talent appearing likely because of ROH contracts not allowing people to work on a show that’s basically put together by Impact).”
Based on a recent report from Sportskeeda, McIntyre’s deal is only for one year, so WWE may not be investing too much into him at least for now.
As a result of WWE not wanting to fully invest in Ohno or McIntyre at the present time, this leaves other names to be considered. From information posted from Dave Meltzer of F4WOnline, the next big feud for Roode looks to be Hideo Itami.
Since debuting in NXT, Itami has experienced a very difficult time staying healthy to be considered a top name for the company. In his absence, both Balor and Nakamura have both won the NXT Championship as the top babyface, and they also ascended to the main roster. Balor has even won the WWE Universal Championship, being the first one to claim that prize.
WWE tried to push Balor before, as he was the representative of NXT in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal after winning the right to be in the match. As shown in the WWE Network’s behind-the-scenes footage of WrestleMania 31, this was a surreal moment for Itami, as he worked his entire career to get to the moment. As a sign of respect, many main roster wrestlers, including veterans, came to Itami after the match backstage to congratulate him.
Hopefully, Itami can avoid the injury bug and show the WWE and NXT audience how talented he is. For those who have followed Itami when he was KENTA, the feeling is that if he stays healthy, his ascension to the top of the NXT roster will be much sooner than later.
[Featured Image by WWE]