Vince McMahon has made it abundantly clear over the last several months that his talent pool needs to be restocked. The brand extension may have created fresh match-ups and new opportunities, but it also exposed a lack of depth on both RAW and SmackDown Live. NXT became the breeding ground for some of those immediate needs when seven farmhands got promoted in July during the WWE Draft.
Losing Finn Balor to the main roster was an inevitability, but it was a long time coming too. Fortunately, NXT didn’t miss a beat upon his departure, and the hope is that that will continue when WWE comes calling for Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura.
The brain-child behind NXT, Triple H, has to be one step ahead of Vince McMahon when it comes to roster replenishment. When Joe and Nakamura finally ascend to the main roster, Hideo Itami, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, and others have to be prepared to fill the spots left at the top of the card. Everyone moves up a rung and Triple H must use all his available resources to continue to “plug and play.”
Talent signings aside, The Game must also concentrate on producing compelling content in NXT, and the latest example of that was the recent announcement that the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic will return in 2016. The tournament, named in honor of the late, great, Dusty Rhodes, was a huge success a year ago. The inaugural winners, of course, were Finn Balor and Samoa Joe, launching what would become one of the most memorable feuds in NXT history.
Year 2 of the Classic will crown new winners, as NXT and WWE have confirmed 14 of the 16 teams for the tournament that will commence next week. Well, 13 and a half to be precise. Austin Aries declared that he and a mystery partner would join the festivities. WWE.com reports that at this point, the team is known as “Team Aries,” as The Greatest Man That Ever Lived is also entrenched in a rivalry with Hideo Itami.
That mystery partner, however, has been identified as independent sensation Roderick Strong, according to a report from 411 Mania. Two months ago, we reported that Strong was all but confirmed to be signing with the WWE and reporting to NXT from the jump. Tying into the roster infusion theme, we noted that Triple H was extremely instrumental in signing the former “Mr. ROH” and that he was very high on some other Ring of Honor talents.
For those that followed Strong’s career, the pairing certainly blends perfectly as Strong and Aries were tag team partners in both Ring of Honor and TNA in the past. It was originally reported that Strong was going to make his NXT debut at the end of August or the beginning of September, but creatively, the NXT staff felt the impact would be much greater if he made his debut during the highly-anticipated Dusty Rhodes Classic.
Aries and Strong would immediately join the short-list of favorites to win the tournament, along with teams like Itami and Kota Ibushi, Booby Roode and Tye Dillinger and of course, the current NXT Tag Team Champions, The Revival. Neither Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura have been entered into the tournament, so it will be interesting to see if they’re kept separate from it altogether or inserted to round out the 16 team field.
Roderick Strong is widely considered one of the best wrestlers in the world, regardless of promotion. Once NXT and WWE brass realize what many fans around the world already have, he’ll certainly contend for one of NXT’s top spots (with Aries, Roode, Itami) when Joe and Nakamura get promoted. But in one week, the wait finally appears to be over.
[Featured Image by WWE]