The NXT roster has been going through a very strange, prolonged transitional phase ever since the WWE brand split draft (and arguably dating back to the post-WrestleMania 32 call-ups and debuts). What was once a brand stocked with NXT-grown Superstars and NXT-created characters has become a weird hybrid between established veterans and indie stars who made their names elsewhere, Performance Center recruits still searching for identities, and a handful of beloved NXT elder statesmen who have nothing else to achieve on the Yellow Brand.
With a massive glut of recent signees yet to debut on NXT television, plus the CWC and UK Champion Tournament signees who have yet to find a permanent home, plus the dozens (literally dozens) of Performance Center born-and-breds who have yet to debut (or stick), it seems like NXT is perhaps overdue for a shake-up.
To that end, the latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reports that NXT higher-ups are looking for new gimmicks they can use to repackage a number of wrestlers, including Buddy Murphy, Wesley Blake, Steve Cutler, Aliyah, Riddick Moss, Tino Sabbatelli, Dan Matha, and TM-61. In the case of TM-61, that repackaging won’t happen anytime soon, as Shane Thorne is out with a knee injury that he suffered at the last NXT tapings. He is set to undergo knee surgery this week, and is expected to be out of action for several months. TM-61 was supposed to start a program with the Revival, so Revival will need to find new opponents while Thorne and Nick Miller are out of action as a team.
Dave Meltzer explained in the Observer that while there is no hard and fast rule, there is a Terry Taylor “finishing” class at NXT, where the top NXT stars who are expected to be next in line for main roster spots learn the final pieces of their craft. The class below that top level are generally the wrestlers that WWE has high hopes for, and will slot into the “top spots” vacated by those who are promoted to the main roster. Blake, Murphy, Moss, Sabbatelli, and Matha are all in that second class (along with several others), so any repackaging or gimmick changes is not indication that WWE doesn’t see value in them. They are just believed to be in need of a freshening up, as it were.
(For the record, the people Meltzer lists as being in the Terry Taylor class are Shinsuke Nakamura, Andrade “Cien” Almas, Alexander Wolfe, TM-61, Hideo Itami, Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Elias Samson, Tye Dillinger, and Chris Hero. Bobby Roode, Eric Young, Samoa Joe, and Austin Aries do not train at the Performance Center, so they aren’t subject to the same “class” structure of main roster preparation as the others.)
It will be interesting to see which new gimmicks people end up with. As long as none of them are hard-partying rock stars with a flock of followers, everything should work out just fine.