It was announced on tonight’s 2017 Recap edition of NXT that in two weeks, NXT would see the return of the tag team TM61, featuring Nick Miller and Shane Thorne. To those who remember them from their indie days and from Japan, this is fantastic news. For those who only know them from NXT, this may come with a question more like “Who?” Sadly, after arriving in NXT as highly touted international prospects, they’ve suffered a fate similar to Hideo Itami‘s run in NXT or The Revival‘s on Raw, where injuries have stop-started any progress they may have had. But the timing of their re-debut is actually perfect.
— Shane Thorne (@ShaneThorneWWE) January 4, 2018
Nick Miller and Shane Thorne (previously known independently as Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste) arrived in NXT in 2016 to high fanfare. For five years previous, they’d been one of the most revered international tag teams in the world. In 2010, the two Australians were selected to train in Japan at the Pro Wrestling NOAH Dojo, where they became TMDK, the abbreviation of their Aussie faction, The Mighty Don’t Kneel. While the duo was primarily Haste and Nicholls, their Australian stablemate Jonah Rock frequently joined them for 6-man tag matches (Rock and fellow TMDK member Slex also recently had a WWE Tryout). While smaller in stature and originally designated for the Junior Heavyweight tag team division, they quickly entered the heavyweight division and began to challenge for the titles.
During their stay in NOAH, they were frequent defenders of the promotion from invasions from New Japan gangs. They won their first GHC Tag Team titles off of CHAOS‘ Takashi Iizuka & Toru Yano, and were a huge component alongside Naomichi Marufuji in the battles against Suzuki-Gun‘s 2015 through 2016 invasion. They lost their second GHC Tag Team title reign to The Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) in late 2015, just prior to heading to NXT. In 2013, Tokyo Sports voted TMDK as Japan’s Tag Team of the Year, the first gaijin to claim those honors since 1998, when Stan Hansen and Vader captured the award.
In NXT, they were rebranded as TM61 – TM being their last initials (Thorne/Miller) and 61 being the international calling code for Australia – and were introduced slowly throughout the year on NXT television. They were announced as entrants in the 2016 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and made it all the way to the finals, losing to Authors of Pain at NXT Takeover: Toronto. The buzz had finally reached the WWE Universe and fans were excited at this potentially hot new team. But they tragedy struck.
Following a match against the Revival in January of this year, Shane Thorne suffered a serious knee injury and was sidelined for eight months. While partner Nick Miller worked several NXT Live Events as a singles wrestler, he was kept off of TV. But this past September, Thorne returned and the duo began to slowly work Live Events again to work out ring rust and get back in full chemistry mode. With them debuting in two weeks, it appears they will be appearing at the January 4th NXT tapings from Atlanta in their first television appearance since the injury a year ago.
But it’s a vastly different landscape on the NXT tag team scene than when they left. Then, they were the new faces amidst some tough competition – Authors of Pain, The Revival, American Alpha, Enzo & Big Cass, Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa. But three of those teams have moved on to Raw or Smackdown, one has broken up, and the last, Authors of Pain, are clearly on the verge of a call-up themselves. In its place, TM61 stand to compete with some fellow Japanese wrestling stars in Undisputed Era‘s NXT Tag Team Champions Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish, continue feuding with SAnitY, or if they return heel instead, enter rivalries with the likes of The Street Profits or Moustache Mountain. It’s a far more refreshed tag team division with less established teams at the top, meaning far more opportunity for TM61 to show why the Mighty Don’t Kneel.