Royal Rumble Week: NXT’s Greatest Opportunity To Win

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Photo / WWE

“Royal Rumble Week” here at the Last Word On Pro Wrestling continues with another special installment surrounding the huge event on Sunday night. More specifically, the two matches that the pay-per-view is named after. This time we focus on the third brand of the WWE, the same brand that has zero participants named for either Royal Rumble match but by all accounts should still have a big presence after years of having some sort of representation in the respective matches. That brand is NXT, one that has yet to see a winner but following the domination by them at Survivor Series, this may be the time to make history once and for all. Here we look at the opportunity ahead and how they have faired in the past couple of years.

2013 – Bo Dallas Becomes First NXT Wrestler To Appear

NXT maybe this huge brand that so many love and cherish today. But in 2013, it was still in the middle of re-establishing itself as it found its home in Full Sail University. At Royal Rumble Fan Fest that year, there was a special eight-man tournament to give one NXT star a chance to compete in the 2013 Royal Rumble match. Bo Dallas became that man, as he entered the Royal Rumble and had a showing respectable of anyone. As the 16th entrant, he lasted 21 minutes and 42 seconds. He even eliminated the Intercontinental Champion at the time, Wade Barrett. This was just the start of NXT. Understandably so, as it was the start for them as a new full brand and the beginning of appearances in the Royal Rumble match.

2014 – Rusev

Royal Rumble
Photo: WWE

“The Bulgarian Brute,” Rusev, or at the time Alexander Rusev, managed to have a short but dominating showing in the Royal Rumble of 2014. This was during his undefeated streak in NXT that carried over to the WWE main roster. With just a seven-minute outing, the other men in the match realized that if they were going to win, they’d need to team up and eliminate him. As the sixth entrant, he was eliminated by Cody Rhodes, CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, and Seth Rollins. This was few months before NXT debuted on the WWE Network.

2016 – Sami Zayn

A year off from the Royal Rumble for NXT did them some good, as they had almost two years to build themselves up to the point where fans were singing the praises and dreaming of someone making an appearance from the brand. While AJ Styles‘ WWE debut stole the show that night in 2016, Sami Zayn‘s entrance into the match may have had the second-best reaction that night from the crowd. Zayn had his eyes set on his rival, Kevin Owens, as he entered the match at number 20 and even eliminated him before getting thrown over the top later on in the match. The reaction for Zayn that night not only showed that fans loved him, but that they were in need of NXT being in the Royal Rumble for years to come as great surprises.

2017 – “The Perfect 10” Entrant, Tye Dillinger

Oh how the times have changed since 2017. As we all know, the countdown of ten seconds for the next entrant in the Royal Rumble match can fill you with emotions. In 2017 after plenty of speculation, the emotions were not filled more than the countdown to the number ten entrant in the match. Fans had hoped that it would be a long time NXT wrestler, Tye Dillinger (aka Shawn Spears), who established himself finally after years by being “The Perfect 10”. It only made sense to have him enter the Rumble at the number 10 spot, which is what he did. The San Antonio crowd erupted that night for it, but he was the only one to enter from the black and yellow brand. This would be the last time since that NXT had such a small representation at the Royal Rumble event.

2018 – Men’s, First-Ever Women’s Includes Exciting NXT Showings

Photo: WWE

When it comes to Royal Rumble events, 2018 may go down as the best of the 2010s decade. Not only did it include the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble, but two winners that the fans could go home happy with. But this is about NXT representation, and this to date was the best for WWE’s third brand. It all started in the men’s Rumble match, as the clock ticked down for the number seven entrant, turning out to be the current NXT Champion at the time, Andrade. He was one night removed from his incredible singles match with Johnny Gargano in the main event of NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, then proceeded to last almost 30 minutes in the Royal Rumble. That was not all, however, as number 23 turned out to “Shock the System” in the form of Adam Cole. A fantastic combo of talent to represent.

All eyes were then on the women’s match, which saw two NXT entrants as well. First was Kairi Sane who would enter at six to a huge reaction. Following her was number 23 dawning the black and gold for the second time on the night, as NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon made her way down to the ring with her arm taped up and all to have a staredown eventually with her biggest rival, Asuka. While it was Asuka who once again managed to get the upper hand, NXT’s presence was firmly felt that night.

2019 – NXT Infiltrates Both Rumbles, Totaling 9 Entrants

Royal Rumble
Photo: WWE

Maybe the baseball stadium setting does something special for NXT? We can hope so for the 2020 Royal Rumble because the 2019 matches proved to us that NXT is here to stay. The women’s Royal Rumble match included six different women from the brand: Xia Li, Kairi Sane, Candice LeRae, Kacy Catanzaro, Io Shirai, and Rhea Ripley. The longest showing came from the second-year competitor, Kairi Sane, who lasted 17 minutes in the match. When it comes to eliminations, it was current NXT Champion Rhea Ripley who threw out three competitors in the match (Catanzaro, Zelina Vega, and Dana Brooke). It was clear that instead of going with legends, it was time for the one time stars of tomorrow to take the spots in the match.

The men’s 2019 Royal Rumble saw a who’s who of NXT as three men at the top of the brand entered the match. First up was Johnny Gargano at number six, coming off a win the night prior to gain the NXT North American Championship from Ricochet. He lasted the longest with a 13-minute showing. The other two were Pete Dunne and Aleister Black, both getting monster reactions as they made their way to the ring. These entrees to the match give a whole new hope this year, along with the fact that NXT has stood tall against the main roster as early as the last six months.

2020 – Opportunity To Turn Into… Victory?

There is no time better than the present for NXT to walk out with a Royal Rumble win than 2020. It took an entire decade for NXT to get on equal fitting in terms of competing with Raw and SmackDown. So with that point finally arriving, it could be the time that someone from NXT walks out with their ticket to WrestleMania locked in. The names are endless as to who may be able to win. But if we were to look at both matches, who is the most likely option?

Keith Lee was at the top of a lot of people’s hopeful choice, including CM Punk, to enter from NXT and win the match, but after winning the NXT North American Championship on TV Wednesday, it becomes difficult to see that happening. You can see someone like Matt Riddle as well, who was stuck in the mud for the past few months before forming the
“BROserweights” with Pete Dunne. There is always that chance that he finally gets to stand face-to-face with Brock Lesnar. But here is the name that would make the most sense to win the men’s Royal Rumble if they were to enter.

Finn Balor
Photo: WWE

Ever since returning to NXT and reliving his “Prince” aura, Finn Balor has been nothing short of fantastic. What if he enters himself into the Royal Rumble match? Maybe NXT was just something to do for him and he can finish up when he faces Johnny Gargano at NXT TakeOver: Portland. The possibility of Balor facing Brock Lesnar with this “Prince” confidence or going after the man who changed him, “The Fiend“, can write itself. If there were a male wrestler from NXT to win, “The Prince” may be the one to shock the world and be the last man in the ring come the end of the 2020 Royal Rumble event.

The women’s Royal Rumble possibilities are a tad easier because they have simply been far more rumors. But when it comes to who may represent NXT in the match, you have to think about Mia Yim, Io Shirai if cleared, and perhaps Toni Storm. These are names that now do not have something specifically going on in NXT, but could aim to get something going for them with a great showing. But when it comes to who will possibly win the whole thing on the women’s side from NXT. That is an easy choice.

Shayna Baszler

Talk about having nothing left to do in the black and yellow brand. Shayna Baszler has legitimately done it all as a member of the NXT roster. The nickname, “Shayna 2-Time”, is not just a nickname. It’s telling you exactly how dominant she was as the only two-time NXT Women’s Champion in history. On this past week’s NXT, she did say that she is going to do everything she can to become “Shayna 3-Time”. But maybe that third championship will not actually be the NXT Championship. Maybe instead it will be the Raw or SmackDown Women’s Championship. Remember, she did have that moment with Becky Lynch following the Survivor Series match where Becky beat down Baszler to end the show. And being friends with Ronda Rousey may help that feud.

To say if we really know NXT will be represented on Sunday night is something we cannot confirm, but going off history in recent months and all the years of Rumbles since 2013, you have to think they will be there again. And maybe, just maybe, this is the year they win the whole shebang.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world.  We provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.  WWE fan? Check out the WWE Network to fulfill all of your WWE needs and watch the Royal Rumble live at 7 p.m. EST on Sunday.

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