Last night at the Royal Rumble, the wrestling world erupted when the clock counted down to zero and the number ten entrant was revealed as none other than Tye Dillinger. Crowds have been chanting “Ten” constantly for months, and one of the talking points in the aftermath was whether Dillinger would show up on Raw or SmackDown now that he’s debuted.
I’d say the perfect place for the perfect ten to be is… exactly where he is now, NXT.
That’s nothing against Dillinger as a worker. He is one of the most capable performers in NXT, and it has been well reported that Dusty Rhodes said he was ready for the main roster years ago. Shinsuke Nakamura and Samoa Joe have also both publicly praised Dillinger’s ability in the last year or two. No, my worry is over how he would be booked on the main roster.
We have seen Bo Dallas, Rusev and Sami Zayn in previous years appear in the Royal Rumble match and then return to NXT, so there is no reason Dillinger must be on Raw or SmackDown this week. Plus, I look at previous NXT graduates and how they’ve fared, and I don’t think Tye Dillinger is in a much better spot on the card than some of them were. Apollo Crews was on the brink of challenging for the NXT Championship, getting decent reactions, and his time on the main roster has mostly been spent wishing he was back down in NXT.
I can see so many similarities between the perfect ten and Tyler Breeze. Both have become mainstays of NXT, both command the respect of their peers, both are capable workers, both were trusted to be in TakeOver matches against incoming stars. And Breeze got a small push when he finally started appearing on Raw and SmackDown but Vince quickly soured on him, and he was put into a comedy tag team with Fandango that has yet to be taken seriously after months of working together.
Bo Dallas was NXT Champion, and at one point was getting major heat. He has never really been given a shot on the main roster – the most relevant he ever has been was probably as part of the Social Outcasts.
The Ascension were big time players in NXT, holding the Tag Team Championships for a year, before being immediately jobbed out to everyone who wanted a shot on TV. It was a similar story for the Vaudevillains, who were over before being ruined after just a couple of weeks of build on the main roster.
Tye Dillinger is possible more over than any of them ever were, but it is quite easy to imagine Vince getting bored with the “Ten” gimmick after a couple of weeks, and Tye being relegated to job status. Plus, and I know this is part of the story, he has barely won any big matches. He lost to Apollo Crews and Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas in their NXT debuts, lost to Bobby Roode at TakeOver: Toronto, and lost to Eric Young on Saturday night.
That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and Dillinger has still managed to get over. But if casual fans are seeing NXT – or even looking on his Wikipedia page and seeing all these losses – why would they believe he can beat people that they’ve been seeing on TV for so long?
I just think Tye Dillinger would be best suited at the minute to staying in NXT, building up even more momentum with some wins, and getting what he deserves – something that Crews and Breeze never got – the NXT Championship. Dillinger can be the life and soul of NXT in a similar way to what we saw with Bayley if it’s done right.
For me, it needs to be a long journey to the top. After losing so many high profile matches, Tye should have to work his way up to title contention. You could go with the story of having Dillinger avenging the losses he can on his way back to the top, have him beat Eric Young, have him beat Andrade Almas. Have him beat someone like Austin Aries, or Roderick Strong to earn a title opportunity, then have him defeat Bobby Roode for the NXT Championship either at the Rumble weekend TakeOver or the Wrestlemania weekend TakeOver next year.
I see this achieving a couple of things. It’s a natural story of redemption for someone who is already popular, but has been knocked down time and time again. It also gives the NXT Title some stability after the hot-shotting of the title over the last few months with Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura and now Roode.
But, most importantly, it’s giving someone who is already over the chance to become a top guy in the expected impending departures of Joe and Nakamura. His build to the top could be a story NXT hinges around in 2017, every match he’s in will mean something. And rising to the very top of NXT would be a fitting accolade for someone who has already been a notable figure in the brand for the last couple of years.
He could play a key role in defining what is undoubtedly a transitional era for the yellow brand. Being a top guy in NXT, and then coming up to the main roster at some point in 2018 I think would be better for him than appearing on Raw or SmackDown this week and being lost in mid-card purgatory or jobber hell by the summer. He will get lost in the shuffle for Wrestlemania season, there’s no doubt about that, and the hype of his appearance last night will have dissipated by April.