The Royal Rumble isn’t the only important match taking place in San Antonio this weekend. NXT Takeover comes to Texas, featuring the title match between Shinsuke Nakamura and Bobby Roode. As someone said early this week to me in a casual conversation, the current NXT champion is facing not only a worthy contender, but a ring entrance that is just plain sick.
I have been a fan of Roode for some time, since the days he started out in TNA and helped build a shaky brand into a niche promotion, where fans thirsting for old NWA wrestling could get their fix. Roode, Eric Young, James Storm and AJ Styles – along with Jeff Jarrett – put TNA on the map. Now, like Young and Styles, Roode has forged yet another journey, this time with a goal of making WWE’s main roster at some point.
Nakamura, who is arguably one of the most popular stars to set foot in an NXT ring, stands in Roode’s way.
Roode’s bio is impressive as he is a two-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion, one-time TNA King of the Mountain Champion and eight-time World Tag Team Champion, having won five times with James Storm as part of Beer Money, Inc., twice with Eric Young as part of Team Canada and once with Austin Aries. Alongside Storm, Roode holds the record as one-half of the longest reigning TNA World Tag Team Champions in the company’s history. He also holds the record for the longest reigning TNA World Heavyweight Champion, at 256 days, in history.
Roode won 11 championships during his career in TNA, the place where he “originally” began. What I see when I watch him in a ring is a throwback of sorts. Take away the glitzy entrance – which again is one of the best in the business today – Roode is every bit NWA through and through.
Now that WWE has moved past the holidays and focused on a new year of trying to promote change within its brands, it won’t be long before Nakamura is promoted to the main roster. I have wondered out loud should Nakamura lose the title on Saturday night, would he make a surprise appearance in the Royal Rumble match? It’s unlikely, but it could be a build toward his future this year, much like WWE did with Bo Dallas a few years back.
Trust me, Nakamura is no Bo Dallas and the company won’t move its top star forward until he is truly ready.
Roode is the immediate future of NXT. The 39-year-old Canadian is every bit a poor man’s Arn Anderson. He has a snap to his work. His in-ring ability rivals few and his promo work is spot on. While Styles may have been the poster boy for TNA, Roode was its most valuable wrestler both in singles and tag team wrestling. Once he captures gold – and NXT would be better served for this feud to carry over toward WrestleMania 33 – his path to the main roster will firmly become cemented.
The one thing WWE has done well is bring in former TNA wrestlers (and wrestlers from other promotions in general) and allowed them to forge their own path. Where they did not feel the need to bring Styles to Orlando, as his international appeal was pure gold, the work in NXT will pay off for Roode and potentially make him the one who steals the show at the end of 2017 or early into 2018.
As a fan, I will certainly watch Saturday night with much interest. As the first NXT event of the year, it should serve notice for what to expect from the promotion, not only for Roode, but which direction WWE wants to move in the coming months.