The Raw after WrestleMania is always an exciting one. It's full of raucous fans, new champions and, in recent years, NXT stars making their debuts.
Following in the footsteps of Paige, Neville, and The Lucha Dragons on this year’s Raw after Mania was Apollo Crews, Enzo and Cass, and Baron Corbin. With strong NXT careers behind them, Crews and Corbin made their first Raw appearances ever last night and both seemed to get off to strong starts. But what do these results mean for these two debuting stars?
Firstly, let’s take a look at the man whose debut came unannounced until Raw, Apollo Crews. His WWE career began just eight months ago, but, since then, he has cultivated a huge following thanks to his incredible power combined with his insane agility and strong indie background, performing under the name Uhaa Nation.
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Crews quickly defeated Tye Dillinger at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn before going on a huge winning streak, even earning a shot at the NXT Championship. His main roster debut was met with good applause from the fans as he put away Tyler Breeze, but you had to feel like his debut would have been more impactful as a surprise.
Crews’ music hitting out of nowhere would have drawn a huge pop from the clearly NXT-savvy crowd. With no clear feud set up from this victory, there’s still plenty of time for Crews’ main roster to take a turn for the worse, but, for now at least, things look bright for the Apollo Nation.
Secondly, we had the Raw debut of a man introduced to the main roster less than 24 hours prior to Raw. The Lone Wolf, Baron Corbin, shocked everyone by winning the Andre The Giant at WrestleMania. To follow up on this, Corbin made his Raw debut, delivering a great promo about his victory before fighting Dolph Ziggler to a double count out.
Corbin carried over his brutish, aggressive heel character from NXT to the main roster in convincing fashion, delivering a vicious End of Days to Ziggler onto the floor after the match, possibly setting up a feud with The Showoff. The Battle Royal win could be a huge dose of momentum for Corbin on the main roster.
A feud with Ziggler might be a good way to put Corbin over; defeating a former world champion would cement Corbin as a credible threat before moving onto bigger and better things, perhaps challenging Kalisto for the United States Championship.
For the time being, Corbin is poised to run amok on the main roster, but only if his momentum from the Battle Royal win is continued. If not, then Corbin will suffer the same fate as the previous winners of the Battle Royal, something WWE will be keen not to repeat three years in a row.
Finally, we have arguably the biggest debut of the night. For some, this debut came too late in the year, but there’s no denying that, when that music hit, there wasn’t a single fan in the American Airlines arena who wasn’t pleased to see Enzo Amore and Colin Cassidy.
The most over team in NXT history absolutely obliterated the Dudley Boyz in a brutal verbal assault on the legends. With their classic edgy, streetwise charm and signature chant, Enzo and Cass won over the fans in a big way, without even throwing so much as a punch.
Whilst we’ll have to wait for Enzo and Cass to make their in-ring debut, their appearance on Monday night was certainly far from a disappointment. A match against the Dudleys seems imminent, but this would be a good way to legitimise the team on the main roster; a win over two legends is hard to argue with.
Enzo and Cass are future tag team champions for sure, but to do that, the now-face New Day would have to drop the titles to a heel team – a team as popular as Enzo and Cass winning the titles from a team of other faces wouldn’t have nearly the same effect as them defeating two heels. But that’s a long way off, for now, everyone should just enjoy the biggest team in NXT history being exactly where they belong.
All in all, all the NXT stars who debuted on the Raw after WrestleMania made strong impressions. Whether they’ll follow the path of successful NXT stars like Kevin Owens or The Shield or come up short like Bo Dallas or The Ascension remains to be seen. However, for now, everything seems very optimistic for these stars of the future.