Is Austin Aries set to be the next top man in NXT?

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Spoilers from the latest NXT tapings have revealed Austin Aries will face Shinsuke Nakamura at NXT TakeOver: Revenge on June 8. 

Aries and Nakamura teamed against Blake and Murphy in the most recently aired episode of NXT (May 18), and it was clear there was some ego-butting going on. Aries was visibly less than impressed with Nakamura's theatrics, and with his refusal to tag Aries in for the match finish the match is not unexpected.

But it is the latest in a series of clues as to what WWE have planned for the self-proclaimed 'Greatest man that ever lived' during his stay in NXT.


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Austin Aries' in-ring debut for NXT came at TakeOver: Dallas against Baron Corbin following Corbin's attack on Aries at his unveiling as an NXT signing.

The win over Corbin wasn't a surprise, Corbin's call-up to the main roster had already occurred, and he went on to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32. Nevertheless, the quality of the match left Aries looking impressive to those fans new to his work.

Despite being Aries' debut match, it told the story of the veteran putting the upstart in his place very well.

Subsequent televised NXT matches have been excellent, but under-hyped, with Aries himself stating on the show, aired May 4, that he felt he'd been flying under the radar.

The match from that show, against 'Perfect 10' Tye Dillinger, was particularly good. The live shows have been a different matter. Reported results from live events show Aries has not only been working with the likes of Mojo Rawley and Tye Dillinger, but has been heavily involved in main event matches with Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura.

Putting these four in the ring together in front of live audiences has the feel of setting the groundwork for the passing of the NXT baton. Recent promo's and interviews seem to reinforce the theory.

A key promo, on the episode aired May 11, saw Austin Aries and William Regal in conversation. Aries states he didn't come to NXT to be just another guy, he's a difference maker and he wants the chance to prove he's not just good he's great.

All sentiments heartily agreed with by Regal, before they're interrupted by Blake and Murphy to set up the match in which Aries and Nakamura teamed.

This is echoed in non-NXT interviews Aries has given in recent weeks. On The Ross Report podcast, Aries talked about being in NXT to continue to grow and develop as a performer and to help those not as far along in their careers.

In an interview with Steve Muehlhausen, he confirmed he was signed to NXT partly because he was already a big name to be a main event player.

There's definitely space for new top dogs on the NXT roster, with Finn Balor expected to debut on the main roster at any moment (and at every RAW and PPV of the last six months), and Samoa Joe's call up also likely to be imminent.

Austin Aries is more than qualified to fill the role. With a career spanning 16 years and counting, including lengthy spells in Ring of Honor and TNA, and time spent working for Dragon Gate USA, Aries has proved his immense talent and skill time and time again, against some of the best performers in the world. It's only a matter of time before he rises to the top in NXT as well.

Fun Fact: At Evolve 7, Austin Aries defeated Jon Moxley in his final independent match before he joined WWE to become Dean Ambrose.

With both top male competitors almost certain to depart NXT for the main roster very soon the NXT roster must put the next top guys in place.

It is almost certain that Nakamura will fill one of those roles, for the inevitably short time, before he also joins the main roster. Given the evidence, not to mention the skill and talent of the man, it seems likely that Austin Aries will fill the other.

Inevitably, Aries too will go to the main roster where he belongs. But the NXT roster will benefit greatly from his skill and experience in the meantime.

The prospect of seeing the competing styles, and conflicting egos, of Aries and Nakamura, playing out over a period of weeks, or even months, is an exciting one for pro wrestling fans.

So here's hoping that Austin Aries versus Shinsuke Nakamura at TakeOver: Revenge, on June 8, is the start of a much bigger program.

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