Since relaunching NXT in August 2012, we’ve seen a lot of different faces going through the black-and-yellow brand. Originally intended as a developmental group, the television product has slowly morphed to the point where it’s now getting easier than ever to decry the show as “Triple H’s vanity product”. (Warning: NXT spoilers lie ahead – even though WWE’s advertising it)

The 2015 arrivals of Samoa Joe, Asuka and James Storm (briefly!) were indeed eye opening, but it came with a caveat: it seemed that, unlike the likes of Finn Balor, Baron Corbin and even guys like Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady, none of the new arrivals were only ever slotted for a “live coaching” role, as opposed to a spot on the main WWE roster. As a wrestler, why would you sign such a deal?

Well, in the case of James Storm, it appeared that this entire incident was done to get some leverage. Ever since WWE purchased WCW in 2001, wrestlers have been left between a rock and a hard place when it comes to negotiations. In the past, guys who were easily able to play WWE against WCW – two companies with similar budgets – were suddenly faced with a stark reality: take the WWE offer (if it existed), or hustle on the independent scene. Sure, for a time there was a number of groups that appeared with big budgets, but they disappeared almost as quickly as they arrived, all spent up. The arrival of TNA in 2002 helped matters somewhat, but at the end of the day, wrestlers found that there was a huge difference between a guaranteed downside (even if it was the basic WWE downside of around $100k/year) and per-date guarantees. In recent years, however, as TNA has been forced to make financial cutbacks, the company also saw a number of surprising departures, as guys gambled their incomes on the worldwide scene rather than take a pay cut and stay within a company that seemed to be perpetually in dire straits.

We’ve already covered the arrivals of AJ Styles and Doc Gallows – both former TNA talents – who left the company after being asked to take a pay cut (in Styles’ instance) and simply leaving because of a lack of creative for them (Gallows), but after a fruitful run in Japan, they were suddenly back in demand, to the point where TNA willingly made fools of themselves online by releasing a statement admitting that they had attempted to sign the “Bullet Club Trio” of Styles, Gallows and Karl Anderson… even if that opened the company up to potential legal issues down the lines.

Jumping over to WWE, as we’ve mentioned earlier, we’ve seen the company sign the likes of Samoa Joe and Asuka (the former Kana) to NXT deals, whilst independent standouts such as Rich Swann and Apollo Crews (the former Uhaa Nation) have also joined in recent months. We’ve also seen other indie stars make somewhat regular appearances as enhancement talent: Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa debuted as a tag team during last year’s Dusty Rhodes Classic, and have remained as regulars on TV, despite not having any WWE contract, whilst Jesse Sorensen, Martin Stone/Danny Birch, Evie, Kay Lee Ray and Leva Bates have managed to remain independent whilst appearing on NXT.

In the coming weeks, we’ll see the debut of Austin Aries in NXT – a man who has been limited to independent appearances since his TNA departure last year (well, brief departure, since he was back on TV for the World Title Series which ultimately proved to be nothing but filler for TNA as they moved to Pop TV in January). It remains to be seen whether Aries has been signed with aspirations of him appearing on Raw or SmackDown, but it does raise an interesting question. On the main roster, WWE has a wealth of talent – it’s not like the early 90s where the roster was largely junk. Today, at all levels of the card, there’s quality, with only Messrs Rowan and Strowman being the closest thing that the main roster has to the “no talent stiff” that used to plague WWE cards back in the day.

Unless WWE breaks the habit of a lifetime, and suddenly starts cycling talent, we’re extremely unlikely to see any massive influx of guys from NXT, especially as they’re not sending guys down to do feuds in NXT, much like Cesaro and Tyson Kidd did a few years ago. So who do the signings of Joe, Aries et al benefit? Well, the talent themselves are guaranteed a downside – which is the most attractive element here, particularly those coming out of a company like TNA where constant pay cuts have been the order of the day. The wrestlers remain exposed to an appreciative crowd, as opposed to the largely apathetic TNA audiences of the past few years, and they get to work in a group where the booking is largely logical.

Of course, the downsides are a likely lack of upward mobility – not everyone can be a headliner in NXT, and if a main roster call up isn’t even being considered, then it’s only a matter of time before that invariably leads to disgruntled talent. For now, WWE hoovering up available international talent is a good move, but eventually they’ll need to either move them up, or replace them with younger guys, either home grown or a newer crop of international signings. It’s telling that WWE has steered clear of most of the guys who have featured on TNA’s British Bootcamp show, and with the group giving try outs to British breakout star Will Ospreay on their upcoming UK tour, I have a feeling it’ll be a while before WWE will look at young talent for NXT.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to get used to WWE being the wrestling equivalent of Chelsea FC – signing anything talented that moves, but maybe not using everyone to their full potential.