I am a believer that everyone deserves a second chance. Especially in the world of professional wrestling. Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment seem to believe in second, third, and fourth chances. Lots of folks who leave the company get opportunities to prove themselves once more under the bright lights of the world’s largest professional wrestling company. Some manage to grab a hold of the opportunity and make it work for them, with the best recent example being Brock Lesnar and even his advocate Paul Heyman. Others, like the sad case of Nick Dinsmore, don’t always fair so well.
Then we have the curious case of Rhyno. The former Extreme Championship Wrestling and National Wrestling Alliance World Champion recently made his return to WWE, but not on the main roster. Instead, he was sent to WWE’s developmental territory NXT, where he has managed to carve out a nice niché for himself. Many see Rhyno as a veteran presence that other performers can learn from. That’s a good spot for him, but what if the same strategy could be applied to those looking for a second chance with WWE? Here I present a list of free agent talent I would love to see return to WWE by way of NXT.
Chris Masters: The former Mr. California had a less than impressive fun with WWE from 2005 to 2007, and again from 2009 to 2011. So if he couldn’t get the job done two times in WWE, why should he be given a third chance? For me, the biggest appeal is that Chris Masters is only 32 years old. He has already had a full career’s worth of experience, and his best years are ahead of him. His work since leaving WWE has improved greatly and he still is one of the most charismatic performers on the independent scene. He’s worth a third look, and with his pecs still looking like they did in 2005, he might be worth a fourth or fifth!
Trent Barreta: It is quite possible that even if you watched WWE programing during Bareta’s original run, you may never have heard of him. His tag team with Caylen Croft as The Dudebusters failed to impress, and once Croft was released, Trent was relegated to enhancement talent status. Hidden away on Superstars, Barreta rarely had the opportunity to show what he was capable of. What a difference two years in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla can make. During that time he formed an impressive team with Chuck Taylor and has shown that much like former WWE talent Ethan Carter III, WWE might have missed the boat on this young upstart.
Rob Conway: In the early 2000’s, few in Ohio Valley Wrestling looked to be as sure a thing as Ironman Rob Conway. He was a total package of scientific skill, charisma, and good looks. Sadly, potential isn’t always reached, and his run as an American turncoat and a leather clad egotist just didn’t connect with the WWE Universe. He was let go in 2007 and wandered around the independent circuit until capturing the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. His run as champion showed that he still could live up to the potential that was on display over a decade ago. While his age may be a concern for some, our original example of Rhyno is only a year younger at 39. WWE is lacking in a strong veterans that can develop new stars. Conway has proved that his Ironman moniker is still appropriate.
Katie Lea Burchill: Sometimes you can have all the talent in the world and still end up in obscurity among the ranks of WWE’s roster. Many feel that was the case for Katie Lea Burchill. Katie Lea was teamed up with her on screen brother Paul Burchill in a gimmick that was a little less than PG. With WWE realizing the potential PR nightmare on their hands, the gimmick was dropped and with creative having nothing for her, she slowly slipped off WWE’s radar. Katie Lea was not one to sit around and flounder. She jumped at the chance to impress in Total Nonstop Action and has been doing so quietly overseas every since. Still young, still beautiful, and still able to keep pace with the likes of Sasha Banks or Charlotte, Katie Lea could be the veteran presence these NXT Divas need.
Colt Cabana: There are a lot of people that believe the saying funny doesn’t equal money. Even if you subscribe to that theory there is plenty of evidence that Colt Cabana is much more than a clown. Sadly, WWE never gave him the chance to show that as Scotty Goldman. Since leaving WWE, Cabana brought some relevancy to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and kicked off the pro wrestling podcast craze with the Art of Wrestling. There is no doubt that Colt’s strongest asset is his charisma, which just seems to seep from his pores. Even if WWE didn’t want to take advantage of him as an in ring performer, they could have years of mileage from him as a trainer, teaching kids how to cut promos, or other on air personality. Why not have him create an official WWE podcast? You can’t beat the original. Besides, Cabana is a content machine. It might behoove WWE to just have him on creative.
Harry Smith & Vance Archer: NXT has a strong tag team division, but there is always room for more. I doubt there would be little objection to bringing in a team that has been so dominant on the independent circuit for the last three years. Since leaving WWE, Harry Smith and Vance Archer have formed the Killer Elite Squad, and together they have held the NWA World Tag Team Championship, Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Global Honored Crown Tag Team Championship, and New Japan Pro Wrestling’s International Wrestling Grand Prix Tag Team Championship. Sometimes all you need is the right combination to unlock your potential. Smith and Archer have found that in each other, and should bring it to NXT.
Despite expanding at a break neck pace, NXT is still WWE’s developmental system. It is designed with the goal of creating stars for WWE in mind. Of course, there isn’t anything saying that NXT can’t make old stars new again. Vince McMahon has always enjoyed creating a new vision for wrestlers who are in need. Let us not forget that for most of the performers on this list, NXT is a new experience altogether. Only those that believe an old dog can’t learn new tricks will be incapable of making an impact. Of course, before we can even see who would thrive, they first need a second chance.
Rob Conway Photo Credit Don Lehman