The WWE Draft took place starting on the April 28, 2023 edition of SmackDown and followed up on the following Monday’s RAW.
During the draft, each brand selects who they want to come to their show from the WWE main roster. But, a few select people from NXT get selected to be drafted up to the main roster. This year, WWE selected sixteen individuals to come up to the main roster. Now, about four months later, how are the NXT call-ups doing? Let’s get to grading.
WWE NXT Draft Grading
Alba Fyre & Isla Dawn: D-
The only reason these two didn’t get the full F, is because they actually showed up on SmackDown unlike someone else we’ll get into later. These two were drafted up as the NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions at the time, and in their first match on SmackDown, they defeated fellow NXT competitors Yulisa Leon & Valentina Feroz, who were not drafted up but were brought in to take an easy loss to the newly drafted team. They then weren’t seen after their first match for over a month. Then, at the end of June, they put their NXT Tag Titles on the line against WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler, in what would become a championship unification match. Ronda and Shayna picked up the win, collecting all the gold and leaving the team of Alba and Isla in the dust. Since then, these two have not been seen on WWE programming. A sad sight for fans of these two. So far, WWE has let them down.
Indi Hartwell: D-
Indi Hartwell was at one point, one of the hottest acts in NXT while in the Gargano family storyline. With Dexter Lumis being called up previously, Candice LeRae and Johnny Gargano then both made their returns to WWE. With all of them being on RAW, fans were very excited to see the possibility of the rehashed Gargano Family on the WWE Main Roster. Sadly, so far, that’s not been the case. Aside from a few backstage segments, none of them have really been showcased, with Indi being the least of the four. Indi Hartwell had one match on RAW when she teamed with Candice in a Tag Team Turmoil match in early July. They lost the match fairly quickly and then weren’t seen again. Indi did have a match on the WWE Main Event program a week later where she picked up a win against Dana Brooke on July 10th, which was the last time she was seen in the ring. Another poorly handled call-up on WWE’s part, making the once-loved Indi Hartwell nearly forgettable.
Apollo Crews: D
Apollo Crews has had an interesting WWE career. Came in through NXT, was called up and had success even being a former United States and Intercontinental Champion. He was then put back down in NXT, where he had a bit of a character change. Then, this year, he was brought back up to RAW in the draft and has been on a very odd trajectory. His first match back up on the main roster was a number one contender’s battle royal for the Intercontinental championship, which he lost. A week later, he had a singles match against Dominik Mysterio, which he also lost, before being off RAW and having a series of matches on WWE’s Main Event. He had seven matches on Main Event since his RAW return, which he holds a record of 5-2. So, a winning record, but sadly, not many fans watch Main Event, which is strictly on Hulu and Peacock. Then, in late July, Apollo had a singles match on RAW against Damien Priest, where Apollo was beaten in quick fashion. We then saw Apollo this past Saturday in the SummerSlam battle royal on the premium live event. Though he didn’t win, at least he was on SummerSlam. That’s more than we can say for a lot of the call-ups.
JD McDonagh: D-
JD McDonagh had his first RAW match in the same Intercontinental Title contenders battle royal that Apollo was in. He did lose but returned in a match two weeks later against Dolph Ziggler which ended in a double count out. It seemed like they were going to start a feud between the two, but they didn’t. McDonagh hasn’t been seen on RAW in a match since May. Since then, he’s gone 2-2 on WWE Main Event, with his two losses actually being to Apollo Crews. We then saw JD compete in the SummerSlam Battle Royal this past Saturday, but he didn’t last long. He’s been very much forgotten about, and up until SummerSlam, it was hard to remember he was even drafted. His main roster run to this point has been worse than lacklustre, but he was shown during a backstage segment on the most recent RAW with Judgment Day and then attacked Sami Zayn. So, maybe WWE will start to use him more often in the coming weeks.
Zoey Stark: B
Finally, someone who’s had some success on the main roster and her name is Zoey Stark. Zoey kicked off her RAW debut with a win over Nikki Cross. Then, a few weeks later, she picked up a win over Candice LeRae. She was then placed into a Money In The Bank qualifier match against Natalya, which she won. Zoey was also paired up with WWE Hall Of Famer Trish Stratus throughout all of this, helping Trish in her feud with Becky Lynch. Both Trish and Zoey then competed in the Money In The Bank Match. Though neither of them won, Zoey did have a big moment in the match where she was hit with a code-red off a ladder by Zelina Vega, in what was one of the biggest highlights of the match. Zoey then defeated Becky Lynch in singles action a few weeks later on RAW, then lost in a rematch on the July 24th edition on RAW. Throughout all of this, she remains beside Trish Stratus and even wrestled Shayna Baszler on the latest episode of RAW. Though Zoey hasn’t had a championship opportunity yet, or a real standout performance, she has had a consistent role on Monday Night RAW and is paired with a legend like Trish Stratus. Not too shabby.
Pretty Deadly: B-
Kit Wilson and Elton Prince, collectively known as Pretty Deadly, were drafted up to SmackDown and they were off to a hot start. They made their debut in a win against The Brawling Brutes and made an alliance with the current United States champion, Austin Theory. Alongside Theory, they fell into a feud with The Brawling Brutes, which they picked up yet another win in six-man action. They then won a Tag Team Titles number one contender gauntlet and had a chance to face Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn for the Tag Team Titles. They ended up losing the tag team title match but continued their feud with The Brawling Brutes. Then, in a tag team rematch against the Brutes in mid-July, Elton Prince was hurt during the match and separated his shoulder. They haven’t wrestled since, and Elton is still rehabbing his injury. From the time they were drafted, they were on a good stretch of being on TV every week, winning matches and even having a Championship opportunity. Despite losing that, they were still over pretty well with the fans. If it wasn’t for the injury, there’s no doubt they’d still be a fixture on WWE TV. The injury is no fault of their own, though, so a B- is not a bad grade at all. Hopefully Pretty Deadly comes back stronger than ever, because they made SmackDown a lot more fun.
Kayden Carter & Katana Chance: D+
Another women’s tag team that was called up to the main roster was Chance and Carter. They were called up to RAW and had a big first match against Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler. They did lose their debut match, but had some success and got some fanfare behind them with their exciting style. We then saw them two weeks later in mid-May against Chelsea Green and Sonya Deville, and they picked up their first main roster win. This got them a chance to compete in the Women’s Tag Title Contender Gauntlet Match, where they had a good showing, but did lose. The following week, on the July 10th edition of RAW, they had a rematch against Chelsea and Sonya, which they lost. That was the last time we saw them on television. They had good success early and seemed to be a bit of a fan-favourite team, but then WWE just stopped using them, now for nearly over a month. Their grade certainly could’ve been higher, but WWE decided to not capitalize on the bit of attention they were getting. A shame, truly.
Cameron Grimes: D
To the moon… or maybe not. Cameron Grimes kicked off his main roster run with a seven-second victory over Baron Corbin. Yes, seven seconds. Grimes then defeated Ashante Adonis the following week, and, it seemed like he was beginning to start a feud with Baron Corbin after Corbin attacked him backstage. But, that was short-lived as Corbin went back down to NXT. Grimes was then off TV for almost a month between June and July but made his return in a Fatal-Four-Way United States Title contenders match. He didn’t win, but he did have a good showing. Two weeks later, on the most recent edition of SmackDown, Grimes had a non-title match against U.S. Champ Austin Theory. Grimes was beaten in three minutes. We then saw Grimes take part in the SummerSlam battle royal, where he also didn’t win. Though he’s had a bumpy start, it seems like maybe WWE is going to start using him more, as he’s been on SmackDown more recently. There’s a chance his D grade gets bumped up to a C or higher if WWE continues to use him. We’ll have to wait and see.
Grayson Waller: A-
Grayson Waller has easily been the best call-up in terms of this year’s draft. He was drafted up to Smackdown in April, and at first, just had his own talk show “The Grayson Waller Effect” where he interviewed WWE stars. Then, at WWE’s Money In The Bank event, John Cena made a surprise return to speak to the United Kingdom crowd. Grayson Waller interrupted John’s promo and ended up getting beat up. But, being in there with John Cena is nothing to slouch at. Then, in his debut match, on SmackDown in Madison Square Garden, he wrestled WWE Hall Of Famer; Edge. Grayson lost the match, but his first two big interactions being with John Cena and Edge is no small feat. Then, to make it even crazier, Waller called out The Rock on social media and got himself a response from The Great One. This was all over WWE socials and SmackDown, with Waller himself talking about it on TV while continuing to do his Grayson Waller Effect talk show. Waller then was in a United States Title contenders four-way. He didn’t win the match but again made an impression. He then wrestled Jey Uso in singles action on the July 28th edition of Smackdown, where he once again lost. Lastly, he was in the SummerSlam battle royal, where he did come down to the final few men, but didn’t get the win. Grayson Waller has not won a match since his SmackDown debut, but despite this, he’s constantly on TV, in the conversation, and having big moments with legends. Somehow, someway, Grayson Waller has become WWE’s best draft pick from NXT.
Indus Sher: D-
Jinder Mahal went down to NXT and brought back with him the new and improved Indus Sher with Veer and Sanga. They made their RAW debut on the May 15th edition of RAW, where they destroyed two local talents in a little over one minute. Two weeks later, they again squashed two local competitors in just over a minute. Then, on the June 19th edition of RAW, they finally faced two established opponents in Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander. Indus Sher picked up the win in two minutes and six seconds. That’s the last time we’ve seen them. Two months later, now in August, they’ve still had just under five minutes of match time since May. Though they are undefeated, we’ve seen nearly nothing from Indus Sher, and their undefeated record is the only thing saving them from being an F. Could WWE save their run? Maybe. But, will they? Most likely not. There’s a good chance we never see Indus Sher in this formation ever again.
Odyssey Jones: F
The one and only F here is for Odyssey Jones. He was drafted to RAW in early April and has yet to debut. Odyssey has had two main roster dark matches, oddly on SmackDown, but has never been officially seen on WWE main roster programming. Therefore, we have nothing to go off of, and he has been a clear dud on the main roster, giving him the worst grade, at an F. Whether or not WWE ever puts him on TV remains to be seen, but it’s not looking likely right now.
Overall, it seems like the 2023 draft call-ups were not a huge success outside of a very select few. There’s still a chance for WWE to turn things around for these former NXT alumni, but that remains to be seen. There’s still time left before next year’s draft. But, we can only hope that next year’s draft call-ups see much more success than this year. Things aren’t so gloomy though, because this year has seen the rise of IYO Sky, Dakota Kai, L.A. Knight and many more NXT alumni. So, it just may take time. But for now, the 2023 set of Call-ups just hasn’t stood out.
By: Brady Alexander