“Into the Fire”
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artists: Jake Elphick, Hyeonjin Kim, Kendall Goode, Rodrigo Lorenzo
What You Need to Know: If you want to make it into the WWE, you have to make it in NXT. It’s the brainchild of “The Game” and CEO Triple H (Hunter Hurst Helmsley) and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. It’s where up and coming talent have to prove their worth if they want to make it to the Main Roster of RAW or Smackdown. Some of the most popular names have come from NXT such as “The Demon King” Finn Balor, “The Beast Slayer” Seth Rollins and “The Man” Becky Lynch. As the years have gone by, more are talent is coming up through the Indy Ranks, but what was it like for the originals just starting?
In This Issue: Dusty Rhodes is a staple and a Legend in WWE History, so it’s no wonder he would be the one to help teach these young kids a thing or two about what it takes to make it to the top. Going around the WWE Performance Center, checking and helping out talent like the USO’s in only ways he can do. Even stopping fights between big names Seth Rollins and Jindar Mahal backstage. It’s all a stage to him, even when stars like Xavier Woods and Big E are wrestling, Dusty, is always thinking how to make them and the show great. But he’s not above getting his hands dirty with stars like Bray Wyatt and even having a hand in the Woman’s Evolution with up and coming star Paige. No matter what or who, Dusty is there to work and put on a show, either in the ring or backstage. . .
One Super Star on the roster, Samoa Joe, considers NXT his family. Until he betrays Finn Balor, “The Demon King” and the NXT family. When he arrived at the Performance Center, it was already a proving ground for the best of the best, and no one thought he was the best despite his Indy accolades. Except the for Irish Talent and NXT favorite Finn Balor who also came up through the ranks in his Indy Days in Japan. But it’s Kevin Owens who’s the NXT Champion and he wants to fight until news of Dusty’s Death hits the locker room. It’s at this time, that Finn, as The Demon King, becomes the new NXT Champion in Tokyo Japan that Samoa Joe sees his opportunity to make an impact. But his plan has to wait a while because, in honor of the Legend, Hunter (HHH) and General Manager William Regal have decided that Finn and Joe are to work together in the First Annual Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. While Joe isn’t too thrilled with the idea, he and Finn work together to win the Classic and coveted Trophy. But that just isn’t satisfying enough for Joe, and despite Regal’s advice, decides to take things into his own hands when it comes to Finn Balor.
Years later, The Women’s division is hotter than ever, and the Women’s Evolution is taking over. Superstars like “The Empress of Tomorrow” Askua, Ruby Riott, Live Morgan and Ember Moon are catching the eyes of not only the WWE Universe but one WWE Woman Superstar, Paige. She’s at NXT to check out the talent for herself and is not disappointed in what she sees in the ring. Backstage, Paige tries to recruit Asuka and Ember in her big return to the WWE but both ladies know better. William Regal also sees what she’s doing and instead of scolding, asks her to maybe look at other talents for her cause. After all, Paige was a former NXT Women’s Champion, won the Diva’s Championship her very first night on RAW and is one of the staples of the Women’s Evolution. Until she was injured, and now the landscape has changed without her. But she won’t sit behind the sidelines anymore and backstage decides to recruit Ruby Riott, Live Morgan and Sara Logan. But the girls have a plan of their own and it takes Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville for Paige to see what she’s been missing.
Aleister Black is a man of few words but big actions as shown with his body covered in Tattoos for the scars he has survived over the years. All he wants to do is fight, and when he gets a letter from William Regal wanting him to do that, Aleister is more than ready to face the impressive fighters they have. He has been sitting in the dark far too long after all. His first night on NXT, Aleister is surprised that Regal just wants him to talk but who is he to say no when he has the chance to fight. But when “The Velveteen Dream” has other ideas, this is the fuel that Aleister needs to make his mark in NXT with each fight to the top in his Dark Mass. At NXT Takeover, New Orleans, Aleister has a chance for the title against Andrade Cien Almas AND his manager Zelina Vega that he finally wins the belt to no one’s surprise. But his victory is short-lived when Regal points him to a fight going on backstage with former friends Gargano and Ciampo and suggests a good first title defense. One Black can’t say no to. But when Gargano gets involved with his match against Ciampo, Aleister has had enough of the feuding and realizes, it’s time to take things into his own dark hands. . .
NXT has without a doubt made its mark on the WWE as far as performance and the amazing characters that come out of it. It’s where many of today’s roster started and without it, many wouldn’t have survived and found their place on RAW and Smackdown. It is definitely noted that it is the beginning of the Women’s Evolution and shows in the pages that the Women of WWE are not forgotten. Seeing the roster as young wrestlers finding their way and their stories is always entertaining even when you know them front to back as a wrestling fan. Not to mention the nostalgia of the great Dusty Rhodes makes any fan more than proud to see him in the pages being the good old Blue-Eyed American Dream. After all, many of the Superstars such as Paige credit a lot of their success to him. The art is always a delight and I could look at comic Finn’s abs all day (and if you know me, I could look at Finn’s abs ALL DAY) as well as the detail of the whole roster. There isn’t much about this issue as a Wrestling Fan that you can’t live honestly as the art for every story is different for the story it tells and it all works in conveying the message. Work hard and maybe, you can make it to the Top Rope too.