Who was the mystery Superstar who was advertising their debut on NXT over the past few weeks? Was it Kazuchika Okada, the former Ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling, who made headlines within WWE circles for saying he didn't plan to return to NJPW after his contract expires?

Or how about Tama Tonga, a founding member of Bullet Club who has reportedly signed with WWE after the end of his run with the “King of Sports?” With the Good Brothers, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, now calling NXT home, at least for the moment, maybe the adoptive son of King Haku could form a new version of The Club and challenge AJ Styles on SmackDown after a fun run in developmental?

Could it be someone else entirely, a developmental prospect entering the NXT pantheon with a fully formed character the likes of which fans haven't seen since Bron Breakker?

… or maybe it was Shawn Spears, the 43-year-old former AEW “Chairman” who saw his contract expire on January 1st?

After watching Lyra Valkyria and Tatum Paxley announce that they'll be wrestling a match at NXT Roadblock against the Kabuki Warriors, Asuka and Kairi Sane, for the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships, Ridge Holland asked the duo to leave the ring so he could address the audience about his recent string of unusual luck back in developmental.

“Now then, I'm a man of action more than I am a man of words,” Ridge Holland told the NXT audience. “But it seems like actions as of late, they've gotten me into this predicament. You see, when I retaliate against someone, it's always me that takes it too far. But whether I like it or not, whether I understand it or not, I'm out here to apologize for those actions. I was defending myself; I was defending my family; there was no malice, there was no malicious intent behind it.”

Unfortunately for Holland, the lights dropped down in the middle of his promo, and all sorts of graphics flashed around the Performance Center in the style of those cryptic promos, with a hooded man holding a chair appearing behind the former Brawling Brute as the crowd began to cheer. Wholloping Holland in the back as he fell to the mat writhing in pain, the figure removed his hood to reveal Spears, who was announced by his AEW moniker instead of the one he used in WWE previously, Tye Dillinger.

Shocking? You bet, but before the show went off the air, fans were afforded a chance to hear from the “Perfect 10” regarding his return to developmental, with NXT‘s parking lot crew asking the question fans wanted to know: why did he attack Ridge Holland?

“I like Ridge Holland, but he's been lying to himself for far too long. That jolt of pain that's currently coursing through his body, it's simply the truth. That's why I struck Ridge; the truth can bring you to your knees. And that's why Shawn Spears is now in NXT. See you next week at Roadblock.

So what gives? Clearly, Spears is back in NXT, and much like both Cody Rhodes – who gave him a nice shout-out on social media – and Andrade El Idolo, he's allowed to keep the gimmick he used in AEW and on the indies away from WWE's typically iron grasp, but does a 43-year-old “Chairman” really move the needle for NXT, especially considering they already have a few main roster vets like Dijak, Barron Corbin, and the Good Brothers working regularly on Tuesday Nights? While Spears does add value as a player/coach, as he runs a very successful wrestling school alongside Tyler Breeze, in the end, a developmental mid-boss who does additional work behind the scenes might just be his ceiling in WWE.

Shawn Spears credited CM Punk for his 2013 WWE return.

While it's incredibly surprising to see Shawn Spears return to NXT in 2024, this wasn't the first time he's come back to the promotion he once called home, as, after initially signing with the promotion in 2006, he was rehired in 2013 following his release in 2009.

Discussing how this initial return came together on Cody Deaner's podcast Wrestling is, Life is Wrestling last November, Spears revealed how his relationships with Rhodes and Punk helped to get his foot back into the door and his career off the ground.

“That's where the professionalism aspect of what we do really really comes into play. So, I made good friends with Cody [Rhodes] who's one of my closest friends to this day… I met guys like [CM] Punk there… [and] Joey Mercury. The reason why I bring those guys up is because in my quest to get back [to the WWE] in those 4 and a half years [after I was released the first time] I still kept in contact with the Codys and the Punks and the Mercurys… just checking in. An opportunity came up to for another tryout and the only reason I got that was because CM Punk, who was the world champion at the time, put my name [on a list]. He was asked for 10 guys on the indies who he thought should be signed and he put my name on that list,” Shawn Spears explained via Fightful.

“I didn't get back into that tryout because I'd been killing it on the indies. I was just pretty much primarily working in Canada. I wasn't making waves anywhere else. I didn't work for any other companies. I got back there because of the connections and context I had made my first time around [with guys like CM Punk].”

Did Spears use similar contacts to get his foot back in the door with WWE  in 2024, asking former NXT Guest GM Cody Rhodes to put in a good word with the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels? Or did his reputation precede him at this stage of the game? Either way, Spears is back in WWE, and while he's not Okada, he's certainly a performer to watch moving forward.