Once upon a time, when an NXT star would jump to the main roster, on even RAW or SmackDown, it was far from a guarantee that the WWE Universe would welcome their addition.
No, not because they were too small, or because fans wouldn't “believe them” as a professional wrestler as Vince McMahon would often suggest, but because they simply weren't booked with respect. That's right, no matter how many wins they secured on the black and gold brand, McMahon and his creative cohorts would occasionally job out the entrants as if they were suddenly the last man in the pecking order; forcing them to rebuild their act elsewhere, maybe even under a new name, a shortened name, and/or a significantly altered presentation.
Fortunately, since Paul “Triple H” Levesque took over creative control of WWE, he's largely righted his father-in-law's wrongs.
Call it a byproduct of being the former head of NXT who hired many of the developmental brand's top talents, or just a savvy student of the sports world as a whole who appreciates what a strong farm system can mean to the prolonged success of a company, but when the most “egregious” change Levesque has made to a recently-elevated talent is changing a name from Io Shirai to IYO SKY, fans as a whole have given the new booker man rave reviews.
Need proof? Well, look no further than the fallout edition of SmackDown, where Levesque showed exactly what kind of booker he intends to be.
From booking Toxic Attraction in a 50-50 effort against the tag team of Aliyah and Raquel Rodriquez after their first bout was canceled due to a Gigi Dollin injury to Imperium's fantastic debut in a WWE ring with Fabian Aichner-turned-Giovanni Vinci filling out the trio, Triple H made the next generation of performers looks like legitimate superstars instead of fresh-faced newbies one step removed from being booked for 90-second squash matches, with no one being a bigger beneficiary of this strong booking than Solo Sikoa, who came into the WWE Universe in a big way and kept that momentum after his debut.
Solo Sikoa kept everything that made him special in his WWE debut.
If Mr. McMahon booked Sikoa's WWE debut, it probably would have looked a little something like this: Sikoa would walk out of the tunnel with The Usos, declared that he was “Joey Uso,” the team's long-lost brother who just decided to start wrestling, and then suffered a 90-second squash loss to Drew McIntyre – or whomever – in order to set up a future championship match down the line. There would have been no mention of NXT, no mention of his previous experience, and definitely no one calling him the “Street Champion.”
Fortunately, Triple H isn't his father-in-law, and he delivered to fans a fantastic introduction to the ex-NXT staple.
It started out formally enough, with The Usos and their honorary buddy, Sami Zayn, preparing the audience for the arrival of their younger brother. As the crowd cheered on, Sikoa's music hit, his image lit up the Titantron, and emerged from the back looking like a million bucks. He walked down to the ring, was handed a mic, and afforded a chance to introduce himself to the greater WWE Universe in his own words, not via those of, say, Paul Heyman.
“You come for my family, and I come for you,” Sikoa declared. “You create problems, and I finish them. Solo Sikoa is here to stay, and The Bloodline just got bigger and stronger.”
While Drew McIntyre eventually emerged from the back and came to attack the assembled members of The Bloodline, Sikoa stood pat and just barely avoided a steel chair to the back from the “Scottish Warrior,” thanks to a save from Zayn. Sikoa later thanked Zayn for his help, further entrenching him into his status as an “Honorary Uce,” and then prepared himself for a match against McIntyre later in the evening.
Okay, that's all well and good, but there's no way Sikoa would actually beat McIntyre in his first match on SmackDown, right? Goodness, despite losing at Clash at the Castle, McIntyre is still a former World Champion and the biggest babyface on the SmackDown brand; there's no way Levesque would risk ruining his run to give some shine to a fresh face, right?
Fortunately, Triple H has a plan for that, too, as the match was ultimately ruled a no-contest when Karrion Kross emerged from the back and choked out McIntyre as the show faded to black. Sikoa remains undefeated on SmackDown, McIntyre's feud with Kross grows stronger, and no one comes out of the match looking any worse than when the night began.