In 2019, WWE faced a unique challenge when preparing for its weekly edition of SmackDown. The show was set to occur shortly after a major event in Saudi Arabia. Still, the WWE plane experienced significant delays, leaving many of the SmackDown roster stranded and unable to appear on the program.
With this unexpected obstacle, WWE had to think on its feet and pivot quickly. The solution was to bring in a slew of NXT talent to fill the void on SmackDown, leading to what would become known as the NXT invasion. Rhea Ripley, an NXT star at the time, recently spoke about this memorable night during an interview with British GQ.
She recounted the whirlwind experience and how rapidly the plans changed.
Ripley Recalls NXT Invasion Call
Ripley highlighted the unpredictable nature of the wrestling business, explaining that performers are "on the clock 24/7" and can be called upon to do anything at any time.
When the SmackDown roster found themselves stuck in Saudi Arabia in 2019, Ripley received a phone call while she was at the gym around noon. WWE urgently requested her to board a plane immediately to join the SmackDown show.
Ripley, now the SmackDown Women's Champion, had to rush home, shower, pack a bag, and head to the airport to make it to the venue in time. She described the tight schedule, revealing that fellow NXT star Shayna Baszler had an incredibly close call.
Baszler landed at the airport, quickly reached the venue, and ran straight out onto live television for her segment. The NXT invasion of SmackDown proved to be a thrilling and memorable episode for fans, showcasing the immense talent of the NXT roster.
The last-minute call-up of the NXT stars not only saved the show but also demonstrated the dedication and adaptability of the performers. It was a testament to the resilience of WWE and its athletes in adversity.
Looking back on that night, Rhea Ripley and her fellow NXT stars had a unique opportunity to shine on a larger stage, and they seized it with both hands.
The SmackDown Women's Champion's recollection of the event highlights the exciting, unpredictable nature of the wrestling world and the commitment these athletes have to their craft. The NXT invasion will end in WWE history as an unforgettable moment born out of challenging circumstances.