NXT Stars who made it and those who didn’t
I was looking at the WWE roster and I noticed something, good portions of the current roster are former NXT people. Most of these people have something to show for themselves but it got me thinking that while there are a good number of successful NXT guys there are also some that just never got out of the gate. I’m here to look at some of the most successful NXT guys and some of the few who just didn’t make it. This list will include current and former NXT superstars but it won’t include people from the main roster such as Cesaro or Tyson Kidd who went their for a short stint but it’ll more focus on people who came to the main roster from NXT and either made a name for themselves of failed.
Starting off with one of the not successful we start with Adam Rose. Rose started his wrestling career in 1995 at the age of 15 and wrestled in South Africa for 15 years up until 2010 where he signed with WWE and was sent to FCW at the time. Rose was then involved with the rebranding of NXT in 2012 into what we know it is today. Rose had several rivalries and opportunities in NXT but they never gave him the chance to be a top guy. At this point he was using the persona Leo Kruger but in the early months of 2014 he debuted the Adam Rose character and in NXT it got over. His Adam Rose character lived a short life in NXT before being brought up to the main roster shortly after Wrestle Mania. At this point in time I was not watching NXT and had No prior knowledge of NXT or Adam Rose but I was still excited for him. His character looked fun and he looked like a guy who could be a very good upper mid card US Champion type of guy but what did they have him do? They had him fight a damn bunny. After failing to work with the party gimmick they decided to turn it around in the summer of 2015 and gave him a party pooper gimmick. After yet another failed gimmick he joined Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas, and Heath Slater and formed the short lived stable the Social Outcasts. This stable was actually over with the fans and ultimately could have been the resurgence he needed but after a wellness policy violation followed by a suspension and the news of a domestic assault charge Rose asked for his release and it was granted on the 23rd of May. Rose could have been a much bigger guy in WWE but bad timing and writing left Rose a nice spot in the alumni section.
Moving on to someone who has made a name for himself lets talk about Big E. Big E has been with the WWE since 2009 where he was signed to FCW. FCW rebranded into NXT and on August 1st, 2012 Big E debuted in an NXT ring. Big had a great winning streak and something that made him different is he would make the ref count to five when he would pin his opponent. Big E started to pull double duty as he debuted on the main roster on December 17th, 2012 but he actually won the NXT Championship from Seth Rollins on January 9th, 2013. Big E would pull double duty until he lost the NXT Championship on June 12th to Bo Dallas and that ended his run in NXT. During his NXT run he was playing the bodyguard roll for Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee. This went on for a few months until Ziggler got a concussion and was out of action. Big E and Lee would go onto a feud with Divas champion Kaitlyn at the time and would try and help Lee win the title over Kaitlyn. Ziggler would make a return and end his on screen relationship with AJ Lee and team up with Kaitlyn at SummerSlam that year to defeat Big E and AJ Lee and ending that feud at the time. At this time Big E’s main roster run wasn’t has great as it should’ve been but that changed shortly. Big E would go onto win the Intercontinental Championship from Curtis Axel on an episode of raw on November 18th and held it until May 4th 2014 where he would lose the belt to Bad News Barrett. After losing the Intercontinental Championship Big E would go on to form the very successful trio known as The New Day. Since 2014 Big E has been apart of one of he biggest teams in WWE. He has since gone onto be a two time WWE Tag Team Champion and this mixed with the fact that Big E has been featured on the main roster since his debut, I would consider Big E a NXT success story.
Sticking with the pattern of a failure and then a success and so on we move onto Bo Dallas. Dallas who has been employed by WWE since 2008 and while his NXT run was memorable his main roster run as been less then stellar. Dallas made a short appearance in NXT before going to the main roster briefly. On January 26th, 2013 Dallas competed in the Royal Rumble where he eliminated Bad News Barrett who was the current Intercontinental Champion at the time. Barrett came back on eliminated Dallas, which started a short feud on Raw. Dallas would score an upset victory over Barrett on Raw and the following week would attack Barrett before a match with Kofi Kingston. Dallas would challenge Barrett for the IC Championship but was defeated and that would end his Raw run for a while. Dallas would go onto win the NXT tile from Big E. During all this the fans started to boo and hate Bo Dallas, which Dallas turned into his character and started portraying a heel on NXT TV. AT NXT Arrival in 2014 Dallas would lose the title to Adrian Neville and would fail to get it back. Dallas started an occupy NXT movement to try and stay in NXT but after losing a match to Big E he was forced to leave NXT and while he fought it Dallas would eventually leave NXT and make his main roster debut. Dallas would go onto get a winning streak once debuting on Raw. He would always claim to be 12 and Bo or 13 and Bo but his streak wouldn’t last forever. Seemingly for no reason Bo Dallas made it to 17 and Bo before losing on Raw via rollup to R-Truth. After a few meaningless feuds Dallas was injured and quietly came back in the Andre the Giant battle royal at WrestleMania 31 and then went onto more meaningless matches. It wasn’t until January 4th, 2016 where Dallas alongside Heath Slater, Adam Rose, and Curtis Axel would form The Social Outcasts. The stable was all four of these men’s chances to get over but WWE dropped the ball and after a few months filled with losses and losing Adam Rose The Social outcasts would quietly break up after the Draft where he would be drafted 50th overall to Raw along with Axel also being drafted but Slater not being drafted at all. Dallas was never going to be a main eventer but clearly WWE saw him as a mid card champion type of guy but after losing the undefeated streak for no reason and a string of meaningless matches and rivalry’s Dallas is just another guy with no where to go.
I don’t think I need to explain which category Finn Balor falls under. Balor came to NXT in the later months of 2014 and quickly made a name for himself. Ultimately one of NXTs biggest signings to date Balor entered into a feud with the Ascension teaming with Hideo Itami and defeating them at NXT TakeOver R Evolution where he also debuted the body paint. After this Balor would start going after the NXT championship held by Kevin Owens at the time. After one unsuccessful match he got another opportunity to face Owens on July 4th, 2015 at the Beast of the East special where he would defeat Owens becoming the new NXT Champion. Balor went onto become the longest reigning NXT champion to date holding it for 292 days just beating Neville by 5 days. Balor would lose it to Samoa Joe at an NXT house show on April 21st 2016 and he would go onto lose the rematch in the first ever NXT steel cage match at NXT TakeOver The End. Balor would be drafted 5th overall shortly after this took place and made his official Raw debut on July 25th which also happened to be his birthday. Balor would win two matches that night to then be places in a match with Seth Rollins at Summer Slam to crown the first ever Universal Champion for the Raw Brand. At SummerSlam Balor did beat Rollins to become the first ever Universal Champion but he was not able to hold it long because in the match with Rollins he did get injured and was forced to relinquish the title on Raw. Balor is now currently recovering from that injury on the sidelines and is expected to be out for around 6 months. Despite a few injuries along the way Balor has had a great career since coming to NXT and once he is recovered I expect to keep having a Hall of Fame worthy career.
Like Balor, Neville had a great career in NXT but Neville has completely fallen off the wagon on the main roster. Neville made his NXT debut in January of 2013. Alongside partner Oliver Grey he went on to win a tournament to crown the first ever NXT Tag Team Champions. Grey would be injured a little later and Neville would chose Bo Dallas to take Greys place but that was short lived and he would go onto to lose the Tag Team Championship to the Wyatt Family. He would find a new partner in Corey Graves and regain them only to lose them to the Ascension. Neville would then go on to beat Bo Dallas for the NXT Championship and become the second longest NXT Champion in history to date. Neville would go on to have one of the greatest feuds I’ve seen with Sami Zayn. Neville would eventually lose the NXT championship to Zayn and would have a few more matches before being brought up the main roster on March 30th, 2015. Ever since Neville has been brought up though he hasn’t done much. He lost in the finals of the King of the Ring tournament. He did team up with Hollywood star Stephen Amell to defeat Stardust and Barrett at Summer Slam but since then Neville hasn’t done much with his career. He unfortunately joins the list of greats from NXT to go up to the main roster and have their careers die up there.
Kevin Owens made his debut on December 11th, 2014 at NXT TakeOver R Evolution defeating CJ Parker and getting his nose broken in the process. Despite the injury Owens later that night came out to celebrate with Sami Zayn who had just beaten Neville for the NXT Championship. After the entire NXT roster had left Owens and Zayn both started to leave together but before they could Owens attacked Zayn. Owens would go onto to beat Zayn for the NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver Rival. Owens while still holding the NXT championship would go to the main roster and answer John Cana’s United States Open Challenge but would not actually compete in the match. Owens would go onto have a feud with Cena and also continue to wrestle in NXT at the same time. Owens would lose the NXT title to Finn Balor at the Beast of the East special and shortly after that challenge for the United States title but would lose his match with Cena and ending the feud. After Owens loss to Balor in their rematch Owens would stay on the main roster and continue to go after championships on the main roster. Owens would beat Ryback at Night of Champions to earn the I.C. Belt. Owens after losing the title to Ambrose would enter the rumble in 2016 where he was the one to eliminate the debuting AJ Styles but later in the match Owens would be eliminated by former rival Sami Zayn. Owens would later win his second Intercontinental Championship on Raw and go onto to hold it until WrestleMania 32 where he would lose it in a 7-man ladder match. Owens as since as a few rivals and more great matches. Owens as of writing this is currently slated to be one of the four men challenging for the vacant Universal Championship tonight on Raw and could very well be adding another championship to his resume. Owens has definitely made a name for himself and is on his way to having a great career in WWE.
THE WYATT FAMILY
Now before everyone questions my decision here I’m going to talk about Luke Harper as a singles star separately but as for right now I’m going to talk about them as a group and leave out each men’s singles run which I’ll mention briefly for Wyatt and Rowan. That being said The Wyatt Family formed in NXT in November of 2012. Wyatt would be injured but he would recruit Luke Harper and Erick Rowan to keep the Wyatt Family alive while Wyatt who still would appear on screen was recovering. Harper and Rowan would go onto win the NXT Tag Team Championships from Neville and Bo Dallas on the May 8th episode of NXT. They would go onto the feud with various people before losing the belts to Neville and Corey Graves. On July 8th shortly before there last NXT appearance The Wyatt Family would debut on Raw attacking Kane. They’d continue to assault random wrestlers all while still focusing on Kane. Wyatt would later defeat Kane at SummerSlam in a ring of fire match and this ended their feud. They would move onto a feud with Daniel Bryan where he would later join the Wyatt Family but quickly broke free from them but Wyatt would beat Bryan at that years Royal Rumble ending that feud. The Wyatt Family would later go on to win some and lose some, which killed their momentum. In September of 2014 Bray Wyatt would “set free” Erick Rowan and Luke Harper which would lead to one mans downfall and the others success. Both men went off to do their own thing while Wyatt did his. While both men had a brief feud with each other they did stay separate for a while before reuniting in May of 2015. In June however Rowan would suffer an injury and would be out 4-6 months. Bray Wyatt was in a match with Roman Reigns at Battleground when a man in a hoodie attacked Roman and provided Wyatt with the victory. This man was reveled to be Harper and his way of rejoining the Wyatt Family. They’d face Ambrose and Reigns at Summer Slam but lose the match. The next night on Raw in a Summer Slam rematch we saw the debut of a new Wyatt Family member and his name was Braun Strowman. This led to a 6-man tag team match at Night of Champions where Chris Jericho would make his return to tem with Roman and Ambrose. This probably a nod to Jericho and Wyatt’s past feud. Despite the return of Y2J The Wyatt Family got the win. A month later on Raw Erick Rowan would quietly return to the Wyatt Family filling in for Harper at the time. All four men now reunited would go onto have pointless feuds that didn’t help them. At WrestleMania while The Rock was out in the ring The Wyatt Family came out hinting at an impromptu match with Bray vs. The Rock but instead we got a 6 second match between Erick Rowan vs. The Rock and that was that and nothing ever came of this. A few months later Luke Harper would suffer a leg injury and is still currently out of action because of it. Once the Draft came around Wyatt and Rowan would be drafted to Smackdown while Strowman would be drafted to Raw thus splitting the Family apart. Rowan and Wyatt still continue to be together on Smackdown while Strowman is doing his own thing on Raw. Like a few people on this list the Wyatt Family had a great run in NXT but once they reached the main roster their career went no where. Loss after loss to Wyatt doesn’t help him either. Wyatt has the potential to be World Champion but unless WWE is willing to put some trust in him he along with the rest of the Wyatt Family members past and present will continue o go nowhere.
I told you I would talk about Luke Harper separately and here’s why. I already mentioned his run in NXT, as Tag Team Champion so I would go into that again but I will go into is his run as a singles start following his brief split from The Wyatt Family in 2014. In September he was “set free” from the Wyatt Family and, unlike his former partner Erick Rowan, went onto have a good singles run. Harper would attack Ziggler in his return to Raw and leave him at the feet of the Authority requesting to join Team Authority at Survivor Series. Due to joining Team Authority Harper was granted a match for the Intercontinental Championship against Dolph Ziggler and went onto win the match and claim his first singles title. His reign was cut short has he would lose it back to Ziggler in a phenomenal match at TLC that year. Harper was then put into the WrestleMania 30 ladder match for the I.C. belt but did not win it back. While his title run was brief it shows that he has a promising career as a singles star. You may disagree here but I would consider Luke Harper a success.
Kalisto made his debut in NXT on May 8th 2014 teaming with El Local but quickly broke up with him and started teaming with Sin Cara. They won a tournament and got the opportunity to face The Ascension at NXT TakeOver Fatal-4-Way where they would end the Ascensions almost year long streak as champions. He would go onto hold the belt with Sin Cara until January 15th 2015 where in an upset Blake and Murphy beat them for the titles. The Lucha Dragons would make their main roster debut on Raw and while they wouldn’t find success as a team on Raw, Kalisto did go onto to find success as a singles star. Sin Cara got sidelined with an injury so while Cara was recovering Kalisto would go onto beat Del Rio for the United States Championship. Del Rio would gain it back shortly after this but Kalisto would re gain it at the Royal Rumble in 2016. Kalisto would go on to defend at WrestleMania against Ryback and won. While he was U.S. Champion he continued teaming with Sin Cara and would eventually lose the title to Rusev. Car and Kalisto split up right before the draft and Kalisto was drafted to Smackdown. Well he may not be the most popular of wrestlers right now you cant deny that he has found success up there on the main roster.
When you think of The Ascension you think of Konnor and Viktor but they use to have more members. The original members consisted of Connor O’Brian, Kenneth Cameron AKA Bram, Tito Colon currently known as Epico, Their valet Raquel Diaz who is Eddie Guerrero’s daughter, and their manager Ricardo Rodriguez. With a team like this they clearly found success right? Not exactly. Bram was released and the inclusion of Diaz, Colon, and Rodriguez never made it past FCW. When Viktor joined the team things changed. After changing names from Connor O’Brian to Konnor and Rick Viktor to just Viktor both men went on to beat Neville and Corey Graves for the NXT Tag Team Championships and go onto dismantle their opponents for almost a year until losing them to The Lucha Dragons just one day shy of a year. The Ascension would have a final feud with Finn Balor and Hideo Itami before making the move to the main roster. Despite going on a winning streak their main roster stay was doomed from the start. They openly admitted to being a rip off of Demolition and The Road Warriors and so on. Mixed with the commentary team doing the same thing they were already starting to get buried. They got laid out by the APA and the New Age Outlaws but did go onto defeat the New Age Outlaws at the Rumble that year. After this it was all down hill for them. They would go onto just being a part of the roster. Their push was dead; they had lost their winning streak and were just two guys on the roster at this point. They would form ‘The Cosmic Wasteland” with Stardust and score a few wins but were quietly broken up right before WrestleMania 32. Konnor would be suspended in April of 2016. He would return in time for the draft and continue to team with Viktor. Both men would be drafted to Smackdown where they would compete in a tournament to crown the first Smackdown Tag Team Champions but would be beaten by The Usos. Where they go from here I don’t know but The Ascension in my opinion can still be a great tag team despite a massive fall from grace.
When I first started to think up this list Roman definitely came to mind. Reigns stint in NXT was short but he certainly made a name for himself once coming to the main roster. Reigns was a powerhouse when he was apart of The Shield and while he may not be very well liked he certainty didn’t let that stop him. Reigns well apart of The Shield was a 1 time Tag Team Champion with Seth Rollins but he found success as well away from The Shield. He won the 2015 Royal Rumble and is a 3 time WWE World Heavyweight Champion and is also a 7 time slammy winner. Like him or not Reigns is definitely a success to come out of NXT and I don’t think he’s stopping anytime soon. He is, as of writing this, set to compete in a fatal-4-way to crown a new Universal Champion and is definitely a pick to win it.
As much as Renee Young wants to talk about him in WWE 2k16 unfortunately the only reason were talking about him today is asking ourselves what happened? Tyler Breeze made a name for himself in NXT with out ever winning the NXT title. He got over with the fans in a massive way and when he got to the main roster we were all thinking “It’s about time” but shortly after that we were questioning why he was even brought up. He lost his first TV match against Dean Ambrose. He then went on to pick up a few wins over Dolph Ziggler but ultimately losing the feud. After that was over Breeze went on a losing streak spanning months. Breezes first win since his feud with Ziggler came on May 2nd where he pinned Goldust. Breeze had the potential to be something bigger but WWE crushed it before he could even get started.
There is no question that Seth Rollins is one of if not the most successful person to come out of NXT. He made his NXT debut in August of 2012 and quickly went on to become the first NXT Champion. Once making it to the main roster Rollins was definitely a stand out while in The Shield. He won the tag team championship with Reigns and then became the reason they broke up. Rollins then goes onto join the Authority and becomes one of WWEs biggest stars. Rollins a 9 time slammy winner, 1 time Money in the Bank Champion, 1 time Tag Team Champion, 1 time U.S. Champion and a 2 time WWE World Heavyweight Champion Rollins is definitely the most successful to come from NXT and is definitely the most successful out of the 3 former shield members. Rollins might add Universal Champion as he, as of writing this, is set to be in the fatal-4-way to crown a new Universal Champion.
I didn’t include Dean Ambrose because from what I could tell he never really spent time in NXT and I didn’t include guys like The VaudeVillians, Enzo & Cass, and Apollo Crews because its still to early to determine if they are a success story or not. That being said what do you think of the list? Do you agree with my list or do you think I left anybody out? Please tweet me your feedback on Twitter @UberTieGuy