Triple H was once the scourge of pro wrestling’s fanbase. “The Game” earned an infamous reputation as the company’s head grave digger. In fact, Triple H has committed so many burials that The Undertaker once took him to court for gimmick infringement. I tease, of course.
Fortunately, Triple H has managed to redeem himself as the COO of WWE. Specifically, “The Cerebral Assassin” has taken what could have been a “B” show full of roughly trained developmental wrestlers and turned into a global empire. NXT in fact rivals the WWE in terms of popularity, especially among ardent “smarks.”
Although Triple H is apparently unhappy with the current state of things in Florida, NXT is still relatively healthy. Even better is the fact that Winter Park serves as a magnet for the best independent wrestlers in the world. The recently reacquired Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno) is proof of that.
However, not all of Triple H’s moves in NXT have been successful. Not only has the company signed some duds, but they have missed many opportunities to acquire some of the greatest wrestlers on the planet.
15. Mistake: Solomon Crowe
The misuse of Sami Callihan in NXT was more than anything else management’s fault. A well respected grappler whose name has been praised by the likes of Adam Rose and Fit Finlay, Callihan, who wrestled in NXT as a deranged hacker named Solomon Crowe, got lost among the shuffle. When he debuted in 2013, Callihan was placed in the middle of what can be called NXT’s “Golden Age.” At that time, WWE’s developmental territory belonged to men like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Neville, and others.
Quite frankly, Triple H, William Regal, and others could have done a much better job of promoting Crowe as a legitimate title threat. Although only 5’8, Crowe/Callihan is nothing less than a ball of energy. The crowd was into him, as well. All things considered, this was a major misstep by “The Game.”
14. Missed Opportunity: The Young Bucks
To call The Young Bucks controversial is a gross understatement. No team has generated more heat from pro wrestling traditionalists quite like the Jackson brothers. While performing under the hideous name of Generation Me in TNA, Matt and Nick Jackson apparently snubbed Booker T and Rob Van Dam by not showing them the respect they deserved. Jim Cornette, another voice of the old guard, has frequently lambasted the tag team for supposedly making a “mockery” of the business.
Despite such criticism, The Young Bucks are one of the most popular and decorated tag teams in the world. They have held multiple titles in Ring of Honor, New Japan, and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. Way back in 2008, the Bucks actually portrayed D-Generation X on an episode of ECW. A few years later, the WWE gave them a tryout match. If history had gone a different way, Triple H could have built the NXT Tag Team Division around the Young Bucks back in 2012.
13. Mistake: C.J. Parker
As with Sami Callihan, the brass at NXT did not know a good thing when they had it. Juice Robinson, who now wrestles for New Japan, kicked around in NXT as an annoying jobber named C.J. Parker. Parker’s environmentalist gimmick did him no favors, nor did the fact that he almost never won on TV. Although it is unlikely that Robinson would have ever received a sustained push in the company, Triple H and NXT still could have done much more with him.
According to Robinson himself, his decision to leave Florida in 2015 was based on his own desire to travel the world and make a name for himself on the independent scene. So far, Robinson has done quite well, such as wrestling fellow WWE alumni Cody Rhodes as New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 11.
12. Missed Opportunity: Kenny Omega
In the build up to this year’s Royal Rumble, one of the biggest names bandied around was Kenny Omega. Fans hoped against hope that Omega would be a surprise entrant. However, Omega chose to re-sign with NJPW instead. Considering his recent success with the company, this decision is not shocking.
Another factor that probably played a part in Omega’s decision to forgo the WWE was his past experiences with the company. Between 2005 and 2006, Omega was a member of Deep South Wrestling, one of the WWE’s many pre-NXT developmental territories. According to Omega himself, his experience in Deep South was horrendous thanks to a combination of bad booking and awful trainers.
Still, despite this, Triple H could have swayed Omega in late 2016 with promises of fame and fortune. The NXT is much better than Deep South. However, only Omega knows what is best for him.
11. Mistake: Hugo Knox
The WWE still has this weird inferiority complex wherein they think hiring pro athletes from other sports will somehow give them credibility. It rarely ever works out. Case in point: former English goalkeeper Stuart Tomlinson.
Tomlinson, who wrestled as Hugo Knox in NXT, played for numerous clubs, including Barrow, Crewe Alexandra, and others, before signing with the WWE in late 2013. Although a physical specimen, Knox was never much to look at inside the ring. The most noteworthy thing about him was the fact that he wore polka dot tights.
Practically a ghost on NXT TV and live events, Knox was ultimately released from his contract in September 2016. This is one signing Triple H and Stamford wishes that they could forget.