Since its foundation in its current format in 2012, NXT has become the proving ground for the next crop of WWE superstars. The Black & Gold brand was once home to some of the company's current biggest names—Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch all proved their mettle there before the main roster came calling.
However, today's crop of NXT stars are moving away from the image of the brand as a training platform. Both current NXT Champion Johnny Gargano and rising star Matt Riddle have expressed their desire to stay and make it into a third WWE entity in its own right rather than jump to Raw or Smackdown.
Under the eye of WWE COO Triple H, NXT has carved a place for itself. With its heavier focus on wrestling and a reputation for compelling storylines, it offers a different sort of proposition for both performers and fans. With that in mind, here are five main roster stars who would benefit from a spell back on the Black & Gold and five who really would not.
10 Should Go: Bayley
The Huggable One's debut on the main roster in 2016 saw her rise through the ranks quickly and hand Charlotte Flair her first PPV loss as she captured the WWE Raw Women's Championship within six months of her debut. She held the strap for less than three months before dropping it to Alexa Bliss and since then has never really recaptured the same heat. Her run with Sasha Banks was cut short, and she is now battling for a headline spot in a division which includes the red-hot Becky Lynch, Flair, Bliss, and possibly Ronda Rousey.
Yet, during her run in NXT, Bayley was the promotion's top babyface. She overcame adversity to defeat Sasha Banks, held the NXT Women's Title for about nine months, and was the brand's hottest female star until she was unseated by the then-unstoppable Asuka. A return to NXT would not just give Bayley the chance to carve her niches back again, but her underdog fan-favorite persona would be the perfect foil for current NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler.
9 Shouldn't Go: Drew McIntyre
The Scottish Psychopath is another star who raced from carrying NXT's top strap into a main roster appearance, but he does not need to make the return trip any time soon. After being anointed "The Chosen One" by Mr McMahon in 2009, Mcintyre is finally fulfilling the chairman's prophecy and rocketing straight to the top of the WWE.
It has been a long route. McIntyre stumbled after his initial success and washed out of WWE in 2014 after a low point in 3MB with Jinder Mahal and Heath Slater. But he went away and rebuilt himself with sterling runs in TNA, ICW, and AAA. He was back in the WWE and wrestling on NXT in 2017 and captured the NXT Championship from Bobby Roode just four months later. Now he has worked his way back towards the main roster and the main event and there is no stopping him.
8 Should Go: Apollo
On paper, few WWE stars are as equipped for success as Apollo—formerly Apollo Crews. Unfortunately, he has never made the impact he should. The performer formerly known as Uhaa Nation arrived in WWE in late 2014, debuted in NXT in early 2015 and blazed through to a main roster debut in less than a year. But then he stalled and has never quite recovered.
Fans never got the chance to get on board with either Apollo's athleticism or his strength, and he has scrapped around in the mid-card. He was jumped to Smackdown three months after his main roster debut, had a short feud with The Miz, and was then bounced back to Raw the next year. Titus Worldwide gave him some stable exposure, but a return to NXT would give Apollo the space to establish his star qualities in the eyes of fans and management.
7 Shouldn't Go: Asuka
With Bayley on this list, some may argue Asuka's claim for a return to NXT is bigger than the Huggable One's. But, while Bayley needs a moment to recapture her spark, Asuka is no longer the performer she was when she dominated NXT and went undefeated for 914 days (according to WWE) and held the NXT Women's Championship for 510 days.
She lost her undefeated streak to Charlotte Flair and just about began to build some of the luster back with her recent run as Smackdown Women's Champion. Now she has the potential for a new lease of life in a team with Kairi Sane, managed by Paige. Taking her back to NXT would be an attempt to recapture a past which is gone.
6 Should Go: Bo Dallas
Here is another top NXT star and champion who never quite translated that success to the main roster. Bo held the NXT title for six months in 2013-2014 and whipped up such fury in the NXT fans that they began turning their backs on him and cheering any opponent he had. His patronizing and superior persona, exemplified by his "Bo-liefs", rubbed fans the wrong way. But his main roster debut never captured that same magic.
Fans had not had the time to organically turn on Bo, and they just didn't buy into his character, so he has been floundering ever since. But there is good news; Bo's real-life older brother Windham also spent time on the WWE main roster as Husky Harris before heading back to NXT to rework himself into Bray Wyatt. It might be time for Bo to follow his brother's lead.
5 Shouldn't Go: The Revival
Like Asuka, these two have lost some of the sheen they were given in NXT, where they were a truly dominant tag team pair. But they are also finding their feet in a very crowded main roster tag team division, and to take them across to NXT would seem like an admission of failure, which would not suit their style or their character.
In January of this year, the duo captured the Raw Tag Team Titles after some debate about their future in the company. However, they dropped them to Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder at Wrestlemania. The Revival have made their mark on the main roster and will fight for their place there. If they are going somewhere it would most probably be out of WWE.
4 Should Go: Tyler Breeze
While his Prince Pretty gimmick has never clicked with WWE fans in the same way as it did with the NXT crowds, Tyler Breeze and Fandango did hit television gold with their Fashion Police gimmick. The injury to his partner has left Breeze floundering slightly, and he has made appearances in NXT challenging current superstars while left with little to do on the main roster.
But once Breezango is reunited, expect to see the duo battling for their place on the main roster and putting more stars in their 'style files'. Breeze would be as lost on NXT, as he is in WWE on his own, but his immediate future in a tag team looks good.
3 Shouldn't Go: EC3
WWE management just cannot seem to get EC3 right. When he was Derrick Bateman, he appeared in two seasons of NXT when the show was a competition to make it into WWE. When NXT became a brand in its own right Bateman competed there for a while before his release in 2013. He then went on to join TNA, or IMPACT, as EC3 and became a major star in the promotion.
He returned to WWE and NXT in 2018 where he struggled to make much of an impact and was thrown onto the main roster in early 2019. But management is clearly not getting behind this star at the moment and a move back to NXT will not change that. EC3 has proved he can be a star among top performers, and, if this run in WWE is going to work, he will have to do that again on the biggest stage.
2 Should Go: Chad Gable
Life in WWE has been difficult for Chad Gable. He and his American Alpha teammate Jason Jordan jumped to the main roster in 2016 and had a run as Smackdown Tag Team Champions before they were disbanded with Jordan's move to Raw and a storyline with Kurt Angle. Ironically, it is Gable, with his impressive amateur wrestling background, who bears more resemblance to the Olympic Hero of which the WWE should be taking advantage.
A move back to NXT would lift Gable out of the rut of hastily thrown-together tag teams and let him rebuild himself as a pure wrestling star.
1 Shouldn't Go: Shelton Benjamin
The one-time, self-proclaimed "Gold Standard" of WWE and Intercontinental Challenge was seen as one of the company's top stars the late 2000s and had runs as Untied States and Intercontinental champion as well as battling world champion Triple H. He then went away and had success in Ring of Honour, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling Noah before returning as a tag team competitor with Chad Gable in 2017.
But, unlike his former partner, Benjamin does not need repackaging and re-pushing. At 43, and with an impressive CV behind him, Benjamin is right where he belongs in the midst of the main roster.