WWE NXT is the hottest thing in wrestling right now, with Triple H’s revolutionary promotion attracting the best wrestlers from around the planet who want to get their stepping stone to the WWE. Many would say that NXT is better than the main roster nowadays, as the product is so exciting, unpredictable and attractive that even the grumpiest of smarks can’t seem to find many flaws with it. The inflow of favourites from around the world and pitting the best against each other always makes for some amazing matches, with the wrestlers who succeed prevailing onto newer heights, and those who fail having to take the miserable path out of the company.
NXT was transitioned from WWE’s developmental territory of Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) as Vince McMahon decided to give his loyal son-in-law the freedom to create this into a successful thing and boy oh boy was he to be pleased with the product. Triple H completely revamped things in NXT, picking the best of the production team in order to help him orchestrate something amazing. Triple H, being among the more influential men in the company, attracted the best available talent from other promotions like ROH, TNA and NJPW in order to build his own promotion into the most exciting wrestling product in the world.
Not only did Triple H bring some of the most talented wrestlers around the world to hone their skills in this platform, but also brought in some amateurs (because this is a developmental promotion at the end of the day) and let the loud crowd of Full Sail University decide on whom would be their favourites. But NXT was getting extremely competitive, and those who failed to get themselves over with the crowd had to suffer as they would go down the ladder in the promotion and then out of it. Even some who got main rosters pushes failed to make their mark in the WWE, as many NXT stars seemed to fail to impress in the promotion.
28 Eli Cottonwood (then)
A former basketball player, Eli Cottonwood definitely had the attributes to shine in that field being 7 feet tall. After failing in basketball, Cottonwood tried his hand in wrestling and joined FCW where he would actually be a part of the developing ‘Wyatt Family’ with Bray Wyatt, before becoming a participant in the second season of NXT. Under John Morrison, he defeated the likes of Titus O’Neil and Zack Ryder in a tag match and his performance in NXT’s ‘Talk the Talk Challenge’ bought him a clip in E! Television’s episode of The Soup series. But things didn’t go so well for the big man as he soon was eliminated from the season and couldn’t find his ground in the competitive developmental territory of WWE and asked for his release in 2012.
27 Eli Cottonwood (now)
Kipp Christianson (his real name) wouldn’t really find much work in the field of wrestling after being released by the WWE, as he only went to work for some low-key independent shows here and there. He would announce his retirement from wrestling in an independent show in 2014 as this field didn’t really work out for him. Christian now owns a Yoga/Gym business called ‘Kipp’s life Flip’ in Las Vegas and also owns half of Florida Hardcore Wrestling since 2014, as the man is definitely an astute business thinker as he has set up a reasonable future for himself.
26 Camacho (then)
Camacho has rich wrestling blood in him, being the son of Haku who was an influential figure in 90s wrestling. Camacho chose to follow his father’s footsteps into wrestling, joining FCW for some training before moving onto seemingly bigger things. He got a chance or two in the main roster but couldn’t really find his ground, having to move back to the revamped NXT and honing his skills there. He started tagging with Hunico and having dark matches in the main roster, but couldn’t find his own there and was mostly seen in NXT where he was having a feud with Big E. His last feud was with the party freak Adam Rose who defeated him in NXT: Takeover and Camacho was released soon after.
25 Camacho (now)
After a rather disappointing tenure in WWE, Camacho moved to their competitors in TNA, making his debut in February 2015 and aligning himself with Drew Galloway and Eli Drake. After a failed attempt at winning the TNA World Championship tournament, Camacho would wrestle in some other tag matches before being released by TNA for not showing up for a show. Camacho would try his hand in a different part of the wrestling world, as he would become a new member of the Bullet Club in 2016 and continues to wrestle as part of the stable for New Japan Pro Wrestling, while also doing some other independent shows.
24 Maxine (then)
Maxine wasn’t really a professional wrestler and was soon booked by the creative at FCW (where she joined initially) as a manager/valet of wrestlers and groups. She would manage some wrestlers in FCW before she was announced as being a competitor in the 3rd season of NXT. With Alicia Fox as her mentor, Maxine couldn’t really win at anything and was eliminated quickly. After an absence, she returned as a participant in the fifth season of NXT termed ‘NXT Redemption’ and aligned herself as Derrick Bateman’s on-screen girlfriend. She would compete in many matches during the season but was pretty horrible as a wrestler. Maxine aligned herself with many wrestlers and teams during her stint, before she asked for her release from WWE in 2012.
23 Maxine (now)
After being released from the WWE, Maxine tried to get into the acting business and was casted in a web series ‘The Cell’. Even though she swore that she wouldn’t join any other wrestling promotion, Maxine would join TNA in 2014 for a very short stint. She would then be cast in Lucha Underground later on, making her appearance as ‘Catrina’ the on-screen girlfriend of wrestler Mil Muertes. In November 2015, it was announced that Catrina was a new proprietor of the company as she also continues to act as the valet of Muertes, while trying to look out for any other acting roles out there for her as that is the only thing she seems to be good at.
22 Sami Callihan (then)
The ‘extreme’ partner of Dean Ambrose during their indy days, Sami Callihan followed his friend’s footsteps to the WWE, signing with the rising NXT brand. Callihan’s name was changed to Solomon Crowe, this mysterious entity who turned out to be an eccentric wrestler who caught the intrigue of many wrestling fans. After much anticipation and hype by NXT, Crowe debuted as someone who definitely had a unique moveset much like his friend Ambrose, but couldn’t really capture the fans’ imagination as much as one would want. Crowe couldn’t get over with the fans of NXT and soon asked for his own release with nothing better seeming to be coming his way.
21 Sami Callihan (now)
Callihan returned back to his home in the independent scene quickly after his release from NXT, going back as the character of Sami Callihan. Callihan returned to his old hunting ground in Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) for their Cage of Death XVII PPV, and also returned to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) later on. Callihan now wrestlers for Lucha Underground as it was announced earlier this year that he would be a part of the third season of the show. With his good friend Dean Ambrose now at the top of the WWE, Callihan seems to be the perfect Indy guy who entertains people all around the country as he tries to strive in the competitive environment of Lucha Underground.
20 Percy Watson (then)
Percy Watson is rarely remembered by wrestling fans and it’s not really surprising as he never made that big of an impact either. Watson started out at FCW, forming a tag team with Darren Young called the ‘South Beach Party Boys’. Watson would be a participant in the second season of NXT, with MVP as his mentor. Watson became the first NXT rookie to defeat a pro, as he defeated Zack Ryder in a one on one match. He finished fifth overall in the show, before making a comeback in its fifth season as Titus O’Neil’s partner. They’d create a tag team which would split after a short stint, as Watson would be in some abrupt storylines thereafter. Percy would go on a losing streak as the new NXT debuted, losing every singles match and also losing tag matches after teaming with Yoshi Tatsu. Watson would be released from NXT in 2013.
19 Percy Watson (now)
Watson was fired by the WWE in 2013 and has been looking for places to wrestle ever since. His controversial firing has made him a man promotions don’t want to align themselves with, and he has found difficulty in returning to the squared circle ever since his release from NXT. Watson apparently wrestled under the name of ‘Cordell Porter’ and his last known match was in 2014. Watson has a degree in computer information systems and is known for his footballing background as well, as he should try to look into those fields as wrestling seems like a cold trail for him now.
18 Shaul Guerrero (then)
The daughter of the iconic Eddie Guerrero would find it difficult to fit into her father’s shoes as she tried her hand in wrestling by joining FCW in 2010. Wrestling under the name of Raquel Diaz, she would start managing the likes of Rusev and the Ascension before heading onto singles competition. Guerrero would win the Queen of FCW title as well as winning the FCW Women’s Championship soon after. But the transition of FCW to NXT would hit her hard, as she was given an arrogant gimmick which she couldn’t adjust herself into and would soon look for a release from the WWE, which was given to her.
17 Shaul Guerrero (now)
It was discovered that Guerrero wasn’t exactly released by the WWE, but was given some time off to deal with her personal issues. Guerrero would state that it was an eating disorder which would send her to rehab in order to overcome it, after which she would again start training in the WWE. But her wrestling career seemed to be over as she couldn’t be booked in any more matches and rarely made appearances after a short stint as the manager of Jason Jordan and Mason Ryan. She was finally released in 2014, after which she began going to a Veterinarian School. Shaul recently got married to WWE Superstar Aiden English and doesn’t really have much hopes at returning to the ring herself, as her wrestling career was quite a failure trying to mirror her father’s success.
16 Sylvester Lefort (then)
Another wrestler who was soon forgotten by the NXT Universe, Sylvester Lefort was actually a compelling manager when he started off with a rich Frenchman’s gimmick and started managing various personnel. Lefort went on to manage Rusev before he sided with Lana, and also managed Scott Dawson while he was teaming with Garrett Dylan and also in Dawson’s singles run. Lefort soon formed a tag team with Marcus Louis called ‘The Legionnaires’ and feuded with Enzo and Cass. During this feud, Lefort had a hair vs hair match against Enzo and went on to lose it, but ran away from his stipulation with his partner getting his head shaved instead. Louis snapped on him later on and the team disbanded, and Lefort was rarely seen on TV after that and was released in 2016 along with a bunch of other superstars.
15 Sylvester Lefort (now)
Lefort went on to join TNA with his former partner Marcus Louis as the two re-united to tag with each other once again. They soon signed contracts with the promotion and Lefort was renamed as ‘Basile Baraka’. Baraka and Baron Drax (formerly Louis) would go on to align themselves with Al Snow and form the team of ‘The Tribunal’. The faction would be pretty entertaining heels with Snow doing the dirty-work to give them the wins, as they recently made their TNA PPV debut in Slammiversary against Grado and Shera who they had attacked earlier on. Lefort seems to have blended into the tag division of TNA pretty well, as he and his partner would like to attain glory which they never got at WWE.
14 CJ Parker (then)
CJ Parker could argue that he wasn’t really given a chance by the WWE, right from when he joined the company in their FCW territory in 2011. He didn’t really find much success in FCW and was finding it difficult to settle in the WWE, when FCW was transitioned into NXT. Under the NXT banner, Parker would be used as a ‘jobber’ who would put other guys over, before being sidelined due to an injury. He would return as a hippie and twerked his character into that of an eco-warrior which got him somewhat over as he finally got a win against Tye Dillinger. But Parker would keep on jobbing to people and put other guys over, before asking for his release last year.
13 CJ Parker (now)
Parker returned to the independent circuit soon after asking for his release from NXT, competing in CZW's Best of the Best XIV tournament. He would make it to the semi-finals of the tournament before trying his hand in Indy groups like International Pro Wrestling:UK and also competing for All Star Wrestling. He would drop his CJP name and give himself his original Juice Robinson name and headed to NJPW for their Destruction Tour. Robinson would soon sign a full time contract with the promotion, where he got some crucial wins to start off his NJPW career. He would get his first title shot in NJPW where he, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Michael Elgin would challenge the Elite (Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks) for their NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship, but ultimately lose. Robinson seems to have blended into NJPW well now, which can relieve him of the traumas he suffered in his NXT career.
12 Michael Tarver (then)
Michael Tarver was amongst the members of the Nexus who raided WWE for quite a bit of time, as he started off in FCW and even appeared as one of the bodyguards for Floyd Mayweather Jr in his match against the Big Show at WrestleMania XXIV. At FCW he would be part of a stable named The Saxton Coglomerate along with Stu Sanders, Black Pain and Byron Saxton as their manager. He would be amongst the participants for the first season of NXT with Carlito as his storyline mentor. Tarver, along with Daniel Bryan, would be the first participants to be eliminated from the show, before re-appearing as part of the Nexus and wreaking havoc over the WWE.
11 Michael Tarver (now)
Tarver’s tenure in The Nexus would be disrupted when the stable lost to ‘Team WWE’ at SummerSlam and would soon be buried to the bottom of the ladder. He appeared in some events and even returned to FCW for a point of time before being released by the WWE. After his release, Tarver would go on a twitter rant on how John Cena destroyed the Nexus and pour some really ugly feelings on the superstar in his rant. He would go on to wrestle for the National Wrestling Alliance afterwards, even winning its Heavyweight Championship in the process. Tarver would also have a stint at NJPW and other Indy promotions. Recently, Tarver released his second music album ‘Sheep in Wolves Clothing’, a Christian Hip-Hop genre album and spoke on how he’s now more concentrated on power-lifting, as his wrestling career was disrupted in controversy.
10 Aksana (then)
Another amateur bodybuilder who tried her part in the squared circle, Aksana impressed WWE officials by winning the 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic Contest and was snapped up in their developmental program. During her time at FCW, she would go on to host her own show called ‘The Aksana Show’ and win the Queen of FCW title as well as the FCW Women’s Championship. She was announced as part of NXT’s 3rd season with Goldust as her mentor. During this time, she was involved in a storyline where she would have Visa problems and would seduce Goldust into marrying her so that she wouldn't get deported. Aksana turned heel during their wedding ceremony and would be eliminated soon after that.
9 Aksana (now)
Aksana was promoted to the main roster after her elimination from NXT, becoming the love interest of Antonio Cesaro. She would be given a chance to try to win the Divas championship but failed to do that and went on to align with Alicia Fox to form ‘Foxsana’. This turned out to be absolutely horrible as her wrestling didn’t appeal to the officials either and was released by the WWE after the two disbanded. She had a recurring role in the JBL & Cole Show and went out of sight after her release from the WWE. She seems to be working in the fitness industry and probably a trainer of some sorts, as her reputation of body-building and name as a former WWE Superstar can get her a job in those industries.
8 Mason Ryan (then)
Mason Ryan definitely had the physique to swoon the WWE officials, as the former footballer tried his hand in wrestling and caught the eye of WWE in 2009. He was drafted straight to FCW where he would compete against a bunch of developmental wrestlers to hone his wrestling ability in the ring. Ryan would receive a big push soon as he won the FCW World Heavyweight Championship and was built as this powerhouse who would dominate his opponents and oust everyone in his path. Ryan would later be accompanied by Byron Saxton as his manager as he would keep the title for 6 months before dropping it and receiving the call from the main roster, where he debuted as the powerhouse of CM Punk’s Nexus group and dominated the scene for a long time before dwindling into insignificance and being released in 2014.
7 Mason Ryan (now)
After receiving his release from the company, Ryan would move to the independent circuit and would compete for many new and budding wrestling promotions who put their belts on him in order to gather relevance. Ryan would also compete for Full Impact Pro and also Japanese promotion Inoki Genome Federation as he tried to climb the ladder in the Indy scene. Earlier this year, Ryan would reveal to WWE.com that he is now working at Cirque du Soleil as the Chief Archer of Ka and he accredits the WWE for preparing him for such a role and giving him the limelight he needed for such an opportunity, as Ryan’s wrestling career was pretty disappointing considering the potential he showed once.
6 Justin Gabriel (then)
An extremely talented wrestler and a possibly impressive overseas coup for the WWE, Justin Gabriel came into the company with much promise and ability which could’ve made him a star. His FCW career was impressive, as he went on to win the FCW World Championship and had quite a successful time in the territory. Gabriel was part of the inaugural season of NXT, giving a great performance with Matt Hardy as his storyline mentor. He went on to become the first participant to pin a pro when he pinned William Regal in a tag match and would stay in contention for a long time, finishing 3rd overall in the end before barging in as part of the Nexus. Gabriel did win the Tag titles in the WWE, but he was under the limelight only till the Nexus was in existence as The Corre didn’t get over and WWE was reluctant to push him as a singles competitor.
5 Justin Gabriel (now)
Gabriel quit the WWE after much frustration with creative not taking him seriously, and went on to convey his frustration to them. Gabriel would go into the Indy scene for a while before becoming a part of the Global Force Wrestling (GFW) roster and also competing in TNA for a while as part of their invasion of TNA. He became GFW’s first ever NEX*GEN champion, but dropped the title to move on to Lucha Underground. He debuted as ‘The Darewolf’ PJ Black, impressing with his high-flying technique and amazing ability in the ring. Gabriel went on to win the Trios Championship in LU, making him the first and only wrestler to win titles in WWE, TNA, GFW and LU as his career outside WWE seems to be way more prominent.
4 Low Ki (then)
Low Ki was arguably the most experienced competitor in the history of the original NXT series, as he arrived at the company with successful stints in TNA, PWG, ROH and even spending time in Japan. After spending some years in developmental in FCW, Low Ki would be announced as a participant for the second season of NXT with Team LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool) as his mentors. Renamed as ‘Kaval’ he would go on to show his impressive mat skills in the season of NXT which he would ultimately win. But things went downhill from there, as he turned into a glorified jobber when he got promoted to the main roster, losing to every other mid-carder and was finally released in 2014, putting an end to the miserable WWE run.
3 Low Ki (now)
Low Ki returned to his beloved Indy circuit after being released by the WWE, and soon was snapped by NJPW for their 2011 Invasion Tour where he would be back to the top of ladder. Low Ki would be involved in the contention for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship and go onto capture it from Prince Devitt (now Finn Balor) and have multiple reigns with it in short time. After his NJPW contract expired, he returned to TNA where he would be a strong mid-carder before joining a villainous stable called ‘The Beatdown Clan’. After winning the X-Division and having a great reign with the BDC, he parted ways with the company as he could sense their ship sinking. Low Ki now mostly wrestles for independent promotions as he’s quite the hot property in the Indy scene because of his name and experience, and unlike WWE other promotions treat him with respect and keep him in a very relevant position.
2 Derrick Bateman (then)
If only WWE would’ve know what they had in Derrick Bateman, they would not have treated him the way they did. Bateman would join WWE’s Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) territory. He spent a good two years in the promotion before moving to FCW where he would rise in prominence, winning the FCW Tag Team Championship with Johnny Curtis. Bateman would be a participant in the 4th season of NXT, with Daniel Bryan as his mentor and finished in the top 3 before having a main roster match against Ryback where he got squashed. Not feeling he’s ready yet, WWE put him in the 5th season of NXT as well and he would be involved in weird storylines which made his character disappointing and irrelevant. He was part of the revamped NXT but couldn’t survive that long, being released in 2013 but WWE didn’t realize what they had let go of.
1 Derrick Bateman (now)
Bateman would join TNA after his failure in WWE, and he was repackaged as TNA President Dixie Carter’s spoiled nephew Ethan Carter III as he seemed to revel as this spoiled heel. He would do all the dirty-work, trying to take down legends and prominent superstars while having the backing of Dixie, and soon got extremely over with the crowd. EC3 would be on the mouths of all TNA fans as other fans were also getting attracted to his irresistible charisma and he went onto win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship and have a reign of 102 days. He would win it for a second time when TNA debuted in POP TV, as he was the undisputed face of this failing promotion. EC3 would work indy events as well, winning the House of Glory Championship and recently competed in Slammiversary too. The most controversial moment of his recent time was when he invaded an EVOLVE match and ranted on NXT and mouthed off on Triple H, as a return to WWE looks like a hindered possibility.