If you're a current WWE fan, you are living during fortunate times. WWE has stepped up their game on several fronts, especially in the area of their developmental system. NXT has provided more than just a farm ground for Superstars awaiting their call to the main roster. It has become its own unique, individual brand.
We've seen some of the biggest independent wrestlers of the past two decades emerge on the NXT stage, such as Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe, and Austin Aries to name a few. We've also seen some guys who weren't as popular as the aforementioned wrestlers, namely Rusev, make their case heard on NXT television before moving up to the main roster and attaining a level of higher success.
However, there are also a few big names and a few not so big names who had short NXT careers before departing to pursue other ventures. Where are they now? Why did they leave?
We'll discuss 15 former NXT Superstars and their departures. Some didn't fit the mold, others went on to new horizons, and a few even went back to some old, former ventures. We begin out count down at number 15 with a guy who was forgettable to some and memorable to even fewer.
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15 Bull Dempsey
Bull Dempsey arrived on the NXT scene and earned some notoriety. Fans seemed to be into him and he had a few noteworthy feuds with the likes of Baron Corbin and Mojo Rawley. Dempsey even had a noted undefeated streak until that streak was ended by WWE call up Baron Corbin in 2015.
However, it is rumored that Dempsey soon lost favor with management as he made no improvements to his physique, as was expected of him. He was then graced with the "Bull Fit" gimmick which seemed to poke fun at his poor eating and exercise habits. Needless to say, the gimmick was a failure and so was Dempsey. On February 5th, 2016 Dempsey announced that he had been released by NXT.
14 Percy Watson
Percy Watson originally debuted on NXT when it was still being marketed as a competition show, where the winner would earn a WWE contract. Watson finished fifth overall in the competition and wasn't seen back on WWE television for several months. He returned and wrestled a few matches on WWE Superstars before being relegated to NXT.
After one victory victory over Titus O'Neil and a few random tag team pairings, Watson's final moment in NXT would be a loss to The Wyatt Family with partner Yoshi Tatsu during the tournament to crown the inaugural NXT Tag Team Champions. Watson was released on May 17th, 2013 after failed attempts at developing himself into a character with some staying power.
13 Mason Ryan
Mason Ryan actually debuted on the WWE main roster in 2011 after wrestling in the WWE developmental Florida Championship Wrestling. Ryan would achieve some success, racking up a few wins on the main roster and even becoming a member of Wade Barrett's Nexus group.
Ryan suffered an injury and was off of WWE television for several months before returning to the rebooted NXT program where he would engage in a few short feuds with the likes of Collin Cassidy and Enzo Amore. His final match was a loss to Tyson Kidd in a number one contender match for the NXT Championship. Ryan was released in 2014, after serving his short lived usefulness to WWE management, as he simply couldn't get over with fans. He would later take a weird career turn, joining Cirque Du Soleil.
12 Brian Kendrick
Brian Kendrick previously endured a few runs on WWE's main roster before arriving in a televised role on NXT in 2014. Kendrick was trying out for a role as a trainer at the WWE Performance Center. All the while, Kendrick was featured in a televised wrestling role.
Kendrick would work a few dark matches under the NXT banner and even have a loss to Finn Balor on a televised main event. Shortly after, Kendrick would assume the trainer position and be removed from his on-screen roles.
While we would have all loved to see "Spanky" stick around on television, it's also great to know that his talents made him a commodity in other capacities, earning him a training position. His biggest task? Turning Eva Marie into a credibly wrestler.
11 CJ Parker
CJ Parker, a product of Florida Championship Wrestling, arrived in NXT in 2012, before suffering an injury that would see him out of action for a year. Parker would return in 2013 with a hippie, environmentalist gimmick which seemed to be a shot at him becoming a face. However, the NXT audience didn't take kindly to his role and quickly targeted him with their chants.
It should also be noted, Parker actually broke Kevin Owens' nose in a match, a move that didn't earn himself many favors. He went on to wrestle on television for a short while before asking for his release, which he was granted, in 2015. Seth Rollins praised the decision, claiming Parker will come back better than ever.
Kaval, or independent sensation Low Ki, was trained in Florida Championship Wrestling and wrestled a few dark matches on WWE's main roster shows. He was then announced as a contestant on WWE's second season of the NXT competition show. He amazed fans with his martial arts inspired maneuvers and went on to win the competition, earning a WWE contract.
Kaval would wrestle for the SmackDown brand, earning a few wins and quite a few losses. It was rumored that he wasn't happy with his direction in the WWE ranks and didn't like the schedule either. Kaval would eventually opt out of his WWE contract and later returned to wrestle in the American independent circuit, Japan, and even a return to TNA.
Low Ki would have been very over with the crowd in the rebooted NXT wrestling program, however, his interests lie elsewhere.
9 Justin Gabriel
Justin Gabriel was an original cast member on the inaugural run of the NXT competition show. He would go on to join the main roster as a member of The Nexus.
Gabriel was a fan favorite due to his high flying moves and aesthetically pleasing appearance. Gabriel eventually spent a few months as WWE Tag Team Champion with partner Heath Slater.
After Gabriel's run on Raw and SmackDown, he would be later assigned to wrestling on shows such as Main Event and Superstars, before being featured exclusively on NXT.
Gabriel quit in 2015 before appearing on Chris Jericho's podcast where he revealed he portrayed Adam Rose's bunny character on a few occasions. He also mentioned that he had developed his own character which he had written promos for, that were all ultimately rejected by Triple H and the creative team.
8 Adam Rose
Adam Rose was one of the many performers who were active in Florida Championship Wrestling when it was rebranded as NXT in 2012. The man who debuted as Leo Kreuger would later debut under the name of Adam Rose. Rose had minor success in NXT before coming to the main roster with his party gimmick. The gimmick became stagnant and fans showed their displeasure.
Rose would go on to have a few pointless feuds before joining the popular Social Outcast faction. However, Rose tested positive for a banned substance and was involved in a domestic violence case, causing him to be suspended by the WWE. This was likely the end for Rose in any event, as he asked to be released by the company. It's likely the former NXT star would have been released anyway.
7 Alex Riley
Alex Riley, who originally played the role of Miz's rookie on the WWE NXT competition show, would emerge on the main roster as Miz's lackey. This was a role that Riley played very well and he helped Miz get over as a mega heel. Riley would wrestle on Raw and SmackDown for several months before being dismissed from television.
This didn't sit well with Riley and probably marked the beginning of the end for him. After being sent back to NXT, Riley would require surgery and wasn't seen on TV for a while.
Riley would return from injury and suffer many losses before losing his final match with the company to Shinsuke Nakamura. Riley wasn't shy about voicing his frustrations with the company, which didn't help his case as he was released shortly after his return from injury.
6 Solomon Crowe
Solomon Crowe, who was known as Sami Callahan before the WWE, wrestled for various promotions such as Dragon Gate and CZW. He earned himself a good following and had some great ring skills.
He would arrive in NXT under the name Solomon Crowe in 2013. Crowe worked for WWE for nearly a year before being featured on NXT televised events. His career in WWE was short lived and he never really seemed to fit into the NXT program before he requested his release in 2015.
Skip Sheffield, a contestant on the first season of NXT competition, made his way to the main WWE roster during The Nexus invasion. After being absent from television for several months, Skip would return as the monster Ryback, defeating everyone in his path.
After failed attempts at making Ryback a main event player, he was lost in the shuffle. He would go on to be involved in a few tag teams, most notably Rybaxel, with partner Curtis Axel.
It was reported that Ryback was unhappy with his mid-card status causing him to become unhappy in the WWE. Also, there were other reports that many Superstars deemed him unsafe to work with, after injuring a few other wrestlers. This did not sit well with Ryback.
Ryback's displeasure with his creative direction wasn't his biggest gripe, as he posted on twitter that in addition to his creative issues, he also wasn't happy with his pay rate.
Conflicting reports suggest Ryback was either sent home from television or that he left on his own volition. While he hasn't formally been released or quit, we haven't seen Ryback in a few months and don't assume he'll be back.
4 Derrick Bateman
Former FCW Alumni and NXT Redemption competition show contestant, Derrick Bateman would emerge onto the rebooted NXT in 2013. Bateman was once believed to be a future star in WWE and had quite the following on social media. However, projections and followers didn't amount to success for Bateman within the company. He was released from his WWE contract in 2013.
Bateman went on to debut in TNA as Ethan Carter III. This would prove to be a more successful move in terms of character and exposure. Carter, is now a two-time former TNA champion. While he seems to be enjoying success away from WWE, this is one wrestler we wouldn't be surprised to see in the WWE again.
Pro-wrestling legend, WWE alumni, and ECW original, Rhyno would shock fans by appearing on the NXT program in early 2015. Rhyno worked a few programs with Kevin Owens and Baron Corbin. Rhyno even participated in the Dusty Rhodes classic with Barin Corbin as his partner.
He later became involved in WWE's resurrection of ECW angle, pitting him alongside The Dudleys and Tommy Dreamer as they clashed with The Wyatt Family. The extreme team lost both exchanges of this feud and Rhyno was removed from television.
Rhyno's return was obviously that of an enhancement talent role in NXT that he played very well. He served his purpose and is no longer on the NXT program. However, it is certain that Rhyno will be welcomed back with open arms should WWE ever need another favor of him.
2 Kassius Ohno
Perhaps one of the most decorated independent wrestling stars in history, Chris Hero debuted in NXT as Kassius Ohno in 2012. The former longtime ROH stand out was quickly well received by the NXT fans.
His most notable and entertaining feud in NXT was with on screen authority figure, William Regal. Hero would go on to wrestle several televised matches. He also had short lived tag team partnership with Corey Graves.
Things soured for Hero after it was revealed that he was in poor standing with WWE because of his lack of efforts at improving his body. He was released in 2013, but didn't leave on bad terms as he has stated that there is still potential for him to return to the company some time in the future.
1 James Storm
Storm was never officially under a contract with the WWE, but is one of the most intriguing wrestlers to ever make an appearance on the program. Storm appeared in the audience in late 2015 on NXT. The internet was set ablaze as Storm made an immediate impact. Storm would debut and wrestle two televised matches, earning two victories, one of which came over Adam Rose.
Strangely enough, Storm opted not to sign with NXT and return to TNA.
Storm would return to TNA for a short lived reunion with former Beer Money team mate Bobby Roode. Roode has since debuted in NXT which begs the question, could we possibly see an NXT Beer Money reunion? We can only hope so.
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