Read down both the Raw and SmackDown Live rosters today and you'll find that they're absolutely riddled with Superstars that have had to ply their trade in NXT before earning a place on either Monday or Tuesday nights. The escalation of what was simply a developmental brand for WWE in its beginnings has changed the face of professional wrestling and how young performers get in to and rise up through the business. Nowadays NXT is well and truly its own entity rather than just a feeder system to Raw and SmackDown. Independent stars from around the world wrestle there until Vince McMahon and Triple H can figure out their place on the main roster as well as new performers who are created and groomed from scratch in to WWE Superstars.
It is far from a perfect system though. Just because you may have been idolized in NXT and been on top of the world, it certainly does not mean that will transfer to Monday and Tuesday nights. There can be any number of reasons for that. Vince McMahon may not understand what 'it' is that a certain Superstar has, the mainstream fans may not recognize that also, or the plan the powers that be have set in motion for you upon your arrival may simply just not work. Currently there is almost an even split between NXT alumni that have excelled when called up and those who have stuttered or fallen flat on their face. As I type this four of the nine champions across both shows are alum from NXT. Here are a selection of names that have either thrived or failed since being summoned by Vince.
15 Exceeded: Baron Corbin
When Baron Corbin debuted on the main roster as a surprise entrant in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32, and like myself I'm sure many fans were excited, intrigued and overall pleased for the NXT Superstar, especially after he won the thing. Despite all that I didn't expect Baron to stick around following his big win. Corbin didn't appear quite ready for Raw and SmackDown and there seemed to be a lot left for him to do in NXT. Nevertheless that feels a long time ago now. What felt like WWE pushing one of their own creations too fast has become a great decision that has seen Corbin become a genuine competitor for the WWE Championship. He may not have won it yet but it's really just a matter of time.
14 Failed: The Vaudevillains
The main thing that can make or break an act making the move from NXT to Raw or SmackDown Live is whether Vince McMahon 'gets' them. There is maybe no better example of that not happening with an NXT call up than The Vaudevillains. In the present day you really do have to be extremely creative to come up with a gimmick that hasn't been seen in the wrestling business before. Aiden English and Simon Gotch did that. In NXT they were loved by the fans and held the brand's Tag Team Championships. On arrival to the main roster they flopped. They weren't given the spotlight they should have been and the little interest there was to begin with in the act quickly vanished. Now Simon Gotch has been released and Aiden English has been left to go it alone.
13 Exceeded: Paige
She may not be in WWE's good books right now thanks to the suspensions and sex tape leaks, but make no mistake Paige made one hell of an impact on Raw when she arrived from NXT. It feels like she has been around so much longer, but it was only the night after WrestleMania XXX that Paige appeared on the main roster and won the Diva's Championship on her first night out of NXT from AJ Lee. Paige continued in that same vain, putting on tremendous matches and helping further how women's wrestling was viewed. The Brit was around before the movement was labelled the women's revolution and very much gave it some traction with the help of those she was across the ring from.
12 Failed: Bo Dallas
Those of you unfamiliar with NXT, especially its humble beginnings before it became a global travelling branch of WWE, are forgiven for maybe not knowing that Bo Dallas was once the brand's champion. The son of Mike Rotunda and brother of Bray Wyatt has pro wrestling in his blood, so when he and his sibling arrived in NXT I imagine Triple H's head began to spin with ideas for the two of them. While Bray went on to do the Wyatt Family gimmick, Bo took a very different path and it was one that led him to major NXT gold. Dallas held the belt for a long period of time and lost the title in a ladder match to Neville that was an instant classic. On Raw if Bo is lucky enough to get his face on TV it's usually to be embarrassed or beaten and that doesn't look like it'll be changing any time soon.
11 Exceeded: Braun Strowman
Some of you reading this may throw a flag on me for this one, but I'm sticking with it as even though he may not have appeared on NXT television Braun Strowman did in fact spend a little bit of time in NXT. Clearly The Monster Among Men must have caught Vince McMahon's eye on a trip down to Florida, or while Braun was one of Adam Rose's Rosebuds, as before long he was stood by the side of Bray Wyatt on the main roster. If Baron Corbin's ascent was a little fast, then Braun's can be considered lightning quick. Shockingly though fast forward a year and a half and Strowman is one of the biggest acts, not just literally, on Raw. The fans love him and as it stands he looks like he may be on a collision course for a shot at Brock Lesnar's Universal Championship.
10 Failed: Apollo Crews
There are few wrestlers in all of WWE right now that put Apollo Crews to shame when it comes to in ring and athletic ability. That's most likely why Vince McMahon was in somewhat of a hurry to get the former Indy star on Raw and SmackDown. After WrestleMania 32 Crews shockingly made his debut on the main roster. Apollo really hadn't spent much time in NXT and while he clearly knows his way around a ring, WWE evidently didn't have a plan for him. They were blinded by his up side and unfortunately for Apollo that has back fired in a major way. Over a year later Crews still hasn't really been involved in any significant story lines and a man who should be a main event Superstar just continues to fade into obscurity.
9 Exceeded: Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins was the first ever NXT Champion. You could argue that fact alone means he has hardly exceeded what was expected of him during his WWE career to date. Well history has shown winning that title alone does not equal success, refer back to Bo Dallas in this list for proof of that. Since breaking from The Shield though Seth has enjoyed some tremendous success, and at one point it even seemed feasible that he could be the face of the entire company. As I type this Rollins is now a two time WWE Champion with one of those title reigns beginning courtesy of an extremely memorable moment. Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank at WrestleMania 31 to blind side Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar and create a moment that nobody watching at the time will ever forget.
8 Failed: Nia Jax
Nia Jax never got the NXT Women's Championship run that I expected of her while honing her craft down at the Performance Center. Probably due to her residency there coinciding with the arrival of Asuka who Triple H and co clearly had big plans for. Nevertheless Nia's stature alone makes her a unique talent in the women's division and upon her arrival on Raw following the draft last year she was expected to make a big impact. Up until now that hasn't really happened. Despite her bigger frame compared to her competitors she has so far been overshadowed by Charlotte and Sasha's rivalry as well as the arrival of Bayley. What's worse than that is now that Nia is getting some screen time it's becoming increasingly evident that her in ring ability isn't as polished as it needs to be.
7 Exceeded: Charlotte Flair
With Flair blood coursing through your veins it would be hard not to be a fantastic professional wrestler. Well you would think so at least. Around the turn of the century Ric's son David Flair attempted to make a go of it in the wrestling business. It did not go well. Both WCW and WWE tried to make something of David but he simply didn't have what his father did. Due to that it was natural to be a little wary of what Charlotte would have to offer. Well clearly she got all the Flair wrestling genes. The now four time Women's Champion is not only a phenomenal athlete, but she's also demonstrated some of that Flair magic on the mic when called upon.
6 Failed: American Alpha
There is perhaps no greater or more beloved tag team in NXT history than American Alpha. They held the tag team gold down at Full Sail University, have amateur wrestling backgrounds that lend to them being terrific in ring performers, and it's plain to see from their candid interviews that they're also both genuinely nice guys. Unlike others on this list, their ascent to SmackDown Live was not rushed. However despite the great timing Jordan and Gable simply haven't clicked with the mainstream crowd. In all fairness to the former champs it's not really their faults. The booking of the entire tag division across both main brands has been poor as of late and simply isn't good enough to justify what American Alpha bring to the table.
5 Exceeded: Roman Reigns
People may hate him. Fans may boo him beyond belief each and every week on Raw. All that aside make no mistake about it, Roman Reigns is a product of NXT that is truly one of the biggest Superstars in WWE right now. You might not like it but he's a multi time WWE Champion and if you're completely honest with yourself you can't deny his in ring ability. His matches with AJ Styles alone have shown what he's capable of and how good a performer he is considering his relatively short time in the business. In The Shield he was the most in experienced wrestler of the three yet since the trio split he has managed to achieve so much more than Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, who themselves have both been WWE Champions in that time.
4 Failed: Rusev
For the first year of Rusev's career, The Bulgarian Brute showed so much promise. A beast of a man who turned up on the main roster during the 2014 Royal Rumble. Rusev went undefeated for over a year on Raw and SmackDown, in that time winning the United States Championship. Then at WrestleMania 31 Rusev lost to John Cena. Following the end of his undefeated streak it was a slippery slope that has continued to this day, more than two years removed from that loss. Rather than a continuation of being portrayed like the monster he is he's been relegated to comedy feuds and playing the bitter foreigner role. Hopefully his recent move to SmackDown Live, the supposed Land of Opportunity, will see a shift in Rusev's fortunes.
3 Exceeded: Finn Balor
As I mentioned earlier in this article, it's always a big worry for fans whether Vince McMahon will understand the value of a Superstar who has wowed us in NXT. As Finn Balor's call up neared that topic was raised time and time again. Finn is an unquestionable megastar, but if Vince doesn't see it then an ascent all the way to the top simply won't happen. Thankfully Mr McMahon saw Balor's worth and shocked us all, but in a good way. Not only did Finn get treated as a big star, he defeated Roman Reigns and became number one contender to the Universal Championship on his first night on Raw, a title he would win just weeks later. An injury unfortunately set Balor back a little but he has returned and I hope he will continue to be treated like the big money draw that he is by WWE.
2 Failed: Tyler Breeze
There is no greater example of a Superstar falling from grace after moving on up from NXT than Tyler Breeze. Although Breeze was never NXT Champion, fans of the brand would no doubt tell you he deserved to be and he was very much in the title picture for an extended period of time. He was also granted a once in a lifetime match with Japanese legend Jushin 'Thunder' Liger. Since competing on Raw and SmackDown though it's been all down hill for Tyler. Prince Pretty allegedly left a show early not long after his call up which is a definite no-no and ever since has been wallowing at the bottom of the card. No doubt Breeze is much better than being treated as somewhat of a joke as one half of Breezango, but sadly that may be all we ever see from him in WWE.
1 Exceeded: Alexa Bliss
When Alexa Bliss was included as one of the six NXT call ups during the 2016 draft, I was left scratching my head. I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking that Bliss had little to give on NXT at the time so wasn't exactly going to be a great addition to SmackDown Live's roster. How wrong I was. Fast forward nine months and Alexa may be the greatest thing about the WWE women's division right now, on either brand. She's solid in the ring and tremendous on the mic. In that short period she has also managed to win the SmackDown Women's Championship twice and truly prove any of her doubters wrong, myself included. Let's hope her trade to Raw during the Superstar Shakeup won't slow down the momentum she has successfully built up since arriving from NXT.
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