Is there any brand in professional wrestling hotter than NXT?
What once was a developmental program for the WWE has turned into an All-Star independent promotion. With the exposure of the WWE Network, NXT has its own television show, special events and live event tours across the globe.
Plenty of current top talents began their WWE journey in NXT. Seth Rollins and Big E. were two original faces of the brand, while names like Kevin Owens, Charlotte, Sami Zayn, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Enzo, Cass, Rusev, Neville and plenty more have taken their turns performing at Full Sail University.
But for every star to make it out of NXT, there have been some duds as well. Names like Bo Dallas, Tyler Breeze, Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews have had a tough time transitioning to the big stage.
NXT is a great starting point that teaches you had to be a WWE Superstar. But it doesn't guarantee success. Here are eight NXT stars who will thrive in the WWE and eight who will fail.
16 Thrive: Samoa Joe
If we’re going to start with someone who will thrive in WWE, there is no one better to begin than with the current NXT Champion.
When Samoa Joe made his debut at Full Sail University, there were many skeptics. But when he was paired with Finn Balor in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, he slowly became the best worker on the brand.
After capturing the trophy for the inaugural tournament, Joe turned heel shortly thereafter and began feuding with Balor over the NXT Championship. The program between the two great in-ring workers became one of the best in NXT history, as the duo put on three straight classics at NXT TakeOver London, Dallas and The End.
With the Brand Split coming up, Joe - who is doing the best work in his career - will certainly get the nod. Joe will be a fresh matchup for almost the entire WWE roster, and fans are salivating at the endless feud opportunities.
15 Fail: Austin Aries
Unlike his fellow TNA alumnus, Austin Aries could be someone who gets lost in the shuffle once being called up.
Although Shinsuke Nakamura overshadowed Aries with his debut, the former independent star is finally starting to make strides. Now working as a heel, his encounter with the aforementioned Nakamura was arguably the best match at NXT TakeOver: The End, and he appears to be just getting started. He could very well be one of NXT's top stars for the next few years.
But on the main roster, however, there is someone that is working the same kind of style. Unfortunately for Aries, that man happens to be AJ Styles, who is currently booked as one of the top talents in the company. Because both men are heels, have a pit bull mentality and are small in size, that could negatively affect Aries.
14 Thrive: Finn Balor
Although Samoa Joe is currently NXT Champion, there is no wrestler that holds the NXT Flag higher than Finn Balor.
Debuting at the same time as Kevin Owens and Hideo Itami, Balor has been the one that has embodied what it means to be an NXT Superstar. His awe-inspiring entrance, top notch in-ring ability and elite showmanship have combined to make him one of the best talents in the entire company.
Baylor will definitely be called up during the Brand Split. And unlike others in NXT, he has a ready-made program waiting to happen, as his former Bullet Club members Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson are currently teaming with the man who took Balor out of the group in New Japan, AJ Styles.
By the way things have been booked, there’s no denying that Balor will be pushed as one of the elite talents once making his long awaited WWE debut.
13 Fail: Nia Jax
After Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch received their promotion to the big stage, NXT was in need of a new crop of women talent. The first of which to come in was Nia Jax, an imposing figure who is cousins with The Rock.
On one hand, Jax hasn't even been in NXT for a year. And in that short amount of time, she's had plenty of high profile matches with Bayley and Asuka and competing for the NXT Women's Championship.
And sure, she's improved in the ring. But that doesn't mean she's all that good just yet. Outside of her look, Jax just doesn't have much going for her. When she gets matched up with talents like Charlotte, Banks, Lynch, Paige, Naomi and others, she could very well get lost in the shuffle. It might be wise to keep her in NXT to ensure she's not so green when called up to the main roster.
12 Thrive: Bayley
If Finn Balor is holding the NXT flag atop the wrestling mountain, it is Bayley who is standing right next to him.
Starting out as a young female wrestler with no direction, Bayley has turned herself into the John Cena of NXT. Not only does her merchandise fly off of the shelves, but her attitude, demeanor and loving ways make her loved by the little girls and adult men alike.
And the best part about Bayley is her smile is backed up by awesome in-ring ability. A part of the Four Horsewomen with the aforementioned Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, Bayley's wrestling skills make her one of the best female competitors in the world.
Her match of the year with Banks at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn was just the first step in her mainstream stardom. Before long, she will be the face of the WWE Women's division.
11 Fail: Carmella
If you watched WWE Network's Breaking Ground, once the rest of the Four Horsewomen left for the WWE, Bayley found a best friend in Carmella.
The one-time manager and valet for Big Cass and Enzo Amore, Carmella began to receive in-ring experience when the call-up of the tantalizing tag team was imminent. And although she was improved inside of the squared circle, she still needs more time to grow. This time in NXT by herself could be very beneficial to her, but she'll have some stiff competition on the main roster.
Her looks will get her places as her beauty is something Vince McMahon loves. But don't be surprised if she abandons her wrestling work once brought up, instead being used in the same role with Enzo and Cass that she had in her earlier time in NXT.
10 Thrive: American Alpha
The New Day are the most well round team in the WWE. Enzo and Cass are amazing entertainers and have found their niche in the ring. The Vaudevillains have fit in nicely in the WWE landscape, while Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson will certainly be players once they get accustomed to the WWE style.
But when it comes to pure action, American Alpha is the number one tag team in the company.
After floundering as solo acts, Chad Gable and Jason Jordan have become arguably the best act in NXT, as their outstanding in-ring ability and interactions with the crowd have become a highlight during each and every show.
With the duo exuding confidence, their surge to the top of the tag team mountain has been an awesome rise to watch. And once they make it to the WWE, there's a good chance that they will take claim of the best team on the main roster as well.
9 Fail: Blake and Murphy
As it currently stands, Blake and Murphy have broken up on NXT television and have gone their separate ways. But if (or when) they do get called up, they have to be united as a tag team.
Why? Because as solo acts, neither wrestler has much going for them.
And unfortunately, the duo isn't that strong as a team either. Both Blake and Murphy leave a lot to be desired when competing in the ring; and despite being former NXT Tag Team Champions, their reign wasn't memorable. The tag team division is getting stronger and stronger in the WWE and these two just don't seem to measure up to some of the top tag teams on the main roster.
It'll be a tough call for Blake and Murphy to make the main roster. And if they do, they have all the makings of future jobbers, unfortunately.
8 Thrive: The Revival
When speaking of the best tag teams in NXT history, there are plenty of tandems that can be named. But if there is one that deserves the title of best, it's the only two-time NXT Tag Team Champions, The Revival.
Made up of Dash and Dawson, the team didn't get off to a hot start to begin their NXT careers. Met with "Which one's Dawson, which one's Dash?" chants on a regular basis, the two men looked more like future endeavored than future stars.
But a change in attitude quickly brought them up the ranks. Exuding a brash and arrogant attitude, The Revival combined that with their no-nonsense, non-flashy, hard-hitting wrestling style to make them look like a team from the 80s than in 2016.
With the Brand Split coming up, The Revival will be getting the call. And with American Alpha, both teams can surpass the WWE crop of tag teams as the best in the company.
7 Fail: No Way Jose
No Way Jose has a cute gimmick that fills a need in NXT. Think of him along the lines of what Adam Rose used to provide for Full Sail University.
Unfortunately, that doesn't bode well for the new talent.
Like Rose in the past, Jose comes to the ring with the intent of getting the crowd involved. As they sing his theme song, dance along with him and chant his name, they also don't seem all that interested in him as a performer.
And that same thing will happen at the WWE level. Sure, the first few weeks will be all smiles as the fans enjoy his gimmick. But once the star begins to fade, Jose will probably end up down the same path as many underachieving talents before him. It's happened before with wrestlers like him and it will happen again.
6 Thrive: Shinsuke Nakamura
When the WWE was able to bring over New Japan Pro Wrestling Stars AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and Shinsuke Nakamura, many were nervous on how they would be booked.
Styles looks like a star. Despite being Styles' henchmen, Gallows and Anderson are involved in the top programs on WWE TV. And Nakamura has been booked as the next big thing on NXT.
Nakamura sweats out charisma, cries energy and bleeds showmanship. His entrance is one of the best things going in the company, and he has been booked as a star since day one. And in addition to all of those attributes, he is second to none when it comes to in-ring ability.
It appears as though Nakamura can finally break the mold of Asian stars who are booked poorly. He has the entertainment value that the WWE loves and the aggressiveness to back it up. Simply put, if he is given the opportunity, he will be a star at the next level.
5 Fail: Tye Dillinger
If No Way Jose can be compared to Adam Rose, Tye Dillinger's best comparison could be Tyler Breeze. But unfortunately like Jose to Rose, the comparison between Dillinger and Breeze doesn't bode well for The Perfect 10.
Despite being positioned as an enhancement talent, Dillinger has gained the respect and adoration of the NXT Universe. His character of being "The Perfect 10" combined with his strong wrestling ability has made Dillinger a crowd favorite. That's eerily similar to Breeze, who reinvented himself to the respect of the crowd.
Unfortunately, the WWE creative team has a hard time booking mid-card talents to be strong. And although he has made strides down in NXT, there's a strong chance he will be knocked back down the totem poll once he gets called up.
4 Thrive: Andrade Cien Almas
Ever since Rey Mysterio became injury prone, the WWE has been looking long and hard for his replacement. Since Mexico follows the company at a high level, they, in turn, want someone who could relate to their audience.
First was the original Sin Cara, who failed to follow the style of the WWE and was banished. Alberto Del Rio was pushed to the moon but never was fully over with the audience. And while Kalisto had received a strong push, the creative team seems to have cooled on him.
The next man in line is Andrade Cien Almas. The former La Sombra was a star in Mexico and finally made his long-awaited debut at NXT TakeOver: The End. He has the perfect look, size and in-ring ability to make him a star, and it appears as though the NXT creative team is intent on pushing him towards the top of the card.
It may be awhile before Almas is seen on WWE TV. But when he does get there, he will be positioned as a top talent.
3 Fail: Hideo Itami
Man, what could have been. Brought in with Kevin Owens and Finn Balor, Hideo Itami was supposed to be NXT's great Japanese star. Although it took him a little while to get going, he eventually began to hit his stride.
Plans for him were big, as Itami made his WWE debut in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 31, and video packages aired on NXT TV featured his journey to the top of the wrestling mountain. Last July, he was scheduled to capture the NXT Championship in Japan from Owens, but a torn labrum halted all plans.
Itami has had a tough time recovering from surgery, and he's been out of action for over a year. It will be tough for the WWE to rebound his image, as there have been bigger stars that have received the spotlight.
There's certainly a chance he can regain form. But at this point, it seems unlikely.
2 Thrive: Alexa Bliss
When Alexa Bliss first began in NXT, she was another pretty face with an athletic build that had no real depth in terms of her character. She looked like someone who would be lost in the shuffle rather easily.
Then, she was teamed up with Blake and Murphy.
Beginning to work as an egotistical heel, Bliss jettisoned into the spotlight, often taking the heat away from Blake and Murphy and putting it on herself. In addition, she has also vastly improved in the ring and has used an added edge with her heel turn.
Her looks alone will get her far in the WWE. But because of her improvements across the board, she will have a good chance to shine at the next level. It will be interesting to see her tangle up with the current crop of ladies on WWE television in the near future.
1 Fail: Eva Marie
Eva Marie has the looks of a superstar. She walks, talks and acts like a woman who can't be bothered with by normal people. She's a natural heel in every sense of the word.
Unfortunately, she can't back it up in the ring.
Ever since her first appearance on Total Divas, the WWE has been hellbent on making Eva their next star of the women's division. Skipping NXT altogether, she made her first in-ring appearance on Raw and, unfortunately, embarrassed herself on national television.
Now in NXT, she has shown some improvement, despite looking robotic a majority of the time. She will get more than one chance to make an impact in the WWE, even if she isn't ready.
But from the looks of things, she'll never be able to cut it with the rest of the strong female wrestlers on the roster.