In 2012, the WWE changed the NXT brand from something that was more like a reality show to a more traditional developmental system. That move has paid big dividends for the WWE as it has completely changed the way wrestlers make their way up to the main roster. It has given WWE prospects a much bigger stage to show off their skills. NXT has become a perfect breeding ground for future WWE Superstars. Most of the top stars in the WWE today have come through NXT. Top stars like Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and Charlotte all perfected their craft in NXT before getting to the main roster.
While there has been an abundance of wrestlers who have graduated from NXT, there have also been a ton of wrestlers who never earned a call-up to the big stage. In some instances, wrestlers have plied their craft in NXT for years only to get outright released by the WWE. While it may be true that there is no other wrestling company out there that is even close to the size of the WWE, wrestlers that have been released from NXT have still gone to have fairly successful careers in the wrestling business.
Here are 8 NXT Superstars who will eventually make the WWE and 7 who will be handing out their resume to other wrestling promotions.
15 WWE: Tye Dillinger
Tye Dillinger has technically already been a part of the WWE's main roster, and we're not talking about his recent Royal Rumble appearance. Back in 2008, Dillinger wrestled as Gavin Spears on the WWE's rebranded version of ECW. His tenure on the main roster lasted just six months before he was released by the company.
It's been eight years since Dillinger has been on the WWE's main roster, but it seems like it's only a matter of time before "The Perfect Ten" gets called up for good. He has never been more over with the NXT fans than he is right now. He is currently involved in a feud with SAni†Y, after that is all settled he will finally get his well deserved second chance with the WWE.
14 Elsewhere: Blake And Murphy (TNA)
Even though Blake and Murphy are technically not a tag team anymore, they don't' deserve their own individual spots on this list. It's hard to believe there was a point when these two men held the NXT Tag Team Championship. While their former valet Alexa Bliss has gone to have great success on SmackDown, they have been nothing more than jobbers in NXT.
It shouldn't be too long for before one if not both of these wrestlers get their walking papers by the WWE. The only thing stopping Buddy Murphy from getting released is the fact that he recently became engaged to Alexa Bliss. The WWE might show some good will to Alexa by keeping her future husband around. If the two do get released they could probably have a good run as a team on the independent scene. These two men had enough of exposure on WWE television, that TNA may show some interest in them.
13 WWE: The Authors Of Pain
The Authors of Pain have only been on NXT television for six months, but the two gigantic men have dominated the Tag Team Division. The team who is managed by the legendary Paul Ellering surprised everyone by winning the second annual Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Only a couple of months later at NXT TakeOver: San Antonio they defeated #DIY to become the NXT Tag Team Champions.
While it's clear the WWE thinks highly of Akam and Rezar, the two men still look very green. It would be in the WWE's best interest to let the team continue developing in NXT for at least another year. However, Vince McMahon has always loved his big guys, and there is currently no team in the WWE that have the sheer size of the Authors of Pain. When the team does get called up to the main roster, a title reign for the team is definitely not out of the question.
12 Elsewhere: Angelo Dawkins (ROH)
All of all the wrestlers on this list, not many have been with NXT as long as Angelo Dawkins. The man who calls himself “The Curse of Greatness” has been with NXT since 2012, and it's a bit puzzling why the WWE has not cut bait with him. Throughout his tenure in NXT, he has only made a few television appearances where he has been used only as a jobber.
At this point, Dawkins is nothing but a warm body that NXT uses at their live shows. The WWE is adding more and more wrestlers to their developmental system. It shouldn't be long before his spot on the roster is taken by someone else. The only company that Dawkins has even known in his professional wrestling career is the WWE. He is a talented enough athlete that once he is shown the door by the WWE he could land on his feet wrestling for a promotion like Ring of Honor.
11 WWE: Tyler Bate
Tyler Bate is the newest member of the NXT roster on this list. Bate started off his WWE career with a bang by recently becoming the first ever WWE United Kingdom Champion in a grueling tournament. What made his tournament victory an even more incredible accomplishment, is the fact that he is just nineteen years old. Bate is just the second teenager in WWE history to win a title.
Bate made his NXT debut in February of 2017, picking up a victory against Oney Lorcan. He also recently defended his UK Championship title in a phenomenal match against his tag team partner Trent Seven. The plan for Tyler Bate in NXT and the WWE is unclear as of right now, but if one thing is for certain is the WWE should take their time with Bate. It's not too often you get someone so young yet so talented. The WWE can afford to wait a few years before putting Bate on the main roster. When he eventually does get the call-up, he will certainly be a big part of the company for years to come.
10 Elsewhere: Oney Lorcan (CZW)
Oney Lorcan has been on NXT since September of 2015, but so far he has done nothing of note. Although he won his debut match against Tye Dillinger and wrestled a match on SmackDown, he has mostly been used in a jobber role. He is having a hard time getting over with the NXT crowd for a couple of reasons. He is never constantly on NXT television, and when he is on, he doesn't seem to have much of a personality.
Although Lorcan hasn't had much such success in NXT, he was a very successful wrestler prior to signing with the WWE. He wrestled for promotions all over the United States under the name of Biff Busick. He had the most success of his career with Combat Zone Wrestling, where he at one point held the promotion's heavyweight championship. It seems like Lorcan's style of wrestling and character is more suited to independent companies like CZW.
9 WWE: Ember Moon
Ember Moon is one of the newest women wrestlers to join NXT, having made her televised debut at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II. It didn't take her long to make an impact and she quickly became one of the top wrestlers in the division. To be able to witness her finishing move The Eclipse is worth the price of admissions by itself.
It is looking more and more each day that Ember Moon is going to be the person that finally ends Asuka's undefeated streak. When she does eventually win the NXT Women's Championship, the WWE would be smart to leave it on her for a while. The women's division in NXT isn't particularly strong right now, so Ember Moon is such an important part of it. When she does get the call-up to the main roster, she is sure to find some success. Her character and look is unlike anyone else in the WWE right now.
8 Elsewhere: Elias Samson (IWC)
Elias Samson has been with NXT since 2014. For the better part of his first two years with the company, any time he appeared on NXT television it was just to job out to wrestlers like The Ascension and Baron Corbin. In the Summer of 2015, Samson was finally given a gimmick as The Drifter. Although he would go on a small winning streak, the fans at Full Sail University didn't seem to take to the character as a heel or as a babyface.
The small push Samson he was given was over before it really started. He now rarely makes appearances on television, and when he does the NXT Universe seems to absolutely hate him and not in a good way. The Drifter character just isn't catching on with anybody and looks like Samson might be drifting out the NXT doors for good very soon. Prior to joining the WWE, Samson spent five years with The International Wrestling Cartel, a promotion based out of Pennsylvania. Although he should get more independent bookings simply based on his NXT exposure, Samson may end up back where it all started in IWC.
7 WWE: #DIY
The team of #DIY consists of Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. Both men had very successful single careers prior to joining the WWE in 2015. Gargano was famous for holding the Dragon Gate USA's Open the Freedom Gate Championship for a record 873 days. Ciampa is best known for his time spent in ROH where he once held the World Television Title.
Although these guys were known for mostly being singles competitors, it didn't take them long to gel as a team in NXT. In 2016, the team took part in a couple of tag team matches that were match of the year candidates. #DIY capped off an amazing 2016 by winning the NXT tag titles at NXT TakeOver: Toronto. The team is no longer tag team champions, which is a good thing because they are more than ready for the main roster. Not only does team have potential to be one of the most entertaining tag teams in WWE, they also should have great singles careers in the WWE as well.
6 Elsewhere: Eric Young (TNA)
Eric Young spent an incredible twelve years wrestling for TNA before finally jumping ship to WWE in 2016. After making a one-off appearance in NXT losing to Samoa Joe in May, Young made his official debut with NXT as the leader of the group SAnitY in October. While the team has been booked strong with Young picking up a bunch of victories himself, it's just too early to see how the team is going work in the long run.
While his fellow TNA alumni Bobby Rude has been put in a very prominent role in NXT, Young has kind of played second fiddle. It doesn't look like he will be in the main event picture anytime soon. If SAnity can get over with the fans, then Young might have a shot to head to the main roster. If things don't work out with Young and the WWE, TNA would certainly welcome back the former World Heavyweight Champion, that is if the struggling company is still around by then.
5 WWE: Asuka
Since the creation of NXT there has not been a female competitor more dominant than Asuka. The veteran wrestler spent the majority of her career in Japan before she debuted at NXT TakeOver: Respect in October 2015. On that night she defeated Dana Brooke and she has won every match she's competed in since.
At NXT TakeOver: Dallas, Asuka shocked everyone when she defeated Bayley to win the NXT Women's Championship, a title she still holds. While Asuka seems like she has always been ready for the main roster, the WWE has taken their time with her. The NXT Women's division is pretty bare right now. Without Asuka, the division would be pretty dull. Once the WWE feels the rest of the women in NXT can carry the load, it will finally be Asuka's time. There isn't another woman currently in the WWE who wrestles the same aggressive style that Asuka does, so her insertion into the main roster will something refreshing to see.
4 Elsewhere: Andrade Almas (CMLL)
The WWE had high hopes for the man who was once known as La Sombra. This is because the masked luchador had an incredible tenure with Mexico's CMLL promotion where he won numerous titles. The WWE signed La Sombra to a developmental deal in 2015, and they decided it was best for him to remove his mask and give him the new gimmick of Andrade “Cien” Almas.
Although he had a solid debut at NXT TakeOver: The End defeating Tye Dillinger, the fans never seemed to care for Almas as a babyface. The WWE decided it was best to turn him heel, and although he finally showed a bit of a personality, the fans still seemed like they could care less about him. Almas is no doubt a very talented in-ring performer, but he needs a ton of work on his mic skills. If he can manage to get everything to come together he might have a shot in the WWE, if not it might be best for him to head back to CMLL.
3 WWE: Bobby Roode
Given his past success with TNA, everybody knew that Bobby Roode had the talent to be very successful in NXT. However, they probably wouldn't have thought he would be as over with NXT Universe as he is right now. While Roode is one of the more talented guys in NXT on the mic and in the ring, it is his insanely catchy theme song that has taken his popularity to a whole other level.
“The Glorious One” is barely six months into his tenure with NXT and he has already accomplished the ultimate goal of winning the NXT Championship. There isn't plenty of babyface wrestlers in NXT that are ready to challenge Roode for the title, so it would safe to say that he will hold onto the belt for a while. When he does finally make it over to the main roster, he will instantly be one of the most over heels in the company.
2 Elsewhere: Hideo Itami (Pro Wrestling Noah)
When the man formerly known as KENTA signed with WWE in 2014, it was considered NXT's biggest acquisition. It's not hard to see why it the signing was a significant thing, as KENTA was a highly decorated wrestler in his home country of Japan. Upon entering NXT, he was given the new name of Hideo Itami. He immediately was placed in high-profile feuds with the likes of The Ascension and then with Finn Balor.
It was looking like a spot on the main roster was a sure thing as he even made an appearance in the first ever André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 31. However, since making his WrestleMania debut, he has suffered multiple injuries. Itami is not the youngest man anymore at the age of 35, and with his recent injury troubles, the WWE probably doesn't want to put too much stock in Itami. If he decides to give up his WWE dream, there is certainly a few wrestling promotions in Japan who would love to have him, especially his old stomping grounds in Pro Wrestling Noah.
1 WWE: Shinsuke Nakamura
There has never been more anticipation and excitement surrounding a wrestler's NXT debut then there was for Shinsuke Nakamura and that's for good reason. “The King of Strongstyle” had built up an incredible resume wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he was the youngest IWGP Heavyweight Champion in history. Nakamura didn't disappoint in his debut against Sami Zayn at NXT TakeOver: Dallas. The two men fought extremely hard in one the best matches in NXT history.
Nakamura continued to put on some incredible matches in NXT, on his way to way to becoming a two-time NXT Champion. Nakamura is currently in a feud with Bobby Rude. Once the dust settles from that, it looks like the Shinsuke will finally get the call-up to the main roster. No matter what brand he goes to, he should instantly be placed into the heavyweight title picture.