Even if it's fallen in popularity due to a lot of their stars leaving to go to the main roster, WWE's NXT brand is still beloved for having some of the best indy stars in the world. It also helps that there is only one hour of it per week, making it an easy watch but let's not start a rant about the insane time needed to watch RAW.
Since its rebirth in 2012, NXT has seen a lot of its superstars get called up to the main roster. I mean of course it has, it is a developmental system after all. So surely when they get the promotion to the "big leagues" they are ready to take the company by storm right? Well not exactly. Sometimes through bad booking, a wrestler's character not translating to the general WWE audience or creative simply bungling up their character, NXT call ups are stuck wondering: why did I leave NXT again?
On the other hand, there are NXT superstars that upon entering the main roster have excelled like never before. As good as the roster is on NXT, they certainly lack the pizzazz and fame that somebody like John Cena has. If you're tangling with someone around his calibre, you know you've made it. Also let's face it, holding a world title on the main roster is a little more prestigious than an NXT title there I said it.
With that out of the way, here are eight wrestlers who Vince McMahon made better on the main roster and six he made worse. Ruin may be a harsh word, as they're all still salvageable, but they are ruined in the sense they haven't been used nearly as well as they were on NXT under Papa Hunter's guide. Only fourteen entries you say? Just you wait...
15 Better: Tyler Breeze
If this list were to be written a few months ago, Tyler Breeze would even have caught my attention to be on this list. A fine but not that special performer in NXT, Prince Pretty seemed destined to be a midcarder wash out once he hit the main roster. However, because of a tag team pairing with the forgotten Fandango, these two airhead idiots have made for comedy gold on SmackDown.
Few things are consistently good in WWE television, ESPECIALLY whenever comedy is tried. Leave it to Breeze and Fandango though to constantly churn out hilarious segments on SmackDown which have been dubbed "The Fashion Files" week after week. The self-appointed SmackDown fashion police use a combination of Law & Order and Zoolander to be one of the anticipated segments every Tuesday. Sure he likely will never main event with this gimmick, but there's no shame in being a comedic act who is actually over.
14 Ruined: Lucha Dragons
Perhaps I'm cheating a bit on this entry because I'm combining two in one, but hell if Marvel made a comic book out of it then I can do it too.
It really saddens me how much the Lucha Dragons seemed to have been completely forgotten from the WWE Universe as a whole. Not that I can really blame them though, the WWE dropped them faster than a Lavar Ball segment - AREN'T I TOPICAL!?
Perhaps a little explanation is in order. The Lucha Dragons came about in NXT simply because Kalisto needed a new partner after his previous one parted ways. What came about was one of the most visually cool and high flying tag teams in WWE history. I'm not even kidding, I think I might have been one of the Lucha Dragons biggest fans. When they hit the main roster, I was excited even if I knew they probably wouldn't anchor the tag team division or anything like that.
But of course McMahon saw a tag team I liked and decided "screw you pal!" and broke them up. So what did he do with them? Well Kalisto had a forgotten U.S title run while Sin Cara faded into obscurity. I'll take the tag team please.
13 Better: Becky Lynch
Of all the four horsewomen, it seemed like Becky Lynch may have been the one who got the shortest end of the stick. Charlotte has the Flair family legacy, Sasha had a very strong character and personality while Bayley hugs people, and who doesn't love hugs? Luckily for us, Lynch has defied the odds and managed to ascend to the top of the SmackDown's Women's Division at the start of the brand split.
With an energetic and scrappy personality, Lynch has quietly become the most consistent performer in the women's division, Raw or SmackDown and considering the high level of talent she showcases, that's very impressive. Naomi may be the SmackDown's Women Champion for now and she no doubt deserves that spot, Lynch is undoubtedly the beautiful (baby)face that runs that place.
12 Ruined: Bo Dallas
Oh Bo my Bo, my oh my what have they done to you? Your brother Bray Wyatt gets all the love but in my eyes, you are far and away the superior bro. I bolieve that to be true.
Introduced to the main WWE audience in 2013, Dallas came on strong by beating Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett although he was sorely lacking any character or personality. Fear not, as after returning to NXT he developed into the second coming of Kurt Angle. Okay maybe not in terms of wrestling ability, but if we were to evolve Kurt Angle's original heroic/villainous buffoon character into the modern era, you would get Bo Dallas's character. Insufferably upbeat and begging for fans to love him, Dallas was a heel everyone truly loved to hate.
He eventually graduated to the main roster but he went from feuding for NXT Championship to competing with lower card dregs. At least his character was somewhat consistent, but it just didn't get the attention it deserved. Let's hope this new direction with The Miz can breathe some life back in to Bo. I bolieve in him. Alright! Managed to get in TWO Bo puns.
11 Better: Carmella
The missing ingredient to Carmella's main roster success is... James Ellsworth? Man 2017 is really weird.
From when Carmella debuted on the main roster as a babyface, it seemed like an odd fit. While she certainly had charisma, fans just weren't latching onto her in the way WWE would have hoped for. Little did we know was that all she needed was a chinless cheerleader.
While on paper it seemed like they simply paired these two up because they had nothing better planned for Ellsworth (hmm let's face it this is WWE, that probably is exactly what happened), they made the most of it. Clad in the most ridiculous outfits imaginable and Ellsworth being a tremendous chicken s**t heel manager, Carmella has become the premier villainess on SmackDown. I may miss the trio of Enzo, Cass and Carmella, but I can't deny Carmella has been great on the main roster.
10 Ruined: Sasha Banks
In a big way, Sasha Banks has done more on the main roster than anyone else on this list. Certainly if we're talking about breaking ground, Banks' participation in the first ever women's PPV main event and first Hell In A Cell is worthy of great merit. Some of her scraps with Charlotte also deserve great praise. But by the same token if we're talking about her overall quality as a performer, I'd have to give the nod to NXT.
On the main roster, Banks' character has been slightly neutered. Whereas she is firmly a face on the main roster, her heel work in NXT afforded her the ability to dig her heels fully into her Boss persona. True, fans did cheer her quite a lot despite her role as a heel, but that doesn't mean that she wasn't great in the role nonetheless. Also worth noting that none of her matches on the main roster have equaled her classic versus Bayley in her NXT swan song.
9 Better: Neville
So... didn't see that one coming did we?
On the short list of NXT Champions you will find one lone Englishman Adrian Neville on that list. A cartoonishly explosive high flyer complete with hobbit ears, Neville was the face of NXT for a long time but lacked a bit of a character. None of that changed once he got to the main roster as he floundered for months until he was sidelined with an ankle injury.
Upon his return in December 2016, Neville underwent a charisma transplant and completely changed my perception of him. With a new look, Neville went from happy high flyer to a scowling, nasty a**hole that ragged on fans for cheering him just because he was small and vulnerable. He added the extremely painful Rings of Saturn submission hold to his arsenal (which looks incredible given his highly muscular frame, especially amongst cruiserweights) and is now a force to be reckoned with. True, fans seem to not give a damn about his division, but that doesn't mean Neville isn't doing great work in it. King of the Cruiserweights indeed.
8 Ruined: Finn Balor
It goes without saying that a lot of the problems with Finn Balor on the main roster hasn't been anyone's fault (except maybe Seth Rollins). Initially it seemed that Balor was primed to be the guy on Raw as upon his debut as he beat 2/3 of the Shield to become number one contender and then later win the Universal Championship. Then everything came tumbling down as a shoulder injury stripped of his title and all his momentum.
We're still early into Balor's run on the main roster, but it's fair to say that it has been a far cry from his brilliance on the NXT brand. On NXT he was treated as a near mythical presence and not only because of his kickass demon entrance. Every match with Balor felt like a big deal, he raised the profile of whoever he competed with and was the babyface anchor of the brand. Now on the main roster he just feels like another guy. And I get it, it's a much bigger pond on the main roster but it's still a damn shame.
7 Better: Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss: A.K.A Kelly Kelly's evil, talented sister.
I jest, but it is funny that on the surface Alexa Bliss just looks like another blonde bombshell that people drool over. What separates Bliss from the others before her is undeniable charisma, promo skills that most women on the roster lack, a unique (albeit hijacked from a loony comic book character) look and steadily improving in-ring work. Wow, there are a lot of upsides to Alexa Bliss ain't there?
Not only is she good, but WWE seems to have a lot of confidence in her as well. In the span of less than a year on the main roster, Bliss has snagged both the Raw and Smackdown's women's championships. Also of note is that Bliss is only 25 years old. Get used to her, she is going to be around for a long time.
6 Better: Braun Strowman
When Braun Strowman was in NXT, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who gave a damn about him. Yeah he was a big strong guy, but this isn't the UFC's flyweight division we wrestling fans are used to big strong guys by now. Pairing him up with the Wyatt family once he hit the main roster didn't help matters either as the Wyatt Family is where fan interest goes to die. Yeah I said it, come at me Wyatt fans.
Even after he left the family, I thought Strowman was going to burn out like so many other before him. Instead, WWE booked him like a truly terrifying monster not seen in a long time. Hell, he even has a sort of catchphrase how many big giants can say that? His feats of strength have also endeared him to fans and I guess killing Roman Reigns also helps eh.
5 Neutral: Enzo & Cass
RUSSO SWERVE! Here is a unique case where I truly can't decide on whether or not Enzo and Cass were better on the main roster or NXT. I know, I have failed you dear reader. But allow me to explain my side.
Yes while in NXT Enzo and Cass were complimented by the addition of Carmella as a manager of the group. They also had the benefit of being involved in better angles than on the main roster. Need I remind the world of the bizarre Rusev/Enzo storyline?
However here's the thing; their act was pretty much unchanged from NXT to the main roster. While some characters get modified or outright gutted, these two were relatively unchanged, perhaps maybe a tad more comedy based. But by the same token, Enzo and Cass always have the crowd in the palm of their hand when doing a live promo and their matches are unique enough to separate them from the pack.
Something that surely will annoy everyone is that on NXT and the main roster they have yet to win tag team gold and with their break up, it appears it won't happen for a long time. Their careers are still young though, so never say never.
4 Better: Charlotte
Simple logic in wrestling: if you're booked to be dominant, then the people will react to you. Under that simple logic, Charlotte has become one of the breakout stars in WWE's renewed women's division. I suppose that being the daughter of one of the biggest names in wrestling history also helps out your cause quite a bit.
While her flaws such as awkward promos have been given more spotlight on the main roster, you can't deny how strongly she was booked during the peak of her powers. Was she unbeatable? No, and that can certainly be demonstrated by her having to win the championship four times in a year. However, her record of 16 straight victories on PPV is nothing to scoff at and her in-ring work has been consistently solid. Like Banks, her participation in the groundbreaking women's Hell In A Cell match will be in the record books forever and wasn't going to happen while part of NXT.
3 Ruined: Sami Zayn
Fun fact: Sami Zayn is from the same city that I'm from. Also a fun fact: Sami Zayn was much better handled in NXT.
An indy darling, Zayn made a name for himself outside of WWE as the fabled El Generico. Although legend has it that Generico is actually just the mentor of Zayn who had a fatal run-in with the Mexican Drug Cartel, so who knows. Anyway, when Zayn was in NXT he was THE fan favourite of the promotion. For those who say it's hard to be a straight babyface in current WWE, Zayn laughed at that idea and won fans over with his never say die attitude and refusal to take the easy way out of anything. He might not have won every time, but he really left it all out there and yes, he did actually win once in a while.
Fast forward to his main roster run, where he's been treated like a dork. He's definitely had his moments, but it's a fall from the grace from the man who was one of the shining beacons of the NXT roster. His WWE career is salvageable, but somebody needs to throw Zayn a rope of life soon. Or a championship reign, one or the other.
2 Better: Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens' run on the main roster hasn't been perfect by any stretch of the imagination. His Universal Title reign ended in complete BS fashion and his reign in general was a little off for having too much interference in his matches. But you know what, those two factors can't detract from how Owens has excelled on the main roster regardless.
Let's start off with his very first match on the main roster; he beat John Cena. Clean. If that doesn't make you seem like a credible threat nothing will. While he did lose the trilogy overall, he wasn't buried by any means and looked like a mega star. He spent the next few months feuding for the IC title until he was paired with Chris Jericho where things really kicked off. From start to finish of that feud Owens was able to be funny, cruel, vindictive alongside the living legend Y2J. The fact that their feud didn't culminate for the Universal Title at WrestleMania is a travesty.
With classic matches, segments and a brilliant persona, Kevin Owens is the best main roster success by a mile.
1 Ruined: Bayley
When looking at Bayley in NXT, you could have seen the future of the WWE Women's Division. In an era where it's incredibly hard to get a super good girl babyface over, Bayley smashed those barriers by being a lovable , never say die character that felt comfortable in her own skin. Little girls looked up to her as if she was their John Cena (in a good way) and fans of all ages bought into to Bayley's character.
Upon debuting on the main roster, all the subtlety and any backbone of her character was washed away amid a flurry of "I'm living my dream" promos and poor booking decisions. While she was never made to be a world beater in NXT, Bayley is continually made to look like an idiot, a child or some combination of the two while on Raw. Yes she has won the Women's Title but even there it was bungled as she beat Charlotte on a random episode of RAW before breaking Charlotte's PPV streak at FASTLANE with WRESTLEMANIA mere weeks away.
Don't forget how she lost the belt in her hometown, was mocked in the awful "This Is Your Life" and was booked as incapable of using a kendo stick. Don't get me started on the rumored angle of Corey Graves being her first kiss.