NXT has become the breeding ground for WWE’s next big superstars, but with the increased time that the performers in "developmental" get, it has become a very successful touring brand on its own. But at its core, it is still a promotion that exists to feed the next generation to Monday Night RAW and SmackDown Live. Since 2012, we have seen many amazing performers, and NXT’s live Takeover special events have often overshadowed the main roster PPVs. As such, it’s unlikely that anyone watching the program at that time could have imagined what it would evolve into.
Once those successful performers make it to the main roster, however, it is very hit-and-miss, with some performers going on to make a bigger name for themselves, and others being treated horribly, with some even going as far as to leave the company. This list will look at the careers of some NXT superstars, and what their careers have become once they began to ply their craft on SmackDown and RAW, and we'll take a look at those that have been used well, and those that have been completely wasted.
15 Dominated: Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe spent 15 years on the independent scene, and when he finally made his way to the WWE, fans were incredibly excited. After a slow start to his NXT days, he has proven to be one of the best heels in the entire company, and it looks like he is being positioned as one of the next competitors to challenge Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship. Right from the moment that Joe emerged on Monday Night RAW to take out Seth Rollins, he has been presented as a superstar, and his booking has been great, as he fits in perfectly with the likes of Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and even Braun Strowman. With Lesnar holding the title, and Joe in the twilight of his career, it’s uncertain whether the Samoan Submission Machine will ever hold a top title in the WWE, but if his booking continues this way, he’s bound to have a great career nonetheless.
14 Wasted: Bo Dallas
Looking at Bo Dallas now, it’s hard to imagine that he was once one of the biggest stars in NXT, but he had a fantastic reign at the top of the developmental brand, and he was even in the main event of the first-ever Takeover live event with Adrian Neville in a ladder match. He then came to the main roster with his "Bo-lieve" motivational gimmick, and it looked like it was working, as the younger brother of Bray Wyatt started a winning streak that went around 20-and-"BO." Since that point, he joined the Social Outcasts, the modern day Job Squad, and has almost completely disappeared from main roster television. Although the company has had chances to reinvent his character, they haven’t been interested in giving him anything successful, and it won’t be long before he gets released.
13 Dominated: Big E
When the powerlifting Big E Langston came into the WWE, it looked like he would be nothing but another typical powerhouse in the WWE. After he won the NXT and Intercontinental titles, opinions hadn’t changed on that, and then he joined The New Day. He was finally allowed to show some personality, and with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods by his side, E has flourished as a hilarious performer who can also wrestle quite well, and it has resulted in two reigns as WWE Tag Team Champion. The trio have just joined SmackDown Live, and with The Usos, Fashion Police and American Alpha all there waiting for them, their act should again become fresh and they will succeed the way they did early in their run. Although fans are expecting a singles run for Big E one day, he will continue to succeed as a member of The New Day as long as they are together.
12 Wasted: The Vaudevillains
The Vaudevillains were a great tag team in NXT, and their old school gimmick was one that hasn’t been seen in the WWE for quite some time. Although they were never as successful as The Revival, American Alpha or #DIY, it looked like they were going to breathe some new life into the main roster and their struggling tag team division, but again they were ruined upon arrival. Their debut wasn’t a surprise, and it wasn’t well advertised – it was just a throwaway tag team match on SmackDown Live – and despite becoming number one contenders to the Tag Team titles, they were broken up less than a year later due to Simon Gotch’s release, after becoming enhancement talent for some time. It looks like Aiden English could be pushed as a singles midcard star in the near future, but the Vaudevillians had so much potential, and it’s sad that they now no longer exist.
11 Dominated: Charlotte
It was clear from the moment that the daughter of Ric Flair appeared in NXT that she was going to be a huge part of the company going forward. From her days in NXT, through her time on RAW and now on SmackDown, she has been leading the charge of the women’s revolution, which is finally gathering steam, to the point where the women are almost treated as equal by the WWE higher-ups. She has reigned as NXT Women's, Divas and RAW Women’s Champion, and had some amazing matches, stealing many shows that she’s been on, and it’s clear that Charlotte could be the most accomplished female performer in the history of wrestling by the time she is done. There have been few people protected more than Charlotte since her run on the main roster began, and she will be remembered as the female mega star of this WWE generation.
10 Wasted: Apollo Crews
Uhaa Nation came into the WWE with much hype behind him, and after a short run in NXT, it looked like he had quite a bright future, and was called up to the main roster after a very short run in NXT. At this point, it looks like a huge mistake. While Crews is definitely very talented in the ring, he hasn’t got the charisma or character to connect with the crowd, and that is something that could have definitely been worked on in NXT. As a result, Crews is nothing more than enhancement talent on the main roster. At this point, it looks like Crews will be out of the company quite soon, and that’s a bit of a shame, as he could have been a huge talent in the company if he stayed in NXT a little while longer. At this point, he’s nothing but a waste of a roster spot.
9 Dominated: Neville
Less than a year ago, Neville would have found himself on the other side of this list, as he was struggling to make it on the main roster after an amazing run as Adrian Neville in NXT, but since the inception of the cruiserweight division, The King of the Cruiserweights has made it his own, and looked like an absolute superstar in the process. His new heel persona was something no one thought he could pull off, but he is both despicable and amazing at the same time, and along with Austin Aries, is one of the only reasons the cruiserweights haven’t completely failed. With his arrogant attitude, he could potentially make it on the main roster, even as a main event superstar, and will go down as one of the best cruiserweights the WWE has ever seen.
8 Wasted: Enzo & Cass
Enzo & Cass spent a fair bit of time together in NXT, and by the end of it, they were quite possibly the most popular act in the entire WWE, if not the wrestling world as a whole, and that translated into amazing pops when they arrived on RAW the night after WrestleMania 32. Ever since that point, their act has gradually lost steam, despite still getting fairly significant pops. Their act, and most importantly their entrance was as unique and fresh as anything the WWE had presented in the last decade, but after the repetition and overexposure they have endured on the main roster, it’s getting quite old. The WWE have missed their chance to push them to the titles, and after several feuds that helped absolutely no one involved, the two just don’t seem that important anymore, and that’s a damn shame.
7 Dominated: Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens came into the WWE with a massive following, due to his incredible work in Ring of Honor and PWG under his real name Kevin Steen, and when he dominated his former best friend Sami Zayn to take the NXT title from him, it looked like the company had very big plans for him, and they haven’t disappointed so far. He confronted John Cena on his first night on the main roster, and immediately the Prize Fighter looked like a threat. Two years later, he has won the Intercontinental, United States and Universal titles, and is probably the most accomplished performer to come from NXT. He’s now on SmackDown, where he should be given more time to develop great rivalries, and when it’s all said and done, Owens may go down as the best wrestler to ever come from NXT.
6 Wasted: Rusev
Alexander Rusev absolutely dominated NXT in his time there with Lana by his side, and when he originally got to the main roster, it continued as the United States Champion, as he was one of the longest reigning champs in history, but all that came crashing down after he lost the title to John Cena at WrestleMania 31. Since that point, the dominant Bulgarian Brute has been treated horribly, even having to endure a horrible breakup angle with Lana, Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae after he went public with his real-life partner Lana. Since that point, fans have absolutely adored Rusev, and it looked like the company have big plans for him moving forward on SmackDown Live, but at this point, the monster who should have been a main event star has been struggling to make it on the main roster.
5 Dominated: Alexa Bliss
All the talk regarding the women coming from NXT was understandably about the Four Horsewomen (Becky Lynch, Bayley, Sasha Banks and Charlotte), so when Alexa Bliss came to the main roster in the latest brand extension, it’s unlikely that many people thought she would succeed the way she did, especially as her character was still only beginning to grow in NXT, and she never held the gold down in the developmental promotion. In the land of opportunity, however, Bliss was given the chance to develop her character and battle for the SmackDown Live Women’s Championship, and she has more than exceeded expectations, as she found herself as the first woman to ever win both the SmackDown and RAW Women’s titles. Alexa is still just 25 years old, so she has plenty of time to grow her resume, and it may just land her as one of the very best women to ever step foot inside a wrestling ring.
4 Wasted: American Alpha
This one hurts to write, as American Alpha were finally a strong tag team to come from NXT, as they had struggled to build duos for the entirety of NXT’s existence. But despite winning the SmackDown Live Tag Team Championships, the duo have struggled for most of their existence on the main roster. The problem isn’t Gable and Jordan, as they are still as entertaining and talented as ever, but the booking of the entire division has been horrendous, as AA thrive battling from underneath. After they ran through the entire division, there just seemed to be no intrigue left. With the Fashion Police, The Usos and The New Day all looking good now, it’s time for American Alpha to come back strong, and prove why they were the best tag team in NXT history, as they are currently running the risk of falling into obscurity.
3 Dominated: Finn Balor
Finn Balor is the best Champion in the history of NXT, and due to his star power and age, fans had the feeling that he would be pushed to the moon as soon as he arrived on the main roster. That’s exactly what happened, as he became the first ever WWE Universal Champion by defeating Seth Rollins at SummerSlam. Unfortunately he sustained an injury during that match, and was out for quite some time, but ever since his return, he has been presented like an absolute superstar, and is on track for a date with the Beast, Brock Lesnar. At 35, he doesn’t have as much time left as most NXT graduates, so the company is looking to push him as high as possible in a short amount of time. So far, it’s working, as he constantly has great matches and gets great pops whenever he comes to the ring.
2 Wasted: Sami Zayn
Like most of the people on this side of the list, Sami Zayn still has time to rise to the heights that the fans expect of him, but it’s not looking too good so far, as management seem intent on keeping him down, despite thriving in each and every opportunity he has been given in his past 12 months on the main roster. Now that he is on SmackDown surrounded by talent like Shinsuke Nakamura, Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles and his old rival Kevin Owens, he could definitely turn it around, as with more time and character development, the Underdog from the Underground could thrive. Expect Zayn to battle for the WWE Championship over the next year, as he could finally live up to the "next Daniel Bryan" moniker that the fans have given to him. At the moment, though, it’s safe to say that he’s definitely been wasted.
1 Dominated: Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins is in a very odd place at the moment, as fans and management know that he is one of the top three wrestlers in the world, and his character should be soaring at the top of Monday Night RAW, but continual odd booking decisions and missed opportunities have held him back from being the true megastar we all know he is. Despite that, Rollins has been given all the chances to prove he is a star, and he has succeeded at basically every turn, becoming Mr. Money in the Bank, U.S. Champion as well as a two-time WWE Champion, proving that the NXT system works, as he was the first champion in the reformed developmental promotion. At just 31 years of age, Rollins has the ability to stay at the top of the card for years and years to come (if he can stay healthy), and like most of us expect, he may go down as one of the best performers in the WWE's history.