NXT has been a huge success since Triple H rebranded it some years ago, and it has given us stars like the Four Horsewomen, American Alpha and the Revival, and has given the opportunity for indy stars like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Finn Balor to join the WWE and put them in a position to succeed. Without NXT, who knows where the WWE would be today, as the top stars in the company have either entered through NXT, or they have been signed to WWE due to the changing philosophies, which have been heavily influenced by WWE’s own independent like promotion.
With this wave of new talent, combined with WWE’s own home grown stars, NXT has been the breeding ground for the future, but the company hasn’t always been right with stars stay in ‘developmental.’ For one reason or another, there is stars who spent much more time than needed on the yellow brand, when they could have been making serious money for the company on the main roster, or ones who should have stayed longer to hone their craft, so they could be more valuable when their time came. Today we will look at both ends of the spectrum.
17 TOO LONG: Bayley
Bayley is quite possibly the most over female in recent WWE memory, due to her overwhelmingly likeable personality, and the amazing matches she put on with just about every other competitor in NXT’s Women’s division. Thus why it was such a surprise that Bayley was left behind when Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Sasha Banks made their main roster debut, as she was left to build the women’s division on her own. After a while, it was clear that Bayley deserved to be on the main roster, as each of her matches were brilliant and captivating, and she finally got her chance after SummerSlam 2016, 3 years after her NXT debut. The Hugger did a very admirable job at the top of the women’s division, but it was clear that she was just as deserving as any of the other 3 Four Horsewomen of being on the main roster long before she was called.
15 NOT LONG ENOUGH: Mojo Rawley
Mojo Rawley made his NXT start back before the wave of independent talent like Hideo Itami, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe, and was a character that caught on quickly, but had no legs or depth to hold the audiences attention for more than a squash match. So he went back to the Performance Center for an extended period of time and tried to improve on his skills, which he did. Upon his return, he was still a favorite, but didn’t quite connect the same. He then teamed up with Zack Ryder to create the Hype Bros. who now reside on Smackdown. The duo may be quite a unique and intriguing team, but with another year or so under their belt in NXT would have helped the team drastically, and they could have made their main roster debut together with much more emphasis and focus.
14 TOO LONG: Enzo & Cass
Despite being in NXT for 3 years, the team of Enzo & Cass never won the Tag Team Championship, and that raised red flags about their potential on the main roster, but a few months into their run, it is clear that they are poised to be generation-defining stars in the tag team division. It’s unclear why the titles were never put on the charismatic duo, but there is one thing for sure, they were in NXT for way too long. Although Enzo’s in ring abilities have improved out of sight in the last year, they were polished as a team with their characters and in ring performances for well over a year. Whatever the case, they have been stars since they arrived on Monday Night RAW, with the entire crowd behind them already, due to their sheer uniqueness and captivating promos.
13 NOT LONG ENOUGH: The Vaudevillains
The Vaudevillains were the perfect NXT gimmick: a unique one that caught on with a small time crowd, and most fans were skeptical of their prospects on the main roster, especially with the way Vince McMahon usually handles odd NXT gimmicks (see: The Ascension, Tyler Breeze & Adam Rose). This is exactly what happened to Aiden English and Simon Gotch, as they are now part of the cellar dwelling teams on Smackdown, after their reputation was destroyed almost immediately upon arrival. Vince McMahon has been having them lose quickly since the get go, not recognizing their talents, which no doubt would have been easier to see with a longer NXT run and more matches with the likes of DIY, TM61 and the Revival.
12 TOO LONG: Tye Dillinger
The Perfect 10 has just recently come into his own as one of the most charismatic and over superstars in NXT, and despite not looking great by losing all his big matches, could be a huge star on the main roster in the mid card if given the chance. Similar to Tyler Breeze, Dillinger usually competes in squash matches to the stars, but during his time doing those matches, the fans connected organically with the Canadian, and with his character and talent, has the potential to be a huge part of the Smackdown mid card. Whether the Perfect 10 will ever make the main roster is still a mystery though, but with his polish and likability, should no doubt graduate the performance center after a tough few years and get over on the main roster.
11 NOT LONG ENOUGH: Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss has really come into her own on Smackdown, becoming the top heel in the women’s division opposite Becky Lynch, but with her unique attitude and immense in ring ability, the 25 year old would have benefited from an extended run in NXT, possibly being the woman to dethrone Asuka. She is the person maybe least effected by her short stint there in developmental (despite it being 3 years, her on screen career looked like it was just about to take off), as she is now excelling in her Harley Quinn inspired gimmick. Her promos and polish in the ring could always use some improvement, which the Performance Center excels at, but overall it looks like Bliss could become an underrated star in the women’s division (especially considering she is 25), despite her small stop in NXT.
10 TOO LONG: The Revival
The Revival may be the most underrated tag team in recent wrestling memory, as the throwback duo have been putting on the most amazing tag team matches, perhaps in WWE history, as they have had classics with Enzo & Cass, American Alpha and most recently, DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommasso Ciampa). After going through some tough years, the duo consisting of Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson have come into their own together, establishing a gimmick that may not be flashy like the aforementioned teams, but it has made them one of the top 3 tag teams in the entire world. Due to this, their time in NXT is no doubt coming to an end, and they may have needed more development coming into the year 2016, but without question they have been ready for the main roster for a long time, and hopefully are treated the way they deserve when they land on either RAW or Smackdown.
9 NOT LONG ENOUGH: Carmella
Carmella has come into her own surprisingly well as a heel on Smackdown since she was drafted, her notable feud with Nikki Bella still going today, but she still has a lot to work on before she can be considered a top star in the women’s division. Performers like Nikki, Natalya and Becky Lynch are all polished with strong attributes in many areas of their game, but Carmella was only beginning to scratch the surface of her talents on NXT before she was drafted. A high energy side kick to Enzo & Cass, she was beginning to branch out, and the crowd were getting to know her more, especially in her feud with best friend Bayley. With more time to develop her in ring game and to more successfully express herself within character, Carmella could have been a huge arrival this time next year and made a huge impact as either a heel or face, but now we will have to see the growing pains and mistakes on Smackdown rather than the ‘developmental’ territory.
8 TOO LONG: Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe just shocked the WWE Universe when he won the NXT Championship for the second time at Takeover: Toronto, but many of those shocked people feel Joe’s time in NXT is done, with many dream matches like AJ Styles, John Cena and Brock Lesnar waiting for him on the main roster. The veteran of almost 15 years in the business made his shock debut in 2015, and is still in developmental, which is even more shocking when you look at the Club and AJ Styles who were able to jump straight to the main roster into success (well AJ anyway). Even more shocking is that rumors made their way around that Joe would never make the main roster, and although it is yet to be seen, it is hard to imagine WWE passing up on giving Joe a monster main roster run within the next year.
7 NOT LONG ENOUGH: Apollo Crews
Apollo Crews, or as he may be better known to some, Uhaa Nation from the independent scene is one of the most athletically gifted performers in wrestling history, doing absolutely everything with ease, but that’s not all it takes to become a star in the WWE. In his short stint in NXT, Crews showed off this talent, but never engaged the audiences in his matches, and therefore was never given any real story lines or programs to work, and his promo’s didn’t get any better. This is why it was such a shock to see him called up to the main roster just after WrestleMania this year, because he struggled so much connecting with the audience. His struggles and weaknesses are now being exposed, as he has been completely forgotten about on Smackdown, something that a year in NXT and more tv time would have helped.
5 TOO LONG: Tyler Breeze
When Tyler Breeze found out he was making his main roster debut on WWE’s Breaking Ground, it was an emotional moment that paid off years of work, dating back to the FCW days, and made the collective NXT Universe sit back and say ‘it’s about time’. He worked hard to create a new character, and despite his obvious talents, he wasn’t being utilized in a way that he should have been, and that led to the character stalling. After years and years of hard work, Breeze was brought up rather unsuccessfully, so maybe it would have been better for him to stay longer, but if the WWE could have utilized all the talents he brought to the table, we could be looking at a major player in the mid card right now. A longer stay in NXT did get him a 1 on 1 match with Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, but he still stayed in developmental much longer than he needed too.
4 NOT LONG ENOUGH: Dana Brooke
Oh where to begin with Dana Brooke. The ‘Total Diva’ showed up on NXT some time ago, showing off her muscles and well… not much else, as she was incredibly green in the ring, and less than exciting on the microphone. A friendship on screen blossomed with the incredibly talented Emma, all of which led to a premature call up for Brooke. Since then she has become Charlotte’s side kick, and not shown much in the way of improvement in the ring. WWE saw her as a huge piece in the future of the women’s division, but if rumors are anything to go by, they have soured on her very much since those predictions. Perhaps another year or so in NXT and you could have imagined the call up of Brooke being a big deal, but that valuable time lost at the Performance Center will cost WWE and Dana.
3 TOO LONG: Sami Zayn
This wasn’t completely the fault of the former El Generico, as he unfortunately injured himself on what was intended to be his full time Monday Night RAW debut, before his U.S Championship match with John Cena. Zayn finished the match and spent 7 months on the shelf, returning during NXT’s tour of the U.K, where he quickly found the form that made him NXT’s favorite son. From there he went on to having amazing matches with the likes of Tye Dillinger, Samoa Joe and the debuting Shinsuke Nakamura, in possibly the best farewell match in NXT history. The long stay wasn’t the fault of Zayn, as he probably would have been an established star deep within the main event by now if he wasn’t injured, but it wasn’t all bad, as fans saw the Match of the Year with Nakamura, so hopefully WWE can begin to capitalize on his talents in the near future.
2 NOT LONG ENOUGH: Nia Jax
Nia Jax is the most physically imposing female the WWE has seen for a long time, and if developed correctly, could be a huge part of the women’s division on the main roster going forward. In matches with Bayley and Asuka, Jax proved she was capable of putting on a long match that could tell a simple story, but NXT is about developing those talents, therefore Jax was drafted a few months too early. Granted, I can see why Vince McMahon would like Nia and want her on the main roster, and she has been steadily improving with time, but simply put, if they had of waited to bring her up until the same time next year, you would have a physically dominant monster who is capable of wrestling any style opponent with the ability to tell any story.
1 TOO LONG: Finn Bálor
When Prince Devitt made his debut on the back of an amazing career spanning New Japan Pro Wrestling and the European wrestling scene, it was assumed that he would be put in NXT to hone the ‘WWE style’ before jumping into the main event scene on RAW and Smackdown. That didn’t happen however, as the newly dubbed Finn Balor decided that he wanted to spearhead the NXT revolution that was happening, and ended up staying with developmental from his debut in 2014 to mid 2016. While this was amazing for the brand, as Balor was constantly headlining NXT’s biggest shows, many feel the stay was too long, and may now limit his overall potential on the main roster. However you feel about it, there is no doubt that Balor is a star waiting to happen on Monday Night RAW, and despite staying too long in NXT, he still has a plethora of intriguing matches and story lines awaiting him upon his much-anticipated return.