WWE’s developmental system has gone through a few different manifestations. The latest of course is NXT, and a lot of the time it doesn’t feel right to refer to it as a developmental territory. There are extremely talented Superstars down at Full Sail University that in no way need to be developed, and are simply waiting for a slot to free up on either Raw or SmackDown Live. Nevertheless there are still Superstars being developed down there in Orlando, Florida and although the facilities are a lot better, it’s by no means a new concept. Before NXT there was Florida Championship Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling among others. Territories around the country where WWE would train and nurture the Superstars of tomorrow.
While the main job of these feeder systems is to keep the main roster topped up, it isn’t or was never their only role. On a few occasions wrestlers that WWE may have jumped the gun with have been sent back to NXT, or FCW, or OVW in order to improve themselves. It’s also not always as straight forward as that. Sometimes Superstars are sent back to developmental to help others, help the brand (especially when it comes to NXT), or on very rare occasions as a form of punishment. Whatever the reason is it happens more often than some fans may realize. As much as it does and has happened however, there are still some glaring omissions concerning Superstars that really would benefit from another stint in NXT to smooth out their edges. Here are eight times WWE did send Superstars back, and seven of those omissions that are yet to return to Full Sail.
15. Sent Back: Natalya
Most of you will be reading this list and expecting a litany of Superstars who were sent back to developmental or NXT because they weren’t ready for the big time. For Natalya however it was quite the contrary. Neidhart had already established herself on the main roster yet started venturing down to NXT to challenge for the brand’s Women’s Championship. It wasn’t to help raise her own ability, but rather the ability of the other women in NXT at the time. Nattie battled Paige for the NXT Women’s Championship and would later go head to head with Charlotte in the final of a tournament for the same title. It’s a match that has gone down in NXT history and still gets referenced to this day with both women currently residing on SmackDown Live.
14. Should Be: The Ascension
The Ascenion were Tag Team Champions in NXT and basically on top of the world. Konnor and Viktor were one of the very first examples of an NXT act that fans believed couldn’t be screwed up by Vince McMahon and couldn’t wait for their arrival on the main roster. Turns out we were wrong. The Ascension have been nothing but a flop since leaving NXT with fans seemingly labeling them yet another rehash of the beloved Road Warriors. Hawk and Animal are widely regarded as one of the greatest tag teams of all time, hence why they’re so often imitated. It isn’t working for The Ascension though, at least not on SmackDown Live. They’ve dipped their toe back in the NXT waters from time to time, but maybe they need to make that toe dipping a little more long term.
13. Sent Back: Spirit Squad
Anyone who has been watching WWE for a certain amount of time will unquestionably have seen some terrible ideas. A quintet of five male cheerleaders may be up there as one of the worst. They were World Tag Team Champions at one point though, and Nick – aka Dolph Ziggler – has managed to carve himself out a nice little WWE career off the back of it. It didn’t take long for the idea to run it’s course however and aside from Kenny for a brief period of time, WWE had nothing else for the other members of the Squad. The remaining members of the cheerleading team made their way back to OVW and aside from Dolph would all be gradually released.
12. Should Be: Erick Rowan
What’s Erick Rowan up to at the moment? Judging by the amount the big man has been on WWE television recently, not a lot. The splitting of the Wyatt Family hasn’t exactly done well for any of its former members – well aside from Braun Strowman who got out early – but Rowan is easily the biggest casualty. While Luke Harper is also inexplicably absent right now, he has the belief of the fans backing him up. Rowan doesn’t so much. The sad thing is if Erick was released tomorrow, it’s likely that not many fans would be that phased. Send the boiler suit wearing brawler back to Full Sail and have him tear up a few Superstars down there. The NXT fans would appreciate him and he could reach much greater heights than he currently can on Raw or SmackDown Live.
11. Sent Back: Matt Morgan
At Survivor Series 2003 the WWE Universe was introduced to The Blueprint, Matt Morgan. Morgan was brought into the fold from developmental territory OVW by Paul Heyman. His client, Brock Lesnar, was assembling a team to take on an opposing team made up of Superstars captained by Kurt Angle. Morgan, the physical specimen that he was, siding with Brock made perfect sense. In fact his entire first run on the main roster involved him helping out The Beast. Then after WrestleMania XX less than six months after Morgan’s debut Lesnar left. WWE had nothing more for Matt at the time so The Blueprint was sent back to OVW to continue honing his craft. He wouldn’t appear on SmackDown again for a full year.
10. Should Be: Aiden English
Earlier this year Aiden English lost his tag team partner when Simon Gotch was released by WWE. As a team the pair were known as The Vaudevillains, and much like The Ascension from earlier in this list they were extremely popular in NXT. They were the brand’s tag team champions also and the future seemed bright for the team considering the originality of their gimmick. As is often the case on the main roster, clearly Vince McMahon didn’t get it. The Vaudevillains went nowhere and eventually Aiden was left to fend for himself. He’s got himself this singing gimmick and it may seem funny for now, but that will wear thin fast. Fans know and love him in NXT and it would be the perfect place for him to start again and carve out a singles career.
9. Sent Back: Drew McIntyre
This entry is not about the new NXT Champion’s latest venture down to Full Sail. For starters McIntyre was not sent there. The Scotsman left WWE and has since traveled the world, wrestling anywhere and everywhere. What you may not know is that when WWE’s developmental territory FCW was first labelled as NXT, McIntyre was sent down there to help the new brand. The man who had been hand picked by Vince McMahon to be the future of his company did battle with Seth Rollins in the tournament to crown the first ever NXT Champion, a tournament that Seth went on to win of course. That wasn’t all though and Drew stuck around in NXT. The brand has come a long way since then though, and I’m sure McIntyre would be the first to say that he’s glad he didn’t take to the brand at the time and had the chance to leave, grow, and return.
8. Should Be: Bayley
This one may seem like a bit of a strange one to a lot of fans, and is extremely unlikely that WWE will ever do it as it would basically mean Vince McMahon and co admitting that they screwed up a gimmick that seemed impossible to mess up. At first it was just people not really caring about Bayley which is bad enough, but the last couple of weeks it has gotten to the point where in house fans are audibly booing Raw’s Resident Hugger. It’s not a good look, and short of turning a fan favorite with the child fans heel there seems to be no easy fix. One place that Bayley was, and always will be, loved however was NXT. The former Women’s Champion could do no wrong and many thought she was held back there too long. Turns out maybe it wasn’t long enough and she should probably consider heading back for a spell.
7. Sent Back: Jinder Mahal
One man who most definitely does not need to be sent back to developmental right now is WWE Champion, Jinder Mahal. Had you asked me this question just six months ago then I would have likely given you a very different answer. There was a time in 2012, along with Drew McIntyre who he would become 3MB band mates with soon after, when Jinder was sent to NXT though. He competed on the re-branded FCW sporadically and along with Drew competed in the tournament to crown an inaugural NXT Champion. Mahal made it a lot further than McIntyre, losing in the final to Seth Rollins. Perhaps if he had made it that one extra step he would have been WWE Champion long before 2017.
6. Should Be: Apollo Crews
There are a few Superstars who have been called up to Raw or SmackDown Live and many of us were left thinking ‘oh that seems a little early, are they ready yet?’. It would probably be fair to say that Alexa Bliss was one of those names, and she has proven any of her doubters wrong ten times over. Another name that was called up too early was Apollo Crews, and unfortunately he has not taken the same trajectory as Five Feet of Fury. Vince McMahon was likely blinded by the impressive athleticism of Apollo when he saw him in NXT and instantly thought that he must have him on the main roster. Now Crews is the third man in Titus Worldwide, basically playing cheerleader to Akira Tozawa.
5. Sent Back: Tye Dillinger
What’s that? Tye Dillinger has been on the main roster before he was recently called up to SmackDown Live? Yes that’s right. You may have seen some Superstars talking about how much Tye has been waiting for a shot at the big time and how much he deserves it, and that’s because he hasn’t always been the Perfect Ten with WWE. Years ago Dillinger was known as Gavin Spears. The gimmick pre-dates NXT even and came about while Tye was in FCW. While there Dillinger was called up to WWE’s failed ECW reboot and would split his time between there and developmental. Neither Gavin Spears nor the ECW reboot worked out of course, and Tye would have to leave WWE to find himself. The Perfect Ten is a much more fitting gimmick.
4. Should Be: Nia Jax
Nia Jax may be another example of a Superstar that Vince McMahon clapped eyes on and couldn’t resist rushing through the developmental process before she was completely ready. Jax did battle with the likes of Bayley and Asuka in NXT, and even then it was clear that even though Jax had potential she wasn’t ready for the big time yet. Whether it was Vince or not, somebody clearly didn’t agree. We’re in a fantastic time for women’s wrestling and on the most basic level bringing Nia into the fold was a great way to add to the already terrific talent pool. She’s different and adds something else to the roster. Her wrestling ability leaves a lot to be desired however. There are certain matches Nia has had on Raw that have left fans cringing as she throws her opponents around recklessly.
3. Sent Back: Eva Marie
Eva Marie may be the only person on this list who was openly booed and disliked for being sent back to developmental to help improve herself. It’s no secret as as to why WWE liked Eva Marie. An attractive woman who Vince McMahon could put in next to nothing, it’s WWE’s basic formula for its female Superstars, or at least it was. Had Eva shown up ten to fifteen years ago then she would likely be a multiple time Divas’ Champion and have a place on Raw each and every week. The game has changed though and if you want to be a female wrestler you actually need to know how to wrestle. Unfortunately even being sent to NXT wasn’t enough, and Marie has recently been released from the company.
2. Should Be: Tyler Breeze
Of all the Superstars that have made the move from NXT to either Raw or SmackDown Live, Tyler Breeze might be the one who has fallen from grace the most. Breeze was extremely popular in NXT and has an incredibly unique gimmick, one that fans believed would resonate with Vince McMahon. Well it very well might have done had Tyler not screwed it up for himself right off the bat. Apparently Breeze left a Raw early and it didn’t sit well with those who had his future in their hands. Since then the highest peak The Gorgeous One has reached is the one he currently finds himself in with Fandango. The Breezango segments may be entertaining, but Tyler proved in NXT that he can be so much more than that and needs to go about reminding the fans of that fact.
1. Sent Back: Big Show
If you didn’t know this one already it will likely be the most surprising entry on this list. All the way back in the year 2000, long before there was an NXT to go to, Big Show was sent to developmental, to WWE’s OVW territory to be precise. Show was a lot younger and less wise than he is in 2017 and was continually told by WWE that he needed to clean up his act. By that they meant he needed to eat better, smoke less, and improve his fitness as he kept getting out of breath during matches. Show did not take heed of WWE’s warnings and advice and was eventually punished by being sent to developmental. He was forced to perform though until he did get himself in order and returned to the main roster for the 2001 Royal Rumble match.
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