NXT has become the ideal place for wrestlers to start out in WWE. The changes for NXT have seen it grow from a developmental brand into a third show for WWE on national television. Triple H felt comfortable pushing NXT on USA Network to compete against AEW after all the success the brand has accomplished. Stars like Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss are the ones that showcased just how incredible the journey can be.
Unfortunately, not all wrestlers from NXT will have that level of success with things more managed on Raw or Smackdown working for Vince McMahon directly. The following names are wrestlers that WWE expected to become top-level stars when joining Raw or Smackdown. Find out just which names failed to live up to the hype set out for them. These are ten NXT wrestlers that WWE expected to become A-Listers on the main roster to little success.
10 Big Cass and Enzo Amore
The duo of Big Cass and Enzo Amore were supposed to become major stars on the WWE main roster. Both guys had a great run as a tag team in NXT, but the expectations were for them to take their game to another level on the bigger stage where their promos would mean more.
WWE eventually split them up hoping both men could have successful singles careers. Cass had a disappointing run before getting released following backstage issues. The same happened to Enzo after a lackluster stint as the Cruiserweight Champion.
9 Apollo Crews
WWE’s Breaking Ground series on the WWE Network featured a reality series looking at the lives of the talents in NXT and training at the Performance Center. Apollo Crews was revealed to be the first wrestler since Kevin Owens to receive a major bonus showing the belief WWE had in him.
A main roster call-up came too long as Apollo struggled to break out with a lack of a character. WWE gave up on him within a few months. Crews has struggled to get television time over the past few years and doesn’t seem likely to get another push in WWE any time soon.
The undefeated streak of Asuka in NXT made her arguably the most successful woman in the company’s history. Asuka joined the main roster still without a loss on her record and won the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match to earn a title shot against Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34.
Charlotte ended Asuka’s undefeated streak and that was the end of the top-level push for Asuka. WWE did have her receive a short run as Smackdown Women’s Champion, but she was off television again within a few months. Asuka is now teaming with Kairi Sane in the Kabuki Warriors tag team gaining little television time.
7 Authors of Pain
The success of the Authors of Pain in NXT made them a tag team with huge potential. Akam and Rezar had classics against The Revival and DIY in NXT that gained them the promotion to the main roster. WWE removed Paul Ellering as their manager and replaced him with Drake Maverick.
Despite winning the Raw Tag Team Championship, Authors of Pain could not gain any momentum. WWE removed them from television for quite a few months. The recent episodes of television have featured AOP getting repackaged with backstage promos. Time will tell if they can find success, but they have been disappointing so far.
6 Tyler Breeze
Tyler Breeze had one of the first interesting characters in NXT with his male model gimmick inspired by Zoolander. WWE called him up to the main roster and placed him in a feud with Dolph Ziggler. The addition of the charismatic Summer Rae as his manager couldn’t help him get over.
There was a disconnect between Breeze and WWE’s creative team that saw the character fail. Breeze did deliver entertaining matches and moments when teaming with Fandango in the Fashion Police. The duo is back in NXT trying to rebuild their momentum after some time apart.
5 Shinsuke Nakamura
The New Japan run of Shinsuke Nakamura made him a legend in Japan. Fans in North America started to fall in love with Nakamura during his appearances in Ring of Honor during NJPW’s expansion. WWE signed him to start in NXT to huge success as a two-time NXT Champion.
The main roster is where Nakamura ran into issues with a few notable lackluster performances. Nakamura scored the biggest victory of his WWE career winning the 2018 Royal Rumble match. The WWE Championship match against AJ Styles was a huge disappointment. Nakamura clearly lost a step and it shows with the forgettable main roster run.
4 Mojo Rawley
The original purpose of NXT was to spotlight the upcoming stars of WWE that made the move from another sport. Mojo Rawley wanted to try the wrestling world after his NFL career ended. WWE loved his upside and called him up to the main roster during the 2016 draft.
Rawley had a short run in the Hype Bros tag team with Zack Ryder. Once it ended, he struggled to get television time. There was one noteworthy win in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal with his friend Rob Gronkowski helping him, but WWE did nothing moving forward. Mojo has failed to get consistent television time for a few years now.
3 Austin Aries
Austin Aries is a forgotten member of the WWE roster, but he used to have a reputation as one of the best wrestlers in the world. The past of Aries saw him having superb matches with peers Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles and CM Punk in Ring of Honor.
WWE signed Aries years after most of his equals with a solid run in NXT. Aries was called up to the 205 Live brand as part of the cruiserweight division. The matches against Neville impressed, but Aries never came off as a star. WWE released him shortly after the feud with Neville ended.
2 Dana Brooke
Dana Brooke is a secondary member of the women’s division today, but there were once huge plans to push her. The background of Brooke in bodybuilding and fitness made her a huge prospect when joining the Performance Center. NXT tried to highlight Dana in matches against Asuka and Bayley.
Brooke did not find much success on the main roster with her biggest run coming as Charlotte Flair’s sidekick. Once WWE gave up on her push, Dana struggled to receive television time. Fans still rarely get to see even though she has been working hard on improving.
The call-up of Rusev with Lana featured one of the first NXT wrestlers getting a huge push on the main roster. Rusev went undefeated for almost a full and received a huge opportunity against John Cena at WrestleMania 31. They had lackluster matches which ultimately hurt Rusev’s moment.
WWE went back and forth on pushing Rusev since then. Most of his time in the company has been spent in the lower mid-card. Rusev may be getting another push after this most recent return, but it is hard to envision him reaching that A-List main event scene any time soon.