Many of WWE's current superstar's were once NXT developmental standouts. Triple H's pet project has become a successful brand all its own from a creative standpoint. The Full Sail crowd has been able to get behind and help launch the careers of a number of men and women new to the WWE system. But what works in front of a crowd of a couple of hundred die-hard fans does not always translate to an arena full of the more casual WWE universe. Those hundreds of thousands of WWE spectators of all ages have turned their backs on many characters that succeeded in NXT. These are the call ups that for one reason or another, just didn't work.
Bo Dallas comes from wrestling royalty. How do you have Mike Rotundo as a father, Blackjack Mulligan as a granddad, and Barry Windham as an uncle and still not get over? Like several entries on this list, Bo was a champion in NXT, but his power of positivity gimmick didn't translate to the main roster. His B-Team tag run with fellow struggling multi-generational superstar Curtis Axel is having a little more success but is basically a comedy gimmick.
Adam Rose may not have found success in the big leagues of the wrestling industry, but at least he seems to be doing well now. He's cleaned up and is getting consistent acting gigs, recently appearing on the Netflix series Santa Clarita Diet. Rose wrestled as Leo Kruger in FCW, NXT's predecessor. He found success with the full sail crowd as a party animal, accompanied to the ring with his crew of 'Rose Buds'. But once on Raw, it was onetime Rose Bud Braun Strowman that broke out as the star.
Not only did The Ascension never succeed in WWE, but they also ruined what could have been a legitimately cool tag team name. Seriously, that sounds killer! Konnor and Viktor were made to look like monsters in developmental. They stood tall over all the indie geeks that got thrown their way. But then, when they appeared on Raw, they were exposed as only being 6 ft 2 in and 6 ft 4 in and called Legion Of Doom ripoffs by the announce team. This did not make them look like the monsters they appeared to be in NXT.
In the past, Triple H has said that they don't want to pull anyone up from NXT to the WWE unless there is a plan laid out for them. Apollo Crews is proof that either Triple H is lying or Vince McMahon just doesn't listen to him. Apollo was a hot prospect on the indie circuit before signing to NXT. There, he showed his amazing power and athleticism. Guys with his build shouldn't have a standing moonsault in their back pocket. Then he went to WWE and were lost in the crowd.
It wasn't too long ago that Impact was starting to turn around and you could point to EC3 as being in the most entertaining segments. The mega-tanned John Cena-light showed up in the front row of an NXT Takeover event and the crowd was ready! After a brief stay in NXT, EC3 just sort of started showing up in Smackdown segments with nothing much to do. If no one on-screen cares that he's there, why would the audience?
In NXT, Bobby Roode was treated with a certain level of respect and maintained an aura about him. He seemed to be an upper-level guy. After all, he had that amazing entrance and those killer robes. Sure, his matches were boring, but most of his opponents were at least interesting to watch. But, put him on the main roster and the aura and respect disappears, leaving him as just some guy with a fun sing-a-long entrance.
Tye Dillinger got over with the NXT crowd by yelling the number 10 over and over again. How did that not sustain its heat on the main roster? If there is one thing that the Full Sail geeks love, it's chanting. If your gimmick involves them rhythmically saying something in unison, you're golden. Unfortunately for Tye, the novelty of the 10 gimmick wore out its welcome after the 10 spot in the Royal Rumble. Cute spot for what it was, though.
The Revival's NXT gimmick was that they "didn't need no stinking gimmick." They were a pair of old school bruisers that would do it the Tully and Arn way, no flash required. It turns out that the main roster requires some flash with a side of gimmick. The Revival finally found a modicum of success when they asked for their release so they could perhaps join the newly formed AEW. They won the tag team titles and then promptly lost to every tag team possible.
There was a time a few years ago when The Shield and The Wyatt Family faced off in the ring and it looked like the future of wrestling. Now, Bray has been out with an injury, and everyone else has moved on and he's been forgotten. He had potential with his backwater cult gimmick. But never growing past rambling nonsense promos, cheesy special effects, and losing every major feud he's been involved in has sent him back to square one.
It may seem like Bayley has had a successful main roster career. She is one half of the first ever Women's Tag Team Champions, after all. But anyone that tries to argue that she is doing well in the WWE must have not seen what she did in NXT. She was a different kind of wrestler that connected to fans on a whole different level. She inspired kids and melted cynics hearts. Then she came up to Raw and she became a whiner that eventually turned heel.