The impact NXT has had on the WWE certainly cannot be denied. The developmental brand took divisions that were lacking and made them great again over time with proper booking. The Women’s Division seems to be on the right track, while great tag teams are emerging and this is all thanks to NXT and their work. The brand has done so well on its own that it has caused the WWE to resort back to a brand split.
Though, despite all this good we just discussed, some believe Vince is still not sold on the developmental brand. The hardcore fans loves its underground uniqueness while Vince might not like the old school feel. His booking of several talents from the promotion has furthered that notion with several NXT stars tanking on the main roster. The WWE has made it clear, once you get called up, it’s a whole new world.
These 15 wrestlers know this all too well, as their NXT runs were quite promising only to be buried on the main roster. Some are still trying to survive while others are long gone out of the company. Due to his resurgence, Neville does not make the list and we seriously hope the company continues to push the talented performer as they are currently doing.
Enough of the talk let’s get going, here is the NXT Graveyard: 15 NXT stars whose careers died on the WWE’s main roster. Enjoy!
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15 The Ascension
With a struggling main roster tag team division, the NXT brand took it amongst themselves to restablish the once highly discussed division. The Ascension, featuring veterans Konnor and Viktor, became one of the first teams to surface as serious future players. Their NXT run was legendary, as the team set the record for longest reigning NXT Tag Team Championship run at 364 days. The team had some terrific feuds with the likes of Neville and Corey Graves along with Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel just to name a couple of their memorable encounters. They even took on Itami and Balor in their final feud down NXT. They were truly that good.
They seemed like a creative dream, as an old school dominant tag team that could be put against anyone, but ultimately it became apparent that NXT success does not mean WWE main roster success and they were one of the first teams to learn that the hard way. They were quickly made to look like a joke, getting embarrassed by the likes of the APA and New Age Outlaws. Within a few weeks. the team was already pretty much dead.
After being drafted together, some speculated that the team would re-launch correctly, though a double elimination by Kane on the first episode of SmackDown proved that wouldn't be the case.
The 35 year old was anything but new when his named surfaced in NXT, as Fandango (known then as Johnny Curtis) had been with the company since 2006, reporting to Deep South Wrestling. He would then report to FCW followed by NXT.
A decade since his signing, poor Fandango has really done nothing of importance, being regulated to a low level comedic wrestler. At this point, we're not even sure if he’s playing a heel or face.
Surprisingly that initially wasn’t the case, as in his very first match, Fandango got a spot on the WrestleMania 29 card. With a high profile debut, the company was actually pretty high on the guy and, rightfully so, seeing that he’d been in the system since 2006.
Well not only did he debut on the grandest stage, but he beat Chris Jericho in a shocking win. In typical WWE style, he would return the favor to Y2J, seeing Chris have the last laugh in picking up a victory over the Superstar. After a failed Intercontinental Championship run, he joined the graveyard of yet another failed NXT alumni, as he's currently in a dead-end tag team with Tyler Breeze.
13 Curtis Axel
Curtis Axel has greatness running through his veins as the son of the late, great Mr. Perfect. He signed a deal almost a decade ago in 2007 and was placed in the FCW developmental territory. He was instantly given upper card status with the promotion, working in a championship feud against Sheamus. He would later win the promotion's title defeating Eric Escobar. He truly seemed destine for greatness.
After he was a part of the NXT invasion angle, the WWE did the right thing and sent him back down for further repackaging. He was once again a prominent part of NXT storylines and things seemed to be looking up.
He made his official repackaged debut alongside Paul Heyman. Axel was on absolute fire early onm defeating Triple H on more than one occasion. He solidified his early greatness by winning the Intercontinental Championship at Payback against Wade Barrett and The Miz.
It seemed like a future World Champion was beginning to surface, though inexplicably his gimmick would take a comedic twist, as began working in a tag team with Ryback and then redefining himself as AxelMania. His stock is at the absolute lowest point right now, being labelled as “Mr. Irrelevant,” since he was chosen last in the recent brand split draft. Talk about a disaster. Add another one to the NXT graveyard.
12 Adam Rose
Adam Rose is on a select list of four people that endured NXT and WWE runs while being showed the door shortly after. Once again, this was a clear message to the other NXT Superstars that just cause the underground crowd likes you, it doesn’t mean the main WWE one will. He was cool in NXT, but just became corny on the WWE main roster and this basically sums up his contribution during his WWE stint.
You can’t help but feel bad for the guy, as he was with the WWE since 2010 with FCW. He bounced around so many gimmicks before ultimately finding success as a party guy, which ultimately flopped when it mattered. Things just went from bad to worse when Rose was suspended 60 days for violating the Wellness Policy. To make matters even worse somehow, a cherry was put on top after he was arrested for domestic violence which caused his WWE dismissal. The 37 year old is currently working the indies and is still using his party animal gimmick.
11 The Vaudevillains
The most recent pair of wrestlers joining the NXT graveyard are Aiden English and Simon Gotch, The Vaudevillains. Down in NXT, the team was quite unique and had a cool old school feel when watching the two operate during a match. The crowd approved of them, letting out a gigantic roar when the duo captured the NXT Tag Team Championships away from Blake and Murphy at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn exactly one year ago.
They would quickly drop the titles, but also inexplicably turn heel in the process, even though they were gaining momentum as babyfaces. All the character change did was make the team cold as ice, losing several matches to likes of American Alpha and Gargano & Ciampa. With such a cold streak came their WWE call up, which happened at the worse time for the duo who seemed to have lost their way. They’ve been regulated to being enhancement talents, putting over the likes of new main roster teams like American Alpha. At this point, a push or any type of momentum seems highly unlikely.
10 Summer Rae
Similar to the tag division, the WWE’s women division was in need of a massive overhaul in terms of direction. NXT once again took it upon themselves to re-identify the division by making it all about wrestling and less about being eye candy. The plan worked to perfection and created an abundance of new female stars. Unlike the tag division, the women from NXT have thrived on the main roster, putting their fingerprints all over the company today. The likes of Paige, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch and even the old guard in AJ Lee are all products of the system.
It’s been a rarity to see a female wrestler flop from NXT, though it has happened. One we can officially name as a graveyard member is Summer Rae, who still hasn’t done anything despite being with the company since 2011 when she joined FCW. I think that’s enough to warrant her a spot on this list.
She did make improvements in the ring with NXT, but her talents have not been showcased on the main roster. At this point a push seems impossible with all the talent emerging.
9 Rich Brennan
We've decided to add a headset to the graveyard. Rich Brennan was the former voice of NXT and did a decent job during his run with the underground developmental brand. His great work was finally rewarded and the WWE decided to call up the commentator as the new voice of SmackDown.
The situation would later take an odd twist. Rich was fired shortly after his promotion, leading to plenty of questions. Brennan broke his silence and discussed the matter, claiming he was also caught off guard as well. According to the company, he was released because of post WrestleMania budget cuts....even though Mauro Ranallo would soon after replace him and seems to be a much more expensive choice, judging by his experience. Nonetheless, we wish Rich nothing but the best in his future endeavors.
8 Sin Cara
After the original Sin Cara left the company, the WWE was determined to keep the gimmick alive. Enter Jorge Arias, the man who currently plays Sin Cara.
He quickly joined the main roster and would win a series of matches before becoming irrelevant in the undercard.
He would surprisingly resurface as an important piece down in NXT, forming the tag team of The Lucha Dragons. The duo caught instant heat and eventually dethroned the champions of nearly a year, The Ascension.
At that point, the team was red hot and joined the main roster. They had a decent run, but it became apparent quickly that the company had bigger plans for Kalisto. With the duo now separated and Sin Cara forced to fend for himself on Raw, his future seems to be in serious doubt. Pairing him with Neville has kept him relevant, but in the long run we know the WWE has bigger plans for "The Man That Gravity Forgot" and not the masked Luchador.
7 Erick Rowan
Here’s a fun fact: Erick Rowan was actually accompanied to the ring by none other than Byron Saxton during his FCW days. Fast forward to the rebranding of NXT and Rowan transformed into a member of The Wyatt Family. Rowan was introduced down in NXT as the “second son” of the prestigious family. His biggest accomplishment title wise would also occur down in development, when he and Luke Harper would win the NXT Tag Championships away from the highly regarded duo of Neville and Bo Dallas.
His WWE career has been decent so far, although he has never done anything significant, aside from being a background player to Bray’s antics. He recently resurfaced on SmackDown, joining Bray once again, much to the dismay of several fans that wanted to see Bray go at it alone. Look for him to continue alongside Wyatt for the time being until he suddenly fades away for good.
6 Darren Young
Darren Young was involved in some WWE matches as an enhancement talent dating back to 2005 and 2006. He would later sign a permanent deal in 2009. He struggled to find any type of momentum early on, but after rejoining NXT, he was placed in a tag team with Titus O’Neil. The team had actually a pretty nice run, in NXT and on the main roster, but once they split, things went south for Young again. The team resurfaced in 2015 with another decent run, though this time it was halted for good after Titus was suspended for 60 days after the bizarre incident that took place with the boss Vince McMahon.
He’s once again on his own and seemingly going nowhere, despite Bob Backlund's presence. With more new talent from NXT coming onto the main roster, the future remains very questionable for the New Jersey native.
5 Brodus Clay
Brodus Clay re-signed with the WWE in 2010, after spending time in developmental between 2006-08, and immediately reported to FCW. The company initially used his strengths, putting him in an alliance alongside The Usos and Tamina down in developmental.
After his time in NXT, instead of playing to his strengths as a big and scary looking dude, the company inexplicably gave him a dancing gimmick as The Funkasaurus. The company was actually quite high on the idea, but the fans were not on the same page. The potential star quickly became a huge joke.
The WWE would try to repackage him in NXT and he would even challenge for the championship against Neville at one point. Just as it seemed that he was turning a corner down in developmental, he was released by the WWE in June of 2014. His main roster flop was just too much to overcome. He would go on to join TNA and finally make use of his size as a bodyguard for some of the promotions finer workers, including Ethan Carter III.
4 Wade Barrett
Wade Barrett was arguably the biggest star in WWE history to come out of the old NXT format, which was a competition to find a new and emerging star. With the emergence of The Nexus, Wade broke out instantly, becoming a main event performer. We tend to forget that he headlined five PPV events in 2010, which is pretty remarkable.
What isn’t so remarkable, however, is that he challenged for the championship three times in those main events, only to fall short every single time.
After the failed angle and several meaningless championship runs, the WWE gave Barrett the honor of winning the King of the Ring tournament, even though he was as cold as ice at the time.
His win would only hurt him, as he looked like a fool wearing a crown to the ring and constantly doing nothing of importance. After his recent, failed stint with The League of Nations, Barrett asked for his release, cementing his tombstone in the NXT graveyard.
3 Tyler Breeze
Countless wrestling enthusiasts labelled Tyler Breeze as the next big star in the WWE. He joined the company back in 2010 with FCW and would bounce around several gimmicks. He always had plenty of talent and all he needed was a connection with the audience. He struck gold with his pretty boy gimmick and became an iconic feature down in NXT. He was rewarded for his tremendous work which spanned from 2012 to 2015 with a call up to the main roster.
Breeze was ruined in the blink of an eye. He lost his debut to Dean Ambrose and would later beat Ziggler, only to somehow lose two straight matches after his victory against The Showoff, ending the feud on a losing note.
Tyler would never recover and get relegated to WWE Superstars and later as comedic relief in the under card. Like Cody Rhodes, it might be best for Breeze to leave the company and re-establish his brand value on the independent circuit.
2 Bo Dallas
As a third generation star signing a deal with the WWE in his teen years, Bo Dallas was destined for huge things with the company. He spent four years with FCW, feuding with the best the development had to offer, like Seth Rollins and Corey Graves. He would capture the FCW Heavyweight Championship three times.
During the NXT re-brand, success would still follow him despite his gimmick change as “positive and happy” Bo. He would enjoy the same results, capturing the NXT Championship from Big E and later defeating the likes of Cesaro and Sami Zayn.
His Bo-lieve gimmick would debut on the main roster after a series of vignettes and would tank horribly. Unlike his time in NXT, his gimmick just didn’t work and seemed laughable more than anything. Shockingly, the company still hasn’t tried to re-package him in any way whatsoever. At the age of 26, despite still being young, he just seems to be wasting away. This is perhaps one of the WWE’s worst blunders out of all the NXT talents.
1 Tyson Kidd
He started in Deep South before moving to FCW and his talents were quite clear early on. The WWE would bring him up to the main roster as a member of The Hart Dynasty. The group did well, but after awhile it was time to move on.
After a terrible singles run, the WWE made the right call to send Kidd down to development in order to further his re-packaging as a singles star. The move worked wonders and Kidd seemed to catch some serious fire once again.
Inexplicably, the WWE again put him in a tag team, despite his momentum down in NXT. This time he would join Justin Gabriel. After an injury, he found himself going back to NXT and enjoying the greatest run of his entire career, feuding with the likes of Neville. He was finally a big game player.
WWE once again put a damper on his push, putting him back in a tag team with Cesaro this time. Yes, the team was highly entertaining, but both needed to thrive alone. He's recovering from another severe injury, leaving us to wonder what could have been for Tyson Kidd.
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