Most WWE wrestlers you see live on Mondays and Tuesdays wrestled for the Full Sail University crowd in NXT before moving to Raw or SmackDown Live.
For instance, the Universal Champion, Seth Rollins, was the inaugural NXT Champion. In fact, he’s one of the four NXT alumni to hold the red strap, with Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens and the first-ever Universal Champion Finn Balor the others. Only two non-NXT wrestlers – Brock Lesnar and Goldberg – have held the top title on Raw.
On SmackDown, meanwhile, WWE Champion Kofi Kingston hasn’t performed for NXT, except as the mentor of Curtis Axel. Previously, though, a multitude of NXT alumni have held the WWE Championship title: Daniel Bryan, Bray Wyatt and all The Shield members.
In this article, we’ll be looking at five current NXT wrestlers who’ll follow in their footsteps and five who won’t.
10 Future WWE Champion: Velveteen Dream
Undeniably one of the biggest stars in NXT today, he’s managed to get a mid-card character get over as a main-event persona. His holding the North American Championship has only established him as a top-tier wrestler in the developmental brand.
Even if he never wins the NXT Championship, he will likely go on to have a humdinger of a main-roster run considering the fact that Vince McMahon and the other main-roster producers like flamboyant characters. Besides, making him a WWE Champion will only make WWE more “inclusive” and WWE definitely needs all the positive PR they can get with potential competitor All Elite Wrestling (AEW) claiming to be for everyone.
9 Won’t Become WWE Champion: Matt Riddle
Matt Riddle has been gaining a decent following just like Becky Lynch had been doing when WWE was overlooking her in favor of Charlotte Flair and Alexa Bliss. The former MMA wrestler has been making extravagant statements since moving to WWE, like his underlining his desire to not just wrestle Brock Lesnar but potentially retiring him sometime down the line.
Characters who’re outspoken like him have had contrasting WWE careers. Enzo Amore and Lio Rush were kicked out while Big E has become a WWE Champion-material. It’s likely that he’s shown the door before he becomes a WWE Champion.
8 Future WWE Champion: Walter
Walter has featured predominantly on NXT UK. While he himself was an intimidating figure, his teaming up with Fabian Aichner and Marcel Barthel has only made him one of the most formidable figures in all of WWE today. Of course, WWE will never reach the Brock Lesnar levels of formidable ever again given their reluctance to create individual stars.
However, Walter is as far as they can get as far as legitimate monsters are concerned. Once he moves to the main roster, he, a 31-year-old juggernaut, will be considered a big deal. He will definitely be in a WWE Championship match if his main-roster career takes the NXT route.
7 Won’t Become WWE Champion: Roderick Strong
Roderick Strong was the final addition to The Undisputed Era. Since becoming a part of one of the most badass stables in wrestling today, he’s been setting the world alight, even becoming a two-time NXT Tag Team Champion.
He, a former Ring of Honor (ROH) and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) World Champion, does boast what a wrestler needs to do be in the world-title reckoning. However, given the recent influx of top-tier talents in recent times, the United States Championship or the Intercontinental Championship is the farthest the soon-to-be 36-year-old can climb up the kayfabe ladder.
6 Future WWE Champion: Tommaso Ciampa
Easily the most over DIY wrestler, Tommaso Ciampa will definitely find himself wrestling for the WWE Championship or the Universal Championship sooner rather than later. Although he stands only at less than 6ft tall and weighs just 201 pounds, he is destined to main-event multiple PPVs once he moves to the main roster.
His character work is second to none in NXT today, perhaps with the exception of Velveteen Dream and, in the main roster, where Vince McMahon respects character work more than anything else, he will more than thrive.
5 Won’t Become WWE Champion: Keith Lee
One of the few wrestlers on the WWE roster today with a five-star match on the Dave Meltzer scale, Keith Lee has already become a cult figure among the more hardcore fan base.
However, in NXT, the former PWG World Champion has done nothing of note since debuting in April 2018, save for jobbing to Lars Sullivan and defeating Kassius Ohno and Kona Reeves. At best, given the fact that the main roster is now more stacked than ever before, he’ll become what Rusev is right now: a glorified mid-carder.
4 Future WWE Champion: Pete Dunne
A former NXT UK Champion, he’d been reigning supreme until Walter came into the picture. The British-born wrestler has been consistently putting on top-tier matches against Tyler Bate, Trent Seven, Walter and Mark Andrews, among others. At a tender age of 25, he’s already established himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world today.
By the time he reaches the main roster, he’ll have created enough hype for the main-roster writers to treat him like a big deal. It’s now only a matter of time before he moves to the main roster and challenges Seth Rollins or Kofi Kingston for the big titles.
3 Won’t Become WWE Champion: Tyler Bate
When Triple H and co. crowned Tyler Bate the inaugural NXT UK Champion ahead of much more established names, several eyebrows were raised. However, the youngster proved a solid candidate when he put on classic displays.
Since losing the title, however, he hasn’t been as impressive as he could be, with many other United Kingdom-born wrestlers overtaking him in the pecking order. Given his age, it’s quite possible that he goes on to become a big name on the main roster. However, it’s unlikely he proceeds to win the big belts.
2 Future WWE Champion: Adam Cole
Adam Cole is the quintessential WWE wrestler in all of NXT and NXT UK today. The 29-year-old become huge on NXT as the leader of The Undisputed Era in August 2017, has won the North American Championship and the NXT Tag Team Championship. It’s only a matter of time before he goes on to win the NXT Championship.
However, even if he never wins the top prize in NXT, he will find himself wrestling for the WWE Championship or the Universal Championship when he eventually makes the move to the main roster. He’s the odds-on favorite among the other NXT wrestlers to become a world champion one day.
1 Won’t Become WWE Champion: Johnny Gargano
Every tag-team needs to have its Marty Jannetty. Even the highly-talented Christian had to make way for Edge to win the WWE Championship. It looks as though Johnny Gargano will be the second banana of DIY considering how over Tommaso Ciampa has become in recent times.
It’s a certainty that the 31-year-old will have a WWE Hall of Fame-worthy career if he chooses to work for WWE for a long time; however, it seems the Intercontinental Championship and the United States Championship are his ceiling, given his lack of popularity when compared to his DIY teammate.