When a wrestler signs a contract to compete for NXT, what they’re really doing is preparing for a future career on the main WWE roster. Despite what Vince McMahon and Triple H might try and suggest, the fact of the matter is that many wrestlers on the NXT roster were already totally ready for primetime the second they signed up for the gig. On the other hand, there are also a handful of would-be superstars who have been “training” for two or three years now without showing much sign of improvement, which may be a sign they’ll never quite make it to the big leagues.
Anything can happen in the WWE Universe, and the wrestling industry is evolving every day, so there’s no guarantees when it comes to taking a NXT wrestler and putting them on live television every week. However, it’s not that hard to make some educated guesses about which wrestlers were ready upon arrival and which ones will never make it out of the developmental leagues. Unfortunately, WWE occasionally has weird end games that no one understand, making it hard to predict who will leave NXT, when, or why. Nonetheless, we’ll try our best to make some suggestions on 8 NXT wrestlers ready for WWE and 7 who should just give up and quit already.
15 READY FOR WWE: The Authors of Pain
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, The Authors of Pain have looked tailor-made for success in the WWE Universe starting at the moment they made their debut. Akam and Rezar are the sort of giant monsters with whom Vince McMahon is known to fall in love, and the two have been improving inside the ring with every match since they first appeared. It’s possible they still have some room to grow, and the fact Paul Ellering is still around as a mouthpiece in particular might be a warning sign if they’re ever expected to talk on their own. However, from a storyline perspective, the Authors already came, saw, and conquered just about everything in NXT. They reigned as Tag Team Champions over 200 days and haven’t done much since losing the belts aside from fail to win them back, so they need to move up and move on soon or the growth they’ve experienced thus far might all be for naught.
14 JUST GIVE UP: Aliyah
By and large, the women of NXT are amongst the greatest talents in the wrestling world. Past successes like Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Paige essentially defined the women’s wrestling revolution, with newer names like Asuka and Bayley keeping it alive. Others like Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler are continuing to wow fans as they fight over the NXT Women’s Championship, but unfortunate and inevitably, not every single female hired by the brand is going to be of this caliber. Maybe it isn’t fair to single out Aliyah against these innovative game changers, but then again, it can’t be ignored that she’s been in NXT for almost three years now without showing anything close to their talent. In fact, Aliyah hasn’t shown much character at all, only appearing in uninspiring job matches and rarely saying anything of note in interviews. Throw in the controversy over racist remarks made on her Twitter account and it’s a wonder WWE has kept her around this long.
13 READY FOR WWE: Johnny Gargano
With only three short years in NXT, Johnny Gargano, who also calls himself Johnny Wrestling, has already pretty much done it all. His greatest successes were found with Tommaso Ciampa as #DIY, a duo that reigned as NXT Tag Team Champions after winning the belts in one of the league’s all time greatest matches against the Revival. After that, the inevitably happened, with Ciampa turning on Gargano and forcing him to stand out on his own, which he did in epic fashion by wrestling one of the best matches in history with Andrade Cien Almas for the latter’s NXT Championship. Along the way, Gargano also his footing in the 205 and under division by competing in the Cruiserweight Classic and putting in great performances there, as well. Gargano’s story might have room for a better ending where he actually wins the NXT gold, but if that’s not in the works, he might as well move up to WWE sooner than later.
12 JUST GIVE UP: Danny Burch
Unlike most others on this half of the list, the problem with Danny Burch, known on the indy scene and in the UK as Martin Stone, isn’t a lack of talent or charisma. The Surrey grappler has shown considerable talent in both fields, with his hard-hitting ring style impressing fans of brawling and those with sensibilities suited for European styles. However, the one thing Burch lacks is focus, still spending more time working for various British promotions than he practices his craft at NXT. Burch could be a strong contender for the WWE United Kingdom Championship, or any other piece of gold in NXT, but he’d need to stay put and consistently wrestle for the company to achieve that status. Because he’s still bouncing all over the place, that can’t exactly happen, and since he’s associated with WWE for several years without settling down, he probably never will.
11 READY FOR WWE: Pete Dunne
At only 24 years young, Pete Dunne is the youngest name on this list, yet his performances against Tyler Bate for the WWE United Kingdom Championship more than justify his placement. Bate may as well make it, too, and the only reason we left him off is that the kid is even younger, and the fact he’s not even of legal drinking age yet suggests he might indeed need just a little more training. Dunne’s four extra years of experience are all it takes to convince fans he’s ready, though, considering his matches with Bate are already a class above people who have been in the game ten times as long as either man combined. In all honesty, Dunne’s inclusion on this list may be unnecessary, given his status as United Kingdom Champion makes his employment status a tad unclear. Point is, he should be on main WWE programming every week and he isn’t yet, an issue the company needs to fix.
10 JUST GIVE UP: Tino Sabbatelli
Having spent six years in the NFL prior to signing with WWE, Tino Sabbatelli was potentially hired for all the wrong reasons. Granted, there have been plenty of greater former football players who went on to become incredible wrestlers, including Ron Simmons, Brian Pillman, and Big Van Vader amongst many others, and it was initially possible he could follow in their footsteps. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Sabbatelli is on that path, having spent almost three full years in NXT thus far and almost never appearing on television. When he does get screen time, it’s inevitably in a loss, sometimes with equally hopeless wrestler Riddick Moss as his tag team partner. Had Sabbatelli shown any grace in the ring yet, he’d be getting more chances to show it, especially since he has a readymade backstory that’s easy to sell. WWE should realize the fact they haven’t chosen to tell said story for three full years as a sign they probably never will.
9 READY FOR WWE: Adam Cole
Immediately upon arrival, the reaction NXT fans gave to Adam Cole alone should have been taken as a sign he was above the league. The same might be said about his friends in the Undisputed Era, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, as all three more than proved their worth as performers already in Ring of Honor. Cole especially also put in great work for Combat Zone Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he was a key member of the infamous Bullet Club for almost a full year before defecting to WWE. It makes sense WWE would debut him in NXT for just a few months to ensure fans knew him when they brought him to the main roster, but again, that first appearance alone was a clear cut sign most fans were very familiar with his work, and were ready to see him shine in the new setting.
8 JUST GIVE UP: Wesley Blake
Once half of the NXT Tag Team Championships with Buddy Murphy, it’s now been almost 8 full months since Wesley Blake even appeared on the WWE Network. Even before his apparent disappearance, Blake was on a long downward spiral since breaking up his and Murphy’s duo, almost completely unable to stand on his own as a performer. It’s basically been this way since Alexa Bliss was called up to the main roster, thus revealing what made audiences care about them in the first place. Murphy is still in a real relationship with Bliss, so his contract is probably safe despite the fact he’s just as listless as Blake. Without the comfort of a girlfriend who Vince McMahon actually cares about, Blake might be one of the first wrestlers on this list to go, since he clearly has nothing left to give the company.
7 READY FOR WWE: Aleister Black
Decked in black leather and covered in tattoos from head to toe, Aleister Black was an intimidating presence the moment he arrived in NXT. The looming threat only grew more terrifying as he started ripping apart opponents in the ring, sometimes in show stealing matches like the ones he wrestled against Hideo Itami and The Velveteen Dream. It took almost a full year for someone in NXT to pin Black in battle, and we imagine he’s already got the skills for a similar undefeated streak in WWE proper. While most people have a caveat next to their name explaining why WWE is ignoring the obvious and keeping them down in NXT, we’re not really sure what the case is with Black. His promos are menacing, his technical skills are on point, and the crowd is already responding to his every move, so there’s really no reason for WWE to hold him back any longer.
6 JUST GIVE UP: Heavy Machinery
Since the Authors of Pain offered a twofer on the plus side, it only feels right to balance them out with a tag team WWE should just give up on in Heavy Machinery. Separately, the duo are known as the gargantuan Otis Dozovic and the similarly destructive Tucker Knight, and both men look like they could be WWE superstars in the right setting. Unfortunately, their current tag team does not appear to be that setting, as they haven’t won a match on television for years. In fact, they rarely appear on NXT at all anymore, and they’re still losing the majority of their bouts during live shows, as well. The only explanation for this is that WWE simply isn’t letting them coast by on their appearances, expecting an actual quality of work from them they can’t seem to provide.
5 READY FOR WWE: The Velveteen Dream
Floating his way to the ring in a gust of purple rain, The Velveteen Dream was laughed at before he suddenly gained incredible amounts of respect through a war against Aleister Black. In terms of his in-ring skills and stage presence, the Dream is still continuing to improve as a performer with each appearance, and it would be a shame if WWE rushed things by pushing him up to the roster too soon. That said, they’re getting very near the perfect boiling point for her character, which is already amongst the most popular in the minor leagues. Were the Dream to pop up on Raw next week, or any other major WWE broadcast, chances are the crowd would explode, prepared for whatever purple hued weirdness wrestling’s artist was prepared to come up with. Still, of all the names on this list, he’s one we wouldn’t mind the company giving just a little bit more time to simmer.
4 JUST GIVE UP: Buddy Murphy
Notwithstanding his past successes, it’s starting to feel like the only reason WWE is keeping Buddy Murphy around is so his fiancé, WWE Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss, stays happy. Some two or three years ago, Murphy looked like a solid prospect in the ring both on his own and when teaming with partner Wesley Blake. In fact, their duo managed to win the NXT Tag Team Championships and reign with them for some time, but their accomplishments in the solo division have been far less inspiring. Believe it or not, neither man has appeared on an NXT TakeOver special since losing the gold, nor have they competed in any matches of note. Even the built-in breakup angle couldn’t catch people’s attention, and if it weren’t for Alexa keeping everyone’s contract safe, it’s doubtful Murphy or Blake would be around today.
3 READY FOR WWE: Shayna Baszler
With just a few short months in NXT thus far, Shayna Baszler is perhaps the least experienced wrestler on this list, not that anyone would notice without having it pointed out. There’s also the fact that prior to becoming a pro wrestler, Baszler spent a solid ten years competitively fighting for Strikeforce, UFC, and various other MMA organizations, including a handful of high profile Pay-Per-View battles. Baszler was less successful in the octagon than her friend and contemporary Ronda Rousey, which is probably why she’s being forced to go through the training league while the former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion made her debut at the Royal Rumble. This was somewhat ironic, considering when it comes to stage presence and pro wrestling ability, the roles may be switched, with Baszler completely TV ready and Ronda the one who needs a little fine tuning. Chances are WWE will realize this soon, and they may decide to bring Baszler up early to help ease Ronda’s transition with a friendly face.
2 JUST GIVE UP: Kassius Ohno
Before anyone goes and questions this placement, let’s point out that a mere 5 or so years ago, Kassius Ohno, or Chris Hero as he is still better known, looked like a perfect prospect for the WWE Universe. Heck, a full 10 years ago he looked even better, starting off his career strong with a highly acclaimed feud on the independent scene against CM Punk. When Punk moved on to greater heights, Hero formed an incredible tag team called the Kings of Wrestling with the future Cesaro, and his potential still appeared through the roof. For whatever weird reason, it all came crashing down when Hero became Ohno by signing with NXT. Since then, his once vanguard performances have been less than stellar, and his star presence completely faded away, replaced by gained weight and a newfound jobber status. Ohno can still deliver an okay match now and again, but he’s at the point where he’s getting worse and not better, so it may be time he and WWE cut their losses and gave up.
1 READY FOR WWE: Andrade Cien Almas
At this point, winning the NXT Championship is basically a sign a wrestler is more than ready for the main WWE roster. Although Andrade Cien Almas won the gold somewhat out of nowhere, he’s already done an incredibly job of defining himself as a true champion, continuing that trend in spades. Granted, like all former NXT Champions, Almas will need to stick around in the minor leagues at least for a few months while he defends that belt, then probably a couple weeks after that for the requisite rematch or two. Regardless, his sudden rise to the top and success while there have been filled with signs he’s already completely prepared for the inevitable jump. Especially after winning the gold, Almas has been wrestling incredible matches to keep it around his waist, and that trend should continue when he’s fighting for greater gold in WWE proper.