After years of being run down by wrestling fans over his selfish standing, Triple H has seen his reputation grow in the last few years. The reason is obvious: NXT. WWE’s developmental program has won over fans with its fantastic style, amazingly old-school vibe and pushing real wrestling over the glitz of WWE’s main shows. Even those who dislike WWE’s main product, NXT is a key reason to tune into the Network as they give young stars a chance to shine. Triple H has been hands-on majorly, making sure the right guys are picked, trained and given the proper pushes and many of them have managed to excel. Indeed, several go beyond expectations to succeed in WWE.
However, Hunter’s instincts aren’t always right. Sometimes guys who seem promising in NXT fail to make it in the next level of WWE. Likewise, a few would-be NXT faves even fail in that company itself. A few of the NXT guys in WWE are pushed by Vince more (Roman Reigns) while others are clearly Triple H's and thus easier to judge. It’s tricky to figure out because while Hunter is dead right about the star power of some guys, others fail to connect as well as hoped. Here are 8 times Triple H was wrong about a NXT guy and 7 times he was dead on which shows just how hard it is, even for a sharp mind like Triple H to find a star.
15 WRONG: Apollo Crews
The former Uuha Nation looks like the type of guy Vince McMahon would love: Big, muscular, tough and backing it up with decent ring skills. But Hunter was the one who decided to get the guy to NXT and push him well, expecting him to rise up. He took it to Finn Balor in some title bouts and a feud with Baron Corbin. With all that behind him, it looked for sure that Crews would rise up when called to the main roster. However, it hasn’t happened. He had feuds with Sheamus and The Social Outcasts and a shot in the Royal Rumble. He even beat The Miz in a non-title match. But Crews just seems lost in WWE, just another great athlete lacking the 'it' factor and fans are not taking to him. There is potential but as it is, Apollo just seems a misfire on Triple H's resume of NXT guys he’s pushed.
14 Bang ON: Bray Wyatt
It’s almost laughable to remember Husky Harris, a bulky and rather forgettable member of the Nexus who made almost no impact. But Triple H saw something in William Rotunda, just needing the right character and motif to make it click. He encouraged Rotunda to do something himself and he thus came up with the idea of cult leader Bray Wyatt. Soon, the Family was a major hit in NXT although there were concerns how it could work on the bigger stage. Those questions were answered when they were called up and instantly and Bray’s promos made him the hottest guy in the company.
He backed it up with great ring work, feuds with major stars from John Cena to Undertaker to Daniel Bryan and more. It paid off with him winning the WWE title and still at the top of his game. Hunter played a part in turning this laughable guy into one of the company’s biggest stars which ranks as a genius move.
13 WRONG: Solomon Crowe
Triple H must have thought he could make it work. Sami Callihan had been a major favorite on the indies, mostly in places like Combat Zone Wrestling where he got into wild and violent brawls. That may not have been as promising in WWE but Crowe seemed to have the build and skillset needed to take off in NXT. However, his role as a “hacker” for Kalisto didn’t quite seem right for a burly brawling type and his in-ring promos were more laughable than menacing.
He was also affected by injury and rumors surfaced of some backstage issues regarding his ego and blowing off the advice of Triple H. After a lackluster run, Crowe decided to leave WWE to return to the indies, now working for Lucha Underground and made this one time Hunter's hopes of turning a guy into a WWE star left him eating crow.
12 Bang ON: Sami Zyan
For years, El Generico was one of the brightest spots on the indie circuit. This masked nutcase had fans going with his amazing ring work and chants of “OLE” filling arenas. His signing for NXT was a big deal but many were worried when word came he wouldn’t be wearing his mask. However, Triple H insisted that this would be a good thing, that the mask would hold him back for WWE audiences and a new name and showing his face would get him over better. Hunter’s instincts were proven dead on. Zayn was a hit with fans, opening up in promos and as great as ever in the ring. He reigned as NXT Champion until losing it to Kevin Owens. He and Kevin Owens had a great feud and Zayn seems ready to take off on the main roster to prove Triple H’s idea on having him go without mask was a good one.
11 WRONG: Adam Rose
Even NXT isn’t immune to a guy transforming himself for the worse. Leo Kruger was a promising guy in the old FCW program, including winning their title twice. When FCW transformed into NXT, Kruger became a dangerous mercenary type, a bit more of a wild man and Triple H seemed to want to develop him more. This led to his transformation into Adam Rose, the party guy surrounded by an entourage. Still a top worker, Rose could bring potential and the act seemed better for WWE. Sadly, it didn’t work out as the addition of the “Bunny” just made it look totally stupid and DOA for fans.
He bounced around lame feuds and The Social Outcasts and was let go after allegations of domestic abuse surfaced. Between the bad act and his personal issues, Rose’s change was one of the worst moves for a Triple H fave.
10 Bang ON: Kevin Owens
By all reports, Triple H had to fight Vince McMahon big time on Kevin Owens. The man was everything Vince dislikes about “superstars”: A technical worker not having the best physique. But Triple H recognized how the ROH star could be a key grab for the company and NXT helped ease him into the “WWE style.” It also improved his mic work as his promos soon became the best around and added to his heat. His wars against Finn Balor in NXT were hailed by fans and got him the push to WWE.
Triple H was the one pushing for Owens more and it's fitting that it was thanks to Triple H attacking Seth Rollins that Owens won the Universal title. He’s paid off on the promise as champion, his great program with Chris Jericho and remains in the mix still even after dropping the belt to Goldberg. He may not be the kind of guy Vince wants but Triple H does and we thank him for that.
9 WRONG: Bo Dallas
Few workers have been NXT sensations and then WWE duds like Dallas. His tenure in NXT was terrific with a long reign as champion, sensational amid the various battles and truly on fire with fans. His ladder match with Neville was hailed as utterly brilliant and still one of the best NXT battles ever. With all that behind him, it was expected Dallas would do great in WWE. His gimmick as a motivational guy with the “Bo-Lieve” mantra had potential but somehow it just didn’t happen. No matter who he faced, no matter how he tried, Bo just couldn’t get over and was soon on the receiving end of stuff like a beat-down from Brock Lesnar and The Social Outcasts bit. Today, he’s lucky to get more than a few minutes on RAW or SmackDown, the man dismissed by many fans and even creative and has to rank as one of the bigger disappointments of an NXT star.
8 Bang ON: Finn Balor
You can’t blame Triple H for the bad luck Balor has shown in WWE. Hunter saw the obvious potential in Prince Devitt, the fantastic skill he brought to the ring that made him a multiple champion in Japan. When he signed to WWE, Triple H let him know a name change could help and Finn Balor came to be. Hunter encouraged him to bring his own stuff and so came the body paint and the “Demon” persona that made him a star. From there came his epic feud with Kevin Owens for the NXT title and his long reign as champion that made him a huge hit with fans.
Boosted to the main roster, Balor won the Universal Championship in its inaugural title match. Sadly, an injury from Seth Rollins forced him to vacate the belt the very next day and he spent months on the shelf. He’s been hampered by injury since but Balor remains a top guy for fans and hopes that his return can pay off on the promise he’s already shown and validate Triple H’s faith in him.
7 WRONG: Carmella
For a while, it looked like Carmella was going to click in WWE. She got a good push as the manager for Enzo and Cass, part of their famed ring intro and looking great in their outfits. When they were called up to WWE, Carmella got a singles push, including facing Bayley for the NXT Women’s title. She showed good promise and thus her being moved up to SmackDown made some sense. However, the “Princess of Staten Island” has failed to make much of an impact there. She had a feud with Nikki Bella but it failed to really push her more and her shots since have been letdowns. Currently, she’s stuck in a program with James Ellsworth and shows that not every NXT lady can make it as a good star in the big time despite how great she may look.
6 Bang ON: The Four Horsewomen
If NXT has accomplished anything in WWE, it’s returning women’s wrestling to its roots. Triple H really wanted to keep away from the “Diva” antics and showcase real female grappling and has found great success with Alexa Bliss and Paige. But clearly, four women proved him right more than anyone, not just in NXT but in WWE as well. Becky Lynch, years after an injury that should have ruined her, returned better than ever to shine well and reign as SmackDown women’s champion. Charlotte proved that she inherited her father’s ring skills and charisma, shining well as NXT women’s champ and then taking off huge in WWE as a champion in her own right.
Sasha Banks improved herself as “The Boss” to take off with her style and a great reign as champ. Then there’s Bayley, whose infectious glee won fans to her side. She and Banks had arguably the two best wrestling matches of 2015 for the belt that gained the division huge respect. Now all four are doing great on the main roster and elevating women up to prove Triple H’s faith in boosting female wrestling back to the top.
5 WRONG: The Ascension
On paper, they looked amazing. Coming out in makeup, brutal attitude and a killer style, Konnor and Viktor looked like the true second coming of the Road Warriors. They held the NXT tag titles for nearly a year, boosting the company up majorly and were set to make a huge push with Triple H liking them and giving them a push with the belts. However, as soon as they were brought up to the big leagues, their shortcomings became obvious. While good in the ring, they just didn’t click with audiences, and fans couldn't help but see a ripoff of the Road Warriors.
Plus, neither man was that impressive on the mic, lacking a manager to give them the proper push and guidance. For all their stardom in NXT, the duo just didn’t work in WWE and a major letdown for Triple H.
4 Bang ON: Randy Orton
Long before he was recruiting talents, Triple H was picking favorites while on top and one person he loved was Randy Orton. From his debut in WWE in 2002, Orton was someone Triple H liked. He recognized a lot of himself in the young man with his skill and drive and soon took Orton under his wing. He made him a part of Evolution and Orton showed the help worked with his rise as IC and World champion. They did have issues as Triple H famously talked on a DVD about snapping at Orton backstage over his selfish attitude (something Hunter would of course recognize). But the two still liked each other and Triple H gave Orton the rub in various matches and feuds, including a WrestleMania XXV main event.
The two continue that friendship today as Orton is one of WWE’s biggest stars. While Orton is slowed by injury, he can still go and prove how Hunter’s mentoring helped him excel in WWE.
3 WRONG: Mojo Rawley
Triple H really seems to like this guy as he’s given the former NFL player tips on how to build himself up and a push. In NXT, Rawley was a bruiser in battle royals and had a partnership with Bull Dempsey that turned into a big feud. He and Zack Ryder were The Hype Bros, a top tag team for success and when he was called up in 2016, the plan was clearly to push him. However, Rawley’s weaknesses have been showcased in the main roster big time. He has poor conditioning, doesn’t connect with fans and his bouts are way too short and rough to show off.
The Hype Bros had promise but Ryder’s injury led to Rawley’s singles run which hasn’t exactly set the company on fire. Currently, Rawley is trying to get back, winning the Andre the Giant battle royal at WrestleMania but many fans derided the move. The buzz is that Triple H’s love of the guy blinds him to his shortcomings and not feeling the bad Mojo that Rawley gives out with fans.
2 Bang ON: Seth Rollins
True, Tyler Black had already been a big deal in ROH and the indies so the potential was there. But Triple H was smart to talk to the man who became Seth Rollins, not just a new name but how he had to alter his style a bit for WWE. It paid off with Rollins being the first NXT champion and pushing the company up to win respectability. It continues as he got to the main roster to be a member of The Shield, showing his fantastic drive and skill. Rumors abound of how Triple H always wanted to push Rollins over Roman Reigns with Vince wanting Roman to get the bigger push.
As it turned out, Rollins going heel and winning the WWE title was a great move, a fantastic champion to boost business and it took an injury to end his reign. His return has been a big deal and even with the Roman push by Vince, Rollins is the guy backed by fans. He’s continuing his run including feuding with Triple H and proving himself worthy of superstardom.
1 WRONG: Tyler Breeze
Many fans call him the most deserving NXT worker who never held the NXT title. Breeze was massively over with the company with major feuds, a great worker who did fantastic promos and the stars seemed right for him in WWE. Triple H was pushing him well, giving him the idea of taking selfies that Breeze used to create his arrogant persona. The guy was hugely over and with Hunter's approval, it seemed perfect for him to rise up in WWE. Instead, Breeze just hasn’t been as accepted and while you can blame some of it on booking, there’s also how the guy doesn’t seem that inclined to do what it takes to rise up. He even no-showed a few events, hardly the move for a future superstar and reports abounded of Hunter being livid about Breeze’s attitude. The man has sunk to a lame tag team with Fandango and stands as one of the worst picks for a call-up Triple H has made.
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