Throughout the proud history of the WWE, many mega stars have been created, such as Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena. However, what happens when that star moves on to bigger and better things or retires? Where do the next generation of ‘sports entertainment’ stars come from? Whether it be Deep South, OVW, FCW or the now globally renowned brand NXT, WWE have always focused heavily on creating new stars in their developmental territory, evidenced by the unveiling of the remarkable Performance Centre in Orlando in 2014.
With Triple H recently taking on the majority role as talent relations and booker in NXT, developmental has become a travelling brand all unto itself, something that was unheard of in recent years. The ‘developmental’ now feels more connected to the main roster programming of WWE, as it is used not only as a phenomenal brand of its own, but also as a way for young wrestlers to become known to the niche crowd before being introduced to the main roster. Every NXT Championship brings with it an already immense amount of prestige, honor and respect, and therefore winning a title in today's NXT almost becomes a certainty that the superstar will be plying their trade on the main roster in a matter of time. While not all superstars who win championships immediately head to the main roster (e.g. Blake & Murphy), winning an NXT Championship, and carrying of responsibility bodes well for a superstars future going forward. With that being said, here are the 15 best superstar call-ups from the NXT developmental era who did not carry championship gold on the yellow brand before making it to the big time.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view
15 Eva Marie
Though it is hard to notice through the deafening boos she receives upon arrival (somehow Vince McMahon thought she would re-emerge to a baby face reaction in the lead up to WrestleMania 32), Eva Marie has certainly improved in the ring, even if its unnoticed by the vocal part of the WWE Universe. After it was clear she could not cut it with the ever improving Divas on the main roster, she was sent to NXT to hone her craft with Brian Kendrick and while still not up to the standard of Bayley, Sasha or Charlotte, Eva has the potential to tell great stories with the nuclear heat she receives from the crowd. It's just now up to Vince to book this wisely.
14 Summer Rae
Another NXT Diva who has been hindered by terrible booking, Summer Rae once ran the NXT women's division alongside Charlotte and Sasha as the BFFs (Beautiful Fierce Females). While she hasn't had much success since her inauspicious debut on the main roster as Fandango's dance partner, Summer has shown the willingness to perform in any role asked of her and has shown potential flashes of an effective in ring competitor, most recently against Sasha. Given the evolution of the women's division, giving Summer story ines and more in ring time to grow could help add to the incredible depth of the current women's division.
13 Braun Strowman
When he debuted as the 'Black Sheep' of The Wyatt Family in 2015, many saw this as another opportunity for Mr McMahon to push another behemoth of a man, as his love for strong men is well documented. While in NXT, Braun spent his time as a rosebud, dancing within the posse of Adam Rose, but since his arrival, he has been pushed as the heavy of The Wyatt Family and become one of the most protected stars on the roster, despite his in ring inexperience. However, with time, this can be rectified and Strowman can become a major asset to The Wyatts as they look to ascend the card.
12 Adam Rose
Adam Rose has disappointingly never found himself on the main roster, as his character was rejected by fans and management alike and he was recently placed in the goofy Social Outcasts, before his recent suspension. However, the real life Ray Leppan struck a chord with the WWE Universe in an ESPN piece on NXT superstars, but WWE failed to capitalize on this, leaving him stranded on the undercard. Though this suspension is a negative, WWE could quickly return Rose to the potential mid card star he once showed he could be, either by having him break out on his own or return the popular Leo Kruger gimmick, which saw him as a vicious heel on the rebirth of NXT.
The Australian beauty has been called up to the main roster twice, once with her ditzy dance gimmick, which was dead in the water upon her teaming with Santino Marella, and the reinvented Emma, a vicious heel who showed both excellent ring work and character work throughout her return to developmental. Though her return to the main roster was rather low key, she has been receiving significant television time, with Natalya and Becky Lynch as of late, a sign that management believe in her ability to deepen the roster as the second best female heel on the roster behind Charlotte, a sure sign that big things are in the future of Emma.
10 Tyler Breeze
While Prince Pretty’s time on the main roster has been anything but memorable, he worked hard in his stay in developmental and earned the call up, as well as the respect of peers and fans alike around the world. Beginning in FCW as generic Mike Dalton, he transformed into an egotistical male model, a character that caught on with the fans at Full Sail University, leaving a main roster promotion all but a necessity. While he did not acquire the NXT title, he main evented an NXT Takeover event and went one on one with Japanese legend Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, significant accomplishments nonetheless.
9 Apollo Crews
The former Uhaa Nation is one of several recent call ups to the main roster and when it comes to possessing all the tools necessary to thrive in Vince McMahon’s company, Apollo may very well be the most talented of the lot. Debuting at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, Crews has yet to be given a program that showcases his undeniable pure talent, which will surely come in the near future with his arrival on Raw. With incredible athleticism for a man his size and a jaw dropping move set, the future looks very bright for the still young but experienced Crews, despite never claiming NXT gold.
8 Baron Corbin
Recently, The Lone Wolf announced his main roster arrival in stunning fashion, by winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania and entered into a surprisingly intriguing feud with Dolph Ziggler. In the months prior to this, it was speculated that Corbin’s stay in NXT would be extended, with a huge possibility of dethroning Finn Balor after Samoa Joe was unsuccessful in Dallas. Despite being on the cusp of the NXT championship, with several high profile feuds with Rhyno, Apollo Crews and Austin Aries, Baron has found himself promoted and looking at a decent push in the land of the giants, all without ever reaching the NXT mountaintop that he seemed destined for.
7 Enzo & Cass
The longest tenured tag team in NXT history, ‘The Realest Guys in the Room’ found themselves the support of the Full Sail faithful immediately, being often considered the most popular tag team in the brand's history, which makes it all the more perplexing as to why they never earned NXT Tag Team glory. While the pair's real life history and obvious charisma make them absolute gold on the microphone, the ability of Enzo Amore in the ring has often come into question and despite significant improvements of their own abilities, they could never quite break through with a title win. It is perhaps this overwhelming popularity that kept them away from the titles, as many viewed the title win as imminent from The Revival, until the main roster came calling, where they are sure to become champions sooner, rather than later.
6 Becky Lynch
The Irish ‘Lass Kicker’ has made a significant impression on the main roster since her arrival in 2015 as a part of the ‘Divas Revolution’, gaining major baby face status and competing in the match of the night at WrestleMania 32 with Sasha Banks and Charlotte. Her in ring ability and likability as a character is obvious and is perhaps why she was chosen along with the aforementioned Banks and Charlotte, leaving fellow four horsewoman Bayley behind in NXT, despite never capturing the NXT Women’s Championship. While adding an extra level of intensity to the Divas Revolution, Becky not winning the big one hasn’t seem to have bothered her prospects as a talent on RAW & SmackDown, as she has shown the ability to have show stealing matches both on NXT and the main roster, shown in her one amazing unsuccessful challenge to the NXT title, against Sasha Banks.
5 Xavier Woods
Debuting in the first incarnation of NXT, dancing babyface Xavier Woods was loved by the NXT crowd, but after debuting on RAW and being placed with R-Truth, he quickly became lost in the shuffle. It was only when he stumbled across the idea for ‘The New Day’ with real life friends Big E Langston and Kofi Kingston that his main roster career began to take off, focusing more on his mic abilities rather than being an in ring competitor, and he has never looked back since the launch of this group. While it seems like many years ago that Woods enjoyed his brief stay on NXT, he is one of the first, and most successful, competitors to come from the NXT developmental era, without ever looking like being in the hunt for any championship on the brand.
4 Bray Wyatt
Out of all the NXT call ups on this list, and a list involving every single call up, perhaps none made a bigger impact upon debut, or captivated the crowd from the off more than Bray Wyatt and his family (Luke Harper and Erick Rowan who had tasted NXT Tag Team Championship gold). With characters in history such as The Undertaker and Mick Foley, it has been proven that championships are not 100% necessary to be successful, as great story telling and captivating matches can be seen as greater success and this is evidenced with Bray Wyatt. While he has not yet tasted gold in any brand of WWE, the Wyatt character is as over as any in the business in the present day and the injustice of never winning a title is sure to be rectified in the near future, cementing Bray’s position as a once in a generation talent.
Before being placed in the terrible League of Nations, Rusev dominated the entire roster upon his debut in 2014, winning the U.S championship and having a headline match against John Cena at WrestleMania 31. This continued his dominance from NXT, where he used his impressive size and surprising agility with Lana by his side, despite never capturing gold in NXT. He looked to be the next monster heel on a roster sorely lacking genuine heat seeking heels. While a longer stay in developmental and a dominant NXT championship run may have helped Rusev, his clearly defined character and beautiful heel work on the mic from Lana make him the perfect candidate to be a dominant heel for years to come.
2 Dean Ambrose
A rarity on this list, before his time in The Shield, Dean Ambrose did not make an appearance on NXT television, with management not finding a position for him on TV in the short time span of the newly developed NXT brand. This lack of television time and championship gold certainly did not hinder the career of the former Jon Moxley, as his extensive indy background served him well in his time in The Shield and beyond, becoming both a United States Champion and an Intercontinental Champion. Excellent character work, both in the ring and out, Ambrose has positioned himself as one of the key members of the future of WWE, coming from the first crop of NXT call-ups, proving that the Triple H vision of NXT and the future is best for business.
1 Roman Reigns
While to some this may be an unpopular choice, there is no denying that in his time on the main roster, Roman has been by far the most successful on this list, capturing the Tag Team Championship with Seth Rollins, and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on three separate occasions. Used as an arrogant heel character in the early stages of NXT (please take notes Vince), he debuted with The Shield after just a short stay in developmental, where Shield brother Seth Rollins dominated the Championship picture after becoming the inaugural champion. Though not perfect on the main roster, due to lack of experience and questionable booking, Roman is a ‘Vince McMahon prototype’ and has been pushed far beyond expectations due to his look, and McMahon preferring to push his own developmental creations, rather than those who have established careers before WWE. Whatever the case, Roman is a perfect example of how not capturing championship gold in NXT doesn’t have a detrimental effect on one's career, as he has become quite successful, with only more success in his future on the main roster programming of WWE.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!