Since its inception in 2010, NXT has looked to produce the next breakout star for the WWE's main roster. The concept of NXT has undergone several changes, starting as the sports entertainment version of a game show and is now viewed by many as its own promotion – separate from the WWE.
When NXT began – in its first season replacing WWE's version of ECW – the contestants from season one morphed into The Nexus, a group of rebels who wreaked havoc on the WWE and its universe. After the inagural season, NXT remained on television, retaining it's weekly elimination method of crowing a winner. Now, five years later, NXT is a globally viewed product with its own fan base, it's own core of wrestlers and an intimate feel that rivals any independent show.
NXT's initial concept produced successful mainstays such as Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett, and Skip Sheffield-- who went on to become Ryback. Then, the WWE Performance Center opened in 2012 leading into a one-stop shop for success in the WWE. Moving the program to Full Sail University in Florida gave the revamped NXT a home that looked great on television, It also paved the way for stars such as Neville, Kevin Owens, The Shield, and Bray Wyatt.
However, along the way, NXT has also produced and featured some gigantic busts. Some of those busts are still with the company and have time to recover. Others ended up that way at no fault of their own and have become successful elsewhere. However, let's take a look at 15 of the most forgettable acts NXT has aired.
15 Michael Tarver
Tarver signed with the WWE in 2008 and toiled away at FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling), the company's developmental system. While on WWE NXT's first season, Tarver picked up a victory over Daniel Bryan but otherwise showed little charisma and was eliminated from the show. As the Nexus storyline fizzled out, Tarver suffered a groin injury and was kicked out of the group. He was sent back down to FCW and released shortly thereafter. Tarver had a prototypical WWE look, but his most memorable moment was John Cena comparing him to “MMA bank robber who looks like he works late nights as a male stripper.”
14 The American Pitbulls
Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards are a staple of TNA Impact Wrestling and five-time winners of the company's tag team titles, but before the American Wolves signed with TNA, they had a week-long tryout with WWE – which included a match on NXT against The NXT Tag Team champions, The Ascension. However, a botch by Richards in the match allegedly ruined the Pitbulls' chances with WWE and the former Ring of Honor standouts went to TNA.
13 Eli Cottonwood
A former pro basketball player, Cottonwood was a contestant on season two of NXT. Cottonwood had an impressive seven-foot, 300+ pound build, but he was monotone, limited in the ring, and is best remembered for cutting a promo about how he doesn't have a mustache but yet still has the best mustache out of everybody on the show. He retired from wrestling in 2014.
12 Jacob Novak
Jacob Novak wrestled in FCW before he was a contestant on both NXT season four and NXT Redemption. Despite being mentored by Dolph Ziggler, Novak was voted off season four of NXT and experienced the same fate with NXT Redemption. He was released from WWE in 2011 and hasn't been heard from since in the wrestling community since.
11 Alex Riley
Alex Riley looked to have a promising career ahead of him after being on NXT season two. Despite losing, he ended up as The Miz's “Apprentice” on television, eventually breaking off and gaining some momentum. But a reported backstage incident with Cena in 2011 stalled his in-ring career, at which point he turned to announcing. This year, Riley engaged in a feud with NXT champion Kevin Owens but was destroyed in every match they had before going down with an injury.
10 Lucky Cannon
A former FCW Heavyweight Champion, Cannon seemed destined for success in the WWE. A six-foot-five, 250-pound build didn't hurt, either. But for whatever reason, Cannon could find the same success he had in FCW on WWE television. He was eliminated from both seasons two and five of NXT while having Mark Henry and Tyson Kidd as his pros. He was released from the WWE in August of 2011.
9 Eva Marie
The Total Divas star has caught heat from WWE fans for her lackluster in-ring abilities since her debut with the company. The red-headed Marie took it upon herself to go down to NXT and even work with former WWE star Brian Kendrick on her skills. Marie debuted in NXT this year, but fans have mercilessly booed her and put down her efforts. In her most recent bout, Marie faced NXT Women's Champion Bayley for the title and lost, appeasing the fans. Careers for women wrestlers in WWE are short and at 31 years old, Marie's time to win the crowd over is slowly falling by the wayside.
8 CJ Parker
Signed to WWE in 2011, CJ Parker seemed to have the athletic ability to have a serviceable career in the company. He even held FCW Tag Team gold on two separate occasions. But after donning “The Moonchild” character, a gimmick that berated fans for not caring about the environment, Parker became NXT's version of Johnny Rodz. A jobber to stars, Parker made the likes of Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, and others look strong before they moved to the main roster. He requested his release just before WrestleMania 31 and is now on the indies as Juice Robinson.
7 Corey Graves
This is a tough one, as Graves had a unique look and aura about him that NXT fans gravitated toward. Graves' success also stood out because he entered NXT as a relative unknown, despite his success on the indies. Graves held NXT Tag Team gold with Neville in addition to being one of NXT's most popular talents. Sadly, concussion issues forced Graves into an early retirement. Despite the unfortunate turn of events, Graves is now a successful announcer and panelist for WWE and has his own WWE Network show. But Corey Graves' wrestling career will always remain one of WWE's biggest “What If's?'” through not fault of his own.
The winner of NXT season two, the self-proclaimed “World Warrior” brought his acrobatic and hard-hitting style to WWE, but Kaval floundered on the main roster for several months, eventually invoking his right to a championship match at Survivor Series 2010 against Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental championship. Kaval lost and asked for his release shortly thereafter. Kaval returned to his Low-Ki name and has been seen on ROH, TNA, NJPW, and AJPW since leaving WWE.
5 Solomon Crowe
Just released from his contract, Crowe is back on the indies as Sami Callihan. After signing with WWE in 2013, Crowe did not make his NXT television debut for over a year. He debuted in February of this year and was used sparingly up until his release last week. This is a curious one as WWE signed Crowe to basically not use him for most his tenure. However, back to his Sami Callihan persona, he has already made appearances for AAW and 2CW – where he won their championship.
4 Husky Harris
Bray Wyatt is one of the most captivating characters on WWE television, but many have either forgotten or tried to forget Wyatt's brief run as Husky Harris. Harris was a contestant on season two NXT with his mentor, Cody Rhodes. He was one of the last competitors eliminated off the show and eventually found his way into The Nexus. But he did not do much as part of the group and was eventually punted back down to FCW by Randy Orton. Husky Harris morphed into Bray Wyatt, but that original character is viewed by many of one of WWE's worst in recent years.
3 Hideo Itami
It's likely a surprise to many to see Itami on this list but his NXT stint to this point has been lackluster. There is no arguing that while he was in Japan, Itami – known as KENTA – was one of the most popular wrestlers in the world. But since arriving at NXT, he's been mostly involved in mid-card feuds. Itami was in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 31 but hasn't done much else. Itami hasn't even changed up his gear as he's wrestled in the same black and yellow trunks since his debut. He's set to return from injury soon and still has time to recover, but to this point, Itami's stint with NXT has been underwhelming.
2 Kassius Ohno
Before arriving in NXT as Kassius Ohno, Chris Hero was one of the most highly-regarded and well-respected performers on the indies. However, as evidenced by the recent situation with Solomon Crowe, reputations on the indies don't always matter. Ohno did have some solid matches both in FCW and the revamped NXT – including a program with William Regal he refers to as his fondest memory of NXT. However, after two years in NXT, Ohno was released amid rumors of the company having issues with his weight-- rumors that he's vehemently denied.
1 Derrick Bateman
TNA fans are likely happy with the outcome, but Derrick Bateman had all the makings of a WWE superstar. His shredded look and ability to entertain on the microphone stood out from the pack but he just never got his chance to shine in NXT. It also did not help that Bateman suffered a concussion at the hands of trainer Bill DeMott. Bateman is now in TNA as Ethan Carter III, where hes' one of the company's biggest stars and a former World Heavyweight champion.