Almost everyone that has ever laced up a pair of wrestling boots has one major goal in mind. They want to make it to the WWE main roster. From there, they might have other goals, like having a WrestleMania match, winning a championship or being the WWE Champion. But before any of that can happen, most wrestlers have to work for years just to have the opportunity to wrestle on worldwide television for the WWE.
Of all the athletes that finish training to be a professional wrestler, a very small percentage of them ever actually achieve the goal of signing with WWE. Currently, there are only 84 men and women that can call themselves WWE Superstars. Of those 84, far fewer can say they are being used to their full potential. In fact, most of their careers could be said they are suffering on the main roster.
After a couple of years of excellent writing and storytelling in NXT, many viewers got accustomed to seeing certain performers in a better light than they are on the main roster. That could mean a former champion is now at best relegated to being squashed or someone just not being used. Either way, there are many former NXT stars struggling on the main roster.
But this list isn't just for NXT call-ups that aren't in the best position right now. While someone like AJ Styles has been better on the main roster than some people might have thought, others haven't been so lucky. Some newcomers have been made a fool of week in and week out, while others are just struggling to stand out form the crowd.
No matter what the reason, here are the top 15 performers that have careers that are suffering from being on the main roster.
16 Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin had one of the most impressive debuts in recent memory, winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32. Since then, he hasn't done much of anything. He was stuck in a feud with Dolph Ziggler that revolved around low blows. Then he was put in a creepy feud with Kalisto until the masked wrestler was put on the shelf with a back injury. Finally, he faced Jack Swagger in a very forgettable few matches.
When he was in NXT, Corbin was an unstoppable monster, rolling over his competition. WWE has tried to do that with him on the main roster, but it hasn't worked the same. Given time, Corbin could be a top heel on SmackDown Live, but his direction will have to change. And it might be. He was just named to team SmackDown for Survivor Series, and if he's given a good showing, could be the start of something big.
15 Gallows and Anderson
In Japan, Gallows and Anderson were incredible as a tag team, winning the IWGP Tag Team Championships three time. Since debuting in WWE soon after Wrestlemania this year, the tag team has feuded with The New Day for the Tag Team Championship, but haven't been able to win. Now in a feud with Enzo and Cass, it looks like they have been moved away from the tag titles scene.
What makes this team such a waste at this point is how much comedy they have been stuck doing. Unfortunately, most feuds that include The New Day are comedy based. But to really build a strong heel tag team, Gallows and Anderson could have been booked as the team to end that. Instead, they were stuck with being "doctors" that only diagnosed ringpostitis. They still have plenty of time to be a hugely successful tag team, but at this point, Gallows and Anderson have to have at least thought they should have stayed in Japan.
14 Bo Dallas
The writers in NXT clearly Bo-lieved in Bo, but as soon as he got to the main roster, everything came apart. After a short undefeated streak, Dallas began to lose nearly every match he was in. The Inspirational One couldn't inspire anyone to use him like he had been in NXT. On the first RAW of 2016, he was a founding member of the Social Outcasts, but even that fell apart with the Brand Split.
Until recently, Dallas had been off TV until he created an almost political character, carrying a sign saying "Bo-lieve in Bo." Then, he turned on former friend Curtis Axel. The stories between these two low card talents almost never work out. From former NXT Champion to struggling to get on the card, it's hard to Bo-lieve things can get worse.
13 Curtis Axel
When you're the son of Mr. Perfect and a third generation Superstar, big things are expected from you. After a failed first run, the office still thinks you have potential, so they pair you up with Paul Heyman and start a major push. But things go bad for you, losing nearly every match. This is the story of Curtis Axel.
At this point, the former Intercontinental Champion hasn't had anything of significance to do in a year, unless you count The Social Outcasts. A recent babyface turn might mean bigger things for Axel, but it seems like he was only used to have something for Bo Dallas. Either way, Axel has been floundering on the main roster for over a year, and would be better suited to wrestle almost anywhere else.
12 Nia Jax
The first woman drafted from NXT, Nia Jax looked like she was getting a slow, monster heel push. Then she was off television for over a month. At this point in her career, Jax hasn't done enough of note to be able to be off TV for that long and then just surprise everyone with a return.
Down in NXT, while the Women's Division might be run by Auska and Ember Moon in the near future, Jax was at least appearing regularly on the show. Jax is on this list for this simple reason. Eventually, she will be pushed to the top teir of the Women's Division, but she'll have to get regular TV time on the main roster first. With her being a part of the Survivor Series team, that may be happening soon.
11 Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt is in a really strange position, giving the fact he's on television every week, is continually involved in a top program, but consistently loses feuds. Since being called up to the main roster in 2013, Wyatt has lost feuds to The Undertaker, John Cena, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and Brock Lesnar just to name a few. These are the top of the top guys in the business, but Wyatt just can't seem to come out on top, ever.
Fans of The Eater of Worlds would like to think with his creepy cult leader gimmick, Wyatt will eventually be a top star and win a World Championship. But at this point, it doesn't seem like it. There's still plenty of time left in his main roster career to turn around, but Wyatt is a wasted talent at this point.
9 Tyler Breeze
Tyler Breeze's time on the main roster has been anything but gorgeous. There are certain times of the year someone can make their debut, and you know its a bad time. Similar to The Ascension getting called up in December 2014, a year later, Breeze was called up in time for the holidays.
In NXT, Breeze was never able to capture the NXT Championship, but was consistently main eventing and putting on great matches every time out. On the main roster, he gets squashed or is used in comedy matches. He's making the tag team with Fandango work, but for someone with such a grasp on his character, you would expect bigger things from him. And if we're being honest here, the future doesn't look all that bright for Breeze on the main roster.
8 Apollo Crews
Possibly the most athletic person on the main roster today is Apollo Crews. He can do virtually anything in the ring, and has a move-set that could be one of the most exciting in a long time.
But Crews has no character to speak of. He's basically the guy that's just happy to be on the main roster. Simply, Crews was called up from NXT entirely too early. Even in developmental, he didn't have much of a character, and seemed to just be learning the WWE style before he was rushed off to the main roster. Someone with so much potential should not be struggling on the main roster, but because of his lack of character, Crews will continue to do so. Perhaps Crews would benefit from a manager/mouthpiece arrangement.
7 T.J. Perkins
The first (new) Cruiserweight Champion and Cruiserweight Classic winner has had a hard row to hoe in WWE. You knew things were bad when Perkins was backstage at Raw the night the Cruiserweight class debuted, but he didn't. Now that Perkins has dropped the title to The Brian Kendrick, things are starting to look even worse for him.
TJP has all of the in ring talent in the world. An 18-year veteran has honed his craft across the world and could be the face of the division. But there has to be more of a story about him to make people care. Yes, he's good at wrestling, and its all he knows, but people have to relate to the character to care about them. There's plenty of opportunity to get people to care because of his true life story (being homeless to wrestle, going around the world, and getting huge opportunities at a young age, then having to fight back from the bottom and almost start from scratch), but it almost seems like a stint in NXT would do better for him.
6 The Cruiserweight Division
With that being said about Perkins, the same could be said about all of the Cruiserweights except The Brian Kendrick. He is really the only one that has any character to speak of, and is really the only one that has gotten over with fans. Part of the problem is how the Cuiserweights are presented, as a separate entity from the rest of Raw with different ropes and lighting.
The other problem is there is never any real storylines being told. The Cruiserweight Classic was an incredible showcase that was a well written storyline throughout the tournament. But now on Raw, we get a Six-Man Tag Team match every week. Perhaps with the new show 205 Live debuting on the WWE Network, we'll get a better chance to get stories for the cruiserweight Division on the main roster.
For months, everyone wondered when Bayley would be called up to the WWE main roster. After she dropped the NXT Women's Championship to Auska and TakeOver: Dallas, it seemed like she would be called up the night after WrestleMania. When that didn't happen, the Draft seemed like the best place, but that didn't happen either. After Bayley finally got called up to the main roster the night after SummerSlam, she was inserted in the Women's Championship picture.
But that was only so there could be a slight change in the feud between Sasha Banks and Charlotte. Since then, she's been stuck in a feud going nowhere with Dana Brooke. She is on the Raw Survivor Series team, but already is being built as the weak member of the team. Plans could be in place to have Bayley challenging for and winning the Raw Women's Championship at WrestleMania next year, but at this point, Bayley seems to at best be spinning her wheels.
Speaking of the Cruiserweights. One way to get people interested in the division would be to include other main roster talent. One person built for that is Kalisto. But the Cruiserweights are on Raw and he was drafted to SmackDown. At the time, it made no sense, and now it makes even less. Since the draft Kalisto has had a short feud with Baron Corbin. And that's it.
WWE has been looking for the next big Hispanic star since Rey Mysterio left the company, and may having something on their hands with Kalisto. They tried something with his United States Championship reigns at the beginning of the year but they seemed to lose interest in that role for him. One can only hope there are bigger things in store for Kalisto when he returns and his career doesn't continue to suffer.
Its easy to see Cesaro is one of the best pure wrestlers in the WWE today. From an in ring standpoint, he should be a future World Champion. He's had some success, winning the United States and Tag Team Championship, but more often than not, it seems like WWE doesn't know what to do with him.
Currently stuck in a forced together tag team with Sheamus after a long best of seven series between the two, Cesaro isn't being used in the best way for him. I can only imagine we will get more matches between Sheamus and Cesaro when this tag team inevitably fails, which will be even more of a waste. WWE clearly has no idea what to do with Cesaro and because of that, his career is suffering.
One of the longest reigning NXT Champions in history, Neville hasn't had nearly the same success on the main roster. When he debuted, he was a commodity that was unique and he was one of the most captivating characters on the show. His offense instantly makes the crowd cheer for him, but he's never really been able to get above the level of someone that just has matches. He doesn't really have feuds. He's just kind of on the show.
An ankle injury just before WrestleMania was incredibly bad timing. Since his return, he's being used even less. His lack of ability to talk is a problem, but that didn't stop him from reaching the top in NXT. At the very least, he could be a midcard champion, but at this point, Neville isn't even getting those opportunities. The main roster has actually hurt Neville more than if he had stayed in NXT.
1 Sami Zayn
The heart and soul of NXT hasn't had nearly the same success on the main roster. For the better part of three years, Sami Zayn was the face of the NXT brand, consistently in the title picture and putting on the best matches on the card. He made his main roster debut answering John Cena's United States Championship Open Challenge, but hurt his shoulder and was out of action for the rest of 2015.
When he returned to the main roster early this year and reignited his feud with Kevin Owens, people expected big things from him. After he finally picked up a win over his former best friend at Battleground, he hasn't really had much to do. He's currently in a story with Braun Strowman, but that's his first real feud since facing Chris Jericho and Clash of Champions. Some questionable booking has hurt Zayn's main roster career. The crowds clearly can't get enough of him, but he's not being put in an enviable position. Zayn's career on the main roster is going to continue to suffer if he doesn't get in a better position. The best answer at this point might be to send him from Raw to SmackDown to try to reignite the flame that he was in NXT.