In the eyes of hardcore wrestling fans, NXT is the golden child of the WWE. Maybe not in the eyes of the company itself but there is no doubt that diehards view the Orlando based promotion to be one of the best around right now. The brainchild of Triple H and nurtured by the likes of Dusty Rhodes and William Regal, NXT has gone from a basic development territory and has evolved into arguably the hotbed for independent wrestling talent, as it's a global touring brand of its own nowadays.
Several of the bright young stars of the current WWE product began in NXT. Before Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were embroiled in a feud on the main roster, they were battling over the NXT Championship. The same goes for Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, as they were the top female talent in NXT before being regarded in that light in the WWE. Even though talent like Bo Dallas, Tyler Breeze and The Ascension have yet to find their way on the main roster, they all proved their worth while competing at Full Sail University.
However, despite the fact that many would view NXT as flawless, that doesn’t guarantee success for performers at the next level. On the contrary, actually, as there have been countless wrestlers who tried their hand in NXT, but couldn't even make it out of the so called developmental system.
With that being said, here are 15 wrestlers who failed in NXT.
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15 Oliver Grey
Unfortunately for Grey, your likely reaction was “Who?” but within the first year of NXT, Grey was looking like he would be one of the breakout stars. Paired with fellow Brit Adrian Neville, the duo were the inaugural NXT Tag Team Champions, defeating The Wyatt Family in the tournament final.
Fate was against Grey though, as a month later he suffered a bad knee injury and was written off television and replaced by Bo Dallas. When he returned a year later he was used as nothing more than an enhancement talent and released soon after.
To show how much of an impact his knee injury had, both Neville and Dallas not only went on to both become NXT Champion, both men received big main roster debuts as well.
14 Ryan Nemeth
When your brother is Dolph Ziggler you know that wrestling fans will have high expectations of you. Much like his brother, Nemeth was given a terrible name in Briley Pierce. Nonetheless, prior to appearing on NXT he was a multi-time tag team champion in OVW and FCW, both of which have served as WWE development territories.
When his time came in NXT however, he did so as a backstage interviewer. After almost a year of this, he finally made his in-ring debut but did so as an underwhelming jobber to Conor O’Brian and was released almost immediately after.
13 Sylvester LeFort and Marcus Louis
The French duo known as ‘The Legionnaires’ were given a fair amount of TV time when they were put together in 2014. They would start a feud with one of NXT’s most beloved teams, Enzo Amore and Colin Cassidy that would ultimately end up in a ‘hair versus hair’ match.
They would lose, and LeFort abandoned Louis to suffer the consequences. This saw the latter start to go insane as a result and begin stalking wrestlers from the rafters. Neither man was used particularly much after their big feud though and were both eventually released earlier this year before going to TNA.
LeFort himself missed out on another opportunity for success, as he was the first NXT manager of none other than Rusev.
12 Percy Watson
‘Showtime’ Percy Watson was a charismatic and athletic performer who had the benefit of coming across instantly likeable and was often compared to Eddie Murphy. Not a bad start to have. He was even given a pretty good starting opportunity as he was a participant in the second season of the reality show version of NXT, although despite expectations he only finished fifth.
Watson soon debuted on the main roster and made little impact before returning to the ‘Redemption’ transition version of NXT and once again underperformed.
In one final shot to fulfill his potential, Watson was given an opportunity on the NXT we now know as both a singles act and in a team with Yoshi Tatsu but was released due to an alleged bad attitude following his demotion from the Raw touring crew.
11 Mojo Rawley
Rawley is a former American footballer but injury turned him towards professional wrestling. He would debut under the philosophy of ‘Stay Hyped’ and has been a divisive character ever since.
Full Sail may join in Mojo’s antics but a large portion of the viewers at home find the act grating. That is not a good start to a career, as similar gimmicks, such as Adam Rose, were loved by most NXT audiences and still couldn’t translate to the main roster. Mojo can’t even unite the NXT audience with him, and needed to be paired with Zack Ryder to even have a position of merit on the roster.
10 Richie Steamboat
Being a generational wrestler is a curse as often as it is a blessing and for Richie Steamboat it was actually a good thing. Richie is a spitting image of his father and seemingly possesses all of the athletic prowess and natural charisma as well. Alongside the likes of Seth Rollins and Big E, Richie was one of the top stars of FCW before it was rebranded as NXT and it was expected that it would continue that way.
And it did. At least initially. Steamboat had a top feud with Kassius Ohno but then suffered a serious back injury that required surgery and called into question whether he would ever return to the ring. There have been conflicting reports as to whether he is still under contract but Ricky Steamboat himself believes Richie’s in-ring career is over either way. Failure is too harsh a label to put on Richie but circumstances definitely left him as a disappointment.
9 Raquel Diaz
A fellow generational wrestler, Shaul Guerrero is the eldest daughter of the legendary Eddie Guerrero. Unlike Steamboat, it proved to be more of a curse. Starting out as a manager for the likes of Rusev and The Ascension, she would have quite some success in FCW – holding both the Queen of FCW crown and the FCW Divas Championship simultaneously.
When the territory was rebranded NXT, Diaz got a rebrand of her own. Labeling herself as the ‘Ultra Diva’ she declared a tour to exfoliate ugliness from NXT. Before this had a true chance to go anywhere Shaul requested her release, although later reports suggest that she was given a leave of absence. Either way, she returned to the company the following year but failed to even appear on TV second time round.
8 Bull Dempsey
Bull Dempsey is quite an unlucky member of this list in that in many ways, NXT failed him. Dempsey managed to establish himself as a pretty over act as a monster who would squash superstars, leading to a feud with newcomer Baron Corbin, who had been doing the same thing. The two men had a bout of one-upmanship, seeing who could win their matches faster before eventually clashing. Corbin would be successful and it turned Dempsey’s undefeated streak quickly into a losing one.
He would eventually become ridiculed by Tyler Breeze for being overweight, and ordered by on-air general manager William Regal to get in shape. This began a new gimmick for Dempsey referred to as ‘Bull-Fit’. Against all odds, this became popular with fans due to Dempsey’s all-in attitude to the character producing genuinely funny results. The man himself didn’t seem to enjoy it though and requested his release.
7 Eva Marie
Eva places low on the list due a surprisingly split opinion from wrestling fans. Not in actually liking her, very few do, but some do view her negative reactions as a good thing for creating a true heel in the modern era.
This does overlook the fact that the vast majority of the reaction is what is popularly known as ‘X-Pac Heat’. The term is used to describe booing that is legitimately wanting the subject to just go away, rather than to see them lose.
Her three years with WWE have seen her improvement be minimal as she still fails to do anything convincingly.
6 Mason Ryan
Mason Ryan, the Welsh former Gladiator, was the typical Vince McMahon project. He's 6-foot-5, 300 pounds and was a natural choice to be a star in WWE. As you may have noticed, nothing said there alluded to any actual wrestling ability and there is good reason for that – he severely lacked it.
Ryan was given a huge opportunity anyway, making his WWE debut as an instant recruit to the New Nexus after CM Punk took control of the group, attacking John Cena. Ryan would be involved in a couple of big angles in this time but was clearly not up to the task and following an injury and a brief return, he found himself sent to NXT to develop.
After an unimpressive year there it was clear that it wasn’t going to happen and Ryan was released.
5 Elias Samson
It may be a little early to write off ‘The Drifter’ from achieving success but he has certain left something to be desired. Following a series of mysterious vignettes promoting his debut, fans were intrigued to see what Samson was going to bring to the NXT roster during what was likely its strongest period.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t very much. The musician act lacks any kind of punch and gets a flat reaction most of the time, although fans are at least starting to chant “drift away” during his matches, which is an improvement. Still, it seems like the writing may be on the wall for Samson, at least in his current gimmick.
4 Byron Saxton
The second entry in this list to have failed in all three versions of NXT, Byron Saxton actually managed to go one better than Watson, in failing in numerous different roles. After a brief stint as ECW commentator, Saxton would finish fourth in the final season of the reality format NXT and would reappear in the Redemption season but managed to get voted out of that as well.
He would return as a commentator for the current NXT, as well as trying his hand at ring announcing, but didn’t really make much of an impact in either role. It still worked out for him however, getting called up to the main roster first as an interviewer and later returning to the commentary booth. Despite still failing to make much of an impression, he remains a permanent fixture.
3 CJ Parker
When FCW became NXT, Parker found himself out of favor. The two-time FCW Tag Team Champion instantly became a jobber but an injury gave him the opportunity for a fresh start on the now global show.
Returning as a hippie preaching about the environment, Parker captured attention by parading throughout the audience with protest signs and soon found himself in a rivalry with Tyler Breeze. The crowd didn’t take to the preachy character though and he turned on them and embraced the holier than thou aspect. He soon entered a hefty losing streak and requested his release.
2 Kassius Ohno
The original KO in NXT, Kassius Ohno was the WWE name for veteran independent wrestler Chris Hero. Big things were naturally expected for Hero in the WWE due to his talent and pre-existing fan base. Things were going well, with Ohno involved in high profile feuds with the likes of Richie Steamboat, The Wyatt Family, and even William Regal.
Sadly, WWE wrote him off television due to them feeling he was out of shape and not taking their conditioning program seriously and was released a couple of months later after only one more TV appearance.
1 Solomon Crowe
Another wrestler who made a name for himself in the indies, Solomon Crowe was much anticipated by the online fans after a clever promotional campaign across social media and NXT broadcasts as a hacker.
This unique gimmick captured fans imagination and added to the excitement of his long impending introduction. Something about Crowe just didn’t seem to fully click however. Perhaps it was his unusual nature, weak looking finisher, or just not being what people expected. No matter what it was, the reaction to Crowe was quiet from those who weren’t a fan of Callahan from the independents. He requested his release later that year.
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