NXT is WWE's developmental brand, where less experienced wrestlers learn the craft and help solidify that will appeal to the mass WWE audience. A lot of the biggest stars at the moment, such as Big E, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens and current WWE Champion Seth Rollins had their start in NXT. The developmental itself is full of stars from around the globe, currently working on learning how to appeal to the WWE Universe. TNA fans may recognize Samoa Joe among their ranks, and fans of Japanese wrestling will be thrilled to see Prince Devitt (now performing under Finn Balor) and Kana (now performing under Asuka) preparing to make a big splash on the main brand. Even older favorites, like William Regal and Rhyno, are on hand to help the younger wrestlers evolve and put on good matches despite their inexperience.
NXT is an interesting look into what goes into the formation of a wrestler. You will see gimmicks tested and abandoned over a matter of months, and wrestlers who originally struggled to make a punch look convincing eventually morph into someone capable of putting on a five star classic. It's because of their developmental training that people like Seth Rollins have found it so easy to climb to the top of the card.
However, for every success story, there are far more failures. Eva Marie was sent back to NXT after showing a complete inability to wrestle, despite the company's intention to push her as the face of the Divas division. Zack Ryder has shown he can wrestle, but was struggling to gain momentum on the main brand before being sent to NXT to form a tag team. Here are 15 more people who may benefit by returning to WWE's developmental. The wrestlers on this list don't necessarily have to be sent down because they're bad. It's just that some need fine tuning, or currently find themselves in limbo on the main roster. A little seasoning in NXT would have them better prepared for greater things on the flagship program.
16 King Barrett
Barrett had a dream debut in the WWE, becoming the leader of a hot heel stable and going toe to toe with John Cena. Originally destined for championship glory and even rumored to be considered to break The Undertaker's streak, Barrett’s career has not quite reached the heights it was supposed to. A win in King of the Ring seems more like an apology to him than signs of a push. Now seemingly trapped as a lower-midcarder, a run in NXT could help re-solidify him as a dangerous foe with a future in the main event.
15 David Otunga
Recently on Raw, Paige asked of Natalya - "Do you even work here anymore?". A funny and shocking moment that prompted an instant reply from the Canadian Hartthrob, but it's a question perhaps better asked of David Otunga.
Originally part of the Nexus faction in their 2010 invasion, Otunga is a two-time tag champion. He then briefly had a gimmick of being a lawyer, before taking a year-long hiatus and returning as a pre-show host for Raw. Otunga has a lot of decent potential, and if he was given time to rework his character in NXT he could easily return for another run.
14 Los Matadores
There are rumors that Los Matadores are being repackaged, and no one deserves a re-brand more. Because of them and the Luchadragons, the tag division spent too long with two teams of masked wrestlers who didn’t talk, and Los Matadores were the far less interesting of the two. Confusion about whether they were heels or faces didn’t help, and I think by adding further definition to their characters and refining their movesets would really help them become stars of the NXT tag division.
13 The Ascension
NXT is very much made with an indie flair, whereas WWE is the big, overproduced show. Typically in the indies, more ridiculous characters have a chance to get over, as opposed to the modern day Raw where there’s more of a focus on realism.
There’s no better way to show the difference in the products than with The Ascension. A dominating and powerful tag team in NXT, turning into a pair of jobbers who really need to rework their presentation so it fits more with WWE, or stick to dominating in NXT.
12 Adam Rose
What the heck is Adam Rose right now? His original partying thing was fun, but grew stale. Now he seems to be showing up almost randomly to talk about poop and how he doesn’t actually like parties. As a performer he does okay, but really needs something to help people identify with him. The party pooper gimmick really isn’t working, and is just cringe-worthy at best.
Admittedly, he did recently show up on NXT, only to appear on Raw soon after. He’s in a weird place right now, and pooping on parties isn’t helping.
11 Summer Rae
Currently involved in the diabolically awful feud between Rusev and Dolph Ziggler, her character is providing a stale, stereotypical diva that seems out of place when the rest of the Divas division is making a big fuss about improving the state of women’s wrestling. The sad truth of the matter is that Summer Rae is actually an accomplished athlete and this angle as a “replacement girlfriend” is doing nothing for her or her career. A stint in NXT would prove that she has the chops to be one of the main women on the roster, and push her to evolve beyond “The One Who Isn’t Lana”.
10 Heath Slater
Poor Heath. With 3 Man Band, he had a purpose and a defined character. When his two compatriots left, he’s just been wandering around, unsure of where to go. His Slater Gator team with Titus O’Neill was fun, but not as fun as Prime Time Players, meaning Titus eventually left to reform that group with Darren Young. Now, a tag team specialist without a tag team, Heath Slater is doomed to wander the apron of WWE Superstars with a constant question mark over his future. Perhaps returning to developmental where he originally found success with The Nexus would help restart his career.
Fandango has had some dream match-ups in his current WWE run. His first feud provided him with a victory over Chris Jericho at WrestleMania. But a few injury problems and poor booking led his momentum to fade, and how he’s a rarely seen jobber who’s dance doesn’t quite look as energetic anymore. Maybe some time in developmental could help him regain the confidence he needs to climb back up the ladder. Though I doubt he’ll get as good a push again, he could easily work his way to becoming a mid-carder feuding for the Intercontinental or US titles.
8 Bo Dallas
I love Bo Dallas. His NXT run is one of the greatest championship runs in the fledgling brand's history, but his time in WWE leaves a lot to be desired. While I doubt his gimmick will ever be popular as anything above the lower-midcard, at the moment he’s barely even on the show. I think in the last few months, John Cena has lost more matches than Bo Dallas has been in. In NXT he was king, but in WWE he is a ghost, barely seen and not at all noticed. Except when he’s getting suplexed by Brock Lesnar as a show of force.
7 Jack Swagger
What happened here? A former U.S. and World Heavyweight Champion, Jack Swagger should still be a successful mid-carder on the main brand.
But instead of that, he’s been relegated to Superstars and Main Event, the rarely watched pre-shows. It’s sad to see a wrestler who had started to build some momentum in his career suddenly become underused by the company. His “Real American” gimmick didn’t go over too well, and some out of ring issues helped push him down the ranks. A run in NXT would help him rebuild to a point where he can start competing where he belongs, before he leaves for somewhere that'll give him better chances.
6 Curtis Axel
According to himself, Axel is the winner of the 2015 Royal Rumble, and deserved a title shot. A fun angle, but instead of pursuing it fully, WWE Creative decided the best thing to do with him was partner him with the equally underused Damian Sandow. Together they dressed as Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan, and would parody the two legends in ring. It was a solid preshow gimmick, with a healthy dose of ridiculousness, and could have gone over if given time to develop.
But then Hulk Hogan turned out to be a racist, and the angle was dropped. Now Axel finds himself in obscurity with no direction as to where his career can go. Maybe going for the NXT Tag Belts would help revitalize his stalled career.
5 Damien Sandow
An incredible athlete, fully confident on the mic, 2013 Money in the Bank winner, WWE Tag Team Champion with The Miz, but where is he now?
After Hulk Hogan's racist audio was leaked, his Meta-Powers tag team with Curtis Axel was swiftly canned. But even then, was the natural progression from a silly tag team with The Miz to go to an even sillier tag team? Especially when the performer in question could be so much more?
The simple answer for the predicament of Sandow is to place him in NXT. He’s a great character wrestler and just needs to find something that will suit his outlandish style without preventing him from getting over.
As a wrestler, she had good in-ring ability with a nice amount of potential. As a Total Divas star, she was often overshadowed by Eva Marie, a diva who can’t wrestle very well but has flashy red hair. After leaving Total Divas, JoJo became a ring announcer and backstage interviewer, despite her natural athleticism. This girl is built to be a wrestler, and with the right guidance and training, she could be the next big female star to set the women’s division on fire. She has more of a chance of that than Eva Marie does, anyway.
As pointed out earlier, NXT isn't just for rookies anymore. Rhyno's there and while Samoa Joe is new to WWE, does he really seem like a guy that needs seasoning? R-Truth seems to float around the main brands, occasionally in a big match, but never scoring any meaningful wins or being in any meaningful programs. Why not have Truth in NXT for a little while? It would give him a chance to feud with new guys and perhaps he could experiment with more stuff, instead of sticking with the "what's up?" schtick.
2 Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch is one of the talented women who recently got called up to partake in the Divas Revolution angle on Raw. Her, Charlotte and Sasha Banks were pushed as being the ones who will “save” the Divas division. However, both she and Sasha have found themselves playing side characters to Charlotte’s story. Sasha is still feuding for the NXT Women’s Title, so it’s understandable she’s mostly in the background at the moment, but having Becky Lynch barely wrestle and just stand around looking confused for months on end is uncomfortable, especially as she never held the NXT Women’s Title during her tenure there.