NXT has well and truly taken over WWE. If you were to look at the WWE main roster at the start of the decade, there were only a select few members who had any association with the three letters “NXT”. Fast forward to 2019, it is far more difficult to find active members of the roster who aren’t NXT alumni.
In honor of NXT TakeOver: XXV, we have decided to create a list of the top 25 success stories of NXT; featuring 25 superstars who have gone onto achieve varying degrees of success post-NXT. To make things simpler, we have decided to leave the original NXT (more of a talent show than developmental) off the list, so don’t expect to see the likes of Daniel Bryan pop up. So without further ado, let’s jump right in and take a look at which former NXT superstars have shined the brightest these past few years.
25 Greatest Success Stories of NXT
Alexa Bliss was not one of the bigger NXT names. Originally, she was an unnamed ring announcer. Then she was a glitter fairy. Whereas many on this list could boast prior in-ring experience, Alexa is a true home-grown talent who has had to learn on the job – and learn she has. Alexa is one of the best heels in all of WWE; has won numerous Women’s Championships (three on RAW, two on Smackdown) and won the Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match at the Money in the Bank 2018 pay-per-view. She has been plagued by injuries recently, but it is only a matter of time before Lil’ Miss Bliss is winning championships again.
Asuka dominated during her time in NXT. In fact, she remained undefeated throughout her entire tenure; holding the NXT Women’s Championship for 522 days (510 days, if you don’t count TV tapings). She continued her unbeaten run for the first few months of her main roster run, where she won the inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble match at Royal Rumble 2018. She would eventually lose to Charlotte (more on her later) at WrestleMania 34. Asuka’s run wasn’t quite the same following her first defeat, but her victory against Becky Lynch at Royal Rumble 2019 cannot be ignored and she is just one of four on this list to hold both the NXT and Smackdown Women’s Championships.
Much like Asuka, Bayley had an iconic run as NXT Women’s Champion. She held the title for a respectable 223 days, after claiming it from long-time rival and fellow NXT legend, Sasha Banks, at NXT Take Over: Brooklyn. Since departing from NXT, Bayley has hugged her way to the RAW (1x) and Smackdown (1x) Women’s Championships; has suplexed her way to being one-half of the inaugural Women’s Tag Team Champions (1x) and won the Women’s Money in the Bank in 2019. Bayley is arguably the most beloved NXT superstar of all time and she seems to (finally) be getting the main roster run she deserves.
What more can be said about Becky Lynch? The Man is, at this point, arguably the most successful on this list… yet it wasn’t always this way. Just 12 months ago, the booking for the Irish Lass Kicker was all over the place – she was more than 12 months without a pay-per-view win. Until her heel turn at Summerslam 2018. She wasn’t a heel for long, though, and soon became the tweener(ish) Man we all love. She is now a three-time Smackdown Women’s Champion, the current RAW Women’s Champion (1x) and the first and only superstar to hold both titles at the same time. She won the 2019 Women’s Royal Rumble and is one of three women (alongside Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair) to have headlined a WrestleMania. Becky will only gain more accomplishments and accolades in time.
The brawn of the New Day actually had a second name when he won the NXT Championship way back in 2012. “Langston” was actually just the second man to hold the title. With how successful E has been with The New Day (3x Smackdown and 2x RAW Tag Team Champions), it is easy to forget that he was ever a single’s champion; he is a former holder of the WWE Intercontinental Championship. His run as Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee‘s bodyguard is forgettable, just because E never got the chance to show his wonderful personality. He is not only a naturally talented performer, but a gifted comedian who can make any audience laugh. If there is one star on this list who deserves a WWE Championship run, it’s Big E.
Bray Wyatt never got to hold a title in NXT. The Wyatt Family, however, were still one of the more important NXT acts. They debuted to much fanfare on the main roster and had an incredibly joyful feud with The Shield. Bray has had a relatively successful solo run and can now boast to being a former WWE Champion. Unfortunately he has failed to regain his championship since losing it to former tag team partner, Randy Orton, but with the surging popularity of the new Firefly Funhouse gimmick, maybe it’s only a matter of time until Bray is champion once more. He is also a former Smackdown Tag Team Champion (with Randy Orton) and a former RAW Tag Team Champion (with Matt Hardy).
Cass & Enzo
The first names to feature on this list who no longer feature for the WWE. Big Cass & Enzo Amore never held a tag title on the main roster or in NXT. They still remained extremely popular. Their split-up was premature and one can’t help but think what could have been if the duo were kept together. It was pretty sawft. However, they both had relatively successful solo runs too. Enzo Amore was regularly in the main event of RAW in mid-2017 as the Cruiserweight Champion. Big Cass had an enjoyable feud with Daniel Bryan in 2018, too. The two recently appeared at Ring of Honor’s G1 Supercard, so maybe there’s life after WWE for Enzo and Cass?
Another contender for most successful NXT call-up is is Charlotte Flair. Charlotte has done it all since coming up with fellow horsewomen, Sasha Banks and Bayley, in 2015. In NXT, Charlotte was the second ever NXT Women’s Champion. On the main roster, she was the last ever Diva’s Champion; the first ever RAW Women’s Champion (back when there was no brand split and the Women’s Championship covered both brands) and is a former Smackdown Women’s Champion. Overall, she is a record-setting eight time Women’s Champion. Like Becky Lynch, she is also one of just three women to headline a Wrestlemania (with Ronda Rousey).
Whereas Dean Ambrose is no more (at least for now), there is no doubt that the man now known as All Elite Wrestling‘s Jon Moxley had a glittering WWE career. Whereas Ambrose is perhaps more well known for his successful Florida Championship Wrestling developmental career than his NXT run; he is still NXT alumni and easily one of the most successful. Let’s run through his accolades: 1x WWE Champion; 3x Intercontinental Champion; 2x WWE Raw Tag Team Champion with Shield brother, Seth Rollins; 1x WWE United States Champion (and longest reigning); Mr. Money in the Bank 2016 and he was the twenty-seventh Triple Crown Champion and just the eighth Grand Slam Champion. Undoubtedly an illustrious career. Who knows, maybe Mox can add the AEW Championship to his ever-growing list of accomplishments.
He has also just signed with New Japan Pro Wrestling, so new horizons are surely in the future of the former Dean Ambrose.
Whereas Elias is perhaps the least successful on this list in terms of accomplishments, the man formerly known as “The Drifter” has had a decent run on the main roster; he has been massively over as a heel in the past. Whereas he has recently cooled off somewhat, his gimmick is still entertaining enough (and he plays it masterfully enough) to regain some of the 2017 and 2018 heat. He makes this list simply because, despite not winning any championships, he has been among the most over. He can be again.
Finn Balor – like Bayley – is considered among the most important NXT stars of all time. He was NXT Champion for 292 days, after capturing the prestigious title from Kevin Owens at the Beast in the East: Network special. For the entirety of his championship run, he was Mr. NXT. He also won the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic with Samoa Joe. He debuted on RAW in 2016 to much fanfare; quickly becoming the first ever WWE Universal Champion. Though injury cut short his run – and he has so far failed to recapture the championship – he is a 2x Intercontinental Champion (the current, as of this writing) and still has time to add another world championship or two to his list of accolades.
Harper & Rowan
Luke Harper & Erik Rowan – briefly known as The Bludgeon Brothers – have only two tag team titles to their name (1x NXT Tag Team Champions and 1x Smackdown Tag Team Champions) but have really established themselves as one of the more recognisable and reliable tag teams. Though originally lackeys to Bray Wyatt in the Wyatt Family, they have gone on to have numerous solid bouts with the likes of The Usos and The New Day and, hopefully, can add some more gold to their trophy cabinets in the near future. Whether or not this happens is down to whether or not Luke Harper departs from the WWE, as he recently requested (and was denied) his release from the company. Though the main roster has a bad track record with NXT tag teams, Harper & Rowan have done well to survive this long and deserve their place on this list.
The Modern Day Maharaja just about makes this list and only because he was in NXT during the early phase of his main roster run in 2012. Jinder Mahal was a competitor in the tournament to crown the first NXT Champion and nearly went all the way – he lost to Seth Rollins the final. His run as a solo star on the main roster was brief, as he was soon paired with Drew McIntyre and Heath Slater as part of 3MB. 2017 saw the polarising WWE Championship run – where Jinder would go from enhancement to WWE Champion in the space of two weeks, starting a title reign where he would beat the likes of Randy Orton. Jinder is also a former United States Champion. Whereas Jinder’s heat has declined and he has been pushed back into the undercard, he still makes this list.
Kevin Owens, too, is among the more successful and would be somewhere near the top of the list if we were ranking the call-ups in order of success, rather than by alphabetical order. He had a 143-day reign with the NXT Championship, winning it from eternal rival Sami Zayn at NXT TakeOver: Rival in February of 2015 before dropping it to Finn Balor at the Beast in the East Network Special. Since then, Owens has been Universal, Intercontinental (2x) and United States Champion (3x), all whilst remaining one of the most consistently entertaining heels on either brand. He will certainly add more championships over the next few years.
One who got away was PAC. One of the staples of the early days of NXT, the man known as Neville was their fourth champion. He won it at the very first TakeOver event, NXT Arrival, in February 2014 – after beating Bo Dallas in a ladder match. He would go on to have a 287 day run with the championship, before dropping it to Sami Zayn at the tail-end of 2014 at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution. Neville (now PAC) was also a 2x NXT Tag Team Champion, with Corey Graves and Oliver Grey, respectively – he also won the NXT Tag Team Championship Tournament with Grey in 2013. On the main roster, Neville was the “King of the Cruiserweights” and the figurehead of the entire cruiserweight division (and a 2x Cruiserweight Champion), before leaving over creative differences. PAC is now the Open the Dream Gate Champion in Dragon Gate.
Like Jon Moxley, PAC also features for AEW.
Nia Jax has just one championship to her name (RAW Women’s Championship). That hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of the more established and dominant women on the main roster. Though her NXT run came at the wrong time (Asuka dominance), she has been successful as a monster heel on RAW. Jax is also a member of Total Divas; successfully garnering a following of young female fans. Her career is still young and if she chooses to truly commit to WWE as an active performer, there will be plenty more victories to come.
Is there anybody more qualified to be classed as an NXT original than Paige? The inaugural NXT Women’s Champion, the Glampire is a well-established, household name at this point. She is also the only member of this list capable of boasting a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson produced biopic centred around her life in professional wrestling. Paige is also a 2x Divas Champion and a key component of the Total Divas brand. Sadly, Paige is currently retired. Though only 26, she is a veteran of more than a decade whose body has taken so much in-ring abuse that, at least for now, she won’t be able to add to her three championships. However, she is a bonified future Hall of Famer and an NXT legend.
The Big Dog has done literally everything. With how successful Roman Reigns has been on the main roster since coming up with his Shield brothers, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, in the fall of 2012, the biggest surprise is that he never won an NXT Championship. He clearly did not need it, however, as Roman is a four-time world champion (3x WWE, 1x Universal); one-time WWE Tag Team Champion (with Seth Rollins); 1x Intercontinental Champion; a former 1x United States Champion; a Royal Rumble winner (2015) and a Grand-Slam & Triple-Crown champion. He has been in the main event of multiple WrestleManias and, most recently, beat cancer. Roman has done it all.
Rusev is someone whose career deserves more. He has consistently been one of the more over stars – whether as “Evil Russian Rusev” or as “Rusev Day Rusev” – and, despite his large frame, is one of the better performers. On the microphone, too, Rusev is extremely entertaining. It’s a shame to think that his career (so far) peaked with the loss of his United States Championship (2x) in his WrestleMania 31 defeat to John Cena… but he still got to come out on a tank. Most wrestling fans probably agree that Rusev deserves more, so here’s hoping. Regardless, with how long Rusev has lasted on the main roster, he absolutely deserves a spot on this list.
Samoa Joe had a great NXT run and was the first two-time NXT Champion. Since debuting on RAW in January 2017, Joe hasn’t been quite as successful. Whereas he has consistently been one of the best talkers around, has had good matches and entertaining feuds, he has been on the losing-end more than his talent merits. His 2018 feud with AJ Styles is the best example of this (he didn’t win one of their multiple PPV matches). He now has a solo United States Championship to his name, so, like with Rusev, let’s hope 2019 has more in store for the Samoan Submission Machine.
The Boss is arguably the most popular NXT star of all time; her 2015 match with Bayley at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn is still considered among the greatest women’s match-ups of all time. Sasha Banks made the NXT Women’s Championship more important than the men’s during her run in NXT. Therefore The Boss will always be fondly remembered as of the true NXT greats. Her main roster run hasn’t been too shabby either. Sasha is a 4x RAW Women’s Champion. She was one-half of the inaugural WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, with long-time friend, Bayley. Whereas much speculation persists over her current whereabouts, it is only a matter of time before Sasha adds more gold to her collection.
The man formerly known as “The Man” was the first ever NXT Champion. Since coming up to the main roster, Seth Rollins has had unprecedented amounts of success. One-third of The Shield; a former 2x Intercontinental Champion; 4x RAW Tag Team Champion (Roman Reigns (1), Jason Jordan (1) and Dean Ambrose (2)); a former one-time WWE United States Champion; a 2x WWE World Heavyweight Champion; Money in the Bank winner (2014); Men’s Royal Rumble winner (2019) and a Grand Slam & Triple-Crown champion to boot. Oh, and he is also the current WWE Universal Champion. Like Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, Seth has truly done it all. Is he the most successful of all NXT alumni? Quite possibly.
The Japanese superstar arrived in NXT as one of the most recognisable international stars ever. The former IWGP Champion quickly became a two-time NXT Champion. He then moved to Smackdown and won the 2018 men’s Royal Rumble. Though failing to capture the WWE Championship from AJ Styles at WrestleMania 34, Shinsuke is a former 2x US Champion. Though still tremendously popular, Nakamura is currently stuck as a heel in the mid-card. One hopes that the Japanese rock star recaptures some of his magic soon.
Though quite possibly the least successful call-up to make this list, how can we leave out Tyler Breeze? One of the most important components of the early NXT success, fans shouldn’t forget just how good Tyler is. Though he has never held a title in the WWE, Tyler has continued to be extremely entertaining. This being the case both in the ring and with a partner, Fandango. Together, the Fashion Police created something largely entertaining with Fashion Files. Hopefully, their efforts are rewarded when Fandango returns from injury.
Last but not least is Xavier Woods. Alongside Big E, Woods’ wrestling dream was to see Kofi Kingston hold the WWE Championship. They succeeded. Now that Woods has succeeded, maybe it is time to start adding singles gold to his five tag titles. The New Day, by the way, is – at this point – one of the longest-running, most successful trios ever. It is safe to say Woods is a success story. Additionally, his YouTube gaming channel – UpUpDownDown – has only proven the genius of Woods. His ability to keep fresh and remain entertaining is among the best. Woods probably doesn’t even need singles gold at this point, but he certainly deserves some.
And that concludes the list. Twenty-five NXT call-ups who have had varying degrees of success, but all have one thing in common: NXT. Whereas not all of them were products of NXT, they have all been helped by NXT. NXT TakeOver: XXV arrives this Saturday, June 1st. With it, we are being gifted a golden glimpse into the future. We can perhaps witness the early stages of stars who will one day make lists such as these. As always, it will be a great show.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.