NXT: An In-Depth Look at Roster Impact
February 2nd, 2010: The day that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon stepped onto the ECW stage to let the WWE Universe know that change was coming.
Fast forward past the awkward game show years, and the brand that would be known as NXT has undeniably one of the most talented rosters of professional wrestlers to lace up a pair of boots.
In its early years, the former Florida Championship Wrestling was still seen as a developmental territory; a stepping stone where men and women could learn their craft before ascending to the main Raw and SmackDown rosters and achieve Superstardom. Nowadays, it could be argued (and has been argued by members of the NXT roster) that NXT is the place to be, with several of their cards being better received than the main roster shows.
-cough- TakeOver: Dallas -cough- WrestleMania 32 -cough cough-
But there’s still the allure of achieving main roster status, as well as the healthy bump in pay that comes with it. And it’s hard to deny that kind of thing, especially when you have the talent that deserves that kind of entitlement.
As we’re seeing with this new “NXT Era”, more and more seasoned NXT veterans are being given their main roster debuts to varying degrees of success. On the one hand, Sami Zayn debuted at the Royal Rumble and almost immediately found himself in contention for the Intercontinental Championship. On the other hand, Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady suffered a major setback in the form of Enzo’s concussion at Payback.
But to get a full scope of how NXT has impacted the roster, we’d have to look back at some of the talent that graduated from the modern NXT system and helped shape the TV brand that exists today:
Obviously the biggest success to come from NXT is Seth Rollins. After becoming the first ever NXT Champion in August 2012, he went on to debut on the main roster that November as part of The Shield, which became a force of pure dominance for many months to follow.
He would go on to win the WWE Tag Team Championship with stablemate and future enemy Roman Reigns, also picking up a United States Championship and, of course, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Rollins is also a former Money in the Bank winner and the 2015 Slammy Award-winning Superstar of the Year.
Throughout all of that, Rollins has feuded with some of the biggest names in the industry: CM Punk, John Cena, Triple H, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, The Undertaker, Kane, even wrestling Sting in The Icon’s final match.
Accolades aside, Rollins has shown a pure athletic talent that helped make him one of the biggest main event stars of 2015. His associations with both The Shield and The Authority took him through three years of storylines, right up until an injury that would put him on the shelf for six and a half months.
Now that Rollins is back, he finds himself once again in the main event picture, with a match set to reclaim the title he never lost. The impact that Rollins has made in the WWE is large enough to rival any household name from the last 50 years, thanks in part to NXT.
Bray Wyatt has always been a charismatic and enigmatic character, and his Family only adds to the mystery surrounding him. Although unsuccessful in capturing the NXT Championship, Erick Rowan and Luke Harper would win the NXT Tag Team Championships and hold onto them for 49 days.
Their main roster debut saw more focus placed on Wyatt than the Family, with Bray entering a feud with Kane that ended with that Inferno match where nobody got set on fire. Since then, the Family bounced from feud to feud until Wyatt “set free” Rowan and Harper and they each set out on their respective singles careers.
Bray would rebrand soon after as “The New Face of Fear” and begin his most memorable feud to date, leading to a match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania 31. It should’ve had a lot higher stakes than it did, but the match didn’t have the same buzz to it due to “The Streak” being broken by Brock Lesnar the year before. And then, not even a full year apart, The Wyatt Family reunited… mostly. I’ll get to that in a second.
Out of the three, Erick Rowan has seemingly suffered the most; he had a brief run as a face during The Authority’s “power hiatus” before reuniting with Luke Harper after… Well, not really anything. He was just kinda feuding with Big Show. At least Harper had a run with the Intercontinental Championship and a decent feud over it before beginning to reunite with the Family. And to make matters worse for Rowan, he suffered an injury shortly after and would be out of action for four months.
Speaking of injuries, The Wyatt Family has been plagued with injuries since their main roster debut. Even at their reunion, it was just Wyatt and Harper because of that injury to Rowan. In the meantime, they added Braun Strowman to their group in August and Rowan would rejoin later after he had healed in October. This lasted until March when Harper suffered a knee injury that would have him out for 5-6 months, and Bray himself suffered an injury in April.
So with all of that in mind, while the character and idea of The Wyatt Family has offered a unique flair, the execution has sizzled, leaving four men lost in the mid-card sea. Hopefully they can regain some traction and continue to be a powerful force on the main roster once everyone is back to 100%.
Originally branded as the “Anti-Diva”, Paige proved herself to be instrumental in defining NXT’s Women’s Division.
Crowned the first NXT Women’s Champion after winning the inaugural tournament, she would have several successful title defenses before moving up to the main roster and winning the WWE Divas Championship in her debut match, not only making her the first to win both the NXT and WWE’s female championships, but also the first to hold them both simultaneously, as well as the youngest Divas Champion in history.
After various feuds, two more Divas Championships, and several seasons on Total Divas, Paige found herself in the middle of the Divas Revolution, which saw the debuts of Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks, as well as the separation of the division into three distinct teams in a storyline that would continue through most of the rest of the year.
After time off to heal from a concussion, Paige returned and took part in various single and tag team matches, leading up to the 10-woman tag team match at WrestleMania.
The amount of success and popularity Paige has seen since her NXT days is incredible; virtually from her debut in April 2014 until December 2015, she has remained a focal point in the women’s main event scene. In the time before the Revolution, she was one of the very few female wrestlers that the WWE Universe would actually watch their matches, and not use the Divas match as an opportunity for a bathroom break. And although the main event spotlight isn’t on her at the moment, my guess is that it won’t be much longer until it is.
Any list talking about the success of NXT alumni isn’t complete unless you mention Kevin Owens.
The former Ring of Honor World Champion had a bit of a rocky debut, getting his nose broken in his match with CJ Parker at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution. Still, later that night, he established himself as a dominant force when he attacked newly crowned NXT Champion Sami Zayn and took his title from him two months later at the next TakeOver.
Owens kept the title for 143 days, losing it to Finn Balor during the Beast in the East Network special and losing the rematch at TakeOver: Brooklyn in a match that was seen as one of the best matches of the year.
His main roster debut saw him, still NXT Champion, answering United States Champion John Cena’s open challenge on an episode of Raw. Instead of having an official match, Owens brutally attacked Cena, setting up for his debut match at the Elimination Chamber live event. Owens would continue this feud, losing twice at subsequent PPVs, the latter match for the US Title.
After a brief feud with Cesaro, Owens would win the Intercontinental Championship from Ryback at Night of Champions and hold onto it until TLC 84 days later when he dropped it to Dean Ambrose. During that time, he would also enter the main event scene, making it to the semi-finals of the tournament for the vacated WWE World Heavyweight Championship before being beaten by Ambrose.
Owens would win back the IC title on an episode of Raw in February in a Fatal Five-Way match, before losing it again at WrestleMania 32 in a seven-man ladder match that received high praise.
Post-Extreme Rules, Owens now finds himself back in the main event picture after having qualified for this year’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. All of this, just over a year after his Raw debut. And after everything the WWE Universe has seen so far, the stock of Kevin Owens only continues to rise.
When the daughter of one of the biggest names in the industry makes her debut, it’s enough to turn some heads. But it was Charlotte’s ability in the ring that kept them turned.
The daughter of two-time WWE Hall of Famer and 16-time world champion Ric Flair has effectively stepped out of her father’s shadow and blazed a path all her own, all beginning with her time in NXT.
Joining up with Sasha Banks and Summer Rae to form the BFF’s helped her establish herself as a serious competitor, racking up wins against Emma, Alexa Bliss, and WWE Diva Natalya on her way to become the NXT Women’s Champion in a reign lasting 258 days.
Charlotte made her main roster debut as part of the Divas Revolution with Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, the latter of whom would join Charlotte and Paige in forming Team PCB. As part of the team, Charlotte would earn a title match against Divas Champion Nikki Bella at Night of Champions, dethroning the longest reigning Divas Champ and claiming her first title on the main roster.
Charlotte would hold on to that title, showing her Flair roots with help from her father along the way, until WrestleMania 32, where a new Women’s Championship was unveiled. Charlotte would prove that she deserved to remain at the top of the division and won the championship in a Triple Threat match involving Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks, which was regarded as one of the few strong matches of the night.
She continues to maintain her claim as the best in the WWE; and given that she has held gold since mid-September, it’s hard to deny it.
Sorry, I had to.
While those mentioned here have seen the greatest success, they aren’t the only talent NXT has had to offer. I’d kick myself if I neglected to mention Xavier Woods and former NXT Champion Big E of the New Day, the current WWE Tag Team Champions and two-thirds of one of the most entertaining stables the WWE has ever seen.
Also receiving honorable mentions for NXT alumni are:
– Current US Champion Rusev and his fiancé Lana
– Former NXT Tag Team Champions The Lucha Dragons, including former US Champion Kalisto
– Former NXT Champion Bo Dallas, current Social Outcast
– Former NXT Champion and NXT Tag Team Champion Neville
– Former NXT Tag Team Champions The Ascension
– Former NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks
And while Roman Reigns was featured briefly on NXT, the impact he’s made on the main roster was not a result of his NXT experience.
If my list is any indication of things to come, the future looks bright for those stars of NXT now starting to make names for themselves on the main roster.
Did anyone not make the list that should have? Did anyone make the list that shouldn’t have? Let me know on Twitter @CJCarter22.
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