Originally starting off as a show where up-and-coming talent could showcase their abilities in an attempt to get a contract with the WWE, NXT eventually became a promotion on its own for rising talent, and it’s quickly become a force in the wrestling industry. A huge number of today’s current superstars made their way through the NXT ranks, and the NXT roster, in its current state, remains stacked full of budding talent. We’ve seen so many wrestlers come up into the WWE from NXT and make a huge impression on fans from the get-go, but unfortunately, some wrestlers have struggled to find any sort of footing after being called to the main roster.
The names on this list are comprised of those wrestlers who had all the promise in the world but have yet to do anything with their immense amount of talent. Whether they’re dealing with injuries or a lack of a major push from the powers-that-be, these superstars have yet to achieve what many fans felt they were destined for. These performers were once red-hot prospects but have since become an afterthought in the minds of fans. Of course, there’s always time in a person’s career for him or her to make a comeback, so we remain hopeful that, one day, these 15 performers will eventually find the success that we all expected them to gain. Until then, though, they’ll remain on this list as some of the biggest NXT call-ups who were squashed by Vince McMahon.
15. Erick Rowan
Considering all of the success that each member of the Wyatt Family has achieved during their time in the WWE, you really have to feel bad for Erick Rowan. Obviously, Bray Wyatt has been the most successful, eventually winning the WWE Heavyweight Championship, and Luke Harper has done very well for himself as well. Braun Strowman looks to be the next big thing, and Randy Orton‘s short time with the Wyatt Family, while seemingly odd at the time, further added to the fact that the members of the family have had very successful careers so far. Then, there’s the case of wrestler Erick Rowan.
Rowan was a one-time WWE NXT Tag Team Champion with Wyatt Family member Luke Harper, but his time on the main roster has been an incredible disappointment in comparison to his brothers. So far, his biggest career achievement is winning a Slammy Award for Match of the Year, but this came in a team-versus-team match in 2014 and not as a singles competitor. There’s still time for Rowan to receive a solid push, and we’re hoping that he isn’t completely buried.
14. Curtis Axel
As the son of wrestler Curt Henning, better known by his ring name, “Mr. Perfect,” you’d expect a next generation Superstar like Curtis Axel to receive an incredible push during his time in the WWE, but alas, this hasn’t been the case for the star. For whatever reason, be it the company’s untimely decisions for his booking or their lack of faith in Axel as a performer, it seems that his talents have completely gone to waste inside of the company.
While you could argue that being a one-time WWE Tag Team Champion and a one-time WWE Intercontinental Champion would be enough to say you’ve had a successful career, in the grand scheme of things, Curtis Axel has been little more than a blip on the radar. He’s currently playing second fiddle to The Miz along with fellow wrestler Bo Dallas, who will no doubt make an appearance later on this list. While he seems to be a great company guy, perhaps Axel would be best off finding work in another promotion like Ring of Honor or New Japan Pro Wrestling.
13. Tyler Breeze
While you could argue that his gimmick is more of a been-there-done-that type of deal, you have to give Tyler Breeze some credit because back in his NXT days, he was a very popular performer, and many people were eagerly anticipating his call-up to the main roster. Unfortunately, as a solo performer, Breeze has done next to nothing during his time in the WWE, and had it not been for a recent resurgence with teammate Fandango, he could easily be considered one of the biggest busts in the company’s history.
The team of Breezango has done an excellent job in providing comedic relief when they get the opportunity to appear in front of the camera, but we can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened had Breeze received the proper push upon his arrival into the WWE. Hopefully, one day, this talented performer will get a second opportunity to prove himself as a talented singles performer.
As a manager playing the love interest of her real-life husband Rusev, Lana quickly became a fan-favorite with in the WWE Universe. She’s a beautiful woman who played the heel manager role to perfection, not unlike Sunny had done a few decades ago. Recently, the company elected to give her a push as a wrestler, and needless to say, things haven’t gone according to plan for the young lady. Each match that she’s participated in has effectively been a squash match, and she’s shown that she could use plenty more time to harness her skills inside the ring.
Unfortunately, because her matches have gone so poorly, the WWE Universe has very little interest in seeing her perform as a wrestler again and would much prefer to see her back as the heel manager for her husband, Rusev. Rumors have swirled recently that the duo is looking to exit the company, but hopefully, this isn’t the case, as they possess great talent, especially when paired together.
How is it possible that at this point in her career, Bayley hasn’t completely taken over the WWE Women’s Division? In her NXT days, Bayley was not only a fan favorite but was also one of the most talented performers on the overall roster. Don’t believe us? Just go ahead and rewatch her match with Sasha Banks from NXT Takeover Brooklyn where the duo put on arguably one of the top wrestling matches of the year.
Expectations were at an all-time high when Bayley finally made her way into the WWE, and at every turn, the company seems to have done everything in its power to negatively impact her career. She dropped the belt to Alexa Bliss at her hometown of San Jose, California, and things haven’t looked good for her ever since. She’s currently recovering from an injury, and people are hopeful that upon her return, she’ll receive the push that she’s been due for a very long time.
10. The Vaudevillains
It’s hard to imagine that the gimmick of The Vaudevillains was going to have a huge impact on the WWE main roster, but they were popular enough on NXT to generate some buzz when they finally got the call-up. Comprised of wrestlers Simon Gotch and Aiden English, The Vaudevillains produced one of the more unique gimmicks in recent tag team memory, and there was enough skill between the two of them to make them a potential force on the main roster.
Unfortunately, The Vaudevillains were a massive flop in the WWE, and Simon Gotch has since returned to the independent wrestling scene to perform under the ring name “Simon Grimm.” Aiden English still remains on the main roster, and we’re curious to see what’s going to end up happening with his character in the long run. Hopefully, he’ll be able to achieve more success than he had during his partnering with Simon Gotch.
9. Bo Dallas
Seth Rollins, Big E, Neville, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, and Shinsuke Nakamura have all been NXT Champions who’ve gone on to do incredible things on the WWE main roster. With such a prestigious group of names, looking through the history of the belt might leave some confused to see the name “Bo Dallas” appear. Nevertheless, during his time in NXT, Bo Dallas was long considered the next big thing in wrestling, and his time on the main roster has been almost embarrassing to watch.
He’s an incredibly talented performer who’s been given one of the most annoying gimmicks to watch on television. Things simply haven’t panned out for the talented wrestler, and he’s currently playing second fiddle to The Miz, along with Curtis Axel. Maybe Bo Dallas will achieve the level of success that many had anticipated, but for now, we can’t help but wonder what could’ve been for this superstar.
8. Adam Rose
At 38 years of age, Adam Rose has been in the professional wrestling scene since 1995 when he made his debut in his native South Africa. In 2010, Rose would make his way into the United States, performing in Florida Championship Wrestling before it was eventually rebranded into NXT wrestling. Rose was a very talented and popular performer during his time in NXT, though he failed to actually take home any major titles during his extended run with the company.
Finally, in 2014, Rose made his way to the WWE main roster, and the several years that he spent with the company were underwhelming, to say the least. He would’ve eventually seen his release in 2016, and he’s subsequently spent the entirety of 2017 performing on the independence scene. Given his age, we can’t imagine a scenario in which Rose comes back to the WWE to receive a massive push despite all the years he spent with their developmental brand.
7. The Ascension
Sporting a look that calls back to the wrestling days of old, The Ascension are some of the most physically imposing men in the WWE tag team scene, and expectations were high when they finally made their way up to the main roster. Unfortunately for them, their main-roster run wouldn’t come close to reaching the level attained by legendary tag team The Road Warriors.
Down in NXT, they had reached the pinnacle of the promotion after winning the NXT Tag Team Championship, but since making their way into the WWE in 2014, The Ascension is little more than an afterthought in a tag team seen that boasts The New Day and the incredibly talented pairing of Cesaro and Sheamus. At this point, you truly have to wonder what the WWE’s long-term plans are for The Ascension. They’re not an overly popular group, so perhaps, splitting them up into singles action would be the best choice in the meantime.
6. Chad Gable
As one-half of the tag team American Alpha, wrestler Chad Gable, who despite only being 5 ft 8, has shown a true athletic ability inside the ring. Down in NXT, American Alpha was a one-time NXT Tag Team Champion, and once they finally made their way to the main roster, they would eventually win the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship. So, why do we have Gable on this list? Well, based off of what we’ve seen since their split, it appears that American Alpha was mainly used to get Jason Jordan on the main roster.
Comparatively speaking, Jordan is a much larger and more physically imposing wrestler than Chad Gable is, and smaller performers have a very hard time making an impact in the company. Hopefully, Gable gets the push that he truly deserves, but right now, it would seem that the WWE simply used him to help aid in the development of former partner Jason Jordan.
5. Apollo Crews
From October 2014 to April 2016, Apollo Crews wreaked havoc down in NXT, and at one point, he nearly became champion while taking on Finn Balor. Apollo Crews possesses incredibly rare athleticism found in few WWE Superstars, and the year-and-a-half that he’s spent in the WWE is definitely considered disappointing by most fans. It’s not that Crews doesn’t possess the talent to take himself to the next level. It’s just that the WWE is chock-full of incredible performers that seem to be hindering his growth as a performer.
His pairing with Titus O’Neil as his manager was successful at first, but it appears that it’ll eventually run its course and wear thin on fans. As it stands now, it doesn’t appear that Crews is in line for a decent push, and it seems he’ll be relegated to the mid card for quite some time. The most notable thing that he’s done in recent memory is take one of the most vicious bumps so far this year in a match with gargantuan strong man Braun Strowman.
4. Dana Brooke
Thanks to developing their skills in NXT for several years, the WWE Women’s Division is at its red-hot peak right now, and the divisions on Raw and SmackDown are both full of incredible talent thanks to the hard work of performers like Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Bayley. Female performers are now taken seriously, and they’ve been responsible for putting on some of the most entertaining matches over the last 2 years.
It seems, however, that lost in the shuffle of immense female talent is performer Dana Brooke. Brooke was in NXT for 3 years, and she proved herself to be a very talented performer. On the main roster, however, the former bodybuilder has achieved very little, and with the current slate of women on the roster improving by leaps and bounds virtually week-to-week, you have to think that, at some point, Dana Brooke will be little more than a footnote in women’s division history.
3. Ty Dillinger
The Perfect 10 hasn’t been in the WWE all that long, but at this point, you already kind of have to wonder what the company has in store for Tye Dillinger. In NXT, Dillinger was an incredibly popular performer who’s shown on numerous occasions that he’s capable of putting on outstanding matches. The 36-year-old has been in the wrestling business for quite a long time now, and we’re hoping to see him do big things on the WWE main roster.
Dillinger spent over three years in NXT harnessing his skills before making his way up to the WWE main roster in January of 2017 during the Royal Rumble. Because he’s been in the company less than a year, it may seem a bit controversial to put him on this list, but given the immense amount of talent that he truly has, we’re hoping that he doesn’t see the same fate as wrestlers like Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel.
2. Summer Rae
Summer Rae currently finds herself in the peculiar position of being a very minor player in what has become a very deep women’s division. Much like Dana Brooke, most people seem to think of Summer Rae as an afterthought of a performer, and her career on the main roster has easily been one of the more disappointing ones in recent memory. Let’s just put it this way: in 2015, she was voted having the Worst Storyline of the Year, and in 2013, Wrestling Observer Newsletter gave her, along with many other competitors who were in the match, the award for Worst Worked Match of the Year.
She’s perhaps best known for her time on the reality series Total Divas, and that says a whole lot about her as a performer. Injuries have long kept her out of the WWE, and we can’t imagine her ever receiving a huge push, especially when the division is stacked with the talent that it currently has.
1. Brodus Clay
Back before it was considered a developmental promotion for the WWE, NXT was actually a reality series, and it was used to much success to develop the next generation of talent to make their way into the WWE. On the 4th season of NXT, Brodus Clay was one of the competitors, and he was talented enough to reach the runner-up position on the series. Unfortunately for Clay, his run in the WWE wasn’t indicative of the potential that he possessed, and he accomplished next to nothing inside the confines of the WWE.
His biggest achievement in the company was back in 2012, when he won the Slammy Award for Best Dancer of the Year; an award that has nothing to do with his wrestling abilities. Currently, Brodus Clay is a free agent after having spent time in TNA, which is now known as Global Force wrestling, and recently, he made an appearance in the series GLOW as the character Mighty Tom Jackson.
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