Over the past few years, NXT has become the internet darling promotion within the WWE Universe. Initially meant to be WWE’s latest and greatest way to develop future stars, the promotion has expanded to help give current WWE Superstars, like Tyson Kidd and Alicia Fox, a tune-up. The promotion has also become an attraction for the top indy wrestlers from all across the world, bringing in guys and gals like Finn Balor, Becky Lynch, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Samoa Joe, just to name a few. Now, working as a hybrid promotion, it’s become one of the hottest places for wrestler to either start their career or jump to the next level.
Currently, NXT is in a rebuilding phase thanks to the WWE Draft and brand split, which has taken much of their top talent including American Alpha, Nia Jax, Bayley, and Finn Balor. With so many new faces it’s an exciting time to see who can rise to the top and create new memories for the fans. Although it sounds like the perfect promotion, there are plenty of moments, champions, and incidents (including someone getting shot) that have occurred since NXT first started up in 2010 as a reality TV series.
So, even though Vince McMahon isn’t exactly in control of NXT, let’s talk a fifteen moments that he would just prefer you completely forget.
15. NXT: Reality TV Show
Most fans know NXT as a weekly show that comes out every Wednesday on the WWE Network, showcasing all of WWE’s newest talents. Going back to 2010, it was a whole different animal, and not in a good way. Taking some of their newest signings, WWE would put them through a series of matches, competitions, or promo segments to decide which was best fit to move up in the company. Typically, the rookies would have a “Pro” that would be their coach throughout the show.
In the picture you see Daniel Bryan, with his pro, the Miz, which was a strange pairing as The Miz was a successful WWE Superstar. Everyone knew Bryan could wrestle circles around his coach, thanks to his near ten years on the indy circuit. That weird cowboy was Skip Sheffield, more widely known as Ryback and the one in the hood is SmackDown’s most horrendous commentator, David Otunga. This format lasted for five seasons, some with all women or returning rookies, but for the most part they were pretty cringe worthy. While initially on SyFy, ratings dropped to the point where WWE just put the shows on their own website before completely scrapping the idea to what we see today. Out of the 28 competitors in the first four seasons, 17 of them are no longer even in WWE.
14. NXT Referee Or Master Of The Death Match?
That’s a nasty looking scar you got there, NXT Referee Drake Wuertz, aka Drake Younger, winner of King of the Deathmatch and Combat Zone Wrestling’s (CZW) Tournament of Death! It’s not uncommon to find out WWE referees were former wrestlers, but Drake is in a whole different category when it comes to wrestling in violent matches.
Syringe Death match (yes, it’s as nasty as it sounds), Barefoot Thumbtack match, Dog Collar match, and hardcore rumbles are just a few of the stipulations that Drake had to deal with when he wrestled from 2003 until 2011. For example, during one of his matches he was put on a table and had light tubes placed over him, his opponent dropped from the ceiling and collision caused a tear in his ear that forced him not only out of the tournament, but he had to wear ear protection for months so his ear could heal properly. This stuff is so not PG, so if you search out his work, you’ve been warned.
13. Contestant Pulled And Replacement Wins NXT Competition
No, that picture is not photoshopped that is just Aloisia who stood 6’9” at the time of Season 3 of NXT, which was an all-women competition. As the tallest women to ever compete in WWE, Aloisia was pulled just before the show got to air. The initial reason was because pornographic photos of her surfaced on the internet, causing WWE to call an audible just before the premiere. Aloisia later stated she wasn’t sure if that was the specific reason she was pulled, but nonetheless in went Kaitlyn as a later replacement on the show.
It proved to be a fortuitous change for Kaitlyn as she quickly became a favorite among fans, thanks mostly to her quirky charm and outstanding physique. Even though she was considered an afterthought, Kaitlyn was able to overcome and win the entire competition beating out (from left to right) Naomi, Aksana, Jamie, AJ Lee, and Maxine (now known as Catrina on Lucha Underground).
12. A Record-Holding Reign
Since coming to the main roster, The Ascension has managed to have one of the worst falls in recent memory. Winning their first match against Miz and Mizdow, things went downhill in a hurry thanks to their terribly over-the-top promos which were pretty much a rip-off of the Road Warriors. Fans said it so often, they actually incorporated them into their promos saying that they were better than those guys, ha! Well, shortly after that a bunch of older tag teams (APA, New Age Outlaws and the nWo) destroyed Viktor and Konnor (for their disrespect to the past), they never really recovered.
What makes all of this even worse is they were the NXT Tag Champions for a record 364 days! They literally wiped out the competition in NXT (although, some might say the tag division was extremely weak at the time) for an incredibly long time only to be low card talent enhancement shortly after their call up. Right now, The Revival are the current NXT Tag champs at 103 days, but it’s more likely they will be called up than make it to day 365 as champions.
11. Shooting At The Performance Center
In 2015, Armando Montalvo decided it was time to really let the WWE know he was ready to be trained as a wrestler, by bashing on the locked doors of their Performance Center and flexing weirdly for all to see. Apparently he had trespassed numerous times on the property and WWE had to yet again call the cops on him, only this time he was sick of the cops and decided to charge at them with a knife in hand. In doing so, he got himself shot, which he survived, needing surgery in the process. Armando was then charged for assault on a police officer and sent to trial in February of 2016.
It was delayed when the judge wanted to see if he was fit for trial, sending him to doctors for testing. According to his family, he had a number of mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, split personalities along with drug addiction. The doctors found that he was fit and a pre-trial was scheduled for late August of this year, no word yet if he flexed for the court.
10. Big E Was The NXT Champion
When it comes to Black WWE Champions, the list is pretty short with the last WWE Champion being The Rock in 2013, and before The Rock’s numerous reigns, there was, well, nobody. If you go over to the now retired World Heavyweight Championship, Mark Henry and Booker T (then King Booker) could be added to the list. That’s a lot of years and not a lot of diversity among champions, which makes it that more impressive in the four year existence of the NXT Title, Big E held it for 168 days.
This issue in wrestling is not a new one, promoters have typically been older White men, who either don’t know how to book anyone who isn’t Caucasian or simply won’t give them a chance (Shelton Benjamin, anyone?). At any rate, Big E’s initial start on the main roster didn’t go over well, again WWE didn’t know how to put his personality (which he showed off on social media) on to TV to get over with fans. Now he’s doing just fine with The New Day, who have been rumored for a break-up, which might get Big E that big push to the top of the ladder.
9. A Well Liked Coach Is Released
Most widely known as one-half of the New Age Outlaws, Billy Gunn was able to transition his career into becoming a trainer at WWE’s Performance Center. Not only did he help train the next generation but he got a spot on their most recent Tough Enough show, which was overall pretty bad, Billy was one of the bright spots. He clearly has passion for wrestling and wanted each of his competitors to become successful in their journey towards winning a contract with the WWE.
This all came to a sudden halt when Billy failed a drug test for performance enhancing drugs at a power-lifting competition. WWE wasn’t aware of his participation in these competitions or the four year suspension that he received after failing the test. Because it would look bad for the development program to keep on a coach that failed a drug test, he was let go from the company. Currently, Billy is working the indy circuit, most recently for Chikara working alongside X-Pac in a tag team gauntlet match.
8. “Bo-Lieve” He Was A Champion
You wouldn’t know it by his main roster run, but Bo Dallas was a huge deal during his NXT tenure. Not only was he champion for 280 days, but fans hated him so much, they would literally turn their back on him when he wrestled or talked. He spent a total of six years in development with four in Florida Championship Wrestling and two in NXT, allowing him to really figure out his character and gather a following.
When it was finally time to bring him to the main roster, he kept his inspirational “Bo-Lieve” gimmick relatively intact, riding an impressive 17-0 winning streak, before losing to R-Truth. It was a terrible decision as Bo was slowly getting over crowds and R-Truth didn’t really gain anything out of beating him. Since then, Bo has become the new Santino Marella until very recently when his gimmick was given more of a serious edge. It’s unlikely Bo will rise up the card with what he’s doing right now, so please, just send him to The Wyatt Family (his real life brother is Bray).
7. Concussions Lead To A Career Change
Corey Graves worked in WWE’s development from 2011 until 2014 before a number of concussions sent him to the sidelines for good. Working his way up to becoming one of NXT’s biggest draws, Graves used a punk influence gimmick mixed with his “Stay Down” mantra that he had tattooed across his knuckles. He was solid in the ring, could talk, and work both face and heel, it seemed like greatness was just within reach.
That’s when WWE told him he could no longer wrestler for them and opted to make him a color commentator for NXT. His presence was felt almost immediately with fresh insight and with that had not been seen in quite some time. Leaving the corny jokes at the door, Graves has been able to constantly provide quality opinions along with perfect one-liners that tend to make their way on social media each week. Thanks to his hard work, he was moved up to Raw, providing commentary there while still doing his usual duties for NXT. Even though concussions have become a hot topic these days and something that also led to Daniel Bryan’s in-ring exit, it’s good to see someone take a new opportunity and run with it like Graves has.
6. They Were Champions Too?
There has definitely been a trend of successful NXT wrestlers that have completely bombed on the main roster, along with The Vaudevilians, people like Adam Rose, Tyler Breeze, and Emma all had difficult starts to their main roster runs. Simon Gotch and Aiden English have continued that stretch with a gimmick that the masses just haven’t gravitated towards. While in NXT, their throwback style was quite popular whether they were good or bad, The Vaudevillians were able to use that popularity to attain the NXT Tag Titles for two months.
On the main roster, they were pretty much dead on arrival, with music that absolutely sucked the life out of the crowd, their gimmick just wasn’t evil enough to even garner any boos. After losing match after match some tweaks have finally been done to them on SmackDown, with new music and a more gruff/creepy look that should help out. If it weren’t for the PG rating, these two could totally play off a Jack “The Ripper” styled gimmick. Until then, they are just stuck at the bottom of the tag division.
5. Whatever Happened To Prince Albert?
Sure, you remember that guy who was later named A-Train, with the stupid amount of body hair and piercings. Albert held down the mid-card for most of his career, jumping up every once in a great while to help out in the main event scene before heading off to Japan from 2005 until 2012. Returning to the WWE in 2012 as Lord Tensai, WWE gave him a shot at being a main event star with his new gimmick, fans hated it though and he eventually became just a comedic character alongside The Funkasaurus.
He was then moved to NXT as a commentator for a period of time before retiring from in-ring competition. Hired as a trainer at the Performance Center in 2014, Albert was given the opportunity to become the head trainer when Bill DeMott resigned from the company (we’ll get to that in a moment). Since his move to head trainer, multiple wrestlers have complimented on how much better the training environment is as a whole and it’s shown as Albert has helped a number of wrestlers get to the main roster since his tenure started.
4. NXT’s Striking Coach
Seth Petruzelli might not be a name you remember these days as one of his biggest moments came about eight years ago, when he defeated the insanely popular Kimbo Slice in 14 seconds. Ken Shamrock was Kimbo’s initial opponent but a cut above his eye during practice forced him out only hours before the fight. Seth stepped up and most fans at the time figured Kimbo would take him out, that would not be the case though. In October of 2015, he signed with WWE to become their Striking Coach after a friend of his (Josh Woods, who also had an MMA background) was asked if he knew anyone with an MMA background that could help teach the fighters some techniques to help make their moves look more realistic.
In an interview Seth was asked about the point of teaching pro wrestlers how to punch?
“Triple H really wanted them to get a real look at it — MMA is so huge now and people know like, ‘Oh, he dropped his hands’ or ‘Oh, he got caught with a punch’, so they are catching on to the phony stuff. So they really wanted me to teach them the proper footwork, the way to turn your hand over (for a punch), the proper hand and foot combinations, the timing, speed, and about how to keep your hands up to block, how to slip, how to bob and weave. They really wanted the wrestlers to look like they knew what they were doing.”
3. Head Trainer Is Forced To Resign
After years of wrestling, Bill DeMott worked his way into becoming a trainer for a number of promotions, most notably as the head trainer for WWE’s Florida Championship Wrestling, which eventually became known as NXT. Over the years, Demott was called out by a number of students citing some pretty terrible behavior ranging from dangerous drills, training wrestlers while they were injured, using homosexual/racial slurs, and condoning sexual harassment.
DeMott refuted all of these claims, but the number of wrestlers (including Derrick Bateman, Curt Hawkins, and Ivelisse) became so big that social media began to help out their cause with “#FireDemott” hashtags. The backlash became so big that DeMott decided to resign so WWE would “avoid any embarrassment or damage.” Most recently, Finn Balor commented on how much better the environment was once Matt Bloom (Prince Albert) took over as head trainer, giving more credence to the “old school” approach that DeMott used unsuccessfully with the next generation of wrestlers.
2. Social Media Issues
Even though she barely made it past the NXT house shows, Zahra Schreiber made waves when old social media posts by her surfaced, showing Nazi paraphernalia in multiple pictures. While initially trying to laugh it off and say “She enjoys history” a huge backlash from fans forced WWE to release her almost immediately from her contract. This was not the first time she had issues on social media as she was attached to Seth Rollins (who was engaged at the time) and had nude picture of her (and Seth) posted on Twitter. Back then, WWE automatically posted everything their wrestlers tweeted on to their site, so fair to say, they weren’t happy with this situation.
While Zahra went off to the indy circuit, WWE then had to deal with another NXT wrestler’s social media woes, when Aliyah had a number of posts that included some racial slurs. After some investigating WWE put out a statement saying that at that time someone else was using her Twitter without her knowledge. She was saved from being released and is currently making regular appearances on NXT.
1. Vince Doesn’t Follow NXT
Yes, it’s widely known that Vince McMahon doesn’t follow NXT, which is pretty amazing considering it’s where the future of the WWE resides. Now, you could say he’s pretty busy with Raw and SmackDown, both of which he still has final say on and that alone will take up most of his time from week to week, but it’s still amazing he only checks in during the live Takeover shows. Even though NXT (in its current form) started in 2012, it took two years before Vince came to one of their events to see it live.
NXT is Triple H’s baby, he gets final say on basically everything that goes on there and Vince seems to like it that way. It’s been reported that Vince doesn’t see a lot of money in most of the NXT wrestlers, it’s meant more for touring to help bring more eyes to WWE. This looks to be true with how many failed main roster call-ups there have been over the past couple years. It’s supposed to be a “promotion,” (money wise, it is) but for many wrestlers, it feels like the opposite. Either Vince is right and there aren’t many money stars in NXT or his old ways of booking doesn’t work anymore with the new generation.