STC’S 10 Count – Top 10 Biggest NXT Year One Success Stories

Welcome to the 10 Count, where we count down the best, and sometimes worst of everything, from the massive history of Professional Wrestling. For the first installment, we’re talking about NXT, and the Top 10 Biggest Success Stories from NXT’s first year at Full Sail University.
These are wrestlers who debuted during the first 12 months of broadcasts, so from June 2012, to June 2013.

Let’s get down to business.


 

10. Paige

Paige is Number 10 on our list. She was the first ever NXT Women’s champion and had some amazing matches during her time in NXT with Emma, Summer Rae and others. She also had an amazing debut on Monday Night Raw, accepting AJ Lee’s challenge and then beating her for the WWE Diva’s championship. She had memorable feuds with Nikki Bella and AJ, and was a big part of the initial Women’s Revolution. Unfortunately she suffered a neck injury in 2016, and has been out of action for quite a long time. But, she is still one of the best female wrestlers WWE has, so I’m sure when she’s healed up, if she hasn’t been let go for some reason, she’ll be right back in the title picture.

9. Sami Zayn

Sami Zayn comes in at No.9 on this list. I almost didn’t put him on, because his debut was only a few weeks before the 1 year anniversary, but nonetheless, Sami’s enduring popularity despite some very average booking earns him a place on our list. Memorable feuds in NXT with Adrian Neville and especially Kevin Owens, just to name a few, would take us through 2014 & 2015, to Zayn’s debut on WWE television, with his surprise appearance in the 2016 Royal Rumble match. A couple of months later, he debuted on Monday Night Raw, which led to fighting for the Intercontinental Title many times, being drafted to Raw in the brand split, and a feud with Braun Strowman, and, at times, Mick Foley & Stephanie McMahon. Raw never really felt like the best fit for Sami, and recently in the Superstar Shakeup, he’s moved to Smackdown Live, where hopefully he’ll be given more of a chance to shine.

8. Enzo Amore & Big Cass

Like Sami Zayn, Enzo Amore & Big Cass just barely scraped in, debuting May 22nd, 2013, and June 2nd respectivelt on NXT. But, also like Sami Zayn, their success cannot be ignored. Enzo and Cass, who are legit longtime friends, have become one of the most popular tag teams of the last decade, with top of the class mic work, and entertaining matches. They started working up the ranks in the NXT Tag Team Division, but never actually winning a title. A hair vs hair match between Enzo and Sylvester LeFort was memorable for me, being the first time I remember seeing them do anything. Enzo
Enzo suffered a broken leg in late 2013, but would come back months later, and the team would eventually add Carmella to their ranks for the remainder of their NXT run, working with Blake and Murphy, and Alexa Bliss among others, before debuting on Monday Night Raw (minus Carmella) in 2016 the day after Wrestlemania.

Enzo & Cass’s first year has been interesting. Enzo was concussed and out of action for a while, there’s been rumblings of their schtick growing stale, but they remain one of the most popular tag teams today, harkening back to the days of the New Age Outlaws, with the entire crowd shouting catchphrases along with Enzo. 2017 might just be their year, if given the chance. We know Enzo especially is on another level with his mic work, so hopefully their in ring work can match that.

7. Neville

Adrian Neville debuted in NXT in 2012, and fast became incredibly popular, in no small part due to his incredible Red Arrow finisher. He was a 2 time Tag Team Champion, winning the inaugural tournament with Jacob Carter, and then once more with Corey Graves. He also won the NXT championship during the first NXT Takeover, in a ladder match against Bo Dallas.

Neville debuted on the main roster the day after Wrestlemania 31, minus his first name, but with a cape. He became a sort of superhero, eventually working with Stardust, and Arrow’s Stephen Amell at Summerslam in 2015.

2016 saw Neville injure his ankle, but on his return we saw a more agressive, and eventually a full heel turn, with his focus shifting to the Cruiserweight division, and becoming the Cruiserweight champion. He’s become the face of 205 live, and that combined with all of his success on the main roster, popularity and ability, earns Neville a spot on this list.

6. Big E Langston

Big E Langston was a huge part of NXT Year One.  He became known as the master of the 5 count, and would go on to be only the 2nd ever NXT Champion, defeating Seth Rollins for the title, while simultaneously appearing on the main roster, as an enforcer for AJ Lee & Dolph Ziggler.  His first main roster match was at Wrestlmania 29. An Intercontinental championship reign followed soon after, and eventually in 2014, we saw the formation of The New Day.

Big E has had a unique road in the WWE. He debuted on the main roster before winning the NXT title, looked to be on the fast track to a main event singles star and has now established himself as one of WWE’s top fun-loving comedic characters, when his NXT persona was anything but. He’s a 2 time Tag Team champion, and feels like he has the most potential to succeed when The New Day inevitably split, which feels like it needs to come soon.

5. Bayley

Bayley is one of NXT’s most popular female wrestlers, with her infectious music, and the positivity she brings with her character. She debuted in early 2013, and very quickly made the change from “generic female wrestler” to “fan-girl who couldn’t believe she was in the WWE”. Bayley spent over 3 years in NXT, feuding with a who’s who list of names, including Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Natalya, Emma, Asuka and more. In 2015 she became NXT champion, defeating Sasha Banks, which led to a rematch, and the first ever Women’s IronMan match, which Bayley also won.

She would go on to lose the title to Asuka at NXT Takeover: Dallas, and then a few months later made her WWE main roster debut on August 22nd, 2016. She’s been part of the title picture since then and in January 2017, won the Raw Women’s Championship, which she still holds as of writing this article.

Bayley is one of the “Four Horsewomen of NXT’, who are partly responsible for revolutionising women’s wrestling in WWE, moving away from the “Diva’s” style of matches and name, showing that the women on the roster are just as good, and in some cases better than the male wrestlers. Her popularity and her connection with the fans is only going to continue grow. She’s one of the all time greats from NXT, and now, one of the top wrestlers on Monday Night Raw.

4. Bray Wyatt

Bray Wyatt has to be credited with probably being the most unique and original character from NXT: Year One. The man formerly (and regrettably i’m sure) known as Husky Harris re-invented himself as a charismatic cult leader from the bayou, with fantastic vignettes and promos, and a family of followers that still continue to benefit him today.
Bray’s stay in NXT was a brief one, with he and the Wyatt family leaving in mid 2013 to be full time on the main roster. In the years that followed, the family would break up and reform, at one point adding Braun Strowman to their ranks before the Draft would split them back up. Randy Orton was a member for a time before turning on Bray, and burning his home to the ground. In those years, he feuded with Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, The New Day, as well as John Cena, and The Undertaker, both of whom had Wrestlemania matches with Bray.
But what makes Bray Wyatt a success, and deserving of a spot on this list, is his character. Sure, he’s been WWE champion as well, but despite seemingly being put in bad positions with storylines, losing when it felt like he should be winning to build him up more, his uniqueness, his delivery on the mic and his odd antics have made him an unforgettable character, and if booked the right way, he can be huge. Moving to Raw recently is an interesting move, he’s away from the other members of the Wyatt Family now, so maybe this is a chance to build him as a proper singles Main eventer.

3. Sasha Banks

Sasha Banks has exceeded all expectations. She is another part of the Four Horsewomen, she has broken down walls along with counterparts Bayley, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair. She was a part of the first Women’s main event on Raw in 12 years, and part of the first ever Women’s main event on a WWE Pay per view, and on top of that, the first Women’s Hell in a Cell match.

However, based on her first appearances on NXT, it didn’t seem like any of that would be possible. And THAT is why she’s so high on this list. Sasha has gone from an average Diva, to the leader of the Women’s Revolution (along with Charlotte, who debuted just after the cutoff date for this list). Her NXT run saw her feuding with Bayley, Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and was NXT Women’s Champion for 192 days. She, along with Becky and Charlotte debuted on Raw as part of the Women’s revolution in July 2015. Joining forces with Naomi and Tamina, the trio would form team B.A.D, but it was clear from the get-go that Sasha was the focus, and eventually left the team, and had an incredible match at Wrestlemania 32 with Charlotte and Becky Lynch for the newly minted WWE Women’s championship, retiring the Diva’s title.

Sasha and Charlotte’s rivalry throughout 2016 will be seen in the same light as Trish Stratus & Lita in years to come. Revolutionary, groundbreaking, intense, Sasha and Charlotte traded the Women’s title back and forth multiple times, and eventually culminated in a 30 minute IronMan match, which Banks ultimately lost. Sasha has stayed in the title picture consistently during her time on the main roster, even as of writing this she’s a main part of the storyline around the title, with rumours that she’s in line for a big match at this year’s Summerslam.

Sasha Banks has probably come the furthest of anyone on this list, and is one of the most popular wrestlers of the last 5 years. She’s not afraid to take chances in the ring, and she connects with a crowd in a way not many other people do.

2. Seth Rollins

Seth Rollins was the first ever NXT champion. He then went on to form The Shield with fellow NXT alumni Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose (who was not on NXT TV before forming The Shield on the main roster), and the three would run wild on the main roster, even putting The Undertaker through a table at one point. Working with CM Punk, feuding with Daniel Bryan, Evolution, and a who’s who of WWE talent. They would only stay together until July 2014 when Rollins would turn on his partners, and join the Authority, and win the Money in the Bank ladder match.

Matches with his now ex-Shield members would follow, as well as a triple threat match at the 2015 Royal Rumble with John Cena and Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship, which was won by Lesnar. However at Wrestlemania 31, Rollins would cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase, and win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which he would hold and defend successfully until November, when a knee injury would sideline Seth for the first time. During this time he also won the United States Championship, feuded with John Cena and also had matches with Sting.

When he returned, he entered a feud with Roman Reigns, capturing his second WWE World Championship in the process at Money In The Bank 2016, for all of about 5 minutes, with Dean Ambrose cashing in the briefcase he won earlier in the night. He was drafted as the first pick to Monday Night Raw, and met Finn Balor at Summerslam to determine the first ever WWE Universal champion.
After Balor relinquished the title due to injury, Rollins was once again unsuccessful in his attempt to win, this time being screwed by Triple H. For the rest of 2016 he would work with Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho. 2017 saw Seth injure his knee again, but return in time to battle Triple H at Wrestlemania, where he came out victorious.

Seth has been one of the top names in WWE for a few years now, as one of the most hated heels, and now one of the most beloved babyfaces. He’s had some bad luck with injuries, but if he can stay healthy, he’s a main event star for the next decade, and one of the most successful wrestlers to come from WWE Developmental.

1. Roman Reigns

Like it or not, and let’s face it, most people don’t, Roman Reigns is the biggest success from NXT, bar none. He was only there for a very short time, and was a very different character than the man we know and hate. In fact, I have a feeling that if Roman was the NXT version of himself, he would get booed less. Even though he’d be an actual heel.

We’ve covered the Shield already, so for Reigns, we’ll talk about his post-shield career. He’s a 3 time WWE champion, a United States champion, and he won the 2015 Royal Rumble. As much as a large percentage of the fans wish it wasn’t the case, Reigns is touted as “THE guy”, the guy to be the next John Cena, the “face of the WWE”. He’s worked with every top name from the last 10 years, Triple H, John Cena, The Undertaker, Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho, and of course Seth Rollins & Dean Ambrose. Just to name a few.

But, the constant attempts from WWE to force Reigns as “The guy” down fan’s throats has led to a backlash, and a situation similar to John Cena’s crowd reactions from 2006-07. WWE see Reigns as a babyface, the crowd see him as a heel. Myself, it reminds me of The Rock’s early career. The crowd hated Rocky Maivia, so he was given the freedom to hate them right back. The same hasn’t happened for Reigns yet, and the reasons why aren’t exactly clear.

Through all of that though, Reigns has become exactly what WWE want him to be. He’s The Guy. He’s proven himself in the ring as someone who can be relied on for a good match, and, if nothing else, The Undertaker had his final match against Roman Reigns. That has to speak for something.

Love him or hate him, Roman is here to stay, and easily the biggest success from NXT Year One. Let’s just hope he’s given a little more freedom soon, and maybe a chance to actually work as a bad guy.


Honorable Mentions

  • Corey Graves
    Corey’s career was unfortunately cut short, but he’s found great success as a colour commentator, now firmly placed as one of the voices of Monday Night Raw.
  • Emma
    Emma was a big part of the beginning of the evolution of Women’s Wrestling in the WWE, but so far on the main roster, injuries have prevented her from really getting a chance to shine.
  • Jinder Mahal
    Jinder Mahal was a main eventer initally in NXT, losing to Seth Rollins in the finals of the NXT Championship tournament. But on the main roster, at least until last week (as of writing this), he’s been mainly irrelevant. This current push may be the end of all that, if it doesn’t fall flat.
  • Adam Rose
    Adam Rose (FKA Leo Kruger) came in to Raw with all the momentum of a freight train, but unfortunately it was a case of what worked small scale didn’t really translate. Leo Kruger was a dark, brooding, crazy South African who was incredible though.
  • Bo Dallas
    Bo held the NXT Championship, and was one of the most loved (and hated) during his time. Unfortunately it’s another case of things not translating to the main roster. The Social Outcasts was a highlight, but something needs to change for Bo, and soon.
  • Scott Dawson
    Scott Dawson has only just made the move to the main roster, but had been part of NXT since 2013. Unfortunately his partner Dash Wilder is injured at the moment, so we have to wait to see what they do on the main roster, but the Revival are one of the best Tag Teams of the last 10 years. Big things are coming.
  • Derrick Bateman
    And one final one, Derrick Bateman was largely un-used in WWE, but has made a big name for himself at Impact Wrestling as EC3, and is a 2 time world heavyweight champion.

And there you have it folks, the first STC 10 count. Do you agree with our choices? Who have we missed?

Also please send some feedback through, any criticism or improvements we could make, would be great to hear.

Until next time, follow us at @_stcwrestling_ and like the facebook page at www.facebook.com/squaringthecirclewrestling 

Cheers!

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