What Happened to the NXT classes of yesteryear? Find out as we take a stroll down memory lane….
Before NXT was transformed into the indie powerhouse it is right now it used to be a game show type show where wrestling talent competed in rigged competitions. The entire thing was silly and was pushed to WWE.com after one season – but a lot of superstars passed under the Golden X to get their opportunity in the company. This article outlines where each competitor ended up, if they made it and what became of the NXT generation.
Wade Barrett (Winner): Barrett’s post-NXT momentum serves as a reminder that having the WWE behind you early in your career doesn’t always lead to guarenteed success. Became the leader of the Nexus and had a prolonged feud with John Cena that ultimately saw him kicked out the group. Moved on to the Corre (The less said about that the better). Has spent the intervening years hanging around WWE’s mid card – picking up various championships along the way. His peak came with the Bad News Barrett gimmick which saw his star rise – only for WWE to land him with the King of the Ring crown and suffocate him beneath a rehashed “king” Barrett gimmick. Joined the League of Nations in late 2015 but that’s done nothing for him (or anyone in that stable) and has reportedly handed in his notice. We don’t really blame him to be honest.
David Otunga (Runner-Up): Joined the Nexus and won the Tag-Team Championships with John Cena. After that things went very quiet for Otunga – a lawyer gimmick offering him brief appearances on TV but the last time he wrestled on TV was back at Wrestlemania XXX in the Andre the Giant Battle Royale. These days he appears on the pre-show and doesn’t really seem to be heading back to the ring any time soon.
Justin Gabriel: Was part of the Nexus during it’s existence and then went on to have an extended run in the lower-mid card. Oddly played the role of Adam Rose’s bunny before asking for his release in early 2015. Currently tearing it up in the indies.
Skip Sheffield: Got injured at the Nexus’s inception so spent the remained of 2010 on the injured list. Returned as Ryback – going on an unbeaten run that carried him all the way to two championship matches against CM Punk – neither of which he won. A quick heel turn later and he found himself feuding with Cena. Spent most of the time since chasing mid card championships – finally capturing the IC Title in 2015.
Heath Slater: Joined the Nexus but really shone afterwards – going on to form the 3-man-band with Drew Mcintyre and Jinder Mahal and having an entertaining run as lower card fodder (His Legends challenges upto Raw 1000 arguably served at the high point). When the other members of his group were released – Heath carried on with his band gimmick and at the end of 2015 went to form the Social Outcasts – another group for the lower mid card. We feel it’s a good spot for Heath who’s arguably found a niche that gives him protection from the politics that probably halted other NXT contestants ascent.
Daniel Bryan: Was a founding member of the Nexus but was quickly released when he got involved in a tie incident. Returned in the main event of Summerslam and from there went on to have a pretty legendary WWE run. Winning the US Championship, Money in the Bank and the World Heavyweight Championship before Wrestlemania XXVIII. On top of this he helped get AJ Lee as a mega star before going on to tag with Kane as part of team Hell No. For Bryan though it would be winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship with a victory against John Cena at Summerslam 2014 that cemented his rise to the top. If you need any proof that Bryan had made it in WWE – watch Wrestlemania XXX where he stole the show with two brilliant matches. The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.
Darren Young: Turned on the Nexus in late 2010 (Costing Barrett the championship) before milling around on Superstars for a bit. Eventually turned up on NXT:Redemption and got trapped in that alternative dimension until a Wellness Policy strike saved him. Eventually went on to form the Prime Time Players with Titus O’Neil and enjoyed moderate (if unremarkable) success over the next few years. Eventually in 2015 the team finally broke up for good and Young currently lurks around Superstars/Main Event forming random tag teams with the Uso’s and Damien Sandow.
Michael Tarver: Was apart of the Nexus (Go and check, he was!) until John Cena relieved him of his position. Injury meant he went back to FCW but WWE saw nothing they wanted and in mid-2011 ejected Tarver from their universe. Spent some time on the Indies but hasn’t made a notable splash there either.
Kaval (Winner): Arrived in WWE as an indie darling but wasn’t given the chance to show his moves. Spent much of his run competing on Smackdown before finally claiming his big championship match on PPV against Intercontental Champion Dolph Ziggler; which he lost. Soon after Kaval asked for his release and returned to the indies – where he roams wild and free.
Michael McGillicutty (Runner-Up): Made a hilariously bad promo to close out Season two calling for the “Genesis of McGillicutty”. Was repacked as Curtis Axel on the main roster, winning the IC Title and even managing to bag Paul Heyman as a manager for a short spell. Sadly the shine came off Axel’s wheels soon after with a long period of drifting and lower-card irrelevance with some tag-team success mixed in for good measure. Eventually went on to join Heath Slater’s Social Outcasts and presently forms one of the few compelling reasons to watch 3-hours of WWE Raw on Monday evenings.
Alex Riley: Got to spend time hanging around Miz during his WWE Championship run. Eventually turned on Miz and managed to bag a win on PPV. From there though things went south as Riley found himself slipping down the card. These days he’s staging an unsuccessful comeback from injury on NXT – facing Kevin Owens and occassionally appearing as commentator. It’s hard to explain but props to him for trying I guess.
Husky Harris: Arguably the second biggest NXT contestant ever behind Bryan. Got repacked in the “new” NXT as Bray Wyatt, started following the buzzards and hasn’t looked back. Feuds with John Cena, Undertaker, Roman Reigns and a likely one against Brock Lesnar underline just how much WWE management think of him. Yet to claim a singles championship but we suspect he’s not that upset
Percy Watson: Got trapped in NXT: Redemption’s ceaseless grip before showing up in the “new” NXT. Didn’t last long and was kindly taken out back and put out of his misery. Not really done much since in the wrestling industry.
Lucky Cannon: Got eliminated (and dumped by Maryse) on the same night. Got released soon after and found himself drifting around Florida’s independent wrestling scene.
Eli Cottonwood: So famous he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. The 7 foot giant got eliminated early on in the NXT process and was released soon after. Changed his name to Kipp Christianson and went on to forge a pretty nice indie career before retiring in 2014.
Titus O’Neil: First to be eliminated from NXT Season 2 but arguably one of it’s biggest winners. Went on to forge a tag-team with Darren Young and would gain lots of attention in WWE for winning “father of the year” awards. Broke away from Young in late 2015 to go it alone and was in line for a massive push until he grabbed Vince on live-TV and got served with a 60-suspension.
Kaitlyn (Winner): Went on to form “The Chickbusters” with AJ Lee soon after NXT before making her way to the main roster for singles action. It wasn’t long before she went on to win the Divas Championship and was arguably considered one of the Divas rosters better entities in her later years. Had a retirement match against AJ Lee on Main Event in 2014 and went back to doing fitness and raise a family. Good for her we say.
Naomi (Runner-Up): Eliminated in the penultimate week – Naomi found herself apart of Brodus Clay’s Funkadactyles with Cameron soon after. Eventually broke free, turned heel and was apart of the Divas Revolution as a member of Team BAD in 2015. Also a star of WWE’s Total Divas over on the E! channel which has seen her stock rise considerably. If you have trouble remembering which one is Naomi – she’s the one with the multi-coloured shoes.
AJ Lee: Went on to form The Chickbusters with Kaitlyn before siding with Daniel Bryan as his manager. From there AJ had a legendary career which saw her become Raw GM, go crazy and dress up as Kane before capturing the Divas Championship and setting the record for longest reign. Married CM Punk along the way and in 2015 made a final Wrestlemania appearance. May or may not have left the company on bad terms.
Aksana: Had a weird storyline with Goldust before making it to the main roster which saw her marrying him and then cheating on him. Found herself in the middle of the pile – never capturing the Divas Championship but regularly featuring in TV matches. Once got attacked by Eve Torres before a Divas Championship match – so that’s something. Was released in 2014 as part of a bigger cut – retired shortly afterwards.
Maxine: Kind of disappeared after NXT Season 3 ended – reappearing on NXT:Redemption. Never really made an impact on the main roster and in June 2012 asked for her release from WWE – which was granted. Currently lurks around Lucha Underground as
Jamie Keyes: Got eliminated in Week 4 of NXT and was released a week later. Now goes by her real name of Brittany Beede. According to various internet postings she currently makes the rounds as a fitness model.
Johnny Curtis (Winner): Won a tag-title opportunity that took over a year for him to claim. Eventually repacked as Fandango and managed to find short-term fame because of his theme song. The buzz died off though and soon Fandango was pushed down the roster as his oppurtunities disappeared. These days he kind of hangs around Main Event
Brodus Clay (Runner-Up): Repackaged as the Funkasaurus – Clay has an impressive outing in WWE that saw him be used as a comedy relief (Most famously acting as comedy while Cena rushed off to the toilet before his Rock match). Was eventually turned heel and released – but currently is thriving over in TNA and is presently in line for a title opportunity.
Derick Bateman: Moved on from WWE pretty quickly but found insane success over in TNA as EC3 – where he became the companies biggest star, had an unbeaten run that lasted over 18 months and saw him claim the TNA Championship. Proof that for some; life after WWE is a bigger deal.
Conor O’Brian: Found his way into NXT: Redemption before being given a second lease of life in “new NXT” as part of The Ascension. That tag team was a huge hit in NXT but faltered on the main roster. Currently circling the drain somewhere between Main Event and Superstars.
Byron Saxton: Very briefly popped up in new NXT before concussion ended his career. Now Saxton plies his trade as a ringside commentator.
Jacob Novak: Once eliminated from NXT Season 4; Novak returned for NXT Redemption – where he was promptly voted off again. After this he was released by WWE – declaring he wanted to work on a return to the company at some point. We wait for that faithful day…