NXT was once the most popular product under the WWE umbrella. NXT, rebranded from Florida Championship Wrestling, began as WWE’s exclusive developmental territory before carving out its own niche. The original version of the black-and-gold label, led by Dusty Rhodes, provided an opportunity for many up-and-comers to hone their craft.
Before stepping foot inside WWE, Adam Rose was an industry veteran. Rose, real name Raymond John Leppan, honed his skills in FCW before moving on to NXT. Leppan changed his ring name to Leo Kruger in FCW.
The gimmick, which was inspired by big game hunters in his native South Africa, grew in popularity during the early years of NXT. Kruger even faced off against Bo Dallas for the NXT Championship, but lost. Prior to his main roster call-up in 2014, WWE rebranded him as Adam Rose. The rest, as they say, is largely insignificant.
Lana and Rusev were a formidable duo in NXT and on the main roster, at least in their early days with WWE. Lana made her WWE debut on the October 23, 2013, episode of NXT. She became Rusev’s social ambassador, assisting him in becoming the black-and-gold brand’s dominant competitor.
Aiden English was Matthew Thomas Rehwoldt’s ring name in WWE. English, like Adam Rose (aka Leo Kruger), previously worked in FCW before joining NXT. He was primarily used as a jobber until he met Simon Gotch, his dance partner. They merged to form The Vaudevillains.
English was a heel in NXT who would perform parody songs before, during, and after his matches. As a heel tag team, the Vaudevillains were extremely successful, even defeating Blake and Murphy for the NXT Tag Team Championship on one occasion.
During her time with WWE, Ember Moon was one of the most important women in NXT. Moon’s first NXT match was in 2015 at a house show. WWE used short clips to get people excited about her coming to NXT TV. Moon made her PPV debut at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II.
In FCW and NXT, Bo Dallas was booked as a real star. Dallas set a record by becoming the FCW Heavyweight Champion three times. He even won tag team titles with his brother, Bray Wyatt, in the territory. Dallas won a championship when he joined NXT after it changed its name.
When Kairi Sane joined WWE in 2017, she was already well-known in her home country of Japan. Sane had several wins, including one over Lacey Evans, before she got a title shot against Shayna Baszler, who was the NXT Women’s Champion at the time. At NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV, Sane beat Baszler to win the title.
The Rise to Power (Konnor & Viktor)
People think that The Ascension is one of the best tag teams in NXT’s history. The stable started out with five people and was in FCW. After FCW changed its name to NXT, WWE got rid of all but Konnor and Viktor from its stable.
Ronnie William used to work in NXT as Tye Dillinger before joining AEW and becoming Shawn Spears. Even though Dillinger lost most of his televised fights, he was able to get the crowd behind him because he never gave up.
The Velveteen Dream (The Velveteen Dream)
Velveteen Dream could have been a big deal if WWE hadn’t stopped him. As Patrick Clark, he lost matches to Riddick Moss and Austin Aries. In May 2017, he started using a new act that was based on Prince.