5 NXT Wrestlers Who Improved On The Main Roster (& 5 Who Got Worse)
WWE doesn’t have the best reputation for introducing NXT wrestlers to the main roster. Sometimes a star pupil of the black-and-gold brand is turned into mid-card fodder, if not an outright jobber, on Raw or SmackDown. For that reason, whenever a call-up from NXT happens, it’d be reasonable to think that fans of these wrestlers will be nervous that WWE will mess up their push.
However, there are also some stars who succeeded on the main roster who still didn’t live up to their reputation from NXT. Certain wrestlers looked nearly unstoppable on the black-and-gold brand, but they weren’t anything special on the red or blue brands.
9Improved: Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss was best known in NXT as the valet of Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy, but she would end up eclipsing both of them on the main roster. Little Miss Bliss never won any gold on the black-and-gold brand, yet she would quickly ascend to the top of the women’s divisions of both the red and blue brands.
Bliss is that rare case of a wrestler who was underutilized in NXT and made a name for herself on Raw and SmackDown. In WWE, Five Feet of Fury is a Women’s Triple Crown Champion, winning the Raw Women’s Title on three occasions, while securing two reigns apiece with the SmackDown Women’s Championship and the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles. Every time Bliss had a match at WrestleMania, she either won gold or unsuccessfully defended a championship.
8Got Worse: Asuka
Who was ready for Asuka on the main roster? Women like Carmella, Charlotte Flair, and Rhea Ripley. The Empress of Tomorrow was an unstoppable force in NXT and though she has achieved championship glory on Raw and SmackDown, she paled in comparison to the presence she maintained on the black-and-gold brand.
No one on NXT was able to humble Asuka. She remained undefeated during her time with the brand, vacating the gold after moving up to the main roster without a blemish on her record. For 914 days, Asuka remained untouchable when it comes to wins until stepping into the ring with The Queen at WrestleMania 34.
After being humbled by Flair, Asuka’s momentum sharply declined and she is no longer the special attraction that was on a red-hot winning streak. Despite all the gold that she’s won on the main roster, Asuka hasn’t been able to replicate the allure she brought to NXT. Even while being Raw Women’s Champion, the importance of her title reign slipped behind the belt’s SmackDown equivalent during the reigns of Bayley and Sasha Banks.
7Improved: Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns didn’t spend much time on NXT before moving up to the main roster as part of The Shield at Survivor Series 2012. Reigns mostly performed on house shows and only appeared on three episodes of NXT before being called up.
Reigns had a bumpy start to his singles career, but he has since become the face of WWE. As of this writing, The Tribal Chief has been on a warpath with an extremely dominant reign as Universal Champion. He has main-evented five WrestleManias and held three reigns with the WWE Championship and two reigns with the Universal Title.
6Got Worse: Tyler Breeze
Tyler Breeze went from a rising star in NXT to a fixture of WWE’s lower card. As a singles competitor on NXT, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see him challenging for the NXT Title. However, while on the main roster, it became familiar to watch Breeze lose on episodes of Main Event and Superstars.
Breeze found new life to his career alongside Fandango, forming Breezango, also known as The Fashion Police. The duo couldn’t win gold on the main roster, but they were able to find success while back in NXT. Together, they won the NXT Tag Team Championship against Imperium on the last episode of NXT in August 2020. Both Breeze and Fandango were released by WWE on June 25, 2021.
5Improved: Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch never won gold as the Irish Lass Kicker in NXT. However, on the main roster, she not only became one of the biggest stars of the women’s division, but she became The Man, one of the biggest Superstars in all of WWE.
Lynch would have to relinquish the Raw Women’s Championship on the Raw after the Money In The Bank pay-per-view. Since announcing her pregnancy, Lynch has not wrestled a match in WWE. But during her time on the roster, she main-evented WrestleMania 35 and became the only woman to hold the Raw and SmackDown Women’s titles at the same time. It’s safe to say that she’s improved from her time failing to win the NXT Women’s Championship.
4Got Worse: The Ascension
The Ascension was red hot coming out of NXT as the brand’s longest-reigning tag champs of all time. However, on the main roster, The Ascension sunk to the bottom of the barrel and never won gold. They were swiftly buried on the main roster for disrespecting legends and, despite some early victories, they descended to the wasteland of irrelevancy.
The tag team of Konnor and Viktor is one of WWE’s biggest missed opportunities coming out of NXT. While a feared duo on the black-and-gold brand, on SmackDown they found themselves as comedic fodder in Breezango’s Fashion Police segments. In December 2019, The Ascension was finally released by WWE after an extremely lackluster run on the main roster.
3Improved: Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt and his family were a hot act on NXT, but on the main roster, Bray would become one of the company’s top acts. While Wyatt never won any titles on the black-and-gold brand, he’s improved to the point where the company has trusted him with one reign as WWE Champion and two reigns with the Universal Title.
In recent years, Wyatt has turned himself into an attraction with his Fiend character. He was also very popular with his cult leader gimmick as the patriarch of The Wyatt Family. Bray has defeated the likes of John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Finn Balor, and many more stars on the main roster. He also has an extraordinary ability to connect with fans, causing countless audience members to act as fireflies during his entrances.
2Got Worse: Emma
Emma was better featured on NXT with both her bubbly gimmick and the Evil Emma persona. While she never won gold on either NXT or the main roster, she was at least treated as a serious competitor for the Women’s Title on the black-and-gold brand. Emma was one of NXT’s top female competitors but an afterthought on Raw and SmackDown.
WWE botched Emma’s introduction on more than one occasion. Her pairing with Santino Marella fell flat and her bubble-popping dancing ways didn’t translate well during her call-up. After being sent back down to NXT, she returned to the main roster with the Evil Emma gimmick only to get injured. WWE teased fans with Emmalina vignettes in late 2016 and early 2017 only to drop the gimmick completely once she returned. In October 2017, Emma was let go after being greatly underutilized by WWE’s top brass throughout much of her time with the company.
1Improved: Xavier Woods
Xavier Woods didn’t make much noise in NXT, but on the main roster, he joined forces with Big E and Kofi Kington to become the longest-reigning tag team champions in WWE history. While he was never much of an attraction on the black-and-gold brand, Xavier took his trombone to Monday nights and was transformed into one of the best tag team acts of all time.
Woods has become a tag team icon as part of The New Day. While with the group, Woods has become an 11-time tag team champion, including four reigns with the Raw Tag Team Titles and seven reigns with the blue brand’s tag team gold. The group was also trusted with the responsibility of hosting WrestleMania 33. While Xavier wasn’t a top star on the black-and-gold brand, he’s already paved a career in WWE that’s worthy of being inducted into the Hall of Fame with his New Day brethren.