As of late, a handful of wrestlers who didn't spend very long in NXT have been making a splash on the WWE main roster. Young talent like Austin Theory, Angel Garza, and Lacey Evans, who were not in NXT for as long as most performers, have been featured prominently across WWE programming.
While talent such as those above have thrived on the big stage without much time spent in "developmental", others have suffered on the main roster because of a lack of progress beforehand. Whether it's their in-ring abilities or character development that are lacking, some talents have failed to capture the attention of the WWE Universe, and a longer stay in NXT could have prevented that.
So join me as I rundown my list of 10 WWE Superstars who should have stayed on NXT for longer.
Being from the legendary Samoan wrestling lineage, the squared circle courses throughout Nia Jax's blood. She has plenty of tools that could make her one of the faces of the women's division. Her lengthy rivalry with Alexa Bliss was centred around her standing up to bullies and promoting body positivity which helped to make her an excellent role model for young girls in a day and age where they very much need one.
The problem is that her incredibly sloppy ring work is often dangerous for her opponents. She has inflicted legitimate injuries on multiple women, as recently as this last week, and is constantly ridiculed across social media. I almost think that WWE high brass let her away with it because of the one time that an injury she caused created a star. The broken nose inflicted on Becky Lynch live on RAW created arguably the hottest character in the last 10 years of professional wrestling - The Man. It made Lynch look cooler as a result and skyrocketed her career.
Jax has garnered a reputation for being an unsafe worker and it will be hard for her to move away from that now. Whether these incidents were coincidences, accidents, or just plain unlucky, a longer stint in NXT could have made Nia a safer performer and prevented them altogether.
Now I know what you're thinking. Yes, Apollo Crews is the current United States Champion, so surely he shouldn't be on this list... but there is no escaping the fact that for 5 years he had done absolutely nothing in WWE until 2 weeks ago.
Crews certainly has every tool to be a major star moving forward. He can pull off high-flying moves with ease, he's fast, he's very strong, and he has that friendly demeanor that a crowd can really get behind. Unfortunately, he has had next to no promo time to tell the audience why they should get behind him.
Crews wasn't in NXT for nearly long enough to really build a character past being an athletic guy who has a nice smile. On the main roster, aside from a short-lived partnership with Titus O'Neil, he hasn't been a part of any memorable storylines. With more time in NXT, his character and motivation could have been more fleshed out, whereas on the main roster, he has always been just another good athlete with no standout qualities. A longer NXT tenure could have seen Crews achieve much more, much sooner.
This one is a bit of a unique case. Lars Sullivan had a brief stint in NXT and was poised to debut on the main roster in January 2019. However, the night he was meant to debut on RAW, Sullivan had to leave the arena due to an anxiety attack. It had been spoken about that Lars would enter a program with the GOAT John Cena - a feud which could have catapulted Lars to superstardom.
He has enough skills and ring presence to make a big splash in WWE. Even in NXT, he was a part of the all time classic inaugural NXT North American Championship Ladder Match, so he can certainly handle a main event spot at times. With a little longer in NXT to prepare mentally and emotionally for the strain of the main roster pressures, who knows where Lars would be currently.
Sarah Logan has just had no luck whatsoever during her WWE main roster run. After a few years on the independent circuit, she was called up to the main roster quickly to make a splash on Smackdown. After some time in Riott Squad with Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan, she spent a short time as a singles competitor - being squashed by good old Charlotte Flair - before being released a little under 2 months ago.
Because Logan wasn't given much time to develop a persona of her own in either NXT or Smackdown, the fans didn't connect with her. She has talent to spare, and with more time to hone her persona in NXT, Sarah Logan might have been more of a force in a womens division which desperately needed something new for a long time. She was recently re-hired by the company, but we've not seen anything of her since.
The mishandling of EC3 in WWE is one of the great injustices of our time. He was re-signed to NXT in 2018 after being red hot in TNA for a number of years. His hilarious and ridiculous character helped to get him over with the fans and he had some great rivalries in a very short time with NXT, even being a part of that NA Championship Ladder Match mentioned earlier. He was called up to Smackdown in early 2019 but his handling was completely ridiculous. He entered into a somewhat rushed rivalry with the soon-to-depart Dean Ambrose where he had two matches against the former Shield member... and that was it. He even picked up a win over the former WWE Champion but was then left on the sidelines, chasing the 24/7 Championship before fading away and being released this April.
EC3 is good in the ring, but where he has always shone the brightest is his personality. By being given literally no promo time at all, casual fans were never able to care about EC3, which is what ultimately led to his release. If he was given more time to completely show his worth to the NXT audience and the WWE audience as a whole, he could have been a solid performer in the company for years to come. There is no reason why someone with the look, talent, charisma and passion of EC3 couldn't have been the next John Cena.
Dana Brooke has a huge amount of raw talent. An accomplished bodybuilder and gymnast, she has achieved more outside of wrestling than almost anyone in the women's division. The problem is it takes time for those skills to be translated to the squared circle.
While in NXT, wrestlers don't need to spend a great deal of time traveling, doing press appearances, and preparing for live TV tapings. For the NXT roster, all that time saved can go a long way to becoming a better all-around performer. For Dana Brooke, even a few more months in NXT could have been the difference between jobber in the women's division and future champion. There have been few times over the last year where it seems Dana is getting a sudden and random push, but it always falls short and WWE never pull the trigger.
Perhaps a longer NXT stay, spent honing her character and personality beyond "I can flex", would've resulted in better main roster run.
Elias has certainly been one of the breakout performers in all of WWE over the last couple of years. He has the uncanny ability to play the crowd like a... well a guitar I guess, and can either get them on his side or bring on a chorus of boos with just a couple of lines of a song. While his promo skills are on point, there is still some room for improvement in the ring.
Elias certainly has strength to spare and shows that with some of his moves and athleticism. We've seen him have fantastic matches against John Cena and Roman Reigns where he was every bit as food as his opponent. However, too much of his repertoire is centred around basic strikes and clotheslines. Had he be given the chance to expand his skill set in NXT, Elias could be a main event star rather than being stuck in the mid-card in never ending feuds.
This may seem like a strange entry given all that Carmella has accomplished in her time on the main roster. She's been a Smackdown Women's Champion, Ms. Money in the Bank, and even a 2-time 24/7 Champion. While she has plenty of accolades, she's still not considered one of the cornerstones of the current women's roster despite remaining close to the top of the division the whole time.
Carmella has proven her skills numerous times now but still is not held in as high of a regard as women such as Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch, or Charlotte. With her natural charisma and raw talent, and a little more time to develop from the start, she might be in the upper-echelon of the division and may have played a bigger part in the Women's Revolution.
CJ Parker, or Juice Robinson as he is currently known in NJPW, was a character way ahead of his time in NXT. A smarmy, know it all, self-righteous eco-warrior who talks down to the audience and his opponent for their lifestyle choices? Sounds an awful lot like Daniel Bryan's fantastic WWE Championship reign from last year.
Instead of being embraced as this character, he was used mostly as a jobber to the bigger stars in NXT. Since asking for his release in 2015, he has found a niche in NJPW, even earning the IWGP United States Championship in 2017. In CJ Parker's case, he should have stayed in NXT longer because he had plenty of potential that WWE failed to see. Very much a case of the one that got away.
Mojo Rawley has quite a bit going for him. He's got a good power moveset, energy for days, and the ability to get the crowd - as he and his friend Rob Gronkowski would put it - hype. However, he could still use a lot more polish in the ring. A lot of people have slept on Mojo for a number of years but he has a lot to offer to the mid-card scene on either show if given time. What he shouldn't be doing however is painting his face and laughing to himself in a mirror. WTF was that all about?
Rawley's high-energy offense can be fun to watch. But if he wants to up his game past the 24/7 Championship chase, a more cerebral offense could make the difference. Wrestlers like Finn Balor and Drew McIntyre have been able to revitalize their careers by going back through NXT, and Mojo could benefit by doing the same at this point of his career. Until then he will forever be known as Gronks bag carrier.