Top 10 Superstars Who Have Defined NXT | Smark Out Moment

Top 10 Superstars Who Have Defined NXT

Posted by Bodeen Green Monday, March 16, 2020
NXT—the three letters that are synonymous for amazing matches, epic moments and great feuds. In just a span of ten years, NXT has drastically changed. Originally starting in 2010, after the WWE controlled ECW brand went off the air, NXT would start off as an off-air show featuring talent from Florida Championship Wrestling, where upcoming talent would be forced to cut off-script promos and take part in random challenges, with little wrestling actually occurring. Now, after ten years it is a haven for wrestling fans, with every week of NXT programming being incredible viewing. This change has occurred due to not just the management involved, but also the superstars who have helped changed the NXT brand over the years. Whether they have done it through amazing matches or have represented NXT on the main roster, these are the superstars that are defined NXT and made it into the incredible place it is today.

10. Velveteen Dream

Velveteen Dream is both the current and future embodiment of NXT. Just 24 years of age the word potential does not even begin to describe Velveteen Dream. Dream would first appear in NXT in the early part of 2017, feuding with Allister Black only a few months after his initial debut. Dream's intense feud with Black would win both him and Black the 2017 NXT Rivalry of the Year, putting Dream in the spotlight. Dream would later win the North American title belt against Johnny Gargano at an NXT taping, becoming one of WWE's youngest champions. Weather Dream is paying homage to the legends of the past with his unique move-set or embracing the spotlight with his charismatic entrances there is no doubt that Dream has endless potential and looks set to becoming of the biggest stars in NXT.


9. Shinsuke Nakamura

Shinsuke Nakamura would enter NXT in 2016 being one of WWE's most hyped signings in history and after an incredible debut match against Sami Zayn at TakeOver Dallas, he would prove to be worth the hype. Nakamura's high profile signing followed up with an incredible performance would attract more followers for the black and yellow brand, not just in America but all around the world. After his encounter with Zayn, Shinsuke would win the NXT title against Finn Balor, becoming WWE's first-ever Japanese male world champion. After beating Balor, Shinsuke would put on a series of matches against Samoa Joe which would see Shinsuke become the first-ever 2-time NXT champion. After beating Joe in a steel cage match to finish their feud, Shinsuke would lose the title to Bobby Roode at TakeOver San Antonio. After losing to Bobby again Shinsuke would make his final NXT appearance on the 12th of April receiving a standing ovation from Full Sail University.


8. Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens would waste no time in showing his dominance in NXT. Making his debut at TakeOver: R Evolution, Kevin Owens would defeat CJ Parker with a broken nose, Owens would then turn on his best friend, Sami Zayn at the end of the night showing just how much of a threat he was. Owens would then feud with Zayn leading to a match at TakeOver Rival where Owens would dominate Zayn with complete apathy to win the NXT Championship. Owens would then become one the first NXT wrestlers to appear on the flagships shows, challenging John Cena for the United States Championship as well as retaining the NXT title against Zack Ryder on RAW. Owens would later beat Cena clean at Elimination Chamber, being one of the first people to establish NXT as a third brand.

A Defining Moment In NXT History

7. Sami Zayn

Known as the Underdog from the Underground Sami Zayn is without a doubt the first person that embodied the heart and soul of NXT. Zayn would join NXT in early 2013 and within just a few months would put on a two-out-of-three-falls match which would grab the attention of wrestling fans all around the world, changing NXT forever. While Zayn may not have had a title reign as successful as other NXT champions, it was his journey to the title itself that captivated the NXT crowd. After losing several number one contender matches Zayn would finally get a title opportunity at TakeOver Fatal-4-Way, where we would come close to winning the title only for Neville to drag the referee out of the ring for one of the most heartbreaking near falls of all time. After losing another title match, Sami would challenge Neville for a title rematch, stating he'd leave NXT if he lost the match. This match would take place at TakeOver: R Evolution with Sami finally winning the NXT title after more than a year and a half of coming short in of NXT's greatest long term stories.

The Underdog From The Underground

6. Tommaso Ciampa

Whether it's The Miz with the Intercontinental Championship or John Cena with the WWE Championship in wrestling there a certain people that go together with a title. Tommaso Ciampa is one of these people, holding the NXT championship for more than 200 days Ciampa had title match classics with the likes of Gargano, Velveteen Dream, and Allister Black. These matches, as well as the way Ciampa treated the belt gave the title a new level of prestige making it feel more important than ever with Ciampa establishing his role as one of the biggest heels in WWE during the process. After vacating the title due to injury, Ciampa would return as a face and would help lead the NXT invasion of RAW and SmackDown, helping NXT establish its name as the third brand.

The Blackheart Of NXT

5. Johnny Gargano

Johnny Gargano, Johnny Wrestling, Johnny TakeOver. Whatever name he is given by fans, there is no denying that Johnny Gargano has done a lot in NXT. Gargano would actually make his first NXT appearance as a background security guard in 2010, before eventually joining NXT and forming the tag-team known as #DIY with Tommaso Ciampa. Both men would achieve success winning the NXT Tag Team belts at TakeOver Toronto, in an epic match that would be the start of Gargano's trend of stealing the show at TakeOver. After losing a ladder match for the belts, Tommaso Ciampa would turn on his best friend starting arguably the greatest feud in NXT history. After the NXT title was vacated Gargano would beat Adam Cole in an incredible match at TakeOver New York, later dropping the belt to Cole during their trilogy of matches. Whilst Gargano may not have the best record at TakeOver events in terms of wins, his contributions must be noted, he has appeared in more TakeOver events than any other wrestler, stealing the show in nearly every match he appears on, truly earning the nickname Johnny TakeOver, as well as a place on this list.

The Iron Man Of NXT

4. Adam Cole

Ever since Adam Cole first appeared in NXT it was clear he was destined for great things, first appearing at TakeOver Brooklyn III, Cole would make his presence felt, attacking newly crowned NXT Champion Drew McIntyre whilst forming the Undisputed ERA. In just his first year in NXT Cole would win both the first-ever War Games match, as well become the first-ever North American Champion finishing it all off by winning the Dusty Rhodes Classic at TakeOver New Orleans. Cole would later win the NXT Championship and looks set to become the longest-reigning champion in NXT history. Cole would also represent NXT at Survivor Series by putting on an epic match with Pete Dunne, showcasing the ability and talent of the NXT roster.

The Soon To Be Longest NXT Champion

3. Asuka

One of the best female wrestlers in the world today, Asuka would elevate the NXT women's division elevating it to new heights putting on defining matches with the likes of Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, Ruby Riot and Nia Jax. These matches were especially important in establishing NXT after the likes of Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks had left NXT, leaving the women's division without some of their biggest stars. Asuka would then step up with Triple H calling her NXT 's anchor. Asuka's undefeated streak and the great matches she had in this streak would make the Women's title feel more important than ever, as well as elevate the women's division helping it become arguably the best women's roster in wrestling today.

The Longest Reigning NXT Women's Champion

2. Neville

Whilst Seth Rollins would be the first NXT Champion, Neville would be the one to give the new title meaning and put it in a position where names like Finn Balor, Tommaso Ciampa, and Shinsuke Nakamura could add a level of prestige to the title. Neville would join NXT in 2013, winning the inaugural NXT Tag Team titles within a month of making his first appearance. A year later Neville would face Bo Dallas in a ladder match for the NXT Championship at NXT ArRIVAL where we would beat Dallas to become the fourth person to hold the title. After winning the title from Dallas, Neville would hold onto the belt for more than 250 days, putting on great matches with Sami Zayn, Tyler Breeze, and Tyson Kidd. Neville would even appear on an NXT showcase on RAW teaming up with Sami Zayn to defeat Tyson Kidd and Tyler Breeze. While Neville would leave NXT before it could reach its peak, his contributions and time as champion laid the groundwork for NXT today.

The Man That Gravity Forgot

1. Finn Balor

When talking about NXT, the name Finn Balor is always in the conversation. The longest reigning NXT champion of all time, Finn Balor would start his NXT career in 2014, being one of NXT's biggest signings and attracting new viewers to the black and yellow brands as a result. It would only take a short amount of time for Balor to capture the NXT title beating Kevin Owens in Japan. After retaining the title in a ladder match against Owens Balor would go on to have an incredible series of title defenses against Samoa Joe, a series of matches that would elevate the title and help NXT become what it is today. After losing the title to Samoa Joe at TakeOver The End Finn Balor would appear on RAW and win the Universal Title in less than 30 days, showcasing the ability of the black and yellow brand. After a few more years on Raw and SmackDown, Balor would appear back on NXT where is currently adding to his amazing legacy, putting on dream matches with the likes of Matt Riddle, Tommaso Ciampa and Adam Cole.

The Demon King

After 10 years of amazing title reigns, great matches and incredible feuds and storylines, NXT has truly grown into something great with these 10 people being the pioneers of this growth. While we take the time to appreciate these people, we must also look forward to the future to see who will carry the torch. As names such as Matt Riddle and Keith Lee begin to gain success in NXT, the question now is, who will be the next faces of NXT?
AUTHOR OF THIS POST: BODEEN GREEN

Bodeen Green comes from Tamworth in Australia and has been a professional wrestling fan since 2006, outside from the squared circle he enjoys studying history and playing and watching sports such as Cricket, AFL and Baseball.

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