Becoming the champion of NXT should, on paper, signal that you’re set for big things on WWE’s main roster. It showcases a clear talent and the fact that you stand out above all those on the developmental roster. Being a world champion in NXT has led to some success for some, such as Seth Rollins, Charlotte Flair, Asuka, Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens, and Rhea Ripley, though for others that hasn’t been the case.
There have been several examples over the years of wrestlers who arguably failed on the main roster overall. There’s a variety of reasons as to why these individual cases fell short of expectations too.
10 Finn Balor (Ill-Timed Injury)
Although Finn Balor’s time in the Judgment Day has been good, it has taken seven years of a main roster run to get there. For the most part, Balor’s stint on the main roster has been underwhelming. He was called up in 2016 and was crowned the first ever Universal Champion, with WWE clearly seeing huge things in him.
However, an injury suffered in his match with Seth Rollins led to him relinquishing the title, and things fell apart from there. Upon his return, WWE were no longer interested in pushing him, and became a consistent part of the midcard from there as a bland babyface. There have been a few stop-start pushes, but overall he has been booked poorly.
9 Bobby Roode (Debuted As A Babyface)
Bobby Roode was a top name when he arrived in NXT, and his heel run as “Glorious” Bobby Roode was phenomenal. He had a great run as NXT Champion, and upon his main roster call up, WWE had high hopes.
However, Roode’s popular entrance theme led to WWE debuting him as a babyface – a role which he kept up for quite some time. Roode was not a natural good guy, and he was given hardly any opportunities on the mic – which is where he shone most. Roode very quickly became an afterthought.
8 Shayna Baszler (Lost First Main Roster Feud)
Shayna Baszler was a hugely dominant individual in NXT, and many thought she could become one of the biggest stars on the main roster. When she finally arrived on Raw, WWE ruined her booking immediately.
She challenged Becky Lynch for the Raw Women’s Title at WrestleMania in her first ever rivalry on the main roster, but she lost that match in under 10 minutes. Her aura diminished and no one could take her seriously from there. Baszler was ruined from pretty much the start.
7 Shinsuke Nakamura (Lost Too Many Big Feuds)
Shinsuke Nakamura has had brief moments, such as in 2023 and also in 2018 when he won the Royal Rumble, where he has been given a boost, but for the most part his time on the main roster has been a complete failure.
Vince McMahon just didn’t know how to handle booking an international star like Nakamura, and he would just lose every big feud he was involved in. He was unsuccessful in two WWE Title pursuits to Jinder Mahal and AJ Styles, and that pretty much ruined his entire momentum from then on.
6 Andrade Almas (Wasn’t Presented Like A Star)
In NXT, Andrade Almas showcased his world class in-ring ability and he was presented like an absolute star. When he was brought up to the main roster, WWE didn’t continue with that presentation.
Andrade settled into the midcard and didn’t get out from there. There was no effort to make him look like a star, and he instead just got lost in the shuffle for the most part, leading to a failed main roster run.
5 Kairi Sane (Thrown Into Tag Team Division)
Kairi Sane was one of the biggest stars in NXT, and she was an underdog babyface who rose to the top of the brand as the NXT Champion. She had the potential to translate this to the main roster and succeed as an underdog star.
However, her call-up saw her instantly thrown into the tag team division, which has always been a mess. The Kabuki Warriors tag team with Asuka led to a heel turn, and whilst Sane did well, she was always more suited to being a babyface. WWE never tried her as a solo star, and this led to a failed run.
4 Bo Dallas (Didn’t Have Main Event Potential)
Bo Dallas was one of the first former NXT Champions who got a main roster call up. Dallas worked well in NXT because they leaned into his unlikable babyface character, but on the main roster it was clear that he was never going to be a main eventer.
He had a gimmick that screamed midcard, his in-ring work didn’t set the world alight, and he didn’t have the look of a conventional WWE star. Dallas’ main roster failure mostly comes down to the fact that he wasn’t quite at the level to be a big name.
3 Adrian Neville (Too Small For WWE)
Adrian Neville (better known today as PAC) is a world class in-ring performer and has proven in recent years just how good he can be from a character perspective. Vince McMahon saw his size and style and didn’t think he was good enough to be a big star.
He was presented like many smaller high flyers – without a gimmick and lower down the card. His WWE career just never worked out in the long run, even when he became “King of Cruiserweights” – a great gimmick which never got the respect it deserved.
2 Aleister Black (WWE Didn’t Know What To Do With Him)
Aleister Black’s character was one which required a lot of attention and care, but with the fast-moving nature of WWE’s main roster, Black didn’t stand a chance.
Vince McMahon just didn’t know how to use Black on the main roster, and he ended up just sitting in a room asking people to knock for months on end. He was in and out of WWE’s plans, hardly getting a chance to prove himself.
Karrion Kross had a strong presentation in NXT and quickly became an unstoppable NXT Champion. He was also viewed as someone who would be better suited to the main roster given his size and look, but upon his debut he was completely buried.
He lost to Jeff Hardy in 90 seconds and that pretty much was the nail in the coffin for Kross. It was a bizarre way to introduce him to a new audience, and he lost all credibility.