The Spare Room: NXT Continues WWE's Tradition Of Not Creating Stars

It isn't exactly a stretch of the imagination to say that NXT would be the #2 wrestling promotion in North America if it were counted as its own separate "brand". They've been able to travel the world, selling out venues everywhere they go. They air regular "pay per view" events on the WWE Network. Their weekly show on the Network continues to bring in plenty of eyeballs. There is just a ton of "buzz" surrounding them right now, and for good reason.

Fans view NXT as a "proving ground" of sorts, where wrestlers from every corner of the globe come in and do their thing before what they hope is an eventual call-up to the main roster, allowing them to ply their craft in front of millions every week. While NXT has become much bigger than merely WWE's "minor league" recently, there is still plenty of truth in those thoughts.

Almost everyone you talk to will tell you that NXT is doing a tremendous job in building for the future.

Almost everyone.

If you were to strip everything down and look at things objectively, not only would you see that NXT hasn't done a tremendous job, but they haven't even done a good job.

Let's go back to August 2012, when WWE officially switched from having Florida Championship Wrestling as its developmental territory, re-branding NXT and heading Northeast on the I-4 from Tampa to Orlando as its new headquarters. Back then, the entire FCW/NXT roster consisted of "lesser" main roster names with nothing to do on TV, brand new signings who were merely there to get used to the "WWE style" before being called up, and green-as-grass rookies looking to gain any experience they could. Names like Bo Dallas, Tyson Kidd, Curtis Axel (still known as Michael McGillicutty), The Ascension, and Jinder Mahal blended with people such as Cesaro, Seth Rollins, and Kassius Ohno (better known as Chris Hero). It was quite the hodgepodge. Look at the FCW/NXT roster from August 2012 and see how many names would go on to do much of anything on the main roster:

- Seth Rollins

- Dean Ambrose

- Roman Reigns

- Cesaro

- Xavier Woods

- Big E

- Bray Wyatt

- Paige

- Big Cass

- Luke Harper

- Jason Jordan

- Rusev

Yes, there is a lot of prestige on that list, but let's go ahead and remove the names from that list who were "made" somewhere else before signing with WWE. That turns the list into:

- Big E

- Bray Wyatt

- Paige (some would even argue that)

- Big Cass

- Jason Jordan

- Rusev

Soon after the switch to NXT, you have names like Sami Zayn, Enzo Amore, Neville, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Kalisto would make their debuts. Of that list, only Enzo and the women can say WWE "made" them. Here's the updated list:

- Big E

- Bray Wyatt

- Paige

- Big Cass

- Jason Jordan

- Rusev

- Charlotte

- Becky Lynch

- Bayley

- Sasha Banks

That's a very strong list of women, but the men aren't exactly being compared to the all-time greats of the sport. While Bray Wyatt continues to get pushes, you could say that the ship has sailed with his gimmick, and that all of the losing he's done has ruined any hope people once had for him. If you were to ask people about Big E and Big Cass, you'd probably hear that, of their respective teams, they are the most likely to achieve major singles success in the future, but that certainly isn't a guarantee. The same, to a lesser extent, is already being said about Jason Jordan. Rusev, like Wyatt, once seemed to have all the potential in the world until main roster booking almost completely derailed him.

Shall we fast forward some more? Finn Balor, Apollo Crews, Kevin Owens, and Nia Jax can all say they've received varying degrees of success on the main roster after going through NXT. The common theme shines once again, though, because Jax is the only name who WWE "made". Another woman. Here's the newly updated list:

- Big E

- Bray Wyatt

- Paige

- Big Cass

- Jason Jordan

- Rusev

- Charlotte

- Becky Lynch

- Bayley

- Sasha Banks

- Nia Jax

That brings us to the here and now. The current NXT roster seems like it's 75% stars from around the world, 20% people who nobody gives any chance of being successful on the main roster, and 5% people who might be able to succeed if certain dominoes fall their way. Samoa Joe? Huge international star. Shinsuke Nakamura? Same. Austin Aries? Roderick Strong? Bobby Roode? Hideo Itami? Asuka? All people who are very well-known for what they've accomplished before ever signing on the dotted line with WWE.

What happened to building stars? What happened to building for the future? Is No Way Jose going to change all of that by himself in a couple years?

We should have known better, really. People have been blinded by Ohio Valley Wrestling's "Class Of 2002", where John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, Batista, and Shelton Benjamin all graduated from WWE's developmental territory. That group is almost always brought up when people want to discuss WWE's ability to create their own stars. One class, 14 years ago? That's it? Yeah, there has been one or two successes here and there created or "made" by OVW (Dolph Ziggler, The Miz, etc), but the track record isn't good otherwise. Going even further back, you have the Attitude Era, where some of the biggest names of all-time did their thing. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin? He was supposed to be The Ringmaster until the company kind of stumbled upon letting him be himself. The Rock certainly wasn't going to become a megastar as Rocky Maivia, but again, the company stumbled upon success by letting him be himself. If you want to keep it completely 100 with yourselves, The Undertaker probably shouldn't have been a success, especially after the initial "shock and awe" wore off, but Mark Calaway's incredible drive and effort put into the gimmick has kept it alive for going on 26 years now. If you say that about Taker, you have to say the same about Glen Jacobs and the Kane gimmick, too. I'll give you people like Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Sunny, Sable, Trish Stratus, Lita, The Hardyz, etc as stars that were created by the company. Just about everyone else was a name before signing with the company (on different scales, based on the era), or was given some gimmick that was vastly different to the one they became stars with, only to grow bigger as they were allowed to be more of themselves instead.

It's something that concerns me as a fan. I see WWE creating shows like Tough Enough to look for future stars, only to choose winners like Maven, Jackie Gayda, and Andy Leavine over people like Matt Morgan, Kharma, and John Morrison (during his first time on the show). I see WWE turning NXT into one of the most exciting "brands" on the wrestling planet, but doing so with names they bought and paid for, not created.

Am I asking for too much? Am I holding the company to too high a standard? I don't think so. I just don't want to see Cesaro VS Sheamus on repeat for the next ten years, that's all.

Photo courtesy of Sean Ross Sapp

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