NXT One Year Anniversary

NXT 2.0’s 1-Year Anniversary: Studs & Duds of This Past Year


NXT 2.0 is having its one-year anniversary next week. This experiment to freshen up the developmental brand has had some successes, but some massive failures, too.

While WWE will always focus on just the positives and will undoubtedly spend this next episode acting as if each week was two hours of pure bliss, I think a fair assessment needs to address the bad just as much as the good.

Looking back on the past 12 months, what were the highs and lows? Which Superstars made names for themselves and broke out into stardom? Who crapped the bed and made the brand look worse just by being there?

With that in mind, I submit to you my list of the best and worst parts of NXT 2.0, presented in no particular order or ranking.

Note: Since this is a large list, I’ve kept my comments on these things short. Bite-size opinions are easier to digest than for this to be a 20 page historical breakdown. If you’d like to make a case why something on the bad isn’t quite so awful, or you want to talk about how great something is, chat it up in the comments!

Best of NXT 2.0 So Far

Bron Breakker = This is obvious. The guy’s been the primary focal point of the brand since the moment he debuted and is a two-time champion.

Everyone touts him as one of the future stars of the main roster scene, even though he’s still just learning. That says volumes.

Carmelo Hayes = Second to Breakker, but not too far off, is the two-time North American champion, Carmelo Hayes.

This guy’s among the absolute best in-ring performers the brand has to offer. Just go back to Worlds Collide to see his match with Ricochet for an example.

From his win in the breakout tournament up until now, he’s been making good on his promise to be the A-champion. Few can say they pose a credible argument in turning the midcard title into the better act.

His presence has even helped elevate Trick Williams far beyond what he would have been able to accomplish on his own in this past year—so much so that I would be down for seeing both go to the main roster in the coming months.

Chase University = It’s silly, but I dig this faction, so help me.

Andre Chase could have been any number of bland talents who come and go, but his teacher gimmick helped him stand out. The way they’ve tapped into that has led to some funny moments that got a genuine chuckle out of me.

“This is a teachable moment” is among the better catchphrases on the roster right now. His mentor role helps Bodhi Hayward not get lost in the shuffle and the Chase University setting has allowed Thea Hail to immediately have personality as a spunky girl graduating high school and going straight into college.

This is ridiculous, but it somehow works, to the point that the Chase U section of the crowd can instantly upgrade a match.

The Creed Brothers = Diamond Mine as a whole has had its ups and down, but The Creed Brothers have been on a steady incline.

Julius and Brutus have managed to be generic collegiate amateur wrestlers who don’t seem like they’re trying to be the next Kurt Angle. At this point, they don’t even need a mouthpiece, as Julius in particular has been getting better at promos every week.

It’s a shame they haven’t had a stronger tag team title reign, but they might not even need it. This is a team that could go to Raw or SmackDown in 2023 and just start wrestling with zero hype and still manage to start gaining some fans.

Grayson Waller = Face it. The Grayson Waller Effect is a thing. He’s obnoxious in the right type of way, carries himself as a Superstar unlike most on the roster, and is one of the few people who can say he survived the 205 Live massacre that took out Asher Hale, Curt Stallion and plenty others.

Waller’s been able to work with AJ Styles and gets compared to The Miz. That says something.

He’s perpetually in my running for options to be the next champion and is currently sitting at the top of my list for who I think could dethrone Breakker.

InDex = Indi Hartwell and Dexter Lumis as a romance angle was a carryover from The Way, but it stuck around long enough into NXT 2.0 that it took on a life of its own.

I actually enjoyed the banter with Persia Pirotta and Duke Hudson. This rivalry/friendship dichotomy still had legs before Lumis and Pirotta were released. There could have been a number of other twists and turns in the story, but it got cut short.

Then, after Lumis made his return, WWE went out of the way to wrap up the story by having him pop up in NXT to address and seemingly end his relationship with Indi on screen. Considering all the terrible angles that have happened so far, I call this a win as it has been the most interesting thing Indi Hartwell’s done in the past year.

Legado del Fantasma = Santos Escobar is so good. Joaquin Wilde and Cruz Del Toro are such an underrated tag team that it is ridiculous. Elektra Lopez needs a lot of work, but there have been times she’s cut a decent promo, at least, or had some presence to her.

This is a team that was so fun to watch that the NXT crowd refused to let them stay heels.

Hopefully, we see them pop up on Raw or SmackDown sometime soon.

Solo Sikoa = In a rather short time, Sikoa made a name for himself in NXT beyond just being Jimmy and Jey Uso’s brother.

Granted, he’s now in a position where that will be his role, but he’s had some great matches and stood on his own, even without the Uso name. If he weren’t even related to them, I think he’d still be turning heads in NXT just the same.

Toxic Attraction = You might not want to admit it, but Mandy Rose has upgraded considerably as a performer since going back to NXT. Not only that, she’s commanded enough presence that she’s been able to boost Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne to becoming one of the only true tag team acts this company has.

These three are in desperate need to leave NXT as they’ve outgrown the brand a long time ago. There’s nothing separating them from being on the same level of plenty others on Raw and SmackDown like Liv Morgan, Carmella, Nikki A.S.H. and more.

They have more character in just their visual appeal than most people in NXT have during their best promos.

Wendy Choo = Mei Ying wasn’t my favorite gimmick, but I thought it was ridiculous to go from that to Wendy Choo. Surely, a wrestler who just naps all the time isn’t going to work.

Boy, was I wrong.

My love of puns and wordplay for things like Choo getting fired up because she woke up on the wrong side of the bed aside, this character has been one of the silliest, but fun acts in the past year. If you turn your brain off and allow that suspension of disbelief to kick in, you get rewarded with a No DQ match where Legos are used as alternatives to tacks. OUCH.

I don’t think this is a main roster gimmick, but I’ve been wrong before and I’m willing to be proven wrong again.

Honorable Mentions: Josh Briggs has shown more character, Cameron Grimes at times (in general, I like him, but he’s had some whack storylines, too) and there’s potential behind some names like Tiffany Stratton and Nikkita Lyons, but they haven’t quite tapped into it yet.

Worst of NXT 2.0 So Far

All the Releases = Draco Anthony, Katrina Cortez, Zayda Ramier, Franky Monet and Jessi Kamea, Trey Baxter and others who came in and were quickly let go. What a waste. Someone like Ezra Judge wasn’t even utilized once. Then, you have the aspects of Diamond Mine that didn’t go anywhere, like Hachiman and Tyler Rust.

Cora Jade’s Heel Turn = It didn’t make any sense in the first place to do this and cheapen the women’s tag team titles even more. I’d argue Jade’s stock has gone down since she’s turned heel, and Roxanne Perez has struggled, too. But the worst of it all was the skateboard breaking during the turn. That’s on the list of biggest botches of the year in general for WWE.

Duke Hudson’s Poker Room = Remember how for a few weeks, Duke Hudson’s gimmick was that he’s great at poker? Then, the first time we had an opportunity to see that, he lost to Cameron Grimes? And then, that was followed up with him getting his head shaved, and he took a few weeks off, came back and has bounced around to random 1 or 2 week feuds ever since? Now, they’re in a trademark dispute over Duke’s Poker Room. What were they thinking?

Most of the New Names = Renaming a Superstar is very rarely a positive. Usually, it just feels strange until enough time has gone by that it feels less strange, but still not as good as the original. But NXT has had some real stinkers for the names themselves, as well as how to justify them on screen.

Kay Lee Ray became Alba Fyre and talked about tapping into her ancestry. Kacy Catanzaro randomly decided to start calling herself Katana Chance and it was suggested that that’s some deeper emotional persona, which was just absolutely laughable.

When done well, you’ve got a cult of rechristened guys like Grizzled Young Veterans going from Zack Gibson and James Drake to Rip Fowler and Jagger Reid because they’re being “reborn” by their leader. Done poorly, you get Bron Breakker instead of Rex Steiner, which would have been much better.

Dante Chen, Ru Feng | Erica Yan, Valentina Feroz, Yulisa Leon = I’ve grouped these all together because they’ve collectively amounted to nothing. All five of them are still employed, but immediately went straight into jobber territory.

Feroz and Leon won a few matches on Level Up and 205 Live, but the others have lost everything. Feng only pops up once every couple months to lose. Why is he still around, when others were cut quicker for “not showing enough progress”?

None of them have shown any personality or standout skills or charisma. It’s baffling they haven’t been cut in favor of others yet.

MSK’s Misfortune = Nash Carter and Wes Lee were one of the most energetic teams on the brand, but the universe just seemed to not want them to succeed. Despite winning the titles twice and the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, they feel more like a footnote.

The crowd booed them at times, despite how they were always babyface. Their last title reign ended abruptly when Carter was fired, leaving Lee struggling ever since.

We never even got to learn what MSK stood for! What a crock.

Lash Legend = Try as she might, Lash Legend just isn’t as good in execution as she seems on paper. Whether that’s her terrible talk show Lashin’ Out that was too cringy to stand or her botchy matches, which haven’t gotten much better, she’s got all the visuals to be a major star and none of the skills—at least, not yet.

Legend may be one of those types who needs some time before everything clicks, but when it does, she’s off to the races. Not everyone hits the ground running. But since NXT’s current system doesn’t allow people to wrestle for a few months to get the hang of things before popping up on television, we’ve seen her growing pains from the start and it hasn’t been fun to watch.

Guru Raaj = Most of you reading this don’t even know who he is. I don’t blame you.

Guru Raaj popped up at Superstar Spectacle (which most of you don’t remember and didn’t care even when it happened) and was treated like a potential star, only to immediately go to the bottom of the pecking order.

Raaj very infrequently appears on television. When he does, it is often on Level Up more than on USA’s NXT. But every time he does wrestle, he loses. In 2022, he’s sitting at 9 losses and 2 wins. Most of his matches are less than 4 minutes long. He’s actually yet to wrestle above 8 and a half minutes over his 16 WWE matches in the 21 months he’s been employed.

Harland = Yes, I could have counted him in the releases, but he deserves extra credit for how he was built up to be something big, only to flop even harder.

The name was stupid. His look was dumb and made him look smaller than he actually is. I’m not even a fan of Joe Gacy, but beside him, Gacy looked like a much more fleshed out performer.

This guy went from a top prospect that people thought had future star written all over him to a relatively quick firing. Now, he’s working for AEW, teaming with Ari Daivari.

Sarray = What a bust. Sarray came in right before the pandemic, halting her debut for so many months that she didn’t even seem to be part of the roster for the longest time.

When she did finally debut, she had lost momentum as an important signing, but they still tried to make it seem as though she was going to make waves.

Sadly, she did very little. Then, she started this Sailor Moon type character, which hasn’t gotten over well—so much so that she goes on stints of basically losing one or two matches for every one she wins, and with zero direction.

She’s wrestled once since June, and it was in a losing effort to Mandy Rose on August 2.

While she might have potential in the ring, try to tell me one great feud or storyline she’s been involved in. Can’t think of anything? I’m not surprised.

Honorable Mentions: Giovanni Vinci is much better off as just a renamed Fabian Aichner in Imperium than that rich model gimmick. Boa’s been completely MIA since Tian Sha was disbanded.

What do you think deserves to be a stud or a dud? Overall, did you enjoy NXT 2.0 this past year? Do you wish NXT Black and Gold made a return? Leave your comments below!

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