Yesterday, the wrestling world was shocked to learn of many WWE talent being released over the course of 12 hours. When the smoke cleared, many fans realized that most of the names released were wrestlers who performed primarily on NXT and NXT’s sister brand, 205 Live. With this in mind, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at every single rookie from the original rendition of NXT – the challenge show edition – and see where they are now. Some of these men have reached the pinnacle of the industry… others, not so much. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
NXT Season 1 Elimination #1: Michael Tarver
The first individual to be eliminated from NXT was the athletic Michael Tarver. Tarver was accompanied by WWE pro Carlito, but couldn’t seem to avoid being eliminated on the first elimination edition of NXT. Tarver’s first match on NXT took place on February 23, 2010, where he and Carlito would fall to fellow rookie Heath Slater – and his pro, Christian – in a tag team contest. Tarver would go on to amass seven match losses with only one win in a singles match against Daniel Bryan.
Tarver was eliminated in Week 12 of the competition. However, his elimination was a bit untraditional. As per the rules, an elimination occurs based on the rookie who receives the least amount of votes from the group of WWE pros. However, Tarver’s elimination was different. On Week 11 of the program, Matt Striker asked Michael Tarver who he believed should be eliminated from the show. Tarver, in all of his confidence and cockiness, said: “Me. I should be eliminated next week. If I’m not here, then every single one of these walking dead bodies is safe.” On the Week 12 edition of the show, Striker would be the one to inform Tarver that he was eliminated from the show by WWE management – who felt Tarver didn’t “believe in himself”.
Following his elimination from the contest, Michael Tarver would make a return to WWE in June 2010 as a member of The Nexus – a group of NXT rookies who were here to take over the WWE. In his first match on WWE’s main roster, Tarver would pick up a victory alongside Daniel Bryan, Darren Young, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel, Skip Sheffield, and Wade Barrett in a match against Goldust, John Morrison, Santino Marella, and Yoshi Tatsu. Man, WWE really sent in all of their best recruits to stop this group of wrong-doers, huh?
In October 2010, Tarver sustained a groin injury that would eventually send him back to Florida Championship Wrestling. On June 13, 2011, it was announced that Tarver was released from his WWE contract.
After his release, Tarver began to work with the National Wrestling Alliance and various independents around the world. He even had a brief stint in New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2014. Nowadays, you can still find Tarver wrestling on the independent circuit. His most recent match took place on April 9, 2021, where Tarver would lose to Lou Gotti at DFW All-Pro vs. The World in Tampa, Florida.