NXT debuted on February 23, 2010 on the SyFy Channel, replacing their ECW brand on SyFy until a few months in when it was moved to WWE.com and later Hulu+ and now the WWE Network. NXT was originally a mix between reality television and a game show, and the main goal was for WWE to find the next breakout star. Each of the rookies had a WWE Superstar as a pro. For it first five season it was a straight up competition for a WWE contract, and in some cases a shot at a certain title, with only the first four seasons having a clear winner, Wade Barrett, Kaval, Kaitlyn and Johnny Curtis. During the fifth season the show slowly transformed in to something different with it becoming a like a third brand/C show for mid card and lower mid card. After the fifth season concluded it was revamped and made in to show that showcased talent from their developmental system, NXT Wrestling, renamed after the show.
Season 1 was known for seven of the eight "rookies" forming the stable The Nexus and for the other one having arguably the most well-known Catch Phrase since the Attitude Era. The winner would earn a shot at the WWE Championship at any PPV he wanted.
The winner would earn a shot for the Intercontinental Tile. Known for it's Epic Fail of a season finale, where WWE decided to copy the success of The Nexus and have all the eliminated rookies attack the winner. This became an Aborted Arc, where only two, McGillicutty and Harris became part of Nexus not long after, and Riley associated himself with The Miz. Kaval left the company at the end of the year, while [McGillicutty] and season one's David Otunga later went on to become Tag Team Champions for a time before the former was sent back to NXT to be repackaged and reappear a couple of years later as Curtis Axel. Harris didn't last quite as long before being sent back. He would re-debut as Bray Wyatt in 2013.
Season 3 was an all Divas season. Unlike season 1 and 2, a contract was on the line, instead of a title shot. A.J. is the season's most successful alumni because of her involvement in Daniel Bryan's main-event storylines & becoming the longest reigning Divas Champion in history during 2013.
Was called NXT: Redemption, and all contestants was those who failed to win season 1, 2 and 4. The winner would earn the right to get a shot at being on the next season of NXT. There was no clear winner as the rookie competition gimmick was slowly phased out in favor of the show becoming in essence "Superstars with storylines", O'Neil and Young were moved to Smackdown and Derrick Bateman stayed on NXT until the revamped version started.
Season 5 was the by far the longest, with all the other seasons was between 13-15 episodes, season 5 didn't end until it's 67th.
As a Developmental
The Retooled version of NXT began June 20th 2012. The new version saw the "competition for WWE contracts" aspects being dropped as its function is to give the developmental talent a feel to be on TV, and the location was moved to Full Sails University in Florida, and are no longer on the road with the rest of of the roster. The wrestlers from the Main Roster makes occasional visits for various matches and shorts feuds. And unlike before, where it was either live or taped a few days in advanced, it is now tapes 4 weeks of programing in advance once a month.NXT's first live televised event, ''ArRIVAL'', aired on the WWE Network in February 2014, followed by Takeover in May, with the stated intent being for NXT to run live specials four times a year in the future.
Currently have three championships that are defended on NXT programming:
NXT Champion: Adrian Neville, since February 27th, 2014.
Tag Team Champions: The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor), since September 12th, 2013note Aired on tape delay on October 3, 2013.
The Genesis, the stable formed by the rookies from Season 2 in the vein of The Nexus, was ultimately never mentioned again as the majority of the group went back to developmental whilst Michael McGillicutty & Husky Harris were added to the Nexus a few months later.
Johnny Curtis' tag team title shot looked to have become one, after his pro R-Truth turned heel, as well as nuts, but he finally got it, nearly 21 months later, on NXT, but with Michael McGillicutty as his partner.
All of Season 5's storylines was dropped after they had taped a couple episodes for the retooled NXT as a developmental show, but not yet aired any. Instead, for a couple weeks until the retooled version started, they simply had wrestling matches a la Superstars.
Aerith and Bob: Let's see, you have names like Wade, David, Justin, Heath, Michael, Darren, Daniel, Alex, Percy, Eli, Titus, Kaitlyn, Naomi, A.J, Maxine, Jamie, Johnny, Derrick, Byron, Conor, and Jacob. Then yo have Skip, Husky, and Lucky, which are presumably nicknames. Then we get to...Kaval, Aksana (although Aksana is a fairly common name in her native Lithuania), and Brodus.
McGillicutty: And starting this moment... from now... from this moment on... this will be the moment... starting now... of the Genesis... of McGillicutty.
Epic Fail: The formation of Genesis... hell, arguably that entire second season. Nearly everyone from that season has either been released or sent back to developmental, with the exception of Titus O'Neil - and even he didn't come up to the main roster until after reappearing on NXT Season 5 and teaming with Darren Young. It is turning around for McGillicutty (Curtis Axel) and Harris (Bray Wyatt), and they're already more prominent than O'Neil is currently.
Season 1: Daniel Bryan became World Heavyweight Champion while Wade Barrett hasn't had anything as big as his initial world title chase during the Nexus angle. Even actual runner-up David Otunga had some success as John Laurinaitis's attorney. The only other rookie from Season 1 to have become a star on the level of Bryan and Barrett is Skip Sheffield, who as Ryback, was pushed to the moon in 2012 and solidified himself as a main-event competitor.
Season 2: Runner up Michael McGillicutty become a Tag Team champion briefly before being sent back to developmental; he was brought back to the main roster repackaged as Curtis Axel. With Paul Heyman as his manager, he won the Intercontinental Championship only a month later. Husky Harris has been repackaged as Bray Wyatt and is also being given a solid push. Winner Kaval, on the other hand was more-or-less jobbed out up until his (requested) release. Alex Riley was associated with The Miz until his clumsiness cost him two shots at John Cena's WWE Championship. After his Heel-Face Turn, he scored a victory over his former employer and had some success until an incident with Jack Swagger got him demoted into a jobber.
Season 3: While winner Kaitlyn may have had more success than runner up Naomi (now a Brodus Clay backup dancer), 2nd runner up AJ has had more wins under her belt, while Kaitlyn herself? Not so much initially... until she took aSERIOUSlevel in badass and ended up as the Divas Champion. AJ, however, has found herself in much more prominent storylines than Kaitlyn, because while she was Daniel Bryan's girlfriend, he won the World Heavyweight Championship, catapulting her into a main-event angle. She continued being involved such angles such as Daniel Bryan's feuds with Big Show, Sheamus, and CM Punk, then as the focus of a Punk/Bryan/Kane feud, then as GM of Raw, then as Dolph Ziggler's girlfriend.
Season 4: Johnny Curtis didn't even appear on the main roster until six months after the finale, (and he didn't get his guaranteed tag title shot due to R-Truth's Face-Heel Turn) in various promos and when he finally did debut, it was against Mark Henry, who was in in demolish all my opponents phase and disappeared of TV, while runner up Brodus Clay appeared on Smackdown as Alberto Del Rio's bodyguard, then disappeared from TV when Del Rio was drafted to Raw. After his debut was delayed week after week, he took a dramatic Heel-Face Turn as the Funkasaurus. Curtis returned to WWE television as Fandango, a ballroom dancer. He was being heavily pushed when all of a sudden, a hyperactive post-WrestleMania crowd started to sing his theme song. This lead to "Fandangoing," a sensation that actually sent his theme song to the top of the UK charts.
Season 5: While the contest was effectively abandoned, Titus O'Neil and Darren Young ended up getting promoted with Smack Down contracts, leaving Derrick Bateman as the lone rookie and technically, the unofficial winner. Fridge Brilliance also applies as the prize would have been for the winner to compete in Season 6, and Bateman did compete on the NXT Wrestling brand prior to his release.
Big Budget Beef-Up: Subverted - whilst the original format of NXT was taped on the road prior to SmackDown, the Retool from a competition to an individual brand saw NXT move to Full Sails University & gain an identifiable & unique NXT set. At the same time, this trope was played straight as FCW being rebranded as NXT also saw the developmental territory gaining the WWE branding officially, and with it a more impressive arena which looks less like an indy promotion & instead like a more intimate WWE show, complete with titantron; on top of that, whilst FCW was only aired locally in Florida, NXT (At least, outside of the USA) retains the TV slots it held prior to the rebranding.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Since this is the development brand, one might think that whenever a main brand star shows up, they'll win, if only because of star power. But the show has done a good job of averting this and allowing NXT superstars to get wins over the main roster. This has allowed NXT stars to get over and allow them to seem competent.
Dirty Old Man: William Regal & Tensei/Jason Albert are fairly shameless in their flirting with Renee Young. To be fair though, Renee Young flirts back at William Regal...
Early-Installment Weirdness: Some wrestlers' gimmicks are different from that of the character they play when they get called up. Justified that NXT tape their episodes in advance, the episode they tape air about 3-4 weeks after the fact, and if WWE call one wrestler up before those episodes has aired, or do a gimmick change for another, it's very weird watching, say, Seth Rollins play a heel on Raw and a face on NXT, until they tape more episodes and the gimmick change get acknowledged...
Dusty Rhodes as the initial Interim General Manager/Commissioner for the retooled NXT.
Triple H serves as this whenever he turns up, regardless of if he's currently being booked as a heel on the main shows.
JBL, despite playing the heel commentator on Raw and Smackdown, is similarly portrayed as objective and reasonable in his role as NXT GM.
Retool: Started in the middle of Season 5, when they dropped the competition part of NXT, and made in to more of a third brand with storylines. They then revamped the show, moved it to Full Sails University, to essentially becoming the show for the developmental system, which once had a separate show and branding.
Xavier Woods is billed from Angel Grove, claims to have been trained in "Hip Hop Kido" by Zack Taylor, and will sometimes shout "IT'S MORPHIN TIME!" during matches. In short, he's a giant Shout-Out to Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, short of actually dressing like a Power Ranger.
Adrian Neville's Corkscrew Shooting Star Press is named after the Red Arrows, the RAF's aerobatic display team.
When Bayley debuted a pair of wacky waving inflatable tube men as part of her entrance, Tom Phillips declared "Wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man! Wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man!" - An aghast Byron Saxton outright asked if he was referencing Family Guy.
Self-Deprecation: Jason Albert as commentator takes more after his Tons of Funk Tensai than his initial Tensai or Albert gimmicks. Half of his humour is him poking fun at himself such as him constantly saying, "I'm not too smart but I can lift heavy things."
Something Completely Different: Compared to the parent shows, there's typically fewer grandiose storylines and promos per episode and there's an overall atmosphere of Lighter and Softer. As a result, however, it's also somewhat more serious and wrestling oriented because that change shifts the focus from the pure mic skills (for the superstars) or the sex appeal (for the dvias) to the ring (for both).
The Smurfette Principle: NXT currently only have handful of Divas compared to the main roster. However, this is somewhat balanced out by how said women are treated. They have more time to actually ''wrestle'', are usually promoted as characters & skilled competitors than just merely eye candy, and their interpersonal beefs don't usually revolve around romantic interest in a guy. Also worth noting: the main roster has the Divas Championship, NXT has the Women's Championship.