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Ensemble Darkhorse / WWE NXT

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As a show, NXT (especially post-competition) became the WWE's Ensemble Darkhorse of the televised shows. Widely considered to be the best thing about WWE in The New '10s, its less bloated and repetitive format compared to the main WWE roster is seen as a refreshment from what many fans saw as a rotting period for WWE otherwise. In particular, its Women division is one for the show as a whole, as it is often considered to produce the match of the night and portrays women's wrestling in a way that hasn't been seen in WWE before.


With all of the above, it comes to no surprise, then, that the show gave birth to many beloved stars.

    Seasons 1- 5 
  • The first season had some guy named Daniel Bryan. Suffice to say that naming all of his accolades, achievements and fan reactions post-NXT would require a page of its own.
  • Kaval, during the second season. He won the competition because WWE fans kept voting for him over the company's preferred picks, and subsequently the competition rules were rewritten to remove any input from the fans on the outcome.
  • AJ Lee started as a losing entrant on Season 3 (which was fan voted), but after Daniel Bryan shot her into the main event became wildly popular. Once the creative team recognized that, she was given a General Manager role on Raw, followed by winning the WWE Divas' Title soon after.
    • Her former Chick Busters partner Kaitlyn as well. Despite being the least trained and least capable wrestler, it showing, and admitting it, she bagged the most votes to win Season 3 and proved popular enough with fans to push her for the Divas' Championship against Eve.
    • Also on the third season, Naomi was an unknown entity, who had only started wrestling at FCW earlier that year (AJ Lee had a few years of indie experience and had previously been about to debut on Smackdown, so she was already the favorite to win). Her first episode saw her winning both the challenges and demonstrating some flair in the ring, prompting Diva Dirt to name her a favorite to win as well. Sadly she was the runner up, but she remained popular with Diva fans (and she was one of the few Total Divas cast members to never get outright hate from smarks). When she finally won a title in 2017, the live crowd immediately chanted "you deserve it!"

    Developmental era 
When the show dropped the competition aspect and became more storyline based, a few wrestling fans started seeing it as an undiscovered gem that sadly wasn't seen by enough people. Between this and the aforementioned tendency of NXT debuts to fall flat, now when rumors begin that a NXT superstar is being moved to the main show, the reactions have changed from anticipation to dread.

  • A lot of the NXT cult success is credited to the storyline of Maxine, Johnny Curtis, and Derrick Bateman, and expressed genuine frustration and regret when Maxine announced she asked to leave the company.
  • Since the NXT/FCW merge, one person has managed to completely overshadow everyone on the roster in terms of popularity: Bray Wyatt, formerly Husky Harris. He was almost universally considered to be one of the best things on it, before he was called up the main WWE roster & did it again.
  • Sami Zayn and Paige are considered this as well. Especially Paige, who went on to win the Divas Championship from AJ Lee. It was commented at least once that there were more signs for Paige in the crowd than anyone else, male or female.
  • Kassius Ohno also had this before he was released. It hasn't come close to Zayn's through. After his return, the hype has come back with a vengeance.
  • Enzo Amore's hammy, hyperactive Miles Gloriosus gimmick made him a fan favorite, which is why he eventually made a face turn. It also rubbed off on Colin Cassady.
  • Despite being a heel, vain male model Tyler Breeze got really over with the crowd in no part due to his ridiculous gimmick and just how perfectly he plays it.
  • Baron Corbin had this treatment for some time after he squashed CJ Parker at NXT Takeover 2. It also helps that his finisher, the End of Days, looks awesome. However, it faded with time, and he is more of a Base-Breaking Character now, at one point bordering on an outright Scrappy prior to his Face–Heel Turn and facing competitive opponents which allowed him to actually demonstrate and improve his ring work.
  • When footage from a promo class leaked online, several promos saw developmental Diva Alexa Bliss playing the girlfriend of redneck Scott Dawson. She got lots of praise from fans, who eagerly awaited her debut. Although she had a different gimmick when she did debut, fans still remembered her and immediately chanted "let's go Bliss!"
  • The "Four Horsewomen" of NXT, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Becky Lynch. They were seen as four of the best female wrestlers in recent WWE and were a glimmer of hope in a wasteland of a women's division on the main roster. Charlotte faced a ton of backlash once she moved up to the main roster, but the other three are still given nothing but praise for their work.
  • "Blue Pants," AKA Leva Bates, hasn't appeared very much, yet she was one of the most over wrestlers on the roster. It helps that for both of her initial appearances, her opponent was a-still-in-Scrappydom-Carmella, and being one of the more well-known "Local Talents" on NXT.
  • While his wrestling work garnered mixed reactions, Corey Graves' work as a commentator has been very well received by fans.
  • Simon Gotch has a huge fan following despite being the less talkative member of the Vaudevillains, mainly because of his extremely funny Twitter account.
  • Despite being released during the early days of retooled NXT, Nick Rogers is very much beloved by smarks, partly because, well, look at him. He has been nicknamed "Mr. Ready" (another nickname for him is simply "READY") for his perceived readiness for the main event, that was apparently wasted with his release.
  • American Alpha in general, and especially Chad Gable, who smarks quickly started comparing to Kurt Angle, from the rapid improvement in mat skills to the hilarity of his promos. He gets cheers from just tagging into a match.
  • No Way Jose has become quite popular with fans, despite a laughable name and Dance Battler gimmick that shouldn't exactly be exciting, given that many other wrestlers have had it before him and were either ignored or despised by fans. The man's sheer passion and charisma make it work, though.
  • Tye Dillinger slid into this after re-emerging with his "Perfect 10" gimmick. It was likely supposed to be a heel gimmick that fans found cloying, and pretty sophomoric (perhaps by design)... yet the fans found it either endearing or amusing, which turned him full-on face after... whatever he'd been initially. By late 2016, he was so over that "TEN!" chants are popping up on WWE programs where he hasn't wrestled.
  • Rich Swann has gone a long way from a jobber who was essentially designated to get other people over to a fan favorite over the course of the CWC tournament. His overall hilarity and a catchy theme earned him fan adoration and love. Rich's electic personality, athletism and knack for entertainment make him just the kind of a performer the WWE Universe sets their high standards for. WWE, seemingly picking up on his cult following, booked him into the first main event on the new Cruiserweight Division show, 205 Live, as the challenger to Brian Kendrick's WWE Cruiserweight Title. He won.
  • Aliyah has a rather strong online following for someone who has only made minimal appearances on television, usually as a jobber when she does, and doesn't even have a defined character yet. Usually when Diva Dirt posts the spoilers from the NXT tapings, among the first comments will be asking if Aliyah has a match. Time will tell if this translates into crowd reactions too.
  • Kyle O'Reilly, in a stable full of Ensemble Darkhorses, no less, has become one due to his memetic facial expressions, over-the-top selling and overall sleaziness combined with a ruthless demeanor and top-notch workrate.
  • Nikki Cross has garnered a huge following that greatly increased after splitting from Sanity, who have moved on to the main roster (already well-liked on their own). Much of the praise has gone to her strong dedication to her unhinged, psychotic character.
  • Otis Dozovic instantly became a highlight of every match he was in. His very entertaining antics with Tucker Knight and overall hilariousness won over the audience. Where else can you see a 300-pound guy doing the Worm into an elbow drop?
  • Cameron Grimes, with his larger-than-life personality and great technical skill, shot up to... the... MOON! among the NXT viewers, becoming the must-watch part of the show.


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