Before NXT was rebranded as WWE’s developmental territory in Season 6, and before the redundant 67-week NXT Redemption in Season 5, NXT was actually a competition.
From its inception in 2010 to early 2011—when NXT Redemption became just another version of Superstars—NXT managed to produce four seasons of apparent “reality” programming. Well, as close as the industry really comes to reality.
Just like WWE Tough Enough or TNA’s Gut Check, the prize for winning the first four seasons of NXT was a contract.
Looking through the list of NXT alumni, it hasn’t necessarily been the winners whose careers have truly taken off. In Season 1, Daniel Bryan was the first contestant eliminated; however, he remains the only former NXT competitor to have claimed a World Championship.
In the all-female Season 3 of NXT, AJ came in third place; however today, as the Raw General Manager, she sees more TV time than any other female within the company.
Just because someone won NXT there are no guarantees that they’ll ever amount to anything within the WWE. Some haven’t and others continue to work their way up the ranks.
Let’s see who you remember and who you’ve forgotten, as we rank the careers of the four NXT winners to date.
The Season 2 winner of NXT is perhaps better known by his TNA names Low Ki and Senshi. Within WWE, Kaval was paired with LayCool as his pros for NXT.
He became known as little more than the small man with the deep voice. Nevertheless, the dissension between he and his heel-pros helped make him a crowd favorite.
After picking up the WWE contract—thanks mostly to the 50 percent voting power of the WWE Universe—Kaval didn’t even last four months.
Once on SmackDown, Kaval was handed a series of losses to Drew McIntyre, Tyler Reks and Dolph Ziggler. Among his losses he did manage to qualify for SmackDown’s Bragging Rights team in 2010, but was later replaced by Reks.
His biggest moment was challenging Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental title at Survivor Series where he was unsuccessful.
Having won the contract in August, Kaval was released from the WWE on Dec. 23. Kaval would then return to the independent circuit and make several more appearances with TNA in 2011.
Kaval may have won NXT, but almost two years later, you’d never know it.
#3: Johnny Curtis
Following his win, Curtis was initially sent to SmackDown to work a series of dark matches. As the NXT winner, Curtis was promised a tag team title match with his pro R-Truth; however, that never eventuated.
He later began appearing on SmackDown in a series of backstage promos based around clichés such as “don’t cry over spilled milk,” in reference to his lack of a tag-title opportunity.
Curtis would later make his debut in a losing effort to Mark Henry and, other than some battle royals, was then moved to NXT Redemption.
Curtis’ career hasn’t been much better than Kaval’s, but he has at least managed to hold on to his contract and also some hope for the future.
The former bodybuilder, Kaitlyn, was an unlikely winner of the all-female NXT Season 3. Thrown in as a last-minute replacement for Aloisia, Kaitlyn had virtually no wrestling experience and it showed.
Regardless of her lack of any in-ring abilities, what Kaitlyn did have was a unique look and charisma. With her pro for the season as Vickie Guerrero, Kaitlyn managed to become a fan favorite through her rivalry with WWE’s resident cougar.
It was her personality that managed to secure the fan vote and victory despite never putting on a match that wasn’t cringe-worthy. Since then, Kaitlyn has remained in WWE’s development territory, and has significantly improved.
After a stint with her real-life best friend AJ in the tag-team “Chickbusters,” Kaitlyn moved into singles competition on WWE’s minor programs. However, after the recent botched battle-royale on Raw, Kaitlyn now finds herself the No. 1 contender for the women’s title.
It may not be much, but the Divas title is all WWE’s women really have to aim for. At Night of Champions, Kaitlyn is currently scheduled to face Layla for the title.
Be it because of a botch, the fact remains that Kaitlyn is currently at the top of her division alongside Layla and Eve.
#1: Wade Barrett
Barrett was impressive throughout the whole season, and because Season 1 had no fan vote, Barrett picked up the victory despite being a heel.
Immediately after his victory, Barrett lead the Nexus to completely take over the WWE, and despite Creative being unable to take the angle anywhere, Barrett made his impact.
At TLC 2010, Barrett wrestled John Cena in the main event chairs match, having already wrestled for the WWE Championship against Randy Orton at Survivor Series.
Following the dissolving of the original Nexus, Barrett went on to head “The Corre” stable on SmackDown before moving to singles competition.
The Barrett Barrage has already claimed the Intercontinental Championship, and following his recent return from injury, Barrett may be on track for a major championship.
With pay-per-view main events, championship gold and a major impact on the WWE, Wade Barrett is by far the most successful of the four NXT winners.