When you look back at the history of the NXT brand, it has been the home to some of the very best wrestlers on the planet and has even produced a number of its very own home-grown stars. But before NXT rose to prominence, the WWE had to rely largely on bringing in new talent and launching them directly on either RAW or SmackDown in the hopes that they’ll be able to find their niche in the company and ultimately a desirable spot on the roster. Sometimes it worked really well, but sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes it really didn’t.
In this list we look back at 5 stars WWE hoped would be the next big thing but for some reason or another fell flat. If only NXT had been around for them to build their brand, and find their feet in the world of Sports Entertainment – oh, how things might have been different.
5. MONTY BROWN
As a former NFL Linebacker, Monty Brown (full name Montaque N. Brown) is exactly the kind of dual sports star that Vince McMahon blows his load at, so it was no surprise when he turned up in WWE back in 2006.
Originally pushed as a world heavyweight championship contender in the then NWA-affiliated TNA, Brown had a unique look and move set that tagged him as a star from the off. Much to everyone’s surprise though, TNA let Brown’s contract expire shortly after he returned from knee surgery, making him one heck of a free agent.
Brown debuted for WWE in January of 2007 to little fanfare and as part of the doomed ECW reboot. Back in those days, Vince McMahon was still very much of the mindset that stars from outside of his company couldn’t possibly use their old ring names, and as such Brown was repackaged as Marcus (originally Marquis) Cor Von. His run lasted less than 6 months before he was eventually released and then opted to retire from the sport.
The handling of Brown in WWE was one of the biggest flops in recent memory. As an athlete, he had tremendous upside and his physique – a mix between Bobby Lashley and Big E – would have helped him stand out if he’d only been given a chance. Having him appear in NXT where he could have kept his TNA ring name and building him as the ‘Alpha Male’ he deserved to be would have provided him with the right foundation to become a main event player on the main roster for years to come.
4. COLT CABANA
Colt Cabana is an indy wrestling darling. He’s funny, talented and beloved by millions. Yet when he signed with WWE in 2007 he was stripped of everything that made him successful and renamed Scotty Goldman – the blandest no-name creative could come up with.
Cabana would have thrived in NXT. He would have been a constant main eventer who could have been relied upon to make the young guys look good, while also being a constant threat to any number of the top names passing through the brand en route to RAW and SmackDown Live. Colt Cabana versus Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura or Seth Rollins would have been solid gold main events for the Takeover PPV’s, and despite still being someone that could find themselves being brought on board, Cabana’s association with CM Punk – in particular, that podcast, probably means he never will.
3. SINN BODHI
Sinn Bodhi has been active on the wrestling scene for almost 2 decades, but only found himself as a WWE main roster superstar for a moment. His debut on SmackDown in 2008 as Kizarny, followed 2 years in FCW where he had been a hot prospect. When he showed up on SmackDown in January 2009 though, he just didn’t mesh with the WWE style and was gone 8 weeks later.
Had Bodhi had the chance to build his Kizarny character on NXT television – an audience far more into bizarre gimmicks and alternative ring style – he could have won the WWE Universe over. Instead, his matches were dull, the audience didn’t care and he’s hardly even a footnote in the company’s history. It’s a MASSIVE shame – he’d have been a great partner for Bray Wyatt.
2. BRODUS CLAY
Brodus Clay is a funny example of someone that actually made his debut as a contestant on the original NXT show when it was more like a whacky game show than a developmental wrestling brand. Eventually, someone in WWE realised this version of NXT was the pits, and thus the new-NXT was born.
When he made his way to the main roster, Clay was inexplicably packaged as the Funkosaurus – which although fun, was a mass departure from the brooding, nasty mega heel he’d been programmed as up to this point. At 6′ 7″ and 375lbs he cut an imposing figure, and although his skillset was limited, he was impressive enough to have been a standout as a modern day One Man Gang.
At 45, we’ve likely seen the last of Brodus Clay in WWE, but if he’d been fortunate enough to land in the right version of NXT he could have been an incredible foe for the likes of Finn Balor or Samoa Joe.
1. MATT MORGAN
You only need to look at Matt Morgan’s work in TNA to see just how much WWE missed the boat on this guy. Originally debuting on SmackDown with a horrible stuttering gimmick, Morgan was just another big guy on a crowded roster. Nothing about him stood out, except for the occasional time he shared the ring with Brock Lesnar.
After leaving the organisation back in 2005, Morgan dropped a ton of weight, worked on his physique, developed a badass persona, and honed his skills inside the ring, carving quite the niche for himself on the periphery of the main event scene until his departure.
In the right environment, and under the tutelage of the Performance Centre coaches, Morgan could truly have been the next big thing. He was always guaranteed to get TV time, but developing his character and wrestling ability against extremely talented foes such as Shunsuke Nakamura, or learning how to be a real giant among men, Morgan would have truly lived up to his moniker of being the blueprint for what it takes to become a superstar.
Which former WWE star of any generation do you think would have benefited most from a stint in NXT? Let us know in the comments section below.