While the term "NXT" has roots dating back to 2010 (it was originally the reality show concept that launched the WWE careers of Wade Barrett, AJ Lee, Titus O'Neil and others), NXT as a promotion began in June 2012 out of the ashes of WWE's FCW developmental territory.
The difference between FCW and NXT is that the latter proved to be a more inclusive part of WWE storylines and programming, with dozens of performers "graduating" to the main roster, some returning to the promotion after a few years, and others making their own career paths within the black and gold brand.
In compiling this list of the Top 50 NXT Superstars, we are looking at the careers of the performers who have performed in NXT beginning in 2012 (e.g. not through FCW and not during the reality show era), and are looking at the following criteria:
How much have they accomplished in NXT and beyond?
Did they win any championships while there?
What has their impact been on the brand through TakeOver events and other specials?
How synonymous are these people with the NXT brand?
Much more successful in NXT than they were on WWE's main roster, The Ascension (Konnor and Victor) dominated the tag team division during the early days of NXT. The two defeated Corey Graves and Adrian Neville to win the titles and held them for almost a year.
SAnitY was a faction that debuted in NXT in October 2016 and included Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, Sawyer Fulton, Nikki Cross and Killian Dain. Young and Wolfe captured the NXT Tag Team Championship, feuding with The Authors Of Pain and other competitors.
Santos Escobar became the interim NXT Cruiserweight Champion shortly after his early 2020 debut and held the title for more than 300 days, defending against the likes of Jack Gallagher, Akira Tozawa and Jordan Devlin, also joining forces with Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde.
Tyler Bate became the first WWE United Kingdom Champion in 2017; this before it became an NXT title, though he defended the belt on NXT programming. Later, he became NXT Tag Team Champions with Trent Seven under the name Moustache Mountain.
Originally a competitor exclusive to the NXT UK brand, Jordan Devlin captured the NXT Cruiserweight Championship in January 2020 and held it throughout much of the pandemic (despite being unable to defend it on NXT), giving him a 438-day title reign.
Cameron Grimes debuted in NXT in early 2019, soon becoming a part of the NXT Breakout Tournament. In the coming months, Grimes would feud with Kushida, Finn Balor and others before becoming the "richest man in NXT" and feuding with LA Knight over the Million Dollar Belt.
Damien Priest debuted in NXT in late 2018 under his Ring of Honor name of Punisher Martinez. Soon, he would begin battling the likes of Keith Lee, Dominic Dijakovic and Finn Balor before having a run with the NXT North American Championship.
Ricochet debuted in NXT in early 2018 after success in Japan and on the independent scene. He defeated Adam Cole to capture the North American Championship at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV and formed a successful team with Aleister Black.
Aleister Black debuted in NXT in early 2017, feuding with the likes of Hideo Itami, Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole. Black defeated Andrade "Cien" Almas to become NXT Champion at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, holding the title for just over 100 days.
The Street Profits
The Street Profits (Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford) debuted together in NXT in 2016, where they competed in a pair of Dusty Rhodes Classic tournaments. In 2019, they defeated The Undisputed Era to capture the NXT Tag Team Championship.
Roderick Strong joined NXT in 2016, feuding with SAnitY, Bobby Roode and others before joining The Undisputed Era. As part of that faction, Strong captured the North American Championship as well as the NXT Tag Team Championship.
A fixture of NXT programming since 2017, Pete Dunne held the WWE United Kingdom Championship as it transitioned to NXT over a nearly two-year period. In addition, "The Bruiserweight" former alliances with both Matt Riddle and the Kings of NXT faction.
The Authors Of Pain
The Authors Of Pain (Akam and Rezar) debuted in NXT in 2016, managed by Paul Ellering. They won the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic that year and also defeated DIY to win the NXT Tag Team Championship, holding the belts for more than 200 days.
Andrade "Cien" Almas
Andrade "Cien" Almas debuted in NXT in 2016 as a babyface, but soon turned heel and moved his way up the card, battling the likes of Roderick Strong, Johnny Gargano and No Way Jose. At NXT TakeOver: War Games, Almas won the NXT Championship from Drew McIntyre.
Ember Moon joined NXT in 2015 and within the next year, captured the vacant NXT Women's Championship in a fatal four way match. After a brief stint on WWE's main roster, Moon returned to the brand in 2020 and captured the NXT Women's Tag Team Championship with Shotzi Blackheart.
Io Shirai debuted in NXT in 2017 and a year later, made it to the final round of the Mae Young Classic tournament. She turned heel over the next year and by 2020, captured the NXT Women's Championship at NXT TakeOver: In Your House, a title she held for more than 300 days.
The Revival (Dash and Dawson, now known as FTR in AEW) debuted in NXT in 2014, holding the NXT Tag Team Championship twice between 2015 and 2016. During that time, they feuded with the likes of American Alpha and DIY in match of the year candidates.
Bayley joined NXT in 2013 as a fangirl persona and quickly became involved in matches involving fellow Four Horsewomen Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Sasha Banks, the latter of which she had an epic rivalry with over the NXT Womens Championship in 2015.
Adrian Neville (also known as AEW's Pac) debuted in NXT in 2012 and became the inaugural NXT Tag Team Championships with Oliver Grey. Neville then defeated Bo Dallas at NXT Arrival (the brand's first WWE Network special) in 2014 to become NXT Champion, holding the title for more than 250 days.
Sami Zayn debuted in NXT in 2013, feuding with the likes of Cesaro, Bo Dallas, Tyler Breeze and Adrian Neville. At NXT TakeOver: R Evolution, Zayn defeated Neville to win the NXT Championship, only to be ambushed by his former best friend, Kevin Owens.
Sasha Banks joined NXT in 2012, battling the likes of Paige and Summer Rae before becoming The Boss as she's known to this day. Banks defeated Charlotte to capture the NXT Women's Championship at NXT TakeOver: Rival in 2015 and had an extensive rivalry with Bayley, including WWE's first Iron Woman Match.
While WALTER may not be as well-known as many on this list, it would be a disservice to ignore his accomplishments within NXT. At NXT TakeOver: New York in 2019, he defeated Pete Dunne to win the NXT UK Championship, becoming the longest-reigning titleholder in the process, now at over 800 days and counting.
Samoa Joe debuted in NXT in 2015, becoming one of the first non-WWE stars to debut as a main-eventer using his previous ring name. Joe defeated Finn Balor the following year to win the NXT Championship and captured it again after defeating Shinsuke Nakamura.
Charlotte (also known as Charlotte Flair) debuted in NXT in 2013, where she defeated Bayley. The following year, she defeated Natalya to win her first of NXT Women's Championships (she won it again in 2020 after several years away from the brand) and would have several of NXT's biggest womens matches.
Kevin Owens joined NXT in 2014, not only winning his debut match at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution, but also turning on his best friend Sami Zayn. Owens won the title from Zayn the following February and successfully defended the title not only in NXT but on WWE's main roster, where he confronted U.S. Champion John Cena.
Following successful runs in TNA and ROH, Austin Aries debuted in NXT in 2016 and battled the likes of Baron Corbin, Shinsuke Nakamura and No Way Jose. After moving to the main roster, he also contended for the Cruiserweight Championship for a brief period.
Before becoming an announcer in 2014, Corey Graves held the NXT Tag Team Championship with Adrian Neville and faced many of the brand's top stars including Seth Rollins, Alex Riley and Bray Wyatt, while also feuding with Eric Rowan and Luke Harper.
Nia Jax debuted in NXT in 2015 as a monster heel, battling the likes of Bayley, Carmella and Alexa Bliss. She also attempted to unseat Asuka as NXT Women's Champion, including a match between the two at NXT TakeOver: The End, which Jax lost.
Not to be confused with Tyler Bate... Tyler Breeze was one of NXT's original characters, transforming into the narcisstic pretty-boy character taht would feud with Adrian Neville, Xavier Woods, Sami Zayn and others. He returned to the brand in 2019 as one-half of the team Breezango.
Baron Corbin joined NXT in 2012, initially working as a babyface before becoming the heel he would be known as on WWE's main roster. During his time in NXT, Corbin feuded with the likes of Bull Dempsey, Rhyno, Samoa Joe, Sami Zayn and Apollo Crews.
Bobby Fish debuted in NXT in 2017 and quickly resurrected his Ring of Honor tag team with Kyle O'Reilly, and the two became part of The Undisputed Era with Adam Cole and Roderick Strong, capturing the NXT Tag Team Championship twice.
The War Raiders
In 2018, The War Raiders (formerly War Machine in Ring of Honor) debuted in NXT. Later that year, they defeated The Undisputed Era to win the NXT Tag Team Championship and defeated the duo of Ricochet and Aleister Black at NXT TakeOver: New York.
Although she would go on to much bigger success on WWE's main roster, headlining WrestleMania XXXV, Becky Lynch was also a standout in NXT, where she competed from 2013 to 2015, battling fellow Four Horsewomen Bayley, Sasha Banks and Charlotte.
Big E. Langston
Before becoming an integral part of The New Day, Big E. Langston began in NXT circa 2012. He developed a "five count" gimmick and defeated Seth Rollins to win the NXT Championship, defending against the likes of Corey Graves, Brad Maddox and Damien Sandow.
Bo Dallas began in NXT in 2012 as a babyface and even won a spot at the 2013 Royal Rumble while part of the brand. Eventually, he became a heel and encouraged fans to "Bo-lieve," capturing the NXT Championship from Big E. Langston.
In between his WWE runs as "The Chosen One" and "The Scottish Warrior," Drew McIntyre showed up in NXT in 2017. Within months, McIntyre defeated Bobby Roode to win the NXT Championship, holding the belt for about three months.
Years before he was on Raw and SmackDown, Seth Rollins was a standout in FCW when the group became NXT. He won a tournament to become the first NXT Champion and was part of NXT even after The Shield was formed, eventually losing the gold to Big E. Langston.
After competing in the Tough Enough reality show, Velveteen Dream debuted in NXT in 2016. During the next few years, the Prince-inspired grappler feuded with the likes of Aleister Black, Tomasso Ciampa, EC3 and Johnny Gargano, winning the North American Title.
Kyle O'Reilly debuted in NXT in 2017 and soon began teaming with Bobby Fish as part of The Undisputed Era holding the NXT Tag Team Championship on three occasions. When the faction split up, O'Reilly began an epic rivalry with the group's former leader Adam Cole.
Keith Lee joined NXT in 2018, where he had an extended rivalry with Dominic Dijakovic. In 2020, the Limitless One defeated Roderick Strong to win the NXT North American Championship and seven months later, defeated Adam Cole to win the NXT Championship -- the first man to simultaneously hold both championships.
Karrion Kross joined NXT in 2020 and has already captured the NXT Championship a record-tying two times. Battling the likes of Tomasso Ciampa, Damien Priest and Finn Balor, Kross has yet to be defeated in NXT, only reliquishing his first championship due to an injury.
Paige was one of NXT's original competitors and became the brand's first NXT Women's Champion in 2013. After holding the title for more than 300 days, Paige brought the title to WWE's main roster when she debuted on Raw and became Divas Champion.
Bobby Roode debuted in NXT in 2016 after a lengthy stint in TNA. At NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, Roode defeated Shinsuke Nakamura to win the NXT Championship. The Glorious One defended the title against the likes of Hideo Itami and Roderick Strong.
Shayna Baszler debuted in NXT in 2017, making it to the final round of that year's Mae Young Classic. The following year, she defeated Ember Moon to win the NXT Womens Championships at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans. She held the championship twice, with a record combined reign of 548 days.
Tommaso Ciampa joined NXT in 2015 along with his future partner and rival Johnny Gargano. As DIY, he and Gargano held the NXT Tag Team Championship. In 2018, Ciampa returned as a heel and defeated Aleister Black to capture the NXT Championship as well.
Shinsuke Nakamura joined NXT in 2016 after a storied career in New Japan Pro Wrestling. After defeating Sami Zayn in his NXT debut, The Artist then feuded with Samoa Joe, with the two trading the NXT Championship back and forth later that year, with Nakamura becoming a two-time champion.
Within NXT, no one was ready for Asuka. The former joshi standout joined NXT in 2015 and began a lengthy undefeated streak that outlasted her actual time spent with the promotion. Asuka defeated Bayley to win the NXT Women's Championship at NXT TakeOver: Dallas in 2017 and held the belt for 500+ days.
Johnny Gargano has been nicknamed Johnny TakeOver for his standout performances at NXT's signature event. Since joining the brand in 2016, Gargano has captured the NXT Championship, North American Championship and NXT Tag Team titles.
Adam Cole (Bay Bay!) joined NXT in 2017 and immediately formed The Undisputed Era. After becoming the inaugural North American Champion, Cole captured the vacant NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver: XXV, holding the championship for a record 403 days.
Finn Balor joined NXT in 2014 after a successful run in New Japan Pro Wrestling. The following year, Balor defeated Samoa Joe to become NXT Champion, holding the title for nearly 300 days. Balor returned to NXT in 2019 after a run with WWE's main roster and again captured the NXT Championship, cementing his legacy with NXT.