One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Journey Away From NXT - Current AEW Stars



The introduction to this series, available at One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Journey Away From NXT - Introduction (prowrestlingmusings.com), only came out a week ago and yet in that time it feels like we've seen the death knell of what we currently know to be NXT.


So as Vince and John Laurinaitis finally get their teeth into dismantling any sense of 'indie-ness' within WWE, what better time to be looking at the success, or otherwise, of those wrestlers who made the move from NXT to the Main Roster during the Takeover Era?


This week we will be looking at the five men who were 'promoted' from NXT to Raw and Smackdown, were subsequently released, and are now ploughing their various furrows in the warm Jacksonville embrace of WWE.


Winners Or Losers?


Of course the fact that these wrestlers are now in a completely different company does suggest that their stay in WWE was less than successful and it would certainly be a brave WWE 'stan' who put their head above the parapet to say any of these guys were treated well under Vince's roof.


Yet as the win percentages below show, their failure to make an impact on the Main Roster wasn't, in every case at least, due to a lack of winning.

The most notable figure here, particularly in the wake of his recent debut as the awesome Malakai Black on AEW, is Aleister Black. Black, or more accurately WWE, were rightly mocked for their portrayal of what was effectively a wittering teenager in a cupboard in 2019. That shouldn't cloud the fact that when he did finally get to the ring to "PICK-AH A FIGHT-AH", he was generally very successful. As the more detailed table below shows, he was a regular fixture on the Main Roster, and 46 wins out of 61 is one of the best win to loss records of any NXT call-up. By way of reference, WWE company favourite Drew McIntyre only has a win percentage of just above 60%.


"The Man That Gravity Forgot" Adrian Neville/Neville/PAC has a similarly impressive win ratio, his 57.7% putting him above the likes of Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair. It's also fairly incredible that Neville had 111 matches on the Main Roster, particularly when you consider that at one point Vince McMahon wanted to give him a 'Mighty Mouse' character (no...seriously...go and look it up).


So for these two releasees at least it was not a lack of winning that caused their downfall, so we must look a bit further as we will later in this article.

For the soon to be Andrade El Idolo, FTR and Shawn Spears however it was a much less impressive time in terms of winning.


Andrade and The Revival were certainly given time and matches to show their stuff, but unfortunately, more often than not they were booked to lose. Andrade in particular came to be seen as a very literal loser as his ill-fated faction with Angel Garza, Austin Theory and Zelina Vega saw him lose 9 of his last 10 matches before his release.


And as for Tye Dillinger? Well he really wasn't given a chance. Only given 25 matches on the Main Roster, he picked up a measly 6 wins against such luminaries as Curt Hawkins, Aiden English and a shock win against Baron Corbin....after which he was booked to lose to Corbin 4 times in a row.


On The Big Stage


If a good win percentage is certainly a positive, it's not the be-all-and-end-all if you cannot back it up on the biggest stages of them all...WWE Pay Per Views. Regardless of the changing nature of television rights and the money made by WWE for PPVs, in kayfabe at least the PPVs are set up as the most important shows of the year. If you aren't getting time on PPVs, then you probably aren't seen as a particularly important asset to Vince and his merry band of old white men.


And this is where we see more of an issue with Aleister Black's booking on the Main Roster where an over 75% winning percentage drops to under 45% at PPVs. First things first, this actually isn't a disastrous number. WWE's 50-50 booking means that only 15 of the 69 NXT call-ups we are looking at have a better record at PPVs than Black, and his figure is actually higher than Sasha Banks and Drew McIntyre. In addition, on the four occasions that Aleister Black had a one-on-one match at a PPV, he won every time.


But there is the nub of the matter. In the 20 months that Black spent on the Main Roster, he only had 4 singles matches on PPVs, and whichever way you slice it, that isn't the way to build a star who had previously gone 7 Takeover matches unbeaten.


Neville's stats in this area appear much more healthy. A 60% win ratio at PPVs puts him in 8th on that list of NXT call-ups so surely that shows he was a success right? Well not exactly. To start with, 10 PPV appearances in over two and a half years on the Main Roster isn't exactly something to brag about. In addition, of those 10 PPV showings, 5 of them came in Cruiserweight Title matches.


Now, I loved the Cruiserweight Title at this stage in its history but unfortunately, as is Vince's wont with these things, he very quickly showed how little he cared. The Cruiserweights were quickly binned off to 205 Live, a show which I think can only very generously be described as a 'B-Show'.

Which brings us to the other statistic in the table below; B-Show Appearances, by which I mean Superstars, Main Event, 205 Live and NXT UK.


It is no secret that if you end up on these shows too often it means that 1) nobody is watching you and 2) those within WWE that matter really do not care about anything you do.


With this in mind, the stats below make for particularly grim reading for fans of Neville. A regular on both Superstars, when it still existed, and Main Event, the writing was probably already on the wall for the future PAC even before he was shipped off to 205 Live. Whilst on the purple brand, Neville was undoubtedly dominant, but also undoubtedly irrelevant, and unfortunately that renders his seemingly positive PPV numbers as pretty meaningless.


The Revival too saw way more B-Show appearances than PPV matches, and if you take out their appearances at the blood money Saudi PPVs, they've already had nearly as many PPV appearances in AEW.


At least however they got a few wins, which is more than can be said for poor old Andrade. His one solitary win at a PPV against Humberto Carrillo really is a sad statistic for such an incredibly talented wrestler. The only solace he can take is that Tye Dillinger's PPV record of 0% wins is even worse...and it looks like Tye wasn't even considered good enough by WWE to appear on Main Event.


Gold! Or Maybe Not...


If winning matches is to be considered important in the bragging stakes within the halls of WWE, then winning titles/belts/straps/championships, whatever Vince is allowing them to be called these days, has to be seen as the pinnacle of achievement.


And yet again, that casts a fairly significant shadow over Aleister Black's journey through the Main Roster rollercoaster. For someone who was such an impressive NXT Champion, the fact that he got nowhere near singles gold on the main roster is certainly a sign of where the 'higher-ups' saw him on the pecking order. Ricochet, Carmella, The IIconics and even AOP were able to pick up titles following their call-ups to the big leagues, but not so for our Dutch chum.


The Revival on the other hand did manage to convert their poor win percentage and PPV performances into winning tag-team gold on three separate occasions. Does this underline a deeper issue within WWE that you don't need to be a winner to be a title-holder? Indubitably. But giving Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson 3 separate reigns as champions does show a certain degree of faith in the duo, even if they were never given much more than 50 days at a time with the belts.

Andrade held his one title, the US Title, for almost as long as The Revival's combined championship runs, but again with just one title win he sits below Kalisto, Apollo Crews, Jason Jordan and Shayna Baszler in terms of Main Roster gold. When he first appeared on the Main Roster scene I think we all believed he was destined for a lot more.


Now before you all get shirty about Neville's statistics, or lack thereof, in relation to titles, I'm afraid I don't count the Cruiserweight Title in these statistics. As mentioned above, WWE treated the belt like a slight nuisance so unfortunately it sits in the doldrums with the 24/7 Title and whatever they are handing out on NXT UK these days. Plus I doubt Neville himself would want to include a title that he eventually lost to none other than Enzo Amore.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were no title runs for Tye Dillinger, but he did manage to be involved in 4 title matches on the Main Roster putting him level with...that's right...Aleister Black.


So What Does It All Mean?


We have to admit that the above statistics do not tell the whole story.


They do not include details of 'number of eyeballs lost' or 'number of times filmed shaving each others' backs' and to fully understand why none of these 5 wrestlers were successful on the Main Roster you'd have to look into some of the hilariously awful storyline booking that they were all subjected to. Apart from Tye Dillinger of course who was simply just ignored.


What the above statistics do show however is that whilst there were a few glimmers of hope for each guy, ultimately and in different ways, they were booked to fail.


Whether it was through losing too often week-on-week, not appearing on the big shows or by never being given a sniff of that all important title-belt, they were all cast in the role of mid-carders or below.



And that is actually a pretty damning indictment of the Main Roster booking when you consider how successful and popular each of these acts were whilst on NXT. If the point of Triple H's developmental baby is to create future stars, then with these 5 NXT did its job.


Yet on arriving on Raw or Smackdown that potential for stardom was very quickly chipped away at until WWE, the company that stripped them of their potential, decided they were surplus to requirements.


Fortunately for all 5 they have landed on their feet in AEW and with FTR, PAC and Shawn Spears it is abundantly clear that all are being used significantly better by Tony Khan. And with Malakai Black and Andrade El Idolo just starting their journeys in Jacksonville, hopefully they too will be able to put the horrors of their WWE Main Roster 'promotions' behind them.

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