One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Journey Away From NXT - Introduction
Those three letters have been on one hell of a journey since February 2010 when the Black and Gold brand made it's debut. From weird game show, to even weirder game show, through a stage as a genuine developmental brand before becoming a critically acclaimed super-indie, NXT now seems to have found itself on Vince McMahon's naughty step after its failure to see off that pesky little AEW once and for all.
Even in the good old days though, the general mantra around NXT was this. No matter how good you were in Full Sail, no matter how many fantastic Takeover matches you put on, and no matter that the show was considered to be starkly better than both Raw or Smackdown, a 'call-up' to the main roster was not to be considered a good thing. In fact, so the perceived wisdom has it, once called up to the 'big leagues' from HHH's caring clutches, you would be mercilessly fed to anyone who was around to beat you, just so that Vince could show his son-in-law who was boss.
Now obviously this is too simplistic an analysis of what it means to be 'called-up', but with the recent travails of Keith Lee and, more hilariously, Karrion Kross, it is easy to see why that view persists.
But we here at Pro Wrestling Musings like to put facts and numbers behind such theories and test whether they are true, so over the next few weeks we will be looking at the statistics behind the 69 (stop it) wrestlers who have received that call from NXT to Vince's Factory of Fortune/Farm of Failure, depending on your view.
For the purposes of these stats we will be analysing anyone who moved from NXT to the main roster in the period from the first NXT Takeover event (May 29th 2014) until August 1st 2021, and only those who actually transitioned to the main roster properly are included - so no room yet for the likes of Kross, Toni Storm or Shotzi Blackheart who still straddle all three brands.
Below are some initial and general statistics, as an aperitif before the big fat feast of analysis to come. But once you've digested this, we'd like the readers of PWM to give their view on what should be reviewed next. So keep an eye out for polls on the Twitters (@pwmusings) and we will then deliver what the people want!
Releases vs Titles
I think it's fair to say that if you are released from WWE then ultimately your promotion to the main roster hasn't gone as well as you would have liked. We will delve into that a bit more over the coming weeks because some may simply have done all they could do on WWE television, whilst others were obviously treated like an unwanted turnip and kicked as far away from Hertford as possible.
So it's 'good news' for those making the leap into the WWE main roster's shark-infested waters. 'Only' 45% of the wrestlers who have been promoted have gone on to be released in that time period, and the stats show that if you do make that step up, there is a 52.2% chance that you'll be able to stay on either the Red or Blue brands - or both depending on how random WWE are feeling at the time.
But if you have a just over one-in-two chance of surviving the cut from Raw or Smackdown, what hopes do you then have of winning a title in the apparent land of wrestling opportunity?
So again it looks like relatively positive news for those that look towards the WWE main roster as a potential path to glory. Of those who've come to the main roster, just over half (50.7%) have gone on to win one title or another on Smackdown or Raw. For the sake of clarity we are not including any 24/7 nonsense here nor any title from any of the b-shows like 205 Live or NXT UK.
That means that an NXT graduate is 5% more likely to win a title than be 'future-endeavoured', and of those 35 that have won a main roster championship, only 9 (to date) have subsequently been released.
A word of warning for those that aren't able to grab a title however...
Of the 34 unfortunate promotees that haven't been able to get a title-strap over their shoulder, 22 of them (64.7%) have received that unfortunate phone call from Johnny Ace saying that their services are no longer required. So the lesson is, win a title...or get on your bike son.
The Biggest Winners
Full disclosure here, winning percentage as a stat on its own can be a bit misleading, as the table below will show. However it is a bit of fun to look at who 'statistically' has been the most successful call-up from NXT to the main roster.
So there you have it.
Lars Sullivan is the greatest NXT call-up of all time. You heard it here first.
Clearly some of the above numbers are skewed by a performer having very few main roster matches before leaving the company. Super Lars, for example, only had 5 matches under the brightest of lights, and I think they were all against some form of Lucha House Party gathering. Similarly Wesley Blake, yes that's who that is if you have understandably forgotten that particular son, only had 4 main roster matches and somehow managed to win 3 of them.
The more interesting names on this list are the likes of Aleister Black, Finn Balor and Asuka. NXT darlings that are often used as particular examples of how badly the NXT stars are booked in WWE. Well that may be the case, but for these wrestlers at least it certainly wasn't from lack of going over their opponents. Of course as Aleister Black will tell you, wins don't always equal success and his almost unbelievably high winning percentage looks particularly odd when you consider his recent release from the company. We will examine these apparent 'success stories' in more details in the weeks to come.
Finally it's worth noting the very impressive push that Damien Priest has been receiving since his call-up. Yes his wins haven't always been exciting to watch, and yes he was involved in a Lumberjack Match that involved zombies, but an over 80% win-percentage really cannot be sniffed at. Just ask some of the competitors from our next section...
The Biggest Losers
And finally in today's piece we get to those NXT call-ups who really shouldn't have bothered, if the statistics are anything to go by. As we have proved above, winning isn't everything in modern-day wrestling, but it certainly helps, and these guys and gals haven't been going to the pay-window nearly enough since their promotion from Full Sail.
Now first of all, an apology to Mia Yim. With only 2 main roster performances, one of which was tagging with the most hilarious wrestler in recent WWE history Slapjack, and two defeats, she is the darkness to Lars Sullivan's light in these particular stats. Hopefully though when she returns, it won't be as part of that wretched stable, and she'll be able to pick up some wins (although perhaps not if her partner's recent form is anything to go by).
At least Mia is still with the company, which is more than can be said for 7 of the names on the above list. And of the other two still on the main roster? I think Slappy-J and Zelina Vega will both be considering their choices in the near future. Zelina Vega in particular is a very peculiar case. Many will say that her current booking is a message from Vince that nobody, and he means nobody, should dare to mention that evil word 'union' ever again. But her form before that was equally poor which begs the question of why do they keep booking her to lose?
Alexander Wolfe's winning record was so bad that they sent him to NXT UK (the biggest punishment of all) whilst the speed with which The Ascension went from dominant monsters to weirdo jobbers was particularly alarming for any tag-team considering leaving NXT for the enticing madness of Vince McMahon.
And sorry Billie Kay. That's not a stat I would put on your resume if I were you...
What's to come...
On their own the above statistics certainly don't tell the full story.
To try and get a more detailed conclusion on whether NXT call-ups are booked well or not on the main roster, over the next few weeks we'll look at particular wrestlers as well as comparing certain groups to see if any patterns emerge.
We will look at the win/loss ratio in more detail, as well as looking at performances and appearances in PPVs, as well as those call-ups who have spent more time on Main Event than in the main event.
What will all this show? Well we will have to wait and find out but if you have any suggestions on what you would like to see included in future weeks, let me know @WrestlingRhymes.