It’s been another outstanding year for NXT, and in topping its previous efforts once again, we’ve seen further proof that the brand’s system of graduation and recruitment works. 2017 saw the departure of huge talents like Nakamura, Asuka, and The Revival, but 2018 somehow managed to be even better.
Yes, Triple H and William Regal certainly have an eye for talent, harvesting the independent world for some of the best wrestlers on the planet – but NXT isn’t simply a case of finding the greatest workers and chucking them in a ring together. An atmosphere has been created in which stars are able to really thrive (and, as one entry, in particular, will prove, sometimes they’re even homegrown).
Predictably, before we get to the top 10, we have a host of honourable mentions to recognise:
Ember Moon finally captured the NXT Women’s Championship towards the end of 2017, and she impressed for the first few months of this year before being whisked away to the main roster.
If Moon’s year in NXT ended too soon to crack our list, Kairi Sane‘s started too late. The winner of the inaugural Mae Young Classic really shone after reigniting her rivalry with Shayna Baszler in July.
Pete Dunne remains the WWE United Kingdom Champion at the time of writing, and a figure the company clearly have bigger things in mind for. Whenever he ventured across the Atlantic to NXT he impressed mightily, but UK commitments prevented him from being a regular enough feature.
Fittingly, we must admit that NXT’s most under-appreciated duo don’t quite make it onto our list either. Shame on us. Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch always bring the goods and even started to gain some fan recognition this year thanks to their high-octane tag team performances.
10. Shayna Baszler
When Shayna Baszler dominated en route to second place in 2017’s Mae Young Classic, many were quick to write her off as a clunky MMA fighter without a hope of succeeding – but one who would be pushed regardless. Well, half of that turned out to be true…
Yes, Shayna has indeed been pushed – but like stablemate Ronda Rousey, she’s also demonstrated an impressive natural affinity for the art of pro wrestling. This year saw her move into position as the centrepiece of NXT’s women’s division, bolstered by entertaining feuds with the likes of Ember Moon and Kairi Sane.
Although not as easy a mover as many of her peers, Baszler more than makes up for that with her believable offence, technical knowhow, and an ever-improving grasp of in-ring psychology. In terms of playing the intimidating heel, she’s one of the best around.