This past weekend saw NXT TakeOver XXV, the 25th TakeOver event in NXT’s history. After a rocky start as a reality show on the main roster television programming that introduced prospects from WWE‘s then-developmental Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), in 2012 it became its own brand and the televised promotion of new signees and recruits. In May of 2014, NXT launched its first NXT TakeOver and since then, they have amassed 25 TakeOvers in the past five years. Earlier, we took a look at the 25 male competitors who best represented NXT in the brand’s seven years of existence, and in this companion piece, we take a look at 25 NXT women who have helped elevate NXT in the brand’s history.
DISCLAIMER: There are many other talented women who have gone through NXT – or are in NXT now – like Chelsea Green, Deonna Purrazzo, Mandy Rose, Liv Morgan, and more, but this list involves women who have competed regularly on NXT television and not just worked the NXT Live Events.
While there’s no doubt Alexa Bliss truly found her character and position on Raw and SmackDown far more than she did in her time with NXT, Alexa Bliss still had an impact on the Yellow Brand. From 2014 to 2016, she was a regular singles competitor, first debuting in the NXT Women’s title tournament in 2014. But it was her mic work as the manager of the NXT Tag Team Champions Blake & Murphy that finally showed how valuable Bliss could be as a WWE Superstar and propelled her to main event status when she was finally drafted to SmackDown, defeating Becky Lynch in her Blue debut.
Former Canadian indie star Jasmin arrived in WWE in 2015 at the age of 20 and made her NXT TV debut in early 2016 as Aliyah. A workhorse who was used more as enhancement than anything over her first three years, she was routinely showcased and given more time than normal enhancement talents. Patience has finally paid off for the now 24-year old Aliyah, who is starting to pick up wins with Vanessa Borne at her side at Full Sail.
No woman dominated NXT the way that “The Empress of Tomorrow” did, amassing a 914-day winning streak, that culminated in a 510-day reign as NXT Women’s Champion.
There may not be a more beloved character in all of NXT – male or female – than there was with Bayley. She debuted without much fanfare, a somewhat unknown indie wrestler formerly known as Davina Rose when she made her NXT TV debut in 2013. In the 2014 tournament for the NXT Women’s title, she was knocked out in the first round by Alicia Fox. But by the end of her NXT run in 2016, she was arguably the top star in the brand and an NXT Women’s Champion for 223-days. Her rivalry with Sasha Banks during the last year set a new bar for women’s wrestling in the WWE Universe.
Long before she was “The Man”, the Irish Lasskicker toiled in NXT from 2014 through 2016, where she feuded primarily with Bayley and Charlotte Flair. As one of NXT’s Four Horsewomen, she became a fan favorite and showed all the tools of someone waiting to be unleashed, and this past year we finally saw her true potential realized.
A raw recruit and homegrown in the WWE Performance Center, Bianca BelAir made her NXT TV debut in 2017 and exploded into one of the most exciting talents in the women’s division. With a combination of athleticism and power, BelAir showed the poise of a veteran in every situation she’s been put in and continues to be a main event player in the women’s division of NXT today.
One of the indie’s top women’s stars, in-ring Candice hasn’t exactly lit up the NXT Universe until recently, with her feuds with Aliyah & Vanessa Borne. But during the brand’s top feud between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, Candice LeRae had a very important and understated role. In what was somewhat of a Mega Powers storyline of two former friends falling apart and becoming heated rivals, Candice played a modern-day version of Miss Elizabeth in the situation. But where Elizabeth was torn between the actions of her two charges in Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan and preferred to let the boys sort it out between themselves, Candice was a strong supporter of her husband Johnny Gargano, working overtime to be the conscience that Gargano was often wavering on. It revealed a strength of character that has given her the platform to now showcase in the ring what many indie fans had long known prior – that she was a star in the making.
In many ways, Carmella‘s NXT run was similar to Alexa Bliss’ tenure with the Yellow Brand. While she did compete as a singles wrestler in the NXT women’s division from 2014 to 2016, but it was when she joined Enzo & Big Cass as the “Princess of Staten Island” that her stock began to soar and she became a bigger star on the brand. Her large personality proved to be just what the main roster wanted, and Carmella went on to become a SmackDown Women’s Champion.
One of WWE’s greatest homegrown stars, Ashley Fleihr was just a fitness trainer and collegiate volleyball star before she walked into the Performance Center in 2012. She made her TV debut in NXT in 2013 and a year later became the new NXT Women’s Champion and part of the NXT Four Horsewomen. By the time she left NXT in 2016, she was emerging as the Queen that we’ve come to see on both Raw and SmackDown, and one of WWE’s most dominant women performers of all time.
The leader of “Team Kick”, Dakota Kai became a regular on NXT TV in early 2018 and immediately found herself in the crosshairs of NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler. Over the next year, she would become of the fastest rising stars in the women’s division, whether in singles or alongside her tag partner, Tegan Nox. Misfortune hit Nox last year in the Mae Young Classic, and several months later, injuries would take out both members of Team Kick. Kai is still out with injury, but in the brief stint she has had with NXT so far, she’s proven to be someone that Full Sail loves to get behind and has the charisma to be a top contender upon return.
While she’s had a hard time finding her footing on the main roster until somewhat recently, Dana Brooke had a pretty memorable run while part of NXT. Originally starting as a singles competitor, she joined forces with Emma to become one of the best women’s tag teams in NXT.
“The War Goddess” was a standout indie darling (as Athena) for years before joining NXT in 2015. She made her NXT TV debut in the summer of 2016 and immediately became a title contender. While she failed to wrestle the NXT Women’s title from Asuka before her call-up, she immediately won the title after and held it for 140 days and had a huge feud with Shayna Baszler before her own call-up to Raw.
Though she’s now back on the indies as Tenille Dashwood, as Emma she was one of the top women in NXT for years. Her main roster runs were stops, starts, and disappointments, but her initial gimmick as the dancing Superstar made her a big hit with the Full Sail crowd. When she returned for a second run in NXT after her dancing character failed to connect with the main roster audience, she returned as the cruel sunglassed character that has continued to this day, teaming with Dana Brooke.
The Iconic Duo (Billie Kay & Peyton Royce)
While the Iconic Duo, renamed The IIconics on the main roster, are now the reigning WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, they’re a shadow of what they were in NXT. In NXT, they two former Australian indie stars (who also spent time in the US and Canadian indies) were allowed to show off their wrestling alongside their “Mean Girls” attitude and they became two of the top heels on the Yellow Brand.
It didn’t take long for one of Japan’s greatest exports to make an impression in NXT. She made the finals of the 2018 Mae Young Classic, but despite losing to Toni Storm in the final, she became a Superstar in NXT when she debuted last fall, first as part of the Sky Pirates tag team with Kairi Sane, and now as a singles competitor where she’s challenging Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship.
She’s recently made the jump to the main roster as Asuka’s new tag team partner in the Kabuki Warriors on SmackDown Live, but Kairi Sane has been wowing Full Sail University since she debuted in the fall of 2017. Last summer she finally won gold, as the NXT Women’s Champion, and became one of the Yellow Brand’s most popular superstars.
Another of the newer names on the list, Mia Yim is an indie veteran and former IMPACT Knockouts Champion. Yim competed in the first Mae Young Classic, but an injury stalled any plans to join WWE in 2017. She competed again last year in the second MYC, and this time the crowd at Full Sail chanted for Triple H to sign “The Blasian Baddie”. She made her official debut last October on NXT television and has since become a popular star on the Yellow Brand, where she’s now locked in a feud with Bianca BelAir.
While Natalya has been a presence on WWE’s main roster – either Raw or SmackDown – since 2008, but in 2012 and 2013 she found herself at a crossroads in the WWE Universe. The Hart Dynasty was no more, the Divas of Doom was no more, and Natalya – alongside her real-life significant other Tyson Kidd, soon found themselves working more in NXT than on the main roster. But during these two years, Natalya became a veteran presence on the NXT roster, working with new emerging stars like Kaitlyn, Paige, Emma, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte Flair, helping groom them into the top tier talent they would blossom into. In essence, Natalya’s leadership and guidance during this important time in NXT could quite possibly make her the most important woman to be a part of NXT’s locker room.
Former Raw Women’s Champion Nia Jax made her NXT TV debut in 2015 and became a wrecking force on the Yellow brand, crushing an enhancement roster of talent that includes Tessa Blanchard, Kay Lee Ray, Deonna Purrazzo, Leva Bates (Blue Pants), and Evie (Dakota Kai). She would challenge the likes of Bayley and Asuka for the NXT Women’s title but came up short, but she proved that a non-traditional WWE stereotype of a woman could find success in the WWE, who only saw greater success when she moved over to Raw.
Former UK indie star Nikki Storm joined NXT in 2016, but it wasn’t until her unveiling as part of SaNitY that fall that we got to see the unhinged Nikki Cross we’ve all grown to love. Cross’ rabid unpredictability made her a mesmerizing fan favorite, despite SaNitY being clear heels at Full Sail, as shown in her hard-hitting feud with Asuka in 2017.
A child prodigy from England, Paige joined WWE in 2011 as a 19-year old and when NXT launched in 2012, she became one of the first breakout stars of the women’s division. In 2013, she defeated Emma in the final of a tournament to crown the inaugural NXT Women’s Champion, a title she would hold for 308-days, including into her first run on the main roster.
As Heidi Lovelace, she was an indie darling for years, but in the fall of 2016, she signed with WWE and headed to the Performance Center. She made her NXT TV debut in February of 2017, and was immediately a contender, challenging for the NXT Women’s title on frequent occasions. Her tenure in NXT was short-lived, however, as by year’s end she had arrived on SmackDown Live to lead her own stable, Riott Squad.
An indie wrestler from New England, Sasha Banks made her NXT debut in November of 2012 in a loss to Paige. But it was all uphill for “The Boss”, who became one of the most hated heels in NXT history, and a part of one the Yellow brand’s most iconic rivalries, against Bayley. In February of 2015, she finally captured the NXT Women’s Championship, which she held for 192-days.
The former MMA star entered pro wrestling in 2015 and by 2017 was working for WWE. She made the finals of the inaugural Mae Young Classic, losing to Kairi Sane, but once she hit NXT that fall, she became a death machine. The only 2x NXT Women’s Champion, Baszler has become the most dominating woman in NXT history not named Asuka.
One of the holdovers from WWE’s pre-NXT developmental, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), Summer Rae transitioned to NXT in 2012 (initially as a ring announcer) and became one of the brand’s early top heels. She led a stable called The BFFs (Beautiful Fierce Females), that turned a young Sasha Banks from babyface to a “Boss”, as well as grooming a young Charlotte Flair. She feuded early with NXT Women’s Champion Paige but failed to capture any gold, before heading to the main roster in 2013 to accompany Fandango as his new dance partner.
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