With NXT making its debut on the USA Network on Wednesday, a lot of new eyes will be taking in WWE’s third brand, joining Raw and SmackDown. While it’s new on national cable, NXT has been a work in progress since its beginnings as WWE’s developmental in 2010. In nine years, NXT has soared beyond the developmental tag into becoming its most athletically exciting product in years and well deserved of gaining it’s own distinctive brand status as it becomes NXT on USA. It’s lead by a stunning cast of franchise players as well.
We’re doing three primers looking at the depth of each NXT division in the brand – the Men’s, the Women’s, and the Tag Team – featuring the ones on TV now and a couple thoughts on impending debuts. In our first NXT on USA Primer, we take a look at all the players in the NXT Men’s Division, from NXT Champion Adam Cole, NXT North American Champion Velveteen Dream, to the fresh faces ready to debut when NXT switches to two hours on the USA Network.
The luchador is one of the newest NXT signings and recently took part in NXT’s breakout tournament. Known in the US for his run in IMPACT Wrestling as Garza Jr, he wrestled all over Mexico before settling in with The Crash Lucha Libre. Was a tag team champion in The Crash as part of a team with his real-life cousin, 205 Live‘s Humberto Carrilo. His uncle is legendary luchador and former WCW Superstar Hector Garza.
Long considered the next big thing, it was only a matter of time before Theory signed with the WWE. The 22-year old Theory has called the World Wrestling Network his home for the duration of his career where he was a former two-time WWN Champion as well as being the current EVOLVE champion. Theory has also had success outside of the USA as he is a former Heavyweight champion for The Crash and even appeared for Lucha giants CMLL.
An absolute monster of a man Bronson Reed was shot to fame in 2017 when he competed in Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s prestigious Battle Of Los Angeles tournament as Jonah Rock. Debuting in 2007, Reed spent a decade ruling Australia winning various championships and touring with Pro Wrestling NOAH. He also helped form the popular faction The Mighty Don’t Kneel, which became one of Australia’s most over factions in history.
Grimes was also a competitor in the recent breakout tournament coming up short in the final to Jordan Myles. An 11-year veteran in the ring Grimes was a mainstay of the Carolina indies like Carolina Wrestling Federation (CWF) Mid-Atlantic but was also a featured performance in PWG and IMPACT. As Trevor Lee, he is a former three-time X-Division champion a multi-time tag team champion and held the CWF Mid-Atlantic heavyweight championship for one thousand and eighty-five (1,085) days!
Priest has started life on NXT like a house on fire. He’s been racking up dominant wins ever since making his debut. Before joining NXT he was a rising star in ROH that had won their television championship before taking his monstrous ways to NXT where he has since wreaked havoc.
An eleven-year veteran Dexter Lumis has always been more of a character than anything. Whether as Slick Sleazy or tormenting interviewers as Sam Shaw, he has a tendency to play avant-garde weird characters. Has spent time with IMPACT and the National Wrestling Alliance. Has had two runs as Ohio Valley Wrestling tag team champion and three runs as Vintage Heavyweight Champion.
Dijakovic is a physical specimen that debuted back in 2013. He was quickly picked up by Ring Of Honor and has wrestled all over the world for almost every major independent wrestling company in the world as Donovan Dijak. 2017 was his breakout year as he moved on from ROH and proceeded to tear it up on the indies where he would have some legendary matches with Keith Lee. Hasn’t really taken off yet in NXT but has all the tools to succeed.
The current Cruiserweight champion Drew Gulak has been making his name as a technical wrestling aficionado for years. A multi-time champion on the US indies the 14-year veteran has managed to be one of the best parts of 205 Live ever since it’s debut and will now bring his technical ways to NXT, thanks to Triple H’s announcement that 205 Live is now under NXT’s umbrella.
Imperium (WALTER, Alexander Wolfe, Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner)
One of the night’s biggest surprises on the debut of NXT on USA was the arrival of Imperium, the faction lead by WWE United Kingdom Champion WALTER. Barthel and Aichner regularly work as a tag team in both NXT and its UK counterpart, NXT UK, where the rest of Imperium holds the company hostage. But it appears that WALTER and Alexander Wolfe are joining the other two in NXT, for at least the foreseeable future. WALTER has been one of Europe’s most dominant champions, winning titles in Germany, England, and Ireland, and now rules NXT UK with an iron fist.
Isaiah “Swerve” Scott
One of the best in the world before signing, Scott – then Shane Strickland – was known as the “King Of Swerve“, as everything he did, he did just a little bit different than the others. Was the ace of Major League Wrestling when they moved to TV and was a featured performer for Lucha Underground as Killshot. Add to this the fact he won titles for every major indie company in the US and Scott has the resume of a future superstar.
Ryker is the muscle of the Forgotten Sons. The 18-year veteran has made his way through the NWA and IMPACT Wrestling (as Gunner) winning multiple titles along the way. A battle-hardened veteran, Ryker and the Forgotten Sons have the chance to prove themselves on USA Network.
Debuting all the way back in 2004, Wilde had been wowing audiences for almost two decades as DJ Z. His home promotion in his early years was International Wrestling Cartel but it was in IMPACT Wrestling where he would make his name. Wilde was a two-time X-Division champion and a tag team champion in the company. Wilde had a career revival after leaving IMPACT when he came back from a potentially life-threatening injury to win championships in Chicago super indie AAWPro and proceeded to remind everyone why he was one of the best high fliers in the world.
What is there left to say about Johnny Gargano? This man has defined an era in NXT winning every championship in the brand during his nearly five-year stint. Always talented Gargano had success before his time in NXT winning championship gold in EVOLVE as well as their sister promotion Dragon Gate USA. Whether as part of DIY or on his own Gargano has been one of NXT’s best since day one and he is now the face of the brand.
The winner of the NXT Breakout tournament, Jordan Myles has spent a decade wowing audiences spending time in ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling as ACH. He also had a tag team championship run in EVOLVE and won multiple titles on the US independent wrestling scene.
Debuting all the way back in 2005, Keith Lee went under the radar for twelve years before he exploded in 2017. His size mixed with his ability to pull off agile flips of men half his size wowed audiences with his mix of high flying and power-based offense. Was a WWN champion and a PWG World champion before making his way to NXT where he hasn’t quite hit the ground running.
The Beast Of Belfast is a former NXT tag team champion. His time on the main roster did not go to plan as Sanity never caught on but Dain is back in NXT having slimmed down and become more hungry than ever. He has made Matt Riddle a target ever since his return and will be looking to regain some of the dominance he had as a member of Sanity.
The former ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Junior Heavyweight division, KUSHIDA was one of the world’s best before making his way to NXT. Be it as part of the popular Time Splitters tag team with Alex Shelley or on his own, he amassed eight championships in his time with NJPW. Has had classics with Kyle O’Reilly that both men will be looking to follow up.
One of the US indies’ most coveted young stars, Lio Rush was a breakout with Ring of Honor before signing with NXT in 2017. He quickly rose through the NXT ranks before heading to 205 Live and then last year, debuted on Raw as the hype man for Bobby Lashley. He left Raw early this spring and hasn’t been seen in months, but on the debut episode of NXT on USA, he returned in glorious fashion, defeating Oney Lorcan to become the #1 Contender to Drew Gulak’s WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
Mansoor is famous for winning the 50 man rumble at WWE Super ShowDown which took place in his home of Saudi Arabia. Since then Mansoor hasn’t capitalized on that win for any momentum but the young man has all the potential in the world
“The BRO” Matt Riddle is known as much for his trash-talking outside the ring as he is for his work inside it. The former UFC competitor was released from the UFC on the tail end of a four-fight win streak and decided to take his skills to pro wrestling. Riddle took to wrestling naturally and within a year was a big name on the US and European indie scenes scooping up championships left, right and center. Riddle was so good that he fielded offers from NJPW before joining NXT.
The “Bruiserweight” Pete Dunne spent 685 days as NXT UK Champion fending off challengers from all over the UK after winning the title in an instant classic with Tyler Bate. Dunne was a star in the UK before joining NXT as he held titles in every major promotion in the UK and Ireland and now represents an entire scene every time he steps in the ring.
A cult favorite, the former Eric Bugenhagen is one of the most eccentric personalities in NXT. His 80’s heavy metal throwback gimmick has proven very popular with crowds all over the NXT loop with fans air guitaring and headbanging along with Bugez. Bugez is the kind of gimmick that NXT has used perfectly in the past and will be taking his talents to NXT on USA.
Was a member of Australia’s premier tag team before joining NXT, but things haven’t gone to plan for Thorne in NXT. Injuries derailed the momentum of TM-61 just as they were finding their feet and then his tag team partner Nick Miller requested his release leaving Thorne alone. Thorne has recently taken out his aggression at being forgotten on the members of NXT’s breakout tournament.
If Johnny Gargano is the face of the brand then Ciampa is Thanos, he is Darth Vader. Ciampa for the longest time was the most hated man in NXT after turning on Gargano and then stealing his dream of being NXT Champion away. Ciampa went down with an injury earlier this year but is set to resurface soon, whether he stays on the dark side or comes to the light remains to be seen.
Undisputed Era (Adam Cole & Roderick Strong)
NXT is the Undisputed Era’s playground. Adam Cole is the current NXT champion and has been in the main event scene ever since his debut. While Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish are holding down the tag scene for the group and Cole is the NXT Champion, the workhorse Roderick Strong made a huge statement on the debut on USA by defeating the North American champion Velveteen Dream to ensure UE now held all the gold.. Where one goes the others are sure to follow the Era are as dangerous as they are popular.
A former tag team partner of Lio Rush in the US indies, the 24-year old has the world at his feet with his incredible charisma mixing with his eccentric gimmick to form one of the most popular characters on the brand. The former North American champion lost his coveted title on the debut episode on USA this past Wednesday, but don’t expect him to be out of the hunt for gold for long.
CHECK OUT ALL THREE PRIMERS!
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. And make sure to watch NXT every week on the WWE Network and now the USA Network.