WWE‘s NXT brand has a rich history dating back to 2010. For its first two years, it was a glorified talent show closer to America’s Got Talent than Friday Night SmackDown. A host of wrestlers from all over the country and beyond would be put through a series of (often goofy) tasks in a bid to display their personality to the WWE Universe. It gave us such memorable moments as “The Genesis of McGillicutty” and a flurry of hilarious Daniel Bryan content. Perhaps most notably, it gave us The Nexus; the faction originally consisting of leader Wade Barrett and the likes of Bryan, Ryback, Heath Slater, and Darren Young, to name but a few. Of course, by mid-2012, NXT in that format had quickly declined to the point where it was time for a revamp. NXT would be converted from a second-rate talent show into something more closely resembling the NXT that exists today. That being a developmental brand for a new wave of independent wrestling stars and some holdovers from Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW).
Last month, we looked at every single holder of the NXT Championship (Part 1 and Part 2) and assessed their careers since holding the title. In similar fashion, we are going to delve into the lineage of the NXT Women’s Championship – assessing the careers of the women who have held what is arguably the most prestigious women’s championship in all of wrestling. As most of the holders of the title are still active within the WWE, we will focus on the WWE careers of those included. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
(To make things simple, the dates of championship reigns are in-line with WWE’s. Therefore, dates match the airing of shows/events, as opposed to their filming).
Inaugural NXT Women’s Champion: Paige (July 24, 2013 – April 24, 2014)
Paige became the inaugural NXT Women’s Champion when she defeated Emma (Tenille Dashwood) in the final of NXT’s eight-women tournament to crown its first champion. Paige is also the youngest NXT Champion in history, given she won the title at just 20 years of age. Hailing from Norwich, England, Paige became not only a household name, but an international star – receiving an ITV Documentary (The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family) and a movie produced by none other than The Rock; Fighting With My Family, a movie which grossed over 40 million dollars on a budget a quarter of that. It is safe to assume that Paige has been a success story. Regardless, her career has not been without heartache; with a serious and recurring neck injury forcing her retirement in December of 2017. Prior to her retirement, Paige had become a two-time Divas Champion. Post-retirement, she has won a Slammy Award for the 2018 General Manager of the Year. Paige hopes to one day make a comeback and with the likes of Daniel Bryan and Edge both making almost miraculous comebacks in recent years, she may just do so. Hopefully, she gets to add to her trophy cabinet.
2. Charlotte Flair: (May 29, 2014 – February 11, 2015; April 5, 2020 – June 7, 2020)
Paige was never defeated for the NXT Women’s Championship – it became vacated soon after her memorable main roster debut, the night after WrestleMania 30. Much like Paige had done almost a year earlier, Charlotte Flair claimed the title in an eight-woman tournament – defeating Natalya in a final dubbed as Flair vs Hart. What can we possibly say about Charlotte? Though polarizing, there is no disputing not only her worth as a tremendous women’s wrestler, but also her dominance since debuting on the main roster in mid-2015. In addition to being a two-time NXT Women’s Champion, she is a: one-time Divas, four-time RAW, and a five-time SmackDown Women’s Champion – making her the most successful woman in WWE history. She is also a one-time Women’s Tag Team Champion (with Asuka), meaning she has won everything available. Both a triple crown and grand slam champion, there is no question Charlotte will continue adding to her unprecedented list of accolades.
3. Sasha Banks (February 11, 2015 – August 22, 2015)
Who can forget the reign of Sasha Banks? Potentially the greatest competitor of this entire list, Sasha is a phenomenon. It was during this reign where the women’s division of NXT really gained steam – becoming must-see wrestling which catapulted the Four Horsewomen (Sasha, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Bayley) to superstardom. The matches Sasha had with the likes of Becky and Bayley especially meant that the NXT Championship of the men was demoted from the main event quite regularly. Sasha didn’t stop there, either; she has since captured RAW (5x), SmackDown (1x), and two Women’s Tag Team titles with Bayley. Like Charlotte, she has been in the main event at WrestleMania and is now receiving critical acclaim for her role in Disney’s The Mandalorian. There is no limit to Sasha’s potential and at still just 29 years of age, when all is said and done, she might very well be the greatest women’s competitor of all time – as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
4. Bayley (August 22, 2015 – April 1, 2016)
NXT’s quintessential babyface. The tail-end of Sasha’s reign and the near-entirety of Bayley’s reign marks the “Golden Era” of NXT. She won the title at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn on August 22, 2015 in a match against Sasha Banks which is widely deemed one of the finest women’s matches of all time, even to this day. It just might very well be. Bayley has seen struggles at times on the main roster; with her chipper, happy-go-lucky babyface character struggling to thrive with a creative team who simply didn’t get it. She has since been turned heel and has shone; proving to everyone why she is one of the best. She is currently a former (2x) SmackDown Women’s Champion – with her second reign the longest reign of the championship at 380 days. Additionally, she is a (1x) RAW Women’s Champion; the winner of Money in the Bank (2019) and was the WWE’s first Women’s Triple Crown and Grand Slam Champion. Bayley has had a largely successful run in the WWE and hopefully, given she is now the only member of the Four Horsewomen to not main event a WrestleMania, she continues to gain the accolades her talent demands.
5. Longest Reigning NXT Women’s Champion: Asuka (April 1, 2016 – September 6, 2017)
The reign that remains the longest in NXT history. Asuka was built as a dominant, undefeated champion like no other – remaining undefeated throughout her entire NXT tenure. Whether it be Emma, Ember Moon, Bayley, or anyone else, there was frankly no one ready for Asuka. There is no telling how long this reign was to last, as Asuka vacated the title with a broken collarbone at an NXT show which aired on September 6, 2017. She would soon make a dominant impact on RAW – winning the inaugural Women’s Royal Rumble match. Though she failed in her WrestleMania challenge against Charlotte Flair (ending her 914-day undefeated streak), she has had a highly successful career. RAW (2x), SmackDown (1x), and Women’s Tag Team Championships (1x with Kairi Sane, 1x with Charlotte) have made Asuka the second Women’s Grand Slam and the third women’s Triple Crown champion. She is both a Royal Rumble (2018) and Money in the Bank (2020) winner, also. Throughout the pandemic era, she has been one of the shining lights of RAW – which will no doubt have made WWE management even more trusting of Asuka in a leading role. Given she turns 40 this year and has worked a stiff, Joshi style for most of her career, there is no telling how much longer Asuka plans to wrestle – though she shows no signs of slowing down. Let’s appreciate her while we can!
6. Ember Moon (November 18, 2017 – April 7, 2018)
Ember Moon’s reign as NXT Women’s Champion was fully deserved. She had tried (and failed) on many occasions to capture the prestigious title from Asuka. Asuka was so white hot, however, that Moon simply could not overcome her arch-nemesis. Ember possesses bags of talent; a great and enigmatic look and a finishing move matched only by Kairi Sane’s in terms of beauty. Despite this, it must be said that Moon’s run on the main roster – where she debuted in April of 2018, following her losing the title – was a bust. Terrible luck with injuries coupled with a creative department that did not know how to use her meant that Ember saw losing streaks, miscasts, analyst roles and stop/start pushes which saw her regularly go weeks without appearing on WWE television. She returned to NXT in 2020, following a serious injury that made her miss almost a year of action. Since returning to the black and yellow brand, Moon has captured the NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships (with Shotzi Blackheart). Here’s hoping Ember can stay healthy and add to her single NXT Women’s Championship at some point in the future.
7. Shayna Baszler (April 7, 2018 – August 18, 2018 – October 28, 2018 – December 18, 2019)
Though Asuka holds the distinction of being the longest-reigning women’s champion in NXT history, Shayna Bazsler holds the record for the longest combined time as NXT Women’s Champion at 548 days to Asuka’s 522. The Baszler era, particularly the lengthier second reign, was similar to Asuka’s. Like Asuka, Baszler was a dominant champion (with thanks to her MMA background and general presence) who destroyed anyone who entered her cross-hairs. Whereas Paige was the youngest NXT Women’s Champion, Baszler was the oldest – winning the title at 38 years of age. While her initial main roster run saw her destroy everyone involved in an Elimination Chamber and bloody Becky Lynch – before losing to her at WrestleMania 36, a result which should not have happened – she has since fallen down the pecking order. Stuck in the Women’s Tag Team division with Nia Jax, Shayna appears to be the one in the team who takes the fall, with Lana and Naomi defeating her just last week – something which would never have happened in NXT. Of all those who appear in this article, the main roster run of Shayna Baszler has been the most frustrating and we can only hope she returns to form soon. Shayna has won two WWE Women’s Tag Team titles (with Nia Jax).
8. Kairi Sane (August 18, 2018 – October 28, 2018)
Kairi Sane is one of two (with Paige) to no longer be an active competitor within the WWE. However, she is still signed to the company – where she works both as a trainer in her native Japan and as a member of the Japanese announce team for PPVs. Kairi is arguably one of the most talented women to have captured the NXT Women’s Championship. Though she holds the distinction of having the shortest reign with the title at just 71 days (current champion, Raquel González, has held it for less), Kairi was a crucial member of the brand throughout her stay. Like the other recent champions, Sane was misused on the main roster – regularly taking pinfalls and infamously being squashed almost weekly by Nia Jax. An inaugural Mae Young Classic winner, in addition to being a one-time Women’s Tag Team Champion as one-half of the Kabuki Warriors (with Asuka), there is no denying Kairi’s talent probably warranted more. However, with her having taken a significant step back from the ring, an apparent long-term plan, maybe she was content with her spot. Regardless of her short reign with the championship, Kairi will be remembered fondly for he role in NXT.
9. Rhea Ripley (December 18, 2019 – April 5, 2020)
Rhea Ripley comes in as one of the more successful of the recent NXT Women’s Champions. Still young at just 24, the former torch bearer of NXT is now the current RAW Women’s Champion – having captured the title from Asuka at WrestleMania 37, just one year after her unfortunate defeat to Charlotte at WrestleMania 36. In addition to her RAW and NXT Women’s titles, she was also the inaugural NXT UK Women’s Champion and is, therefore, the only person to have held both the traditional and UK variants of the championship. At the most recent Royal Rumble, she finished runner-up to Bianca Belair and it now appears that both women are penciled in to become the leaders of their respective divisions on RAW and SmackDown. The sky is the limit for Ripley and it is maddening to think that she could still wrestle for another 15-20 years, should she want to. The alternative Australian is destined for greatness and will continue adding to her title collection in the coming years.
10. Io Shirai (June 7, 2020 – April 7, 2021)
It is subjective but to many, Io Shirai is the most spectacular wrestler on this list. The Japanese native, aptly nicknamed the “Genius of the Sky”, wowed audiences for years (most notably in World Wonder Ring Stardom, where she was the ace) and gained notoriety for being the best active female competitor in the game. This is, of course, disputed by the existence of the likes of Sasha Banks, Asuka, Thunder Rosa, and Mayu Iwatani, all of whom could just as easily claim that distinction, but there is no denying the formidable talent of Shirai means it is difficult to argue against. Io was NXT Women’s Champion for just short of a year before dropping the title to current champion, Raquel González, at NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver just a few short weeks ago. In that time, she only added to her glistening reputation and the main roster may be calling in her near future after putting over Franky Monet. To make a comparison with her fellow compatriots: will she have a career like Asuka, who has regularly been involved in the title picture – winning Money in the Banks, Royal Rumbles and titles alike? Or will she be like Kairi Sane, whose career was regularly used to make Nia Jax, among others, look good? Let’s hope it is the former, as Io Shirai’s unprecedented potential means she simply cannot be mishandled.
11. Current NXT Women’s Champion: Raquel González (April 7, 2021 – Present)
And we arrive at the present. Raquel González is a homegrown WWE talent and one with a lot of potential. The self-described “Texican” (that being a Texas native with Mexican roots) is a second-generation superstar, following in the footsteps of her father, Rick González – an independent wrestler who never made it to the glitz and glamour of the WWE. The first notable feature of Raquel is her intimidating presence. Standing just over six feet tall, Raquel is one of the taller, more dominating women to have been in the WWE – which is why she debuted as the heater of Dakota Kai in her feud against Tegan Nox. Unlike the others on this list, Raquel is not the complete project; she has been in a work-in-progress since debuting in NXT and is a throwback to the days when NXT was a developmental brand. Despite this, she has significant potential and could eventually become one of the bigger stars to feature in this article; her size, her presence, and her power mean it is certain she will always stand out in the WWE women’s division. If she is given the right amount of time to hone her craft and develop further Raquel will be a success. In addition to her current reign as NXT Women’s Champion, Raquel was also one-half (with Dakota Kai) of the inaugural NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions and Women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic (2021) winners.
NXT Women’s Champions: Conclusion
There we have it. Eleven different NXT Women’s Champions spread across 13 reigns. Whereas some have not gone on to have the career they maybe envisioned, most have thrived and succeeded on the main roster; certainly when compared to the former holders of the men’s NXT Championship, a list which contains far more disappointments. The fact that all women involved are still signed to the WWE in some way speaks volumes and there is no doubt that they will continue collecting trophies and achievements in the future.
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