WWE’s NXT has become the third and arguably the strongest brand in WWE. Since its start back in 2012, NXT has become a breath of fresh air for anyone looking for something new from WWE. The NXT Takeover PPVs are constantly sold out, and easily provide most of WWE match of the year contenders. As a power move to compete against AEW, WWE signed a deal to air NXT on the USA Network, letting a bigger audience get a taste of the best that WWE has to offer.
But the question is where to start? Which wrestler should I invest my time following? This is what this list is for, as I give you the top 10 NXT superstars to be excited about. For this list, I will divide the list by gender, in other words, 5 female superstars and 5 male superstars.
10. Pete Dunne
Pete Dunne arrived in WWE during the first United Kingdom Tournament where he was the runner up losing to Tyler Bates. Pete Dunne would later find redemption during NXT Takeover: Chicago, where he won the UK Championship in a match of the year contender. Pete Dunne would become the longest-reigning champion holding the belt for 700+ days. During this time Pete Dunne would appear throughout NXT and NXT UK feuding with some of the best each brand has to offer, from teaming up with Roderick Strong during the Dusty Rhodes Classic, to competing in the second NXT Takeover Wargames PPV. After losing the title to Walter, Pete Dunne has completely been drafted to NXT. At 25 years old he is constantly outpacing his opponents proving that he one of the best wrestlers to watch.
9. Rhea Ripley
Rhea Ripley just like Pete Dunne arrived in WWE and became the UK Women’s Champion, unlike Pete Dunne, however, she barely appeared on the WWE Network because of the confusion with NXT UK. When she finally started appearing more often on television it was obvious that she was going to lose the title to Tony Storm. Despite this, Rhea Ripley is a strong competitor, with hard-hitting moves rarely seen in the main roster. The reason why she so low on the list is because she just debuted on NXT as a contender for the NXT Women’s Championship.
8. Velveteen Dream
Velveteen Dream is not the best wrestler on this list, but he is the best character that WWE has to offer. His larger than life persona and the way he constantly one-ups himself makes him must-watch television. For older and younger fans Velveteen Dream is the perfect bridge for anyone not used to NXT’s more wresting focus programing. He can tell a story with the best of them, and when matched with the proper opponent Velveteen Dream is bound to steal the show. Debuting as the North American Champion, fans are going to be forced to experience the Dream.
7. Mia Yim
Mia Yim is one of the most recent breakout stars from NXT, after competing in the Mae Young Classic Tournament Mai Yim was signed into WWE. Due to the influx of stars arriving into WWE NXT at the time, it seemed that she was going to disappear. However, her unique look and her smash-mouth style of wrestling didn’t just elevate her but earned her a shot at the woman’s title. Despite losing her title opportunity she cemented her place as a main event contender and a superstar you can not miss.
6. Matt Riddle
Matt Riddle is a former UFC fighter with a strong personality and even stronger strikes. After retiring from the octagon, Riddle quickly made a name for himself in the independent circuit with his hybrid style of mix martial arts and wrestling. After arriving in NXT Riddle wasted no time stealing the show with some of the most hard-hitting matches you will ever see. When it comes to his background there is a similarity between Riddle and Lesnar. However, Lesnar only used his UFC background as a way to strengthen his character and relays mostly on suplexes, Riddle’s style is exactly what fans wanted from a hybrid of wrestling and UFC.
5. Candice Lerae
Candice Lerae has had an interesting time during her run on NTX. She debuted in the Mae Young Classic before arriving in NXT. While in NXT she did not wrestle, instead she was used as Johnny Gargano’s emotional support since they are married in real life. She was a face when he was a face, she was heel when he was a heel, however, all this time she really didn’t wrestle. That changed, however, when she broke out from her husband’s storyline and started to have her own matches. This allowed the audience to witness who is arguably one of the best female indie wrestlers in the world. With the light shining brighter on her, and the move the USA Network Candice Lerae is bound to make an impact.
4. Undisputed Era
The Undisputed Era is not just one of the best groups in WWE, they are one of the best stables in the world. Arriving in NXT by assaulting Drew McIntyre after he won the NXT Championship. The stable consist of Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, and Kyle O’Reilly the trio ran rough-shot across the brand until an injury sideline Bobby Fish. This wouldn’t stop the Undisputed Era, after a brutal War Games match long-time rival Roderick Strong joined the stable as the final member during NXT Takeover: Orleans. That same night ended with Kyle O’Reilly and Strong retaining the tag team champions, and Adam Cole becoming the first North American Champion. Each member of the Undisputed Era has stolen the show on multiple occasion, including Adam Cole’s five star classic with Johnny Gargano. Currently, the Undisputed Era are the holders of both the Tag Teams Titles (Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly) and the NXT Championship (Adam Cole). Roderick Strong is currently in a feud with the Velveteen Dream for the North American title. With the move to USA Network, it is only a matter of time before the Undisputed Era will be draped in gold.
3. Io Shirai
Io Shirai started off as a babyface who, despite her wrestling abilities, was only seen as Kairi Sane’s best friend. The two formed a tag-team, but there was always this idea that the two would feud eventually. This changed when Kairi was moved up to the main roster, and Io Shirai was given a greater spotlight. Io was quickly given a shot at the Woman’s Title, however, with the odds stacked against her Io Shirai lost her match during NXT Takeover: XXV. Io was given a rematch in a steel cage match where she lost again, but as a result, she made a drastic change and turned heel. After her heel turn, Io Shirai has become one of the best characters on the roster. Io is currently feuding with Candice Lerae a feud that is sure to result in some of the best matches this year.
2. Johnny Gargano
Earlier on, on this list I mentioned that the Velveteen Dream is the best characters on the roster, now is time to talk about the best wrestler on the roster. Johnny Gargano/ Johnny Wrestling/ Johnny Takeover has had his hand on some of the best moments not just on NXT, but in WWE as a whole. When looking up WWE stats most of the recent 5-star matches come from NXT, and Johnny Gargano has participated in most of them. Every year for the last three years, he has had a match of the year contender, even through the rose-colored glasses of the WWE. He isn’t just a great single star, he also won the NXT Tag-team titles against the Revival in a, you guessed it, match of the year winner. However, his most standout moment was his rivalry with long-time friend Tommaso Ciampa. A feud that went through a hardcore match, last man standing match, and even a regular singles match. Each match resulting in 4.5-star matches, and even, yes another 5-star match. Despite all this Johnny surprisingly only held the NXT Championship once, and only for a few months. He won it in NXT Takeover: NY, where he took on Adam Cole in a 2 out of 3 falls match. The match, of course, was a 5-star match pulling out all the stops, and Johnny was able to win the title. Only to lose it in NXT Takeover: XXV the show right after, where he lost to Adam Cole. Despite banishing after his lost, WWE has advertised Johnny as a member of the NXT roster, and after seeing all his matches it is easy to say that Johnny Gargano is WWE’s biggest trump card.
1. Shayna Baszler
During this list, I mentioned that most of the women had title shot opportunities, but they all lost. Now it is time to talk about the champ herself, Shayna Baszler arrived during the Mae Young classic losing second place to Kairi Sane, a pattern that usually leads to success, and boy did it. Not long after losing, Shayna Baszler took the title from then-champion Ember Moon in a crushing match. This was the second time the two clashed, the first time Ember got lucky and managed to win, however, luck was not on her side for the rematch as Shayna destroyed Ember ending her reign. During her first reign, Shayna felt like a transitional champion, only holding the belt until she lost it to Kairi Sane. However, this changed when Shayna was introduced to the last key to her success, Maria Shafir and Jessamyn Duke. The trio along with Ronda Rousey made up the FourHoursewomen of the UFC. Maria and Jessamyn provide extra support for Shayna when needed, but don’t let make you think that Shayna is a weak champion. Shayna is a dominate champion and her destruction of every opponent has made her one of the best Women’s Champion in NXT history.