When fans talk about WWE’s developmental system, many bring up NXT’s massive success story.
However, it wasn’t always known as one of wrestling’s most popular brands.
Before NXT, there was Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), which was founded by Steve Keirn in June 2007. In October, it joined Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) as part of WWE’s developmental territory. Early in 2008, FCW was their only developmental territory after the company ended their affiliation with OVW.
The promotion operated until August 2012, when WWE rebranded it into the NXT brand that we know today.
We all know how NXT has helped shape WWE, but did it start to take shape back in its FCW days? The answer to that question lies in its former talent and where they are now in professional wrestling.
Let’s take a look back in time and see just how important FCW was to WWE’s growth over the years.
Perhaps the brightest spot for FCW came from its men’s roster. Some notable names include Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Drew McIntyre, and Dolph Ziggler, among others.
Every single one of the men listed have gone on to make an impact in WWE in some form or fashion.
For example, Rollins, Reigns, and Ambrose formed The Shield, one of the most dominant factions in WWE history. They then went on to have wildly successful singles careers with the company.
Even now, all three men are still prominent features on RAW, SmackDown, and, in Ambrose’s case, AEW.
Daniel Bryan’s Yes Movement and Cinderella story was the talk of the wrestling world in 2013-14. His inevitable World Heavyweight Championship win at WrestleMania XXX remains one of the most popular moments in the pay-per-view’s existence.
In addition, him coming out of retirement in 2018 was easily the feel-good story of the year.
While his first run in WWE didn’t go quite as planned, Drew McIntyre vowed to come back better than ever before. After leaving for almost three years, he returned to the company and debuted for the red-hot NXT brand. Not long after, he headed over to RAW.
A few months ago, he won the 2020 Royal Rumble and will face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 36.
Without a doubt, FCW’s women’s roster produced several trailblazers that helped change how women’s wrestling is viewed today.
Some familiar names include Paige, Naomi, Nikki & Brie Bella, Natalya, Alicia Fox, Serena Deeb, and AJ Lee.
In their own way, each helped spearhead the Women’s Revolution and changed the game for women’s wrestlers today.
While Paige’s career, unfortunately, ended too soon due to injury, she accomplished so much in her four years with WWE. Her unorthodox style and personality in and out of the ring quickly resonated with fans. She won the inaugural NXT Women’s Championship and was the youngest Divas Champion in history.
AJ Lee’s quirky attitude made her one of the more popular women’s wrestlers in the early-to-mid 2010s. Her feuds with Paige and the Bella Twins were very memorable and some of the early signs of the changing times in women’s wrestling.
Natalya is one of the longest-tenured women on the WWE roster, signing with the company back in 2007. Even though she hasn’t won many titles, she remains a pillar of the division and is one of the most consistent superstars on the roster.
Known for her time as a member of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society, Serena Deeb returned to WWE in 2017 to compete in the inaugural Mae Young Classic. She may have only made it to the second round, but the company brought her back as a coach at their Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.
Things have come full circle, as she now has a hand in developing the future superstars of the women’s division.
Overall, FCW should get more credit for creating a lot of the superstars we see today. A good portion of those that helped NXT take off got their start there. Honestly, FCW was a big factor in getting WWE where it is now; NXT wouldn’t have developed into basically a third major brand for the company, and women’s wrestling wouldn’t have flourished as quickly as it did.
While Triple H and company wanted to revamp the developmental system, it was up to the talent to turn it into something more. They all helped change the perception of developmental brands and how popular they could become.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @Shalenehixon21. Thanks for reading!