After the amazing NXT [R]Evolution show this December, the spotlight has been on this little company who run wrestling shows in Florida at a University. They use some of the greatest independent talents in the world and its booking team comprises of a former 13 times WWE Champion and a veteran WWE Announcer.
While NXT has a fair few stars on its roster, we have recently been hearing the phrase “NXT Five” floated about. This is a play on the original “SmackDown 6” who comprised of Edge & Rey Mysterio (Faces), Los Guerreros (Heel), and Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit. The 6 men flourished and with Paul Heymans booking behind them, made Smackdown (Arguably) the best show that the WWE ran for a period of time between 2002 – 2006 for its wrestling content while RAW was giving lacklustre shows.
Fast-forward to August 2012, the former Florida Championship Wrestling developmental promotion was transformed into NXT Wrestling, and moved operations to Full Sail University. They have a roster of about 40 wrestlers, with a few main talents popping in now and then. Most notably, there are 5 big standouts.
Kevin Owens is formerly Kevin Steen. One of the independent scenes hottest stars in the past decade, and most notably a former Ring Of Honor Champion who held the Championship for 328 days.
Owens’ most famous feud, one that is now continuing in NXT, is with Sami Zayn. Sami & Owens have had a storied history, winning the ROH Tag Championships in September 2008 after beating Seth Rollins/Tyler Black & Jimmy Jacobs. They would lose the titles in 2009, and Kevin would turn on his partner in December for the first time (of many). They would go on to have a number of matches, and had a yearlong feud which ended at ROH Final Battle 2010 in a Mask Vs. Career match, which Steen lost. The feud won Wrestling Observer Feud of the Year.
In relation to Sami Zayn, they would have one of the best matches of 2012, in the famous “Ladder War” at Final Battle 2012. Kevin would sign with WWE on August 12th 2014, and after about a month of teaser vignettes he would appear on December 11th, beating CJ Parker at NXT [R]Evolution (Breaking his nose in his first few seconds of his WWE career). He would later go on, and shock his old buddy Sami Zayn in the main event, after Sami had won the NXT World Championship after a long feud with Adrian Neville.
Kevin is a powerhouse, and a highly important member of the NXT Five. He has a unique moveset, and look, and out of the 5 is most definitely the wildcard.
The current NXT Champion. For many years, Sami would appear at shows under a different moniker. El Generico. Now known as Sami Zayn, he is not as fresh as NXT would have you believe, he’s been around the world in many entertaining matches over the past 13 years. Wrestling for PWG, Chikara, Dragon Gate, DDT, Evolve, Ring Of Honor and many many others. Sami could arguably be considered the veteran of the NXT5. He’s been wrestling nearly as long as John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista.
A main stay in California based promotion, PWG, where he has had many great matches including MOTY’s with Pac (Adrian Neville) in 2006 and Bryan Danielson in 2007, Sami has been there and done it.
He signed with WWE on January 9th 2013, and made his TV debut on May 22nd. He would go on to have outstanding matches with Antonio Cesaro (The former Claudio Castignoli) that same year, most notably the 2 out of 3 falls on August 21st. The story with Sami was that he “couldn’t win the Big One”. He would miss out on Championship opportunities from the offset by being eliminated in Battle Royal’s close to the end, tying a Beat The Clock Challenge against Neville losing #1 Contender Matches and then another Battle Royal mess up by tying it with Tyler Breeze & Tyson Kidd.
The story becomes more current, when we get to NXT Takeover 1, where Sami would face and lose in a controversial manor to Tyler Breeze. Zayn went on to face Tyson Kidd, and would beat him to end the quick feud. Neville & Zayn would become friends over this period of time, and planted the seeds for the big match down the round. Neville would win a 4 way for the Championship in September, after Sami hit the Mafia Kick on Breeze and threw Sami out of the ring.
The Road to Redemption would begin, and Sami would pick up wins over previous feuds he had in the company. Beating Kidd, Titus O’Neil, Tyler Breeze and then losing to Neville again after Neville would take advantage of Sami’s compassionate nature.
Sami Zayn would finally beat Neville at the NXT [R]evolution show, in a moment that was over a year in the making. After an emotional celebration, Kevin Owens would make his way down to the ring and celebrate with his long-time friend… Only to turn on Sami, and restart the feud from 2012.
The most accomplished member of NXT out of the 5, Neville has already held the NXT Championship for 287 days and been a 2 time NXT Tag Team Champion (Effectively, a NXT Double-Crown winner) for a combined 175 days with Corey Graves & Oliver Grey respectfully.
Adrian is the former Superstar known as “PAC”. He had worked mostly in International Promotions and Dragon Gate, while doing PWG on occasion and at one time he defeated legendary Jushin Liger in his first match for NJPW in the Super Juniors Tournament in 2012 where he won 5 of his 8 matches. In PWG, his debut came with at All Star Weekend IV in a losing effort against AJ Styles and a outstanding match with the former El Generico that same weekend. His return to PWG came with his first ever win was against Kevin Owens. In his time with PWG, he would win the Tag Team Championships with Roderick Strong, but missing out on the Championship a few times.
He did however win multiple championships in Dragon Gate, including the Brave Gate (Secondary Title), Triangle Gate (6 man Tag title) and Twin Gate Championships (Tag Title). Adrian could easily be classed as one of the best British talents of the past decade, debuting at 2004.
Known as “The Man that Gravity Forgot”, he often uses a Corkscrew Shooting Star Press, a 450 Splash, a 630 Senton, among other spectacular moves. His NXT run has mostly been as the Champion, defeating most of the roster until Sami Zayn dethroned him at NXT [R]Evolution. Out of the 5, he’s probably the closest to being called up to the Main Roster.
One of the newcomers in the NXT world, Hideo is one of the most explosive and gifted of the roster. Formerly KENTA, Hideo is one of the best talents to ever come out of Pro Wrestling NOAH. The legendary Kenta Kobashi, trained him and gave him permission to use the name KENTA (his real name). He has won a laundry list of championships and awards for his time in Japan, most notably the GHC World Championship which he held for close to a year. He was PWI’s #22 in 2013, and it would a whole other article to talk about his accomplished NOAH career.
Debuting in 2000, he spent his entire career in Japan while occasionally coming over for the odd show in Ring Of Honor throughout 2005/2006 & 2007/2009. His best matches came at Final Battle 2005 he faced Low Ki, BITW 2006 he would team with Naomichi Marufuji to defeat Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson. A 3 way, with Samoa Joe & Danielson at “ROH In Your Face”, a MOTYC with Bryan Danielson at Glory By Honor 5.
He would come back to ROH in 2007, for a few matches which included a match on the Glory By Honor VI tour; the first night had him team with the GHC Heavyweight Champion Mitsuharu Misawa against Takeshi Morishima and Naomichi Marufuji, with the match ending in a thirty-minute time limit draw and then The following night had Kenta wrestle Misawa for the GHC Heavyweight Championship in a losing effort. He would return in 2009, and have another great match with Nigel McGuinness on the company’s 7th anniversary show.
KENTA would open talks with WWE on January 27th 2014, after being blessed by NOAH to leave the company. He would sign on June 27th, and it was officially announced on July 12th during the WWE Tour in Japan.
Now Hideo, he would debut at NXT Takeover; Fatal 4 Way and rename himself. He would be interrupted by The Ascension, and would begin the feud with the Tag Team. After being outnumbered for weeks, Hideo would bring an old friend from Japan to the company…
Finn debuted on an episode of NXT in September as Hideo’s Tag Team Partner, to face the Ascension in a future match. His first match was on the 23rd October Tapings, against Justin Gabriel & Tyson Kidd in a winning effort. Balor would then appear at NXT Takeover [R]Evolution, in his signature body paint which he brought over from Japan. Finn & Hideo would defeat the Ascension that same show, and would spark the “Rise of Finn”.
But Finn has been a great talent for many years, and actually spawned one of the biggest stables in wrestling today. In a previous life, Finn Balor was Fergal Devitt AKA Prince Devitt. The Former Godfather of the Bullet Club.
Debuting in 2000, the Irish Born superstar worked for many British and American companies for the first few years of his career, mainly the Millennium Wrestling Federation. His career really kicked off when he joined New Japan Pro Wrestling, during 2006. He would be there until 2014, and in his time would become a 6 Time IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Champion (4 with Ryusuke as Apollo 55) and a 3 time IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion.
In terms of notable events, Devitt was the original leader of the world famous Bullet Club. Starting the faction in May 2013, Devitt turned on his former partner Ryusuke and joined with American Karl Anderson, and Tongans Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga. By the end of the year, the Bullet Club had expanded with other Americans, The Young Bucks and Luke “Doc” Gallows.
By the end of 2013, Bullet Club had the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title, and Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, and have won 3 out of the 5 tournaments that same year. The Bullet Club is essentially, the Americans/foreigners in Japan taking over the company. While Devitt never won the IWGP Heavyweight Title during his time with NJPW, the Bullet Club was a catalyst to him stepping up to face the main NJPW roster such as Kaz Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kojima & Makabe. Himself and Tanahashi would go on to have a few matches, all of them great.
Devitt would then face Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title, which he would lose after a 14 Month Title Reign at WrestleKingdom 8 in the Tokyo Dome infront of 35,000 people. Needless to say, Prince Devitt is hardly a new comer. He would finish with the company after a match with long time tag team partner, Ryusuke at Invasion Attack 2014, where the Young Bucks would turn on him in the end.
The biggest thing that new eyes will have gotten from Prince Devitt/Finn Balor, is his spectacular entrance to numerous shows over the past few years. Devitt has painted himself up as Spiderman Series characters “Venom” “Carnage” and “Anti-Venom”, Horror stars, Freddie Krueger and Hannibal Lectar. DC Characters, The Joker And Bane.
There you have it, the NXT Five. Balor, Itami, Neville, Zayn and Owens.
While these 5 men are not the only ones you should care about on the roster, they are perhaps the best talents and ones to look out for in the future of NXT. All 5 have had deep, independent wrestling backgrounds and a great of history in the past 10 years overseas and not in the WWE. While the WWE might try to make them out to be completely new stars, they have nearly 50 years’ worth of experience between them. Needless to say, the NXT Five are an experienced bunch and will soon be fighting for that elusive last spot on the WrestleMania Card on the main roster.