I thought I would start a new series here on Two Spot Monkeys and take a look back at the rookies we were introduced to through NXT in the first four seasons of the show. Since it started in February of 2010, NXT alum have gone on to win 18 titles in WWE, and for some of the competitors, more titles certainly seem to be in their future. Yet, for others, NXT was as high as they’d ever reach (at least as of this writing) in the world of pro wrestling. So, without any further adieu, let’s take a look back at Season One of NXT and where those competitors are now!
Michael Tarver - Tarver was mentored by Carlito on Season 1 of NXT. He was the first competitor to be eliminated during the season as well, as he refused to participate in the rookie challenges as he wasn’t there to perform “menial tasks”. He of course debuted along with the rest of the NXT Season 1 rookies in the Nexus, but was never a featured member of that group really. He sustained a groin injury and was written out of the group. In 2011 he started appearing randomly in backstage segments on Raw and Smackdown, just sort of lurking in the shadows, but nothing ever came of it. Finally in June of 2011, he was released from WWE. He currently works for Florida Underground Wrestling, where as of now, he is currently the champion.
Daniel Bryan - Bryan was of course famously mentored by The Miz. Bryan never won a match on NXT, however he did get the pin in an 8 on 4 handicap match on Raw, with the other NXT rookies, pinning Santino Marella. Even though Bryan had his struggles on NXT, there is no question at this point, he is the biggest star to come off not only season one of NXT, but any season the show ever had. Bryan is a former US Champion, Tag Champion, World Heavyweight Champion, and WWE Champion and is currently the protagonist in the biggest storyline going in WWE today as he battles Randy Orton and the McMahon family.
Skip Sheffield - Sheffield was mentored by William Regal in Season One and showed off his immense power. He was billed as something of a hick, with a cowboy hat and all. He was the first wrestler to be eliminated by the poll results. He of course returned with the Nexus in July, but unfortunately in August of that year, broke his ankle badly and was out until April of 2012 when he returned as Ryback. He has since become a member of the mid to upper mid card, including a feud with John Cena over the WWE where many people felt (myself included) that they could really “make” Ryback by putting him over for the title. Alas, they didn’t do that and it appears now he’s trying to be WWE’s version of Bully Ray. Something tells me that won’t work out as well for him as it has for Ray.
Darren Young - Young was mentored by CM Punk, though they never quite seemed to get on the same page. Young has of course gone on to become one of the Prime Time Players with Season 2 alum, Titus O’Neil. They seemed poised for a tag title run a while back, but the trigger never got pulled. With his recent coming out as a gay man, and the babyface push that seems to have garnered for he and O’Neil, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them eventually dethrone the Shield, though I don’t see that happening anytime soon given the Shield’s involvement in the top angle right now.
Heath Slater - Slater was mentored by Christian in season one. Though he’s basically part of a comedy act now in 3MB, Slater has won the WWE Tag Team Titles on 3 occasions with fellow Season 1 alum, Justin Gabriel. Slater was someone I thought would do really well, and I thought had a little Chris Jericho in him, but it seems he is destined for the lower midcard comedy role at this point, as I’m not sure how you’d make 3MB anything more than a joke now. I see Slater as wasted opportunity.
Justin Gabriel - The high flying Gabriel was mentored by Matt Hardy in Season 1. Gabriel made it all the way to the finals, but finished in 3rd place. Gabriel has carved out a nice niche for himself as a midcard babyface who gets some good reactions due to his high flying and his picture perfect 450 splash. As I mentioned before, he’s won the WWE Tag Team Titles 3 times with Heath Slater, and seemed poised for a possible run at them again with Tyson Kidd, before Kidd blew out his knee in January of this year. Gabriel seems in position that if they ever wanted to move him into the IC or US Title picture they could, but they don’t seem like they want to do that either.
David Otunga - Otunga finished 2nd in Season 1 of NXT, being mentored by R-Truth. He’s gone on to a better career than I’d have imagined he would as I find him very limited in the ring. He’s a two time former WWE Tag Team Champion, holding it once with John Cena (for one day) and again with Michael McGuillicutty (now Curtis Axel). He has been featured many times in an advisor role for people, playing off of his law degree that he legitimately holds. I know they like keeping him around because he’s connected with Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, but seriously, I have no idea why they keep paying him. It’s time to cut their losses with Otunga in my eyes.
Wade Barrett - The winner of Season 1 of NXT, Barrett was mentored by Chris Jericho. Barrett has gone on to be a main player for most of his time in WWE, including three reigns as the Intercontinental Champion, and main eventing PPV’s against John Cena for the WWE Title. He was even rumored to be in line for a Money in the Bank win about a year ago, but sadly injured himself in a match and had to miss significant time, which has cut into his push somewhat. Barrett is in the mid to upper mid card right now, and could easily get a push up to the Main Event level anytime they wish. Personally, I hope it’s soon, he deserves it.
So, there you have it. A look back at Season One of NXT. Only one of the eight men from that season no longer works for WWE, so, perhaps in that case, it was a successful season. It certainly brought Daniel Bryan to the main roster, as well as Wade Barrett and a group of solid midcard acts. I’ll be back from time to time taking a look at the other seasons of NXT as well to see where those competitors are now. Join us again as we look at “Where are they now?”