NXT Champions Released
5 former NXT Champions have been granted their released from WWE in a shock move recently. WWE has been terminating the contracts of some talent recently, like for Universal Champion Braun Strowman, ahead of a potential sale to NBC Universal. Only 4 former NXT Champions (Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Drew McIntyre) have tasted world Championship gold. This leads to questions regarding how WWE has been dealing with their former NXT Champions, after the recent releases especially.
Here I will list the top 5 NXT Champions who have since left the company, and see what they are doing now and will be doing in the near future.
5. Samoa Joe
Number Five on the list on NXT Champions Released is the Samoan Submission Machine, Samoa Joe!
Making his debut at NXT Unstoppable in 2015, Samoa Joe made an immediate impact on NXT. He shocked fans by attacking Kevin Owens after he defeated Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship, and even debuted under the name he had used previously, a rarity in NXT at that time.
Joe failed to win the Championship of Owens, but managed to become the inaugural Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winner, with rival and partner Finn Balor. Joe would later feud with Balor, winning the NXT Championship off the Irishman at a WWE house show, and became the only man to pin “The Demon”.
He lost, and regained, the Championship from Shinsuke Nakamura, become the first ever 2-time Champion in NXT. Samoa Joe left NXT and moved up to the main roster as Triple H’s enforcer in his feud with Seth Rollins.
World Championship gold eluded Samoa Joe, despite challenger Brock Lesnar multiple times but falling short. This included one of the best WWE promo’s of the last few years, and it made you think that Samoa Joe would be able to beat the Beast.
Joe also won the United States Championship, choking out Rey Mysterio in under a minute at Wrestlemania 35, but further title gold eluded the Samoan Submission Machine.
Joe was released in April this year, having moved behind the announce desk due to injuries. He was a regular commentator on Raw for nearly two years, with his firing a shock to everyone, and rumours of Joe to AEW became rife.
Samoa Joe would be a great signing for AEW as long as he can go in the ring. His experience would be invaluable for younger stars like Will Hobbs, who could add more technicality to their power.
A return to TNA or ROH could be on the cards too, with Joe being one of the greatest in ROH history.
4. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
Number Four on the list is the former La Sombra, Andrade!
The Mexican star was released in May after a bout of unhappiness, due to his poor usage on the main roster. He was taken off the road, and away from his wife Charlotte Flair, despite showing immense talent and main event promise.
Andrade at first didn’t impress in NXT, and reportedly was on his way to being let go by WWE. However, once paired with Zelina Vega, he found a new found confidence.
He defeated the NXT Champion Drew McIntyre at the first NXT Takeover: Wargames to claim his first WWE gold, and it looked to be the beginning of a successful run.
However, Andrade, like Samoa Joe, would only go on to win one more championship. His only title was against a fellow Mexican, the legendary Rey Mysterio. Andrade defeated Mysterio during a house show on Boxing Day 2019 to claim the United States Championship.
He later defended it against the likes of Mysterio, Angel Garza and Humberto Carrillo. Andrade lost the title to Apollo Crews, also winning his first WWE gold, at Backlash 2020.
He began teaming with Angel Garza, but manager Zelina Vega left soon after. Andrade had his last WWE match in October 2020, and was left on the shelf until his release last month.
After his release, he was announced as signing with Mexican promotion AAA, despite being a regular in rivals CMLL as “La Sombra”. The former NXT Champion is scheduled to face AAA Mega Champion and AEW Champion Kenny Omega for the AAA belt at the Triplemania XXIX show.
The match with Omega fuelled rumours of a move to AEW, with reports saying Andrade had been in contact with the promotion. A move to AEW could include the signing of former manager Zelina Vega, reuniting the two on TNT on Wednesday Nights.
[EDIT – Andrade was announced as signing to AEW my Vickie Guerrero on Friday Night Dynamite this week
3. Aleister Black
The 3rd on the list of NXT Champions is the recently released Alesiter Black, now known under his former name Tommy End.
End is a Dutch fighter who used a MMA, hard striking style in the ring, executing unbelievably believable kicks to take down his opponets.
End made his debut for NXT in the NXT United Kingdom Championship tournament, losing a surprise match to Neville (Now called PAC in AEW) which was not part of the tournament.
He had an interesting feud with the Velveteen Dream, who was obsessed with the Acknowledgement from Aleister Black. Black refused to say his name all throughout their feud until their match. at Takeover: Wargames. Black one with his Black Mass kick, but after the match uttered “Enjoy Infamy, Velveteen Dream”, saying the disgraced wrestlers name for the first time.
He moved on to a feud with the NXT Champion mentioned previous, Andrade. He defeated Andrade in a match of the year candidate at the NXT Takeover before Wrestlemania. This would be Black’s only championship in WWE, and would leave years later after incredible misuse of a extreme creative.
His main roster career started off with a Wrestlemania match, teaming with fellow NXT superstar Ricochet as a makeshift tag team. The pair worked great together, putting on great matches with whoever they faced. They competed for the Smackdown Tag Team titles at Wrestlemania 35, but were unsuccessful.
His remaining time on the main roster was devoid of any continuity, seemingly dropping in and out of feuds at the whim of Vince McMahon. He was just starting a feud with Big E, having cost him the Intercontinental Championship on a recent edition of Smackdown, but was released from his contract this week with no resolution.
2. Bo Dallas
Bo Dallas enjoyed a long stint with WWE. However, his 13-year long relationship with WWE came to an end on April 15th, 2021, when he was one of the superstars who was released by the company.
Dallas joined WWE in 2008 and was assigned to Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). The third-generation WWE Superstar became part of NXT in 2012 and his gimmick of “bad guy who thinks he’s the good guy” entertained the NXT Crowd immensely.
He was in the main event of the first ever NXT Takeover event, losing the NXT Title to Adrian Neville in a ladder match.
He had releative success on the main roster, being one of the Miz’s lackeys in his Miztourage, and winning the tag team championships with his partner Curtis Axel as part of the B-Team.
The former NXT Champions released recently and with no wrestling jobs in sight.
He is in a relationship with WWE superstar Liv Morgan, and the pair both live on a farm they have recently purchased together. His wrestling career looks to be finished, with Dallas reportedly making the move into the real estate business.
Top of the list of released NXT Champions is the man known as the Bastard. Newcastle’s own, PAC!
Formerly the Adrian Neville, then just Neville in WWE, PAC has shown himself to be the main event star that he is in AEW. His in ring work is complimented by his intense promo’s and he is headlining as the leading of the formidable trio known as Death Triangle. He regularly tags with teammates Penta El Zero M and Rey Fenix, and has recently had a number of title opportunities.
PAC was the man to dethrone Bo Dallas in NXT, and as Adrian Neville defeated him in NXT’s first ladder match. He later went on to defend his championship in some high profile matches, the highlight being a fatal 4-way match against Sami Zayn, Tyson Kidd and Tyler Breeze.
He lost the Championship in an emotional feud with Sami Zayn, where Neville made Zayn look like a star, coupled with Zayn’s incredible emotions in the ring. Sami Zayn vs Adrian Neville was the best feud in NXT history.
On the main roster, Neville came so close to beating Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship, with Rollins foot touching the rope milliseconds before the referee counted three. To this date it is one of the best near falls I’ve ever seen in WWE.
His main roster career was stalled by a shocking leg break whilst wrestling former WWE and AEW Champion Chris Jericho.
When he returned, he joined the new Cruiserweight division. He quickly dethroned Rich Swann as Cruiserweight champion, and apart from a short reign by Akira Tozawa, held the championship for over a year and dominated the division. It wasn’t until fast talking Enzo Amore defeated him did he lose the belt, having feuds with the likes of Austin Aries, Akira Tozawa and Cedric Alexander.
A dispute in how he was treated caused Neville to walk out on the company in October 2017. It wasn’t until the following August when he was finally granted his release, after nearly a year without wrestling. He quickly signed for former promotion Dragon Gate, where he won their “Open the Dream Gate” Championship.
He signed for AEW the same month they were announced, and quickly entered a feud with Hangman Adam Page. However, the match never took place due to creative differences, and he made his AEW Debut defeating Kenny Omega. He replaced Jon Moxley, who missed out due to injury, as Omega’s replacement at All Out 2019.
He went on to have an excellent match with my favourite wrestler, Orange Cassidy. In a short build, the pair wrestled at AEW Revolution 2020, with Cassidy’s sloth style complimenting the Bastard’s character very well. For my money, it was the best match of both men’s career until they would wrestle Kenny Omega in a triple threat match at AEW Double or Nothing 2021.
Pac has shown himself to be a main event talent in AEW, with is in ring work and microphone skills being some of the best in the company. He has a huge future ahead, and if AEW were to run a pay-per-view in England, then he would be the candidate chosen to win the title in the main event.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.