WWE NXT: All 26 Champions in Brand’s History, Ranked

17 of 26


10. Shinsuke Nakamura

When Shinsuke Nakamura joined WWE NXT in April 2016, he had a direct path to the top. It took a few months, along with defeating Sami Zayn, Austin Aries and Finn Balor to get there, but it was inevitable that he’d get the top babyface role in NXT. The crowd ate him up as the Guy, and he took over the brand for a handful of months.

At NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II, Nakamura got his crowning moment, defeating Samoa Joe for the NXT Championship. It wasn’t the instant classic everyone came to expect out of him, but still a great spotlight for someone who the fans loved.

Nakamura reached the mountain top that was expected for his time in NXT, but actually lasted shorter than expected, at just 92 days. He lost the belt to Joe at TakeOver: Toronto, which came as a surprise. While he only won it back 14 days later, it came in a predictable setting. This could have been used as a title defense instead of breaking things up, taking some of the oomph out of what he had accomplished in August.

Once Nakamura became NXT Champion for a second time, it felt like it would be even shorter, especially when Bobby Roode stepped to the plate. He had been pushed as the next top heel of NXT, having not lost a televised match, and seemed to be the brand’s next big act. There was also main roster speculation around the former NJPW star, which didn’t help things. He ended up losing the title after 57 days.

Nakamura’s first reign was fine, and he added plenty of star power to the title. However, his second go-around was quiet, something that may be forgotten in the coming years.