WWE NXT: Ranking the 10 best wrestlers in the Black and Gold brand’s history

WWE, Asuka (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
WWE, Asuka (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images) /
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7. Shinsuke Nakamura

Since Shinsuke Nakamura made his debut on SmackDown with an ill-fated feud against Dolph Ziggler, WWE fans have felt the company has missed out on truly capturing the King of Strong Style’s stardom. After all, Nakamura was the epitome of a legend in NJPW, even main eventing a Wrestle Kingdom as the IWGP Intercontinental Champion. The man’s charisma was something else entirely.

But before becoming a Royal Rumble winner and never winning the world title, Nakamura was an absolute star in WWE NXT. Wrestling fans can always look back at his time with the Black and Gold brand as an example of the company briefly getting things right with Nakamura.

Everyone was signing his theme song when he was in NXT. His popularity eclipsed every other man on the brand, and he and fellow long-time wrestling legend Samoa Joe (also without a main roster world title) would become NXT’s only two-time Men’s Champions during their rivalry.

Nakamura’s time in NXT barely lasted a year, but he played a profound role in changing the brand. Nobody is forgetting his show-stealing NXT debut with Sami Zayn at TakeOver: Dallas anytime soon. His matches with Joe were also excellent, as was his one-off bout with another one of NXT’s greatest ever wrestlers in Finn Balor. And finally, he put over Bobby Roode big-time on the way out, ensuring Roode would start off his NXT Title reign feeling like one of the biggest heels in the company.