6. Kevin Owens
No singular moment – not even NXT’s Survivor Series triumph as an entire brand – gave the Black and Gold brand more of a mainstream spotlight than Kevin Owens accepting John Cena’s United States Championship Open Challenge on Raw.
Owens didn’t actually compete in a US Title match. No, the Prizefighter was already the NXT Champion, so he had no interest in competing for what he deemed to be a second-rate prize. Instead, he beat the living hell out of the biggest name in professional wrestling and then literally beat him in a non-title match at the Elimination Chamber Pay Per View.
But that was Kevin Owens in a nutshell. All he did in NXT was make headlines no matter what he did. He made headlines when he betrayed Sami Zayn, when he kept beating up Neville until Zayn was forced into giving him a title match, and then when he feuded with Finn Balor.
Owens has been a part of many of the most defining moments in NXT’s history and is probably the best character in the history of NXT’s Men’s Division. His brilliant heel work, which eventually led him to the Universal Championship on Raw in 2016, started in NXT.
While Owens’ feud with Zayn is the most memorable for obvious reasons, his best matches were against Balor. He put Balor over as NXT’s top babyface on the way out, losing a final ladder match at TakeOver: Brooklyn. They had no chance of topping Sasha and Bayley that night, but on any other card, that would have been the story of the night as a strong main event match.