Which Original Nexus Members Had The Greatest WWE Careers?
The last great WWE faction never got its due. But the Nexus still gave us some great wrestlers. With six years of hindsight, who had the best run?
The debut of Nexus on the main roster will go down as one of the greatest moments in Raw history. Unexpected, shocking and incredibly entertaining, the new faction burst onto the scene with an immediate impact. Even though the group would fail to live up to its potential due to injuries and poor booking, the WWE had eight potential stars at their disposal.
Some of those men have gone on to have tremendous success with the company, both at the main event and mid-card level, whilst others failed to make the grade once the original group was disbanded. In this list, I will rank who has had the greatest WWE career following the breakup of Nexus.
It is also worth noting that this list will only contain original members of Nexus and will not include Daniel Bryan, due to the fact he was only a member of the group for their Raw invasion.
7. Michael Tarver
It was clear from the fact he was the first man eliminated from the original NXT programme that the WWE never had major plans for Michael Tarver, whose character was fairly bland. That proved to be the case when he failed to make any real impact under the Nexus umbrella. Never really showing any real character development, fans had no reason to invest into Tarver at all.
He was eventually attacked by John Cena in an angle that wrote him off television due to a real life groin injury. Wade Barrett later claimed he would have been thrown out of the group regardless of Cena’s actions. These comments from the leader of the group showed exactly what faith the company had in Tarver (very little) and he would never compete in a WWE ring again on television, making his WWE career a very short lived one.
6. David Otunga
Despite the fact he actually finished runner-up in the original NXT series, David Otunga’s wrestling career has never really amounted to much, with him spending the majority of his career working outside of the ring.
Despite the fact his in-ring career was relatively short-lived, Otunga does boast two Tag Team Championship runs to his name, with one of them being with John Cena. Following his time with Nexus, Otunga adapted his real life lawyer job to his wrestling work, taking up a legal adviser role that saw him as a backstage character.
Since then, Otunga has been used on the broadcasting team, either on pre-shows or on the commentary table itself as he remains an important figure within WWE.
5. Justin Gabriel
The high-flying member of Nexus, Justin Gabriel spent six years with WWE and was arguably the most talented in-ring member of the original group. Yet it was his lack of personality and character that let him down.
His impressive 450 Splash finisher set him apart from the group and Gabriel would often finish off the group’s attacks as his move had the most impact. Gabriel finished third in the original NXT competition and left the company having won the Tag Team Championships on three occasions with fellow Nexus member, Heath Slater.
Following the Nexus’ fallout, Gabriel followed the leader, Wade Barrett and joined the CORRE, a group that never managed to follow in Nexus’ footsteps. Following his spells in the two different factions, Gabriel never managed to gain much traction as a singles star and despite consistently having good quality matches when given the chance, he never made a large impact.
Towards the end of his WWE career, Gabriel found himself back in the newly reformed NXT, where he was given more opportunities. But his main roster career wound down with him being a jobber for higher talents as well as performing as Adam Roses’ popular Bunny character
4. Darren Young
Mr No Days Off has had a rollercoaster WWE career that has been littered with highs and lows. But he has always remained a constant figure within the company even though his role has not always been a prominent one.
After being a prominent figure in the early rise of Nexus, Young was quickly eliminated from the group after a defeat to John Cena following Nexus’ SummerSlam loss to his team. He then returned to cost Wade Barrett a WWE Championship match against Randy Orton, yet no major feud came from this as he was promptly attacked by the group’s remaining members.
After spending a year back on the NXT game show the former Nexus member formed a tag team partnership with Titus O’Neil, creating the Prime Time Players, where he would have his greatest success as a WWE superstar.
His time with Titus would span over three years, with a small singles run in-between, and saw the team pick up one Tag Team Championship. Following the break-up of the Prime Time Players, Darren Young aligned himself with WWE Hall of Famer, Bob Backlund in a partnership that was certainly strange but saw Young become the number one contender for the Intercontinental Championship.
Whilst he lost his first major championship feud as a singles star, Young was starting to pick up momentum until a lengthy injury saw him put on the shelf, as fans now wait to see what is next for him.
3. Heath Slater
No matter how many times Heath Slater has seemed to be down and out and heading for the exit door, he has always managed to reinvent himself and stay relevant within WWE. Arguably the most popular member of Nexus to this day, Slater has experienced the main event scenes with Nexus all the way to not being able to get any television time. Yet he is still a prominent figure on Monday Night Raw.
Slater was ever present with both Nexus and The CORRE, seeing him become a Tag Team Champion three times during the period. Following a suspension, Slater returned to the company and began calling out WWE legends, which saw him be beaten up each week by a former WWE superstars.
These segments became incredibly popular with fans excited to see who was next and it was clear Slater was building a connection with the crowd. Which is why they accepted 3MB, where he expanded on his rock star gimmick.
Despite the group never climbing the ladder of success they were certainly popular due to the talent that all three men possessed. In the end Slater was the only man out of the group not to leave the company for a period of time. After being part of another failed group in the Social Outcasts it seemed as if Slater’s days were numbered until the WWE brought back the draft.
After having the gimmick of not being picked by either brand, Slater would eventually join SmackDown Live and became a focal point of the weekly show. Teaming up with former ECW star, Rhyno, Slater and his new partner became the first ever SmackDown Live Tag Team Champions and the popular tag team has continued together ever since.
2. Ryback (Skip Sheffield)
Even though he was in Nexus for the shortest amount of time, due to injury, Ryback went on to have an incredible WWE career and was booked stronger than anybody from the group.
Immediately thrown into the main event scene upon his return, Ryback was treated as a monster who would run through his opponents, going undefeated for a significant amount of time. Due to a thin roster, Ryback was arguably put in the main event scene too soon, which didn’t help him in the long run, yet his feuds with John Cena and CM Punk were both very memorable.
Despite never quite grasping a World Championship, Ryback always stayed relevant and was a constant figure in the company right up until his departure. It is quite surprising to look back and see that he finished his WWE career with only one (Intercontinental) championship run to his name considering how well he was booked, but he certainly left an impact during his stint with the company.
1. Wade Barrett
The winner of the original NXT series and the leader of both Nexus and The CORRE, Wade Barrett had main event potential and star power written all over him. Unfortunately, due to poor booking decisions, Barrett never quite made it as a main event star. But his role as the leader of those groups will put him in WWE history books for life.
Despite not spending as much time in the main event scene as he deserved, Barrett still had an excellent WWE career, leaving as a former King of the Ring and a five-time Intercontinental Champion.
The Englishman had tons of charisma that saw him reinvent himself countless times, and was undoubtedly the strongest on the microphone out of everybody in the group. Going from a faction leader to the Barrett’s Barrage to Bad News Barrett, eventually finishing his run as King Barrett, every single transition was seamless and the fans got on board with all of them, even his run in the League of Nations.