Today, July 1st, 2018, marks the 6th anniversary for the NXT Championship. To celebrate the anniversary, we’ve decided it would be fun to rank the 13 individual superstars who have the distinction to call themselves NXT Champion. These rankings will be based strictly on what that person did in their time as champion. Anything they did on the main roster will not be counted. The number of times someone successfully defended the championship will only be taken from NXT TV or Takeovers. Dark matches and house shows will not be taken into account.
So join us as we rank the 13 NXT Champions.
13. Sami Zayn
Zayn kicks off our list and as the fifth NXT Champion, ushering in a new era as fans began to flock more and more to NXT. Zayn held the championship for a total of 62 days from December 2014 – February 2015. The reason that Sami is listed at 13 in the ranking is that he only held the championship for 62 days, the least amount of time for any champion. In that time, however, Sami only successfully defended his championship once.
12. Aleister Black
Number 12 is the current NXT Champion, Aleister Black. Black won the championship on April 7th of this year and has held it a total of 82 days and counting. In his reign, Black has successfully defended the championship twice. Black is in the middle of a strong reign and many see him as the future of NXT and WWE, but only time is sure to tell.
11. Drew McIntyre
Drew McIntyre, the 11th NXT champion, comes in on our list at number 11. McIntyre won his championship from Bobby Roode on August 19, 2017. The former Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion held the NXT title for a total of 91 days, ranking 11th in days held. During his reign, he defended his championship against Adam Cole (Bay! Bay!) and Roderick Strong. McIntyre would lose his championship to Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas.
10. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas
The man who beat McIntyre for the championship comes in at number 10. With the help of Zelina Vega, “El Idolo” held the NXT Championship for a total of 140 days, successfully defending against Johnny Gargano twice. One of the reasons Almas is ranked higher than McIntyre, Zayn & Black is because Almas achieved something no other NXT champion has ever achieved. Along with Gargano, the pair’s match at NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia earned the first five-star match for WWE since 2011.
9. Big E
The number nine spot on our list is held by Big E. Along with being the 2nd NXT Champion, Big E also has the distinction of being the first African-American NXT Champion. Big E held the championship for a total 168 day from December 6th, 2012 to May 23rd, 2013. In that time, Big E successfully defended the championship twice, against Brad Maddox and Konnor, now of the Ascension.
8. Bobby Roode
“The Glorious” Bobby Roode comes in at number eight on our list. During his reign as champion, Roode held the championship for 203 days, successfully defending his championship four times on NXT TV. Roode was the end of an era for NXT, followed by an era with a more international focus, stretching its reach to places like the U.K.
7. Shinsuke Nakamura
The first Japanese champion and the second to hold the belt twice is Shinsuke Nakamura, who comes in at lucky number seven. Nakamura reigned as champion for a combined 147 days. Between both of his reigns, however, “The King of Strong Style” only defended his championship successfully once. Although Nakamura doesn’t have the longest reign or the most amount of defenses, he is one of two men to hold the championship twice.
6. Samoa Joe
That other man to hold the title twice? The man ranking number six, Samoa Joe. The first two-time NXT Champion had a combined reign of 135 days. However, Joe never successfully defended his championship, which is why Joe is ranked so low.
There was a time, from April to December 2016, where Joe and Nakamura went back and forth with the title, neither of them getting a lot of chances to defend their championship. In this time, there was one successful defense of the title when Nakamura retained his championship in a steel cage against Joe. Whether their reigns are considered to be successful or not, these two men can both say they have held the championship twice, something that no one else has done to this point.
5. Kevin Owens
We’re in the top five now, and to kick us off is Kevin Owens. KO won the championship from Sami Zayn in February 2015. Owens would then hold the championship for a total of 143 days. During this time, Kevin successfully defended the championship dive times against the likes of Zayn, Finn Balor, and Neville.
4. Bo Dallas
Bo Dallas comes in a number four in our list and was the 3rd man to hold the NXT Championship. Dallas is also the 3rd in days held, which totals 280. During his reign, Dallas successfully the championship five times. Dallas lost his championship to Adrian Neville, AKA Neville, in a ladder match at the first NXT TakeOver special that some consider that greatest match in NXT history.
3. Seth Rollins
The first ever NXT champion, Seth Rollins comes in on our list at number three. The picture is iconic at this point; the crowning ceremony with the new champ flanked by HHH and the late great Dusty Rhodes. Rollins won an 8-man tournament consisting of superstars like Drew Mcintyre, Jinder Mahal, and Bo Dallas, among others.
After winning the championship, Rollins held the belt for 133 days, the 10th longest reign. During his reign, Rollins defended his championship three times, against Michael McGillicutty (AKA Curtis Axel), Mahal and Corey Graves. Although Rollins’ reign may not be the best, he will always be known as the first to win the championship.
2. Finn Balor
Our runner-up spot goes to Finn Balor, the man who has held the NXT championship the longest at 292 days. In that time, Finn defends his championship successfully a total of four times on NXT TV. Balor was the first champion to lose his championship at a house show, losing to Samoa Joe in Lowell, Massachusetts on April 21st, 2016. For some, Balor may be the greatest NXT champion. The debating may go on forever as to who was the best, but for this list…
The number one spot has to go to Neville, or Adrian Neville as he was known at the time. Neville was the usher from the early days of NXT to the next era, where NXT began to grow exponentially. Neville held the championship for 287 days, which was once the record for title reign until Balor beat it by five days.
During his time as champion, Neville successfully defended his championship nine times, including a no-disqualification match and fatal four-way matches. As mentioned earlier, Neville won the championship in a ladder match against Dallas, in what is considered one of the greatest matches in NXT history.
Although Neville isn’t with WWE any longer, he will go down as one of the best NXT champions of all time.
Do you agree with our list? Feel free to comment who you think is the greatest NXT Champion of all time!