On February 23, it will have been two years to the day since the inaugural episode of NXT. Two years on, we have the necessary perspective and hindsight to make a good examination of the results of the show. Of course, the show as it stands today is nothing like it was when it debuted.
So here we go, a ranking of all eight rookies from season one of NXT.
Taken into consideration:
Current position and push within the company
Past accolades and accomplishments
Rookie: Michael Tarver
NXT Record: 1-7
Highest Poll Ranking: Seventh
NXT Position: Eighth
Current Status: Future endeavored
Oh, Michael Tarver...how did you ever out-poll Darren Young in the first pro's poll?
Tarver was disappointing in NXT, displaying a bad attitude and performing poorly overall. He was eliminated (along with Daniel Bryan) in Week 12, not by the official method of the pro's poll, but by management decision because he had earlier said he should be eliminated when the time came.
Tarver was part of the Nexus by default if nothing else, but was the first to disappear from the group.
Last year, he appeared in the background of some backstage segments and then was released.
Pro Corner: Carlito
Carlito is also future endeavored from the WWE, as they tried to make him go to rehab, and he said, "That's not cool."
Rookie: Skip Sheffield
Pro: William Regal
NXT Record: 2-5
Highest Poll Ranking: Sixth
NXT Position: Sixth
Current Status: Dark Matcher
Skip got a raw deal on NXT. Ranked at sixth in the first and second pro's polls, he should have been safe for at least another week or two to improve and gain some ground, but because Tarver and Bryan got themselves eliminated outside the poll, and because the producers of NXT at that time wanted a show that was shorter than scheduled (unlike the current direction the show is going in), he got sent packing as well.
Like Tarver, Sheffield was part of Nexus, but broke his ankle and after three surgeries, has been wrestling dark matches as both Skip Sheffield and "Ryback."
He could be returning to WWE TV this year, but right now he's off the radar.
Pro Corner: William Regal
Regal is sadly sidelined with commentating on NXT: Abomination
Rookie: Darren Young
Pro: CM Punk
NXT Record: 7-4
Highest Poll Ranking: Fifth
NXT Position: Fifth
Current Status: NXT: Purgatory (I mean Redemption)
Young would probably be ranked lower than Sheffield if not for the fact that he's currently on WWE TV. (Or, well, WWE internet, anyway.)
Young was a member of Nexus, but got kicked out of the group when he foolishly chose to face John Cena and (predictably) lost. He did next to nothing as a singles competitor and eventually ended up on NXT: Limbo.
Aside from that, the closest thing he has to publicity is the fact that the fake Zack Ryder wig/headband combos make people look like Darren Young.
Pro Corner: CM Punk
Punk is the current WWE champion heading to WrestleMania and a huge hit with the fans.
Rookie: Heath Slater
NXT Record: 5-6
Highest Poll Ranking: Third
NXT Position: Fourth
Current Status: Jobber
Slater flashed some promise in NXT but flamed out early. Like the rest, he was a part of Nexus, and he was later part of the Corre, and he and Justin Gabriel went on to be tag-team champions a total of three times. Things went badly for him, however, once he broke up the pairing.
The good news for Slater is that he has a job on WWE TV. The bad news is he does the job on WWE TV. Saddled with the awful nickname "One Man Southern Rock Band" and carrying the distinction of being the least effective heel on SmackDown, Slater had a rough 2011/early 2012, losing 22 straight matches, including an over-the-top rope challenge against Hornswoggle.
Pro Corner: Christian
Christian just returned to SmackDown from injury after winning his first ever World Heavyweight Championship in 2011.
Rookie: Justin Gabriel
Pro: Matt Hardy
NXT Record: 7-4
Highest Poll Ranking: Third
NXT Position: Third
Current Status: SmackDown semi-regular
A short while ago, Gabriel would have been a bit higher on this list. His career matched Slater's, but when the two broke up, Gabriel got to be the fan favorite, likely due to his better look and 450 Splash finisher.
He's been a model good guy, actually running in to help people like Hornswoggle, when many others don't.
He had been getting (non-title) matches against Cody Rhodes and got a last-second title match against Jack Swagger at the Elimination Chamber. Not bad for a guy who would be generously described as a mid-carder.
Pro Corner: Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy was released in late 2010.
Rookie: David Otunga
NXT Record: 6-5
Highest Poll Ranking: Second
NXT Position: Second
Current Status: Legal counsel to the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and Interim General Manager of RAW, Mr. John Laurinaitis
Otunga would have been a spot lower just a week ago. Even then, Otunga's rise to prominence is probably the most surprising.
During NXT, a lot was made of his lack of ring ability in contrast to his quality physique and generally accepted charisma.
Otunga was part of the Nexus and also the New Nexus and won tag gold with John Cena and Michael McGillicutty. Once on his own, however, he floundered as he did not have the ring ability to carry his own in a match.
Fortunately for everyone, around the time of the walkout angle, Otunga took his natural place of a legal advisor to the collected heels. The angle dissolved quickly, as did any organization among the heels, but Otunga thankfully kept the character makeover.
For the next several months, he would shun ring competition for coffee and toadying and occasionally taking beatings when he arrived on SmackDown.
This was going well enough, but things are even better for David, as after a few turns as a sacrificial lamb, Otunga has just beaten former ECW and Intercontinental Champion Ezekiel Jackson on consecutive nights in the growing GM vs. GM feud.
Pro Corner: R-Truth
R-Truth has had a resurgence of popularity but not had any tangible results.
Rookie: Wade Barrett
Pro: Chris Jericho
NXT Record: 8-5
Highest Poll Ranking: First
NXT Position: Winner
Current Status: Injured
Wade Barrett won the first season of NXT and got the guaranteed title shot that went with it. He generously brought along the seven losers, forming the Nexus and later the Corre, and won the Intercontinental Championship and headlined multiple PPVs, winning the Survivor Series match in late 2011 and competing in the Elimination Chamber before suffering an arm injury in a battle royal for a title shot at WrestleMania.
Barrett has generally been booked strong in his time in the WWE and looks to be around for a long time to come, thanks to his speaking ability, a good, powerful look and in-ring acumen; all traits that helped him win NXT as the most "complete" rookie in that show.
Despite this, he's not been given a serious title push lately, and this new injury could have him sidelined for a while. It almost got him dropped a spot on this ranking, but his previous achievements and general ability keep him here.
Pro Corner: Chris Jericho
Jericho had a much-hyped return to WWE and will face CM Punk for the WWE title at WrestleMania.
Rookie: Daniel Bryan
Pro: The Miz
NXT Record: 0-10
Highest Poll Ranking: First
NXT Position: Seventh
Current Status: World Heavyweight Champion
Bryan was the early favorite in NXT, bringing the largest fanbase and winning the original pro's poll. For whatever reasons, he went winless in the competition and after saying he deserved to be eliminated, he was removed from the running.
When the Nexus was formed, Bryan was not technically a member, as he was released before the group identified itself. He returned to help Team WWE defeat the Nexus.
He has held the United States Championship, won the SmackDown Money in the Bank ladder match and cashed it in to win the World Heavyweight Championship to become the first NXT rookie to win a main event-level title.
Only six months ago, he'd have been below Barrett on this list, but he's about to live his boyhood dream and main event WrestleMania.
If you thought he wouldn't be No. 1, you're the one who's dreaming.
Pro Corner: The Miz
After defending his WWE championship at last year's WrestleMania, Miz has had an up-and-down year and was last seen congratulating himself for Bryan's success.
Well, there you have it!
Not that many surprises, if you ask me.
Unless you count Daniel Bryan's 0-10 record and early exit as being the whole of his showing.