2018 has been an excellent year for the black and yellow brand. Every TakeOver event featured at least one standout match. This year alone there were three Dave Meltzer five-star ratings. The last five-star WWE match prior was Cena/Punk at Money in the Bank 2011. To call NXT “developmental” is a joke at this point because the brand has outperformed the main roster regarding match quality, storyline and character development throughout most of the year. It’s all but undisputed that this is the best era in NXT history. With that said, here are the top ten NXT Superstars of 2018.
10: Andrade “Cien” Almas w/ Zelina Vega
El Idolo was struggling to find his groove as a babyface in 2017. It wasn’t until he partnered up with Zelina Vega and turned heel that he took the ball and ran with it. The winner of NXT’s first ever WON five-star rated match, Cien may have “graduated” early in the year, but he was too good not to include on this list.
9: Kairi Sane
NXT has handled Japanese talent well, and Kairi Sane is the latest example of that. She won the NXT Women’s Championship from Shayna Baszler at TakeOver Brooklyn Four in a fun match, and their feud only got better from there. Though her reign was short, Sane looked strong in defeat at Evolution.
8: Pete Dunne
You can’t talk about Pete Dunne without mention his record-setting run with the UK Championship. At 588 days as of 12/30/18, the
7: Shayna Baszler
The Queen of Spades has bloomed in 2018. Baszler has a natural talent when it comes to Sports Entertainment, adapting to the Squared Circle in a Kurt Angle-
6: Velveteen Dream
Velveteen Dream is only 23. Arguably the most charismatic wrestler on the entire roster, Dream has had a breakout year. The young Superstar was a key player in the WON five-star rated North American Championship Ladder Match at TakeOver: New Orleans. His Purple Rainmaker onto Lars Sullivan from the top of a ladder is one of the most memorable moments of the year in all of WWE.
The North American Champion has had one hell of a rookie year in NXT. Since his debut in the Ladder Match at TakeOver: New Orleans, Ricochet has been on a tear. Several fantastic matches with the likes of Pete Dunne and Adam Cole and his acquisition of the North American Championship make 2018 the best year in Ricochet’s 15 year career. And he’s just getting started.
4: Undisputed Era
Individually, the members of Undisputed Era are all incredibly talented wrestlers. Though Adam Cole may shine the brightest, the stable as a whole has had a fantastic year. At one point they held both the NXT Tag Team and North American Championships. As well as a standout performance in the main event of TakeOver: Wargames, regardless of their eventual loss. Now at full strength with the return of Bobby Fish, UE is going to dominate in 2019, and that’s undisputed.
3: Aleister Black
Though Black was on the shelf for a good portion of the year, his recent storyline with Johnny Gargano has been so good, and his dominance as NXT Champion make up for it. His strike-heavy style makes the enigmatic superstar one of the most believable badasses in all of WWE. Fantastic feuds with Velveteen Dream, Adam Cole, and the Whole Shebang have cemented Black as a force to be reckoned with in NXT.
2: Johnny Gargano
Johnny freaking Wrestling had a rollercoaster of a year. From his historic Championship match with Andrade “Cien” Almas at TakeOver: New Orleans, to his heartbreaking heel turn at the expense of Aleister Black. The sheer versatility of Gargano is astounding. He was arguably the most beloved babyface in all of NXT history and is surprisingly adept as a heel as well. Gargano’s run in NXT will go down as one of the best whether or not he wins the title one day.
1: Tommaso Ciampa
According to himself, Tommaso Ciampa is the best Sports Entertainer in the world. And he has continuously backed up that claim. The Sicilian Psychopath has been on the run of a lifetime since his return in January. His feud with former best friend and DIY partner Johnny Gargano might be the best storyline in NXT history. Ciampa is money, and it’s only a matter of time before he’s in the main event on Monday night.