I decided to come up with this list because most of you have better memories of matches and dates than I do. And, frankly, better analysis. But I also think that maybe NXT's greatest strength (especially when it gained traction) was in its characters and their development. That component really goes a long way in making the matches feel even more special. But it also makes people who are not great in-ring performers important to the show as a whole. Bo Dallas and Summer Rae were two of the most important performers in NXT history. But neither of them had any great matches. This is obviously highly subjective and I reserve the right to adjust as need be since this is all off the top of my head. And this only counts for what these characters did in NXT.
1) BAYLEY. NXT's most important development was treating women's wrestling seriously. And that went well beyond "WOW WOMEN ARE GOOD AT WRESTLING!" There was certainly some of that. But the women have also emotionally connected in a way no one would have ever predicted or guessed. Bayley was the best at that. The entire NXT Women's Revolution boiled down to "who is going to turn on Bayley next?" Usually, that's just bad writing and you wonder why this tough guy (like Sting) is willing to put his guard down so much. But it makes sense with Bayley's character, and it also makes sense why so many people would turn on her. She is a good person in a world where bad people get ahead. She created a fan avatar in Izzy. I paid money to wear a shirt that says "I'm A Hugger." Her winning the title and finally Overcoming The Odds made many, many, many people cry. After she was the only Horsewomen left, she had a whole bunch of really great matches with Asuka, Nia Jax, Carmella and even friggin' Eva Marie. And those matches were that great because of Bayley's ability as a performer.
2) SAMI ZAYN. He was the emotional anchor for the men's side of things for a really long time. In many ways, NXT was told through his eyes. His commitment to Doing The Right Thing gave Neville an actual character beyond "amazing high flyer" since Neville was willing to go into a gray area that Sami wouldn't. Sami was also so good at the role that he could lose matches and still look strong. He got knocked out by Corey Graves at one point. The match against Neville was an emotional high-point about a good person finally getting his due and it ended with the most disgusting act of treachory in NXT history in a story still being told to this day. Also, Sami's initial chemistry with Renee made her really stand out as an awesome person who enhanced the show.
3) THE WYATT FAMILY. Bray and the gang bounced before any of the Takeovers. But hearing about Bray's crazy ass promos is why I checked out NXT to start. The Wyatt Reign of Terror was some next level Kevin Sullivan-style madmen stuff. Bray's "goodbye from NXT" promo when they returned as conquering heroes is one of the best promos in wrestling history. I truly mean that. He really hit a whole lot of home runs and made a lot of people want to watch the show. Luke and Rowan also played their monster roles to perfection in the early sketches of what they would later become.
4) RENEE. Her interview ability added so much to so many characters. Amazing reactions and storytelling. She was also really good at her spots at commentary with a terrific chemistry with Regal.
5) ENZO/CASS/CARMELLA. These guys were rock stars and magnetic. They were never great workers. None of their matches came close to anything The Revival did, but they owned Full Sail and the touring shows like no one else. I'm adding Carmella in with them because she debuted in an amazing "hair cream" bit with 'Zo and Cass. BLUE PANTS.
6) SASHA BANKS. It's crazy to think she's not in my Top 5. She was the first women's wrestler to be corrupted by Summer Rae (via the MIRROR). But Sasha ran with The Boss character and kept bringing it to new levels. Her ramming Bayley's wrist at the Brooklyn match and her tormenting of Izzy in the Iron-woman match are two all-time great character moments that showed what a terrible person she was. And her rolling out to Brooklyn in that hooked up car with those bodyguards, too. She's down just a little bit because I think her interview and promo work was a little rough for a bit, but they improved so much.
7) COREY GRAVES. Best heel announcer of his generation. He was actually really figuring out his character as a wrestler until his concussion issue started. But his heel pretty boy punk act was amazing and told the story from the heel POV better than anyone since Heenan.
8) BOBBY ROODE. I can't believe he's down at 8. I fell in love with fake fighting because of Ric Flair and the Horsemen. Rich dickhead heels will always be my favorite template of wrestler. Roode had the act down perfectly and from the start. His "debut" promo doing the generic "NXT IS THE PLACE TO BE!" and then flipping it to tell the fans he wanted to replace them with corporate executives was amazing. Him toasting his victory while rewatching his matches. The great "wrestling is ridiculous" moment of him walking in his palatial estate and bossing around the help. He is exactly what I want pro wrestling to be.
9) KEVIN OWENS. Machiavellian mastermind bully trash person extraordinaire. The jumping of Sami and his cold, distant stare into the abyss was the best "evil wins" moment. I also loved his destruction of that turd Alex Riley so much.
10) BO DALLAS. Ingenious character. He was a failed face who became hated and didn't realize it. They actually set that up really well with him acting slimy towards Neville during their brief tag partnership. And Bo did all this sneaky stuff as champion by messing with turnbuckles on the sly. His cookies and his PowerPoint presentation and the audience turning their back to him completely. The single best moment in NXT history, IMO, was him wearing a mask as "Mr. NXT" and getting de-masked by Sami and then chased around Full Sail for like 30 minutes. "I HAVE ASTHMA!"
11) VELVETEEN DREAM. He's been the best part of NXT the past few months. He has become a hell of a worker, but it's because of his commitment as a weird Goldust-meets-Raven thing. I loved Patrick Clark since he first broke out the Prince-As-Chapelle act and then seeing it become this has been a blast. He could end up as the best home-grown NXT talent ever. SAY MY NAME.
12) SUMMER RAE. Great mean girl and captain of the BFFs. Her character was the catalyst for Sasha to become THE BOSS and for Charlotte to turn heel. She was great at being a coward. Someone also pointed out on here that she made some great "Eww, no, I will not have sex with you" faces.
13) EMMA/DANA BROOKE. Dancin' Emma broke out huge. Her lovable dunce work led to a cult following. And that led to her match with Paige for the NXT Women's Title. That was such an important match because their feud was treated seriously (even though Emma's character wasn't). Dana Brooke as her lackey added so much to her act, too. Dana's really rough in-ring but she is such a hilarious performer.
14) THE REVIVAL. Amazing sneaky cocky heels. Great matching jackets. Great theme music. Good promo guys. They are actually really underrated in that department because their in-ring work is so spectacular.
15) FINN BALOR. A lot of Finn's stuff at first was pretty much "I sometimes wear face paint." But they did a great package explaining his history (and anchored by Becky, who never had a good NXT character until she broke out the steampunk look against Sasha) and backstory and why he wears the paint at the end. That style of promo was later used to repackage Roderick Strong.
16) AMERICAN ALPHA. Chad Gable's early debut stuff as a SMW Al Snow type was great. He and Jordan had great out-of-the-ring chemistry immediately. They had a great sit-down package with one of their matches against The Revival where they talked about failing to win the gold at the Olympics and all of that, which added so much to their depth as characters. READY. WILLING. GABLE.
17) SAMOA JOE. Surly-ass Joe just destroying dudes and bullying people and whining to Regal and etc. I have him down a little bit too far, maybe.
18) ALEXA BLISS. Heel Alexa with her claw glove. All-time great expressions. She really came into her own during her heel NXT run.
19) NIKKI CROSS. Pure commitment to the psycho street crustpunk act. I absolutely can see her sponging for change with some hobo boyfriend and a vegan dog outside of a Wawa before she gets up and spits in the face of a "norm" for no reason whatsoever before punching a police horse.
20) TYLER BREEZE. Fuck. I don't feel like re-ordering this list. The selfie stick. Fringed boots. Models posing on their way to ringside. THEME SONG HE SANG HIMSELF. Great ridiculous and absurd disgust in his face. I love him so much. Best guy in NXT to not win the title maybe.
NOT ON THE LIST:
TYSON KIDD. Can somebody please tell me who to boot off so I can include him? Please? Man, I totally forgot how great he was as a semi-delusional asshole. I loved the whole "I have to check on the cats" stuff and saying "God bless" sanctimoniously to people. He got so good in NXT and it was a real loss that he got hurt.
GARGANO. He's in arguably the two best matches in NXT history. But his promo stuff with DIY was pretty much unwatchable. It was such awful forced attempts at comedy. I did like it when they returned with the belts and went into the crowd. But other than that, they were really awful. His mannerisms improved a lot. But him making the squint face doing the "I can't believe how many people are here!" thing was so terrible. Dude, there's like 400 people at most at Full Sail. The playground across the street from my house is bigger. Ciampa "WHY TOMASSO WHY" heel promo was absolutely awful to sit through. That feud is going to be hot with the crowd because it's a great story, but it's being told by two guys who aren't so hot at that stuff.
ALMAS/VEGA. I had to boot them because I forgot to put on Breeze. Almas was a snooze for ages but blew the f up the past few months, especially with Vega added to the act. I think he's probably a few weeks away from making the list.
ASUKA. I loved arrogant Asuka sitting poolside. Great facial expressions. WHO IS READY FOR ASUKA is an all-time great catchphrase. But I don't know who I'd bump off for her.
CHARLOTTE. Really rough promo for a lot of her tenure. She did have a great bad-ass vibe. She's so so so much better now than she was in NXT.
BECKY LYNCH. No character worth talking about at all until her breakout match with Sasha when she became a steampunk art girl. She's a really great babyface on Smackdown.
PAIGE. I wish I could find a spot on the list for her. Great badass face. She was so incredibly important to women's wrestling, despite being absolutely lapped by everyone.
STREET PROFITS. They should get on there in the next few months. Love those guys. Montez is hilarious.
THE UNDISPUTED ERA. Adam Cole has grown on me a lot. Fish and especially O'Reilly are awful at what they're trying to do. O'Reilly doing the air guitar thing with the belt looked like such a geek, and not in a heel way.
RUSEV AND LANA. They never had any promo work. Just shot right from NXT to the WWE with an act we never got to see on-screen in NXT.
DREW MCINTYRE. Maybe the single most boring guy in NXT history to have a huge push. Total paint-by-numbers "FACE IN AN INDIE" thing. So lazy.
ALEISTER BLACK. I love the look and he's awesome in-ring. I still don't know exactly the dark vibe he's going for. He had a promo against Dream that was awful. It was him in the gym.
RODERICK STRONG. Those backstory packages were awesome. But anything he does without that packaging is brutal.
LARS SULLIVAN. He'll be on the list soon enough. Great bully.
NEVILLE. I should have found a place for him. He became a really good face-with-an-edge. And that really showed itself in the classic against Sami.
ADAM ROSE. One of the most fun characters in NXT history. Not having him really shows how great NXT is at characters.
NO WAY JOSE. Another really fun character. He's a pretty solid promo, too.
BARON CORBIN. Heel Baron Corbin really became something great. Really awesome on the main roster.
MOJO RAWLEY. Goofy, lovable Mojo with his endless energy was really solid. He lost a lot of points for his tie-in with Gronk.
CJ PARKER. Hilarious heel character.
TYE DILLINGER: So incredibly over with such a simple act. I really wish he had an upset run with the title so we could see some more out of him.
BLUE PANTS. Hahaha
VAUDEVILLAINS. I neeeeeed to redo this list to put Aiden English in there. His singing stuff with roses tossed at his feet...
ELIAS SAMSON. I saw NXT live in Asbury Park. As soon as The Drifter's guitar lick started, he was being reigned down on with boos. He started to sing a song and he had such ridiculous hatred sent his way. The neckbeard next to me was awful. "He has NO CHARISMA at all!" Dude, he got the best reaction all night maybe.
NIA JAX. I really liked her muscle work for Eva Marie.
SHINSUKE. I'm so torn on Shinsuke. He has maybe the best theme music and entrance of the past 15 years. I love his whole Michael Jackson tribute act a lot. Moves with such grace and finesse. But I somehow never got into him as much as everyone else.
THE ICONIC DUO. Crap. I wish I could slide them on that list. Peyton has one of the best temper tantrums of all-time. Billy's Cruella look is wonderful. Great comedy heels.
EMBER MOON. No idea what she's supposed to be yet, although she's really likable.
SHAYNA BAZLER. She's amazing for the one month she's been on TV. She's going to be on this list in like six weeks.
AOP. Crap. I really wish I could put them on here. Ellering and them are great. Playing monster heels like them is really hard. But they did that so well and turned into good monster faces the past few weeks.
SANITY. I like the act a lot. Nikki's the star of that team, though.
KASSIUS OHNO. He does no thing for me. I hate the basketball jersey look. I hate the theme music.
HIDEO ITAMI. Heel surly bastard Hideo was really fun. MY STYLE IS KICK.