Seth Rollins' run in NXT is well documented, as it was there that he became the inaugural NXT Champion and was eventually called up to the grand stage of WWE with the rest of The Shield. But before the relaunch of the black-and-gold brand in mid-2012, FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling) was his stomping grounds, and he was being booked like a top talent even then. If anyone was being earmarked for the main roster, it was him, as he was wowed audiences in every match he had.
However, it was also around that time that (Antonio) Cesaro signed with WWE and started out in FCW. He quickly ran roughshod on the roster and set his sights on Rollins soon after his arrival. Prior to his FCW debut, Cesaro was mostly known for his tag team work alongside Kassius Ohno (f.k.a. Chris Hero) in The Kings of Wrestling, and even though they were brought into the company together, officials were interested in booking them as singles stars. To their credit, both men did extremely well for themselves on their own, and this match between Cesaro and Rollins made that evident.
Before becoming a multi-time world champion and first ballot WWE Hall of Famer, CM Punk was just another "local athlete" on an episode of Sunday Night Heat in May 2005. However, he actually stood out more than most local athletes do, likely because the company was aware of his potential and his buzz on the independent scene. If they weren't, the commentators wouldn't have said as such on commentary, so it was clear he was being groomed for greatness.
Interestingly enough, Punk wasn't signed to a developmental deal by WWE until that September, so this was merely a tryout for him (except in a televised setting) to see if he had what the company was looking for. I've never been the biggest Val Venis fan, but he was probably the perfect person for Punk to face in his unofficial WWE debut, as Venis had plenty of experience and could typically be counted on for a quality performance.
This past week, it was made official: Kenny Omega has signed with All Elite Wrestling. Admittedly, I thought there was a small chance he would go to WWE, but the more time passed, the more it became apparent that he was AEW bound. Thus, no one should be shocked by the news whatsoever. He can be the one the brand is built around, and who knows, maybe he'll wind up in WWE some day down the road.
I remember reading not too long ago that a match or two of Omega's from his WWE developmental days were available on the WWE Network, so coming off the announcement, I figured it was only fitting that I checked them out. This bout was from his time spent in Deep South Wrestling and took place on September 3, 2006. He took on Cru Jones in a quick exhibition, and although the entrances weren't televised, a pre-match promo from Omega was shown. It was evident even then that the guy had a presence about him that made him a star.
Although NXT UK didn't officially launch as a full-fledged brand and begin airing on the WWE Network weekly until October 2018, the United Kingdom competitors had been making the rounds in WWE for a lot longer than that. They popped up on Raw and 205 Live on occasion, but most notably, they had a home in NXT (and still do to this day).
Of course, it was the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament in January 2017 that started it all. One bout during the tourney I remember being particularly impressed by was Pete Dunne vs. Mark Andrews, which took place in the semifinals. Although Dunne went over decisively and advanced to the next round, I was hoping for an eventual rematch, and luckily, it wasn't long before they did battle again on the Feb. 22 episode of NXT. That match was won by Dunne as well.