The fortunes (and misfortunes) of NXT season 3

A week on Sunday, Kaitlyn will challenge Layla for the WWE Divas Championship at Night Of Champions in a match that she earned by way of winning a battle royal on the August 20 episode of Monday Night Raw. As it has been claimed since then, the ending was not meant to have Kaitlyn winning, and it should have been Eve Torres getting the shot – which adds credence to why everyone seemed so confused with the result and Eve being shoehorned into the build-up for the match – so it could end up being a three-way, but as it stands, it’s still Kaitlyn v Layla for the belt, and shows how far the challenger has come since winning the third season of NXT.

In fact, today marks two years to the day since Kaitlyn’s WWE TV debut on the first episode of the show as a last-minute replacement to become Vickie Guerrero‘s rookie Diva. Then 24, Celeste Bonin had only signed a WWE contract less than two months previous, and had made her first appearance on Florida Championship Wrestling TV a month before making it onto the main roster, and that was only as a lumberjill. To say that she was nowhere near ready to be on NXT would be an understatement, but she seized the opportunity, displaying her quirky personality and accidentally becoming a wedge between Guerrero and her protege/boyfriend Dolph Ziggler throughout the course of the show. As a wrestler, she was lime green, but her character carried her through, and since then, she has been working to become a credible grappler.

Granted, for the 18 months following her victory, Kaitlyn was nothing much to write home about, but more recently, WWE has been putting her in the ring with Natalya, with the third-generation Hart getting the upper hand at the start, but the former fitness model, bodybuilder and model has since started running away with the victories, leading up to getting the win – regardless of whether it was booked or not – in the battle royal. In some ways, Kaitlyn earned her way into this title match in the same way that she got onto NXT – through being in the right place at the right time. If her history is to repeat itself, she may end up winning the title, especially since Layla’s run as Champion has been pretty unspectacular.

But what of the rest of the NXT season 3 contestants – what happened to them? Well, let’s take a look at where they are now, and let’s start with the one who never made it to TV and was replaced by Kaitlyn…

Aloisia was the original rookie Diva for Vickie Guerrero, and was the one who caused the biggest stir when she was previewed on the final episode of NXT season 2 – and with good reason. Standing a lofty 6’9”, the former Isis The Amazon (Lindsay Hayward) towered above her competition, and was so tall that she could stand eye to eye with The Undertaker. In fact, she was a full 18 inches taller than AJ Lee, the smallest competitor on the programme. However, she was pulled from the show before the first episode of the new season had aired, with the on-air excuse being that she had been involved in an argument with Guerrero. The real reason is still unclear. One theory is that she was removed for additional training (which is ironic because of who replaced her), with another to do with alleged nude photos from her past – something which WWE denied, but Hayward herself blogged that it may be the cause of her being bumped.

Regardless of the reason, she was released from her WWE developmental deal the following week and returned to the indies, though received an untelevised tryout for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling against Leva Bates, though neither was signed. The 25-year old has been in inactive for more than a year, and has seemingly quit the biz.

Jamie Keyes was the first to be eliminated from the competition. Mentored by the Bella Twins, the then-25 year old was already known to NXT viewers, as she had been the ring announcer for the previous season. Sporting a blonde bob, small dresses and a ridiculously muscular body, she was a sight to behold, and a sight which had already been seen in TNA, as she was a valet for Kevin Nash at Final Resolution 2009, and had also ring announced for Wrestlicious – in fact, it was her promo pictures from Wrestlicious that saw her get offered a WWE deal.

Like Kaitlyn, Jamie was very green as a wrestler, having only wrestled three matches before season 3 began, and only wrestled six matches in her entire tenure, but ended with a .500 record. After being eliminated on the October 5, 2010 episode, she was released from her contract nine days later, though did appear on the final episode. Since then, Keyes has returned to using her real name of Brittany Beede, filled out her physique while retaining the definition, and is now a fitness trainer in Sarasota, Florida.

Maxine was the next to be booted off the show, and it made sense, considering the eliminations were decided by fan votes and the then-24 year old was a heel. Signing with WWE in 2009, Karlee Perez had already made in-roads with the FCW audience as Liviana before being repackaged as Maxine for NXT, though would continue working in Florida for some time after the conclusion of the season under her new guise. On NXT itself, she was paired with fellow heel Alicia Fox, and made sure she was the lead bad girl contestant when all the others were playing for cheers. Sure, it meant she was eliminated quickly, but at least she managed to stand out a little more.

However, this did not transfer to her graduating from NXT. Instead, she became an integral part of season 5’s Redemption gimmick, embroiling herself in a love triangle with Derrick Bateman and Johnny Curtis and feuding with Kaitlyn on the side. Though she made the odd appearance on Raw and SmackDown, it was never as anything other than a bit part or as a job girl in a multi-woman match, which led to frustration. When NXT was set to move from touring with the SmackDown roster to being based in Florida, Perez decided to ask for her release, which was granted in late June, as it would have been a step back for her progression. She later revealed that she would not be looking to be involved with any other wrestling promotion, and would be getting out of the industry. She is looking to get into acting.

Lithuanian bodybuilder, model and fitness competitor Aksana was the next to go (seriously, half the women were fitness models). In fairness, she was likely to struggle at the start, as WWE already had a blonde woman with a foreign accent in Maryse, but she had already settled in at FCW as the manager of fellow NXTer Eli Cottonwood after being signed in October 2009. She debuted as a wrestler in the new year, but things weren’t clicking for her, as by the time NXT rolled around, she was still a disappointing wrestler. However, her unintentional comedy (“What is llama?”) helped her along, as well as her interactions with her pro Goldust, who she arranged to marry so she could get a green card. As Goldust leant in for a kiss, she turned heel by slapping him and stole the Million Dollar Belt which her husband had won from Ted DiBiase. Two weeks after the wedding, she was eliminated.

Since then, 30-year old Aksana (real name Živilė Raudonienė) has died her hair black, struck up another relationship with then-SmackDown GM Teddy Long, and dumped him for Antonio Cesaro in April, turning herself heel again. As for her wrestling, most of it has taken place in Florida, house shows or in mixed tag team amtches where her contributions can be kept to a minimum, but has really found her niche at the side of the current United States Champion as his girlfriend and manager.

It’s arguably AJ Lee who’s done the best since she came third in NXT. Currently the GM of Raw and having spent most of the year embroiled in a weird three-way angle involving WWE Champion CM Punk and her former boyfriend and then fiance Daniel Bryan, her profile has gone skyward. As the dorky, video game-playing tiny tomboy of the show, she was a million miles away from what you would expect a WWE Diva to be – but that has played to her strength, as her differences have made her stand out.

Having been the most experienced wrestler of the bunch before signing a WWE deal – having wrestled for and won titles in places like Women Superstars Uncensored – April Mendez showed up in FCW in May 2009, and following her elimination from NXT (which included her forming a relationship with her pro Primo), took a while to make it to WWE TV. In fact, it didn’t happen until May 2011 as part of a tandem alongside buddy Kaitlyn called the Chickbusters, but floundered – mostly losing matches for the more established names – before forming a relationship with Bryan, who was still a babyface at the time. However, when he won the World Heavyweight Title and turned heel, AJ became the put-upon girlfriend who meekly stood by her man, regardless of how much hell he gave her. It all came to an end when he dumped her following his title defeat to Sheamus at WrestleMania XXVIII, but it’s when her character went into overdrive.

Begging for another chance, Lee burned bridges along the way by slapping Kaitlyn when she tried to talk sense into her friend and displaying a short fuse with anyone who stood in her way of getting her man back. However, it twisted into AJ trying to ruin Bryan’s life by flirting with CM Punk and then messing them both around before accepting her ex’s proposal – but left him at the altar to become the Raw GM. Since then, she has veered from Punk and Bryan to a feud with Vickie Guerrero, who is trying to get her removed from her executive position. At the moment, AJ is unable to get physical with talent, so threw a massive tantrum when Vickie slapped her on Raw this week.

The emotionally fragile 25-year old has received more attention than any other woman in the last few years, which has delighted some and annoyed others, as she has been all over the shows in the last six months. Her character is currently at a critical point, as she is seemingly on the verge of another meltdown as she loses her grip on Raw. We’ll see what happens, but the final subject is also at an important stage which could see her thrust into the spotlight.

Despite being the most athletic and exciting wrestler of season 3, former cheerleader and dancer Naomi has yet to wrestle a match on TV since emerging as the runner-up. In the summer of 2009, Trinity McCray signed a developmental deal and debuted in FCW’s ring in late October, but got a lot of ring time under her belt quickly, competing in more than 40 matches before NXT began, winning the FCW Divas belt along the way, and holding it throughout the season’s run. Along with her pro Kelly Kelly, the then-22 year old Naomi was thrilling, displaying high-flying attacks and generating a real buzz in her matches – which made it a real head-scratcher when she never made it to WWE TV after the show ended. Instead, Naomi’s first appearance on Raw was in January as one of Brodus Clay‘s backing dancers alongside Tough Enough competitor Cameron Lynn, and it’s her partner which puts the big question mark over her future.

Cameron is currently awaiting further notice on a DUI charge which also allegedly saw her bribe the arresting officer. As well as not listing WWE as her employer, she also neglected to inform them, which made for an embarrassing moment for the company when TMZ came calling for a comment. Cameron was pulled from the Australian tour and saw Naomi dancing solo with Brodus.

However, before jetting off Down Under, Naomi got a break when she had her gear to hand on August 25 at a WWE house show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, so she could stand in to replace Kaitlyn in a match against Natalya when the former was held up by transportation issues. Fan accounts say it was a great match (which was also Naomi’s first in close to 10 months), and could have impressed road agents, showing that there is more to her than some swish dance moves.

Should Cameron end up suffering some sort of punishment on top of the 15-day suspension she reportedly received, Naomi could possibly be given the chance to wrestle, which would be a massive boost for her. Considering her moveset, skill and ability to liven a crowd, she could become an instant hit. Granted, her fortune could come at someone else’s misfortune, but that’s how Kaitlyn got onto NXT in the first place and into next weekend’s Divas Title match, so I doubt you’ll hear any complaining from her…

So in the two years since NXT, we’ve seen superstars created, scandal, frustration, releases, quittings and more. For most of them, they got a shot at being a WWE Diva in some form or fashion, but Kaitlyn could ascend to the height of the division by becoming Champion next Sunday. We will all see if it’s her time, or whether the waiting game will continue.

Meanwhile, if you want to watch the first episode in its entirety, you can find it below.

– Lee Burton


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