The Biggest Controversies To Hit NXT

During its lifetime, "NXT" has had some strange ups and downs. Despite its strange beginnings as a game show that nobody liked, "NXT" was, at one time, one of the hottest brands in all of wrestling, and its Takeover events were must-see TV for hardcore fans. In fact, "NXT" became so popular that its designation as a "developmental" show became hazy, as many began to consider it equal to "Raw" and "Smackdown." Triple H's "NXT" was the birthplace for most of WWE's current top stars, with the likes of Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Charlotte Flair, Bayley, and Becky Lynch all getting their starts on "NXT."

"NXT" even briefly went head-to-head with "AEW Dynamite," creating a short-lived Wednesday Night War in a move that made some fans lose enthusiasm for WWE's third pillar. In an attempt to rebrand, WWE moved "NXT" away from "Dynamite" and rebooted the show as "NXT 2.0," a controversial move that alienated even more viewers. That's just the beginning, too. Ever since its humble beginnings in 2010, "NXT" has been home to numerous scandals and behind-the-scenes controversies. Here are just a few of those that become public.

Velveteen Dream caught texting minors

In April 2020, a Reddit user posted screenshots (since deleted) of a conversation they had with Velveteen Dream that included explicit photos. The Reddit user claimed to be 17 years old, and said that Velveteen Dream had sent inappropriate messages to him as well as two of his friends, who were 15 and 16 at the time. The messages also allegedly included a voice message from Velveteen Dream in which he asked what school the teens went to.

Velveteen Dream denied these allegations on Twitter, writing, "Be assured I did not communicate inappropriately with anyone. A private photo of mine was shared without my consent or knowledge and I am working with a third party to look into this matter." WWE investigated the claims and says it found no wrongdoing. Velveteen Dream would sporadically continue to wrestle on "NXT" until his eventual release from WWE in May 2021.

Since his release, Velveteen Dream has been arrested and charged with battery and trespassing; on another occasion, he was charged with possessing cocaine and drug paraphernalia.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Drake Wuertz's descent into right wing madness

Drake Wuertz used to be a popular figure on the independent scene, where he wrestled under the name of Drake Younger. Wuertz was also a personal friend of many top indie stars of the time, including Kevin Owens, Adam Cole, and the Young Bucks. During his run, he became a fan favorite for his commitment to hardcore wrestling, and his hard work was rewarded in 2013 when he signed with WWE to be a referee on "NXT."

In 2020, however, many of Drake's fans turned against him, as he started posting controversial political statements on social media. A Parler account that seemed to belong to Wuertz publicly followed accounts associated with right-wing groups like the Proud Boys and QAnon conspiracy theorists. He was also critical of Black Lives Matter; Fightful Select reports that he walked out of a backstage meeting after Triple H gave a speech in support of the movement (via BodySlam.net).

Wuertz received huge backlash for his online antics, leaving fans to wonder how Wuertz managed to keep his job, as he routinely flouted WWE's COVID-19 guidelines by not wearing a mask in public. When Wuertz appeared at a council meeting wearing an NXT tracksuit and demanding that mask mandates be dropped, Wuertz must've finally crossed the line; he was released by WWE on May 19, 2021.

Bill DeMott's alleged bullying

From its inception until 2015, Bill DeMott was the head trainer for "NXT." Before that, DeMott worked for WWE for years — he even had a role in Stone Cold Steve Austin's season of "Tough Enough." However, during DeMott's time as head trainer, many wrestlers spoke out against the alleged abuse they endured while training under him. In a letter sent to WWE officials (later shared on Reddit), Austin Matelson, who wrestled on "NXT" as Judas Devlin and now performs with AEW as Luchasaurus, claimed that DeMott used racist and homophobic language, mocked another wrestler's death, told his students to kill themselves, and intentionally put his charges at risk of injury.

In a Reddit AMA thread, Ryan Nemeth accused DeMott of kicking his cast after he broke his leg, and said on social media that DeMott constantly mistreated female wrestlers. Terra Callaway tweeted about how DeMott racially abused a Middle Eastern trainee, calling him "a terrorist" and "Aladdin," and telling him to "go back to building bombs." Many female wrestlers also claimed that they were afraid to speak out against DeMott for fear of losing their jobs.

On March 6, 2015, DeMott resigned from his position, saying on Twitter, "I deny the recent allegations made about me, however, to avoid any embarrassment or damage to the WWE, I've decided to step down from my role effective immediately."

Lars Sullivan's racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic comments

In November 2018, posts that "NXT" star Lars Sullivan made on an old bodybuilding forum surfaced online (via Sports Illustrated). The contents of these posts were absolutely deplorable, as Sullivan engaged in blatant racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia on the website. While these posts were made between 2007 and 2013, the accounts included photos of a young Sullivan, proving that they did indeed contain his words.

In one instance, Sullivan wrote that Muslims "should be demonized for their religion. They are violent and have a violent agenda against America." In another comment, he said, "Not be racist, but it seems like white people are more willing to take responsibility of [sic] their own lives than Blacks and Hispanics, who are all for government handouts." Sullivan also made a multitude of offensive remarks about gay and transgender people, rape, and Black WWE superstars like R-Truth and Kofi Kingston.

When the posts surfaced, WWE released a statement on behalf of Sullivan, which said, "There is no excuse for the inappropriate remarks that I made years ago. They do not reflect my personal beliefs nor who I am today, and I apologize to anyone I offended." Sullivan debuted on the main WWE roster after the scandal, but failed to achieve any success and was released in early 2021.

Amari Miller's controversial comments about Sasha Banks

Amari Miller has been used sparingly on "NXT" since her 2021 debut. However, she hopes for some big success, as revealed when she tweeted a since-deleted message on August 10, 2022 that read, "Shoutout to Ember Moon being the first and only African American @WWENXT Women's Champion... NXT Goal! Let's make it 2!!" (via Inside the Ropes).

However, fans were quick to point out that Amari Miller was seemingly forgetting a big name: Sasha Banks was also an African American NXT Women's Champion. Instead of capitulating, however, Miller doubled down on her statement, saying that she didn't believe Sasha Bank was African American. In a follow-up tweet, Miller said, "No thanks :) Sasha is German and black I said African American :) " Fans were rightly upset at Miller's apparent erasure of Sasha Bank's Black identity, and Miller deleted her Twitter account the same day.

A day later, Miller returned to Twitter and posted an apology, "I didn't mean bad intentions with what I had said but I do want to apologize. I meant something super well and it came across horribly ... I also have to understand that posting on a social media platform can sound one way to me, as I'm typing and can come across totally different but that's lessons learned for sure."

Cora Jade accuses Darby Allin of abuse

AEW's Darby Allin is a big skateboarder. He skates down to the ring, and he's made videos with pros like Tony Hawk. So, when Darby posted a video of himself at a skateboard park, a fan responded that he should have a Skateboard Match with Cora Jade, who uses a similar gimmick in "NXT." Allin didn't seem too enthused about the idea and responded disrespectfully on Twitter, writing, "Skating is a huge part of my life not a fake character for tv lol."

Jade saw the tweet and fired back, saying, "Being a good person with no abuse allegations against me is a huge part of my life and not just a character I play on TV." Both tweets were quickly deleted. However, Cora Jade was seemingly referring to the physical and sexual abuse allegations levied against Allin by indie wrestler Hawlee Cromwell as part of the #SpeakingOut movement. Given that Jade was one of Cromwell's tag team partners on the indies, it makes sense that the "NXT" star refused to take the disrespect from Allin lightly.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Nash Carter's Nazi photo

"NXT" star Nash Carter was released by WWE just four days after he won the NXT Tag Team Titles at NXT Stand and Deliver in April 2022. The reason? A photo that surfaced online of Carter performing a Nazi salute while sporting a Hitler moustache. The picture, which was released by Carter's estranged wife Kimber Lee, came alongside a number of domestic abuse allegations, although Dave Meltzer reports that it was the photograph specifically that led to his release.

A month later, Carter released a statement on social media. "This picture was taken in 2015, a time where I was uneducated on the topic and therefore didn't understand the magnitude of how hurtful it was," he wrote. "In 2020 someone was trying to extort me by threatening to post it on social media. I sent it to my wife to discuss the situation. Apparently, she kept it and then decided in retaliation for the filing of the divorce to post it to social media. Regardless [of] how the photograph came to light, there is still no excuse for my actions." 

In light of the apology, some fans felt like Carter was being treated harshly, as numerous reports stated that he was very well-liked backstage. Still, there was no coming back from the Nazi picture.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Paige's sex tape, featuring the NXT Women's Championship

In 2017, Paige was the unfortunate victim of a sex tape scandal, as multiple explicit videos featuring her leaked online. Paige has said the leak was the worst moment of her life. Speaking on "Chasing Glory with Lilian Garcia," Paige said, "I barricaded myself in the house for a couple of months. It was so bad to the point where I was contemplating suicide. I was so sad, that's why I was doing so much stupid stuff. I was drinking heavily, I wasn't doing drugs at that point. I was just in a really, really, really bad place."

Most wrestling viewers were sympathetic to Paige's plight. However, some hardcore fans were not happy with an aspect of one particular video: In one of the leaked clips, Paige is shown performing a sex act with the NXT Women's Championship belt. Online, fans called the video "disrespectful" to the NXT Women's Championship's legacy, and claimed that Paige was "desecrating WWE property."

While WWE did change the design of the NXT Women's Championship just a few weeks after the sex tapes leaked, that was probably just a coincidence. It takes months for those belts to be made; in all likelihood, this was just a case of poor timing.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Speaking Out, NXT, and NXT UK

Professional wrestling had its very own "Me Too" moment in June 2020, when many people began coming forward with allegations concerning the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse they'd experienced as part of the wrestling industry. As more and more people began telling their stories, the #SpeakingOut hashtag was used to represent the entire movement.

Promotions from all over the world were caught up in the allegations, which involved wrestlers from AEW, Impact Wrestling, Chikara, Major League Wrestling, Ring of Honor, NWA, and WWE. In WWE's case, a number of the names mentioned belonged to talent who appeared on "NXT" and "NXT UK." Specifically, Joe Coffey, Jack Gallagher, Austin Theory, Jordan Devlin, Travis Banks, Velveteen Dream, Ligero, Wolfgang, Trent Seven, and "NXT UK" referees Joel Allen and Chris Roberts were accused of abuse; WWE quickly began investigating each claim.

Travis Banks, Ligero, Jack Gallagher, and the two referees were all fired following the accusations, and Joe Coffey was suspended. Everybody else, however, seemingly passed; a number of them continue to wrestle for WWE to this day.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Thomas Latimer was charged with battery and disorderly intoxication

In the early days of "NXT," Thomas Latimer wrestled as Kenneth Cameron, who was part of an early version of The Ascension. While The Ascension later became known as a lower-card team on the main roster, they were a top act in "NXT," with creepy supernatural promotional videos that were unlike anything else in wrestling at the time. By all indications, their future was bright.

That light dimmed on November 30, 2012, when Latimer was released by WWE after being charged with battery of a law enforcement officer and disorderly intoxication. On the "This Is Pro Wrestling Podcast" (via Wrestling Inc.), Latimer said, "When I got fired from WWE for a drinking-related thing, for touching a cop, for one I was arrogant and I was in a good position. I thought 'Oh, I'll be fine.' Because I'd already been arrested before that, when I'd first signed with WWE, for a DUI. So they already knew I had a drinking problem." 

Obviously, WWE didn't see things quite the same way. "When they released me, they said 'Go seek some help. You know, you've probably got a problem,'" Latimer continued. "I was still like 'Nah, I don't have a problem.' And that's how I still carried on for 10 years." Latimer went on to claim that he's sober now, and that he deeply regrets both his actions and how long it took him to come to grips with his addiction.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Firing Drake Maverick at the height of the pandemic, then making a story out of it

On April 15, 2020, right when COVID-19 was hitting its first peak, WWE released over 100 of its employees in a supposed cost-cutting measure. One of the affected wrestlers was Drake Maverick, who released an emotional video on Twitter (via Bleeding Cool) in which he described, while fighting back tears, how he received the phone call that he never wanted to get.

However, Maverick had already been booked as a competitor in the Cruiserweight Championship Tournament, with a match scheduled for the following week on "NXT." In the video, Maverick said that he would honor that commitment, and broke down while saying that it might be the last time he'd ever wrestle. Maverick's release was ultimately made part of the story, drawing criticism from fans who felt like WWE was exploiting the very real issue of unemployment resulting from a worldwide pandemic.

Maverick was rehired by WWE after the tournament, with Triple H saying, "Through the process of this tournament, [Maverick] captured people's hearts and imaginations. He earned that spot ... I'm personally thrilled for him that he can continue to do what he loves and dreams about doing. I'm thrilled we were able to get where we did" (h/t Fightful). Still, many who truly felt for Maverick were left with a bitter taste in their mouths, as they wondered whether the whole thing had been nothing more than a storyline from the very beginning.

Jordan Myles quits NXT and accuses WWE of racism

Albert Christian Hardie, known on the independent scene as ACH, had a short run in "NXT" as Jordan Myles before explosively leaving the company in November 2019. In spite of only staying in "NXT" for a cup of coffee, Hardie won the Breakout Tournament and earned the right to challenge for the NXT Championship. Throughout the competition, Hardie won over the fans with his incredible performances, and seemed destined to become a big deal in "NXT." Just as his star began to rise, however, WWE made a t-shirt for Hardie that sparked quite a bit of controversy.

Not only did Hardie hate the shirt, but he accused WWE of using a design that evoked blackface. "I will keep posting this till my voice is heard. I'm not sorry for anything I say or do," Hardie tweeted. "Representation is important. If this is Vince McMahon & Triple H's 'vision' of me then this is a slap in the face to EVERY African American performer, fan, and supporter."

WWE responded by saying that Hardie had approved the design before publicly airing his complaints. Hardie then posted a profanity-filled video and explosively quit the company. "I am no longer an employee. I refuse to work for racists," he said, calling "Jordan Myles" a "slave name." He was granted his release soon after.

Comments