Welcome to our third edition of the NXT Top Ten. The last two weeks of WWE’s developmental “brand” proved, at least in my mind, that the best wrestling going on in the company today happens at Full Sail University, both in quality and quantity. For a one-hour show, NXT always has 3-5 matches per episode and almost every one would fit in beautifully on RAW or Smackdown.
If you’ve missed the discussion @NewAgeInsiders and the #NAIborhood have had regarding NXT, you’re missing out. Basically, there is a growing belief that NXT should replace Smackdown as WWE’s second nationally televised program. Break out to 2 hours weekly, move down some of the lesser WWE talent to give them some room to grow and really push it hard. We’d love to have you join the conversation; as NAI says, be heard!
OK, time for our Top Ten. As usual, I’ve taken in-ring ability, current character, verbal skills and “It” factor into account. However, I’ve realized I need to add a fifth criteria, which is “NXT presence / push”. For example, over the last 2 weeks, The Ascension wasn’t on NXT, which causes them to slip from the top spot. I’m still as high on them as ever, but I can’t keep them on top in good conscience while others are on WWE Network.
Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch are going to be WWE Divas Champions someday. Both excellent wrestlers (was particularly impressed with Sasha), and WWE made a smart move by turning the Irish step-dancing gimmick for Lynch into Lita 2.0, which will play much better worldwide.
Colin Cassady and Enzo Amore have fallen out of this week’s rankings due to their place on the NXT undercard, feuding with La Resistance. . . I mean, the Legionnaires.
#10 - Mojo Rawley (Last time - #7)
The loss in the tag team tournament didn’t do much for Rawley, nor did his crowd-approved beatdown at the hands of Bull Dempsey. The only thing that saved Mojo from falling out of this week’s Top 10 was the promo he cut last night. I detected a little bit of edge to Mojo, which immediately made him more interesting.
Lesson: Changing volumes in a promo, specifically lowering your volume, makes people notice and listen to what you’re saying.
I imagine we’ll see Mojo and Dempsey at Takeover 2, and I hope this is the first of many little character tweaks for Rawley over the next few weeks. He’s always had the size and look, now he just needs to quit being so hyped.
#9 - Bayley (Last time - Unranked)
I’m going to be honest; I don’t like Bayley all that much. I don’t get the gimmick at all. What’s with the wacky floating arm guys? Were they just on sale one week? There’s no denying Bayley can wrestle, though, and this is one case where the “NXT Push” comes into play.
I get the sense Charlotte is WWE bound after Takeover, so I imagine Bayley is going to win the title. That fact alone merits a top ten ranking. I still see Bayley’s best WWE shot being as a Bo-liever, but we’ll see how she handles the title.
#8 - Sami Zayn (Last time - #5)
Zayn drops in the rankings simply because I don’t see a direction he’s going in heading into Takeover. He and Adam Rose lost in the tag tournament and I don’t see him in the NXT title picture right now, so where does that leave him?
This, in my mind, is Zayn’s biggest problem when it comes to predicting his WWE future. Unless he is in the underdog role, he doesn’t have a lot going for him, character wise. I’m holding out hope that when the new generation of stars (KENTA, Devitt, Steen) arrive in the near future, Zayn will have more of a fit, even if its just one of NXT’s defenders against the ‘invasion’.
#7 - Adrian Neville (Last time - Unranked)
The NXT champ makes his way back onto our rankings this week thanks to an excellent title match with Tyler Breeze, as well as what looks to me to be a Triple Threat title match shaping up at Takeover 2. (Neville vs. Breeze vs. Tyson Kidd)
I still have a hard time with the character. He came to the ring in bland gray tights for his title match with Breeze, which to me, was a perfect metaphor for the Neville ‘gimmick’, if we can call it that. He’s electric in the ring; the standing shooting star press is a thing of beauty and I haven’t seen anyone take a DDT like that since vintage RVD.
However, great wrestling ability alone does not a top superstar make; right, Cesaro?
#6 - Kalisto (Last time - #10)
With his partner Sin Cara, little Kalisto is in the finals of the tag title contenders tournament and look to be the favorites to beat The Ascension on their way out the NXT doors. They’re the faces, they’re exciting, and they had the main event spot on NXT last night.
My only hesitation with declaring them outright the next NXT tag champs is the fact that there’s a chance we see them in WWE sooner rather than later. With Del Rio’s firing and Mysterio most likely never appearing on WWE TV again, the powers that be might decide they need a new Mexican superstar to reignite fan interest, and Kalisto is the most likely candidate. He does things in the ring I’ve never seen before, and kids would be wearing his mask like hotcakes as soon as he made his debut. Whether in NXT or WWE, Kalisto has a bright future.
#5 - Bull Dempsey (Last time: #4)
The Throwback / The Last of a Dying Breed / Whatever his nickname is by the time you read this drops a spot in the rankings only because of the quality of talent above him. Bull’s beatdown of Mojo might have helped get him and Rawley over (with the aforementioned character changes I hope I’m seeing from Mojo), and I imagine Dempsey will win at Takeover 2 as well. I don’t think we’ll have to wait long before seeing Bull in the NXT title picture.
#4 - The Vaudevillains (Last time: #6)
Simon Gotch and Aiden English are in the finals of the tag team tournament, which isn’t surprising to me. What is shocking is that they have won cleanly the entire time getting there. I expected some underhanded tactics and a low blow here or there, but WWE seems to be giving these guys a shot at legitimacy, even with the ‘cartoony’ gimmick (which, for the record, I still adore).
The Vaudevillains also have what I consider to be the best tag finisher in all of WWE right now, which is “That’s a Wrap”. English takes all the credit for this by being able to leap over the ropes and land on the middle turnbuckle, as opposed to leaping onto the mat then jumping up. Call me nitpicky, but that’s what makes that move for me. These two are still (along with Dempsey) my favorite parts of NXT.
#3 - The Ascension (Last time- #1)
One could argue we weren’t supposed to see Konnor and Viktor on NXT these last two weeks, so I shouldn’t be penalizing them for their lack of appearances. They are the dominant champs, after all, waiting for their opponents, plus it’s a good barometer of how the tag team scene will exist without them once they’re on the main roster.
Still, out of sight, out of mind, and the champs could have at least stood on the entrance ramp and “scouted” or intimidated opponents. They’re still arguably the top team in the company, let alone just NXT, though.
#2 - Charlotte (Last week - #3)
Much like The Ascension, I think the writing is on the wall for Miss Flair; she’ll be on RAW the Monday after Takeover 2. She’s obviously ready for The Show and is now just taking up a spot on the NXT roster better used by Lynch, Banks, Bayley and others.
Once again I’m likely just wearing my fantasy booker hat, but I’m hoping the Ric Flair / Ziggler interaction on RAW this last week was a sign of things to come for the NXT women’s champion. Dolph and Charlotte would be the next great “power couple” in WWE.
#1 - Tyler Breeze (Last week - #2)
If I had to pick the one wrestler that I get the most flak on being a fan of, its Tyler Breeze. There seem to be a large number of people out there who think the gimmick sucks, he’s boring, he’s not good in the ring, etc.
Now, I won’t argue that Tyler Breeze isn’t earning this spot on his wrestling skills; he’s good, but not nearly great. To me, Tyler is the most complete NXT talent because he’s got the gimmick.
Lesson 2: The arrogant, pretty boy heel ALWAYS has a place in WWE.
“The Narcissist” Lex Luger. HBK-era Shawn Michaels. Early Dolph Ziggler. The Miz.
All of them essentially had the same gimmick Breeze has now. If cameraphones had been around in the early 90’s, you know this is exactly what Michaels would have been doing, rather than making Sherri carry the mirror to the ring.
Tyler Breeze can cut a decent promo. He can irritate the crowd by posing and showing his music video over and over. He can have a decent match in the ring, making his opponent look good in the process. He has all the tools you need to be a successful WWE superstar.
Agree with me or not, but I don’t think anyone else on this list is as complete a product as Tyler Breeze. I’ll go out on a limb and say he will have been either an IC or US champion by this time next year. Want me to go further? Fine.
Get used to the phrase, “Mr. Money in the Bank, Tyler Breeze”. It’s happening, folks