If you've happened upon that little blog that belongs to myself and my good friend Doc Manson, Number 2 Contenders, you've seen my NXT Top Tens before. It's no secret that the WWE's "minor league" system is my current favorite hour of wrestling a week, and while my first few editions had WAYYY too much bias in them, I'd like to think I've sorted that out a bit.
It's OK, Bull Dempsey. . . I still love you. . .
Anyway, I base my top ten rankings on a number of factors. Current storyline, ability to connect with fans and most importantly, WWE potential. Please remember that this is my own rankings. You're more than welcome to post your own below.
First, as always, some Honorable Mentions
Marcus Louis - Nobody is quite sure what exactly WWE is planning on doing with Louis - he might be a modern version of the century-old French Angel gimmick (though he doesn't have the pituitary problems that poor Maurice Tillet had), but whatever it is, I've been quite intrigued. Will we see him at Takeover? I imagine so.
Baron Corbin - I get a lot of flak for this, especially now that Corbin looks poised to feud with my boy Bull. Trust me, when Corbin made his debut (and every time he walks to the ring), I can't help but get excited. If this ranking was purely based on presence alone, he'd be in the upper echelon. However, while the fans counting the seconds of his match is fun, I really think at this point we're obviously seeing WWE hiding the fact that Corbin's not that good in the ring. Until I see a longer match, I can't hold him in too high esteem.
Kevin Owens - Comparatively, we have Kevin Owens, who hasn't even made his live in-person debut on NXT television yet and I debated giving him a top ten spot. We should all stand and applaud WWE for these Owens teasers - I can't remember the last time a talent had this much backstory and character development before ever stepping foot in the ring. Takeover is going to be amazing for many reasons, but KO's debut (you know we're going to call him KO, right?) is a giant part of that.
Ok, on to the rankings!
10. The Ascension
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Konnor and Viktor, if memory serves, were top talents in my rankings this summer, and now they're barely hanging on. Part of that, as we'll see with some other names on this list, is their pending WWE call-up. Once a talent gets extensive WWE time, I don't feel right about putting them in a "prospect" ranking (Hence why Tyson Kidd won't appear here. . . No worries, though, Kidd gets his own column later this weekend.).
The Ascension went from being dominant monsters to just another tag team fairly quickly. Putting over Balor and Itami is nice of them, but they're leaving NXT far more lambish than lion-like. Perhaps this was WWE's plan all along, and we'll see them adopted by Bray Wyatt in the hopes he can save them. Or, much more likely, the last few months will be forgotten and these two will be hyped as NXT's most dominant tag team, Demolition-style ring gear and all.
9. Tyler Breeze
Do I still think Breeze is one of NXT's most well-rounded talents? Yes, I do. However, he's suffered possibly more than anyone else on the roster from the debuts of Itami and Balor. They just don't seem to have a big plan for him right now. I imagine we're either going to see him at Takeover against Tyson Kidd (which would be a fantastic match, even without much buildup) or in a rematch with the aforementioned Marcus Louis, and if that's the case, doesn't Breeze lose? I still think Prince Pretty makes his WWE debut in early 2015, though based on how the last couple months have gone, I can make the argument he could have benefited from a call-up right after Fatal 4 Way.
8. Lucha Dragons
Kalisto and Sin Cara haven't been seen much on NXT these last weeks, unless you count the miniaturized versions that the Vaudevillains have been toying with. A month or so ago, I made the case on Twitter that the WWE Tag Team division needed the Dragons ASAP. That's still mostly the case, though the outlook for tag teams seems to be improving.
You could even say it's a New Day for them. . . Thank you, I'll be here all week.
The writing appears to be on the wall that the Dragons will lose the titles on Thursday, though I'm not entirely sure that's the case, if only so that we don't wind up with 3 new champions at R-Evolution.
7. Sasha Banks
On Twitter yesterday I posted that I don't get all the Sasha Banks love. She's not as impressive to me as she is to many of you. When I asked for reasons, the only person who didn't solely give me the "She's hot" rationale was frequent NAI contributor Tyler (@MoeTWWE), who discussed her all-around abilities - good on the mic, solid in the ring, easy on the eyes.
While I agree she's a decent wrestler, I still don't see what's so special. Perhaps that's because she's being compared to. . . Nope, I'll save this for later in the column. If you're familiar with my work, you know where I'm heading.
6. Hideo Itami
I feel for KenTami, I really do. At Fatal 4 Way, Hideo makes his debut and is all the rage. Then, he gets beat down by The Ascension, to the point where it's not even fun to watch anymore. Now? He's an afterthought. It's Finn Balor and. . .that other guy, the Japanese one. . .
Still, he's in a high profile feud, he's been doing some actual wrestling (hence why I can no longer call him KickTami), and he's going to win on Thursday. Counts for something. My advice to Hideo? Once Takeover is, well, over, get as far away from Finn as you can. You need some time to be your own man.
Ok, you only had to wait a spot or two, but I appreciate it all the same. It's time, once again, for my weekly declaration...
Charlotte is going to be the greatest women's wrestler in history!
Truthfully, this is why I don't view Sasha in high esteem - I'm comparing her to Charlotte. Right now, that's like comparing the local swimming hole and park to the California coast. It's really not fair. Charlotte, to me, is just SO FAR ABOVE any other female talent on the NXT roster. She needs to go to WWE just so the other ladies have a chance to shine.
Which is exactly what's going to happen. I expect this to be the last time I can rank Ms. Flair here. It's been fun.
4. The Vaudevillains
I'm a little confused by Simon and Aiden right now. On one hand, we've seen a more aggressive style in the ring, which I appreciate. On the other, they're doing goofy old-time vignettes where they're essentially Wile E. Coyote, except they actually catch the Road Runner Mini-Dragons.
God, I hope you all get that reference.
So are they a comedy act or a serious team? I suppose Thursday will be a good indication for us.
3. Adrian Neville
I'm not afraid to admit I've never been a big Neville fan. Love his ring work, didn't see how he fits into a WWE landscape. That was Adrian the face, however. I must confess, the heel-ish overtones we've seen the last few weeks, even if they're just hints, have made me much more intrigued.
Still, much like Charlotte, I imagine this is about it for The Man who Gravity. . . Allows a couple extra seconds before remembering. Sorry, I'm The Teacher, I can't get behind a scientifically inaccurate nickname. Regardless, he's got to be WWE bound by the end of the year, right?
2. Finn Balor
I don't quite understand the entrance.- Why does he do a roll on the entrance ramp for no reason? Is he going to eventually kiss those stairs? - But I can't help but be fascinated with just about every facet of the former Prince's NXT style. Without intending to, he has outshined poor Mr. Itami, and with the expected paint job at Takeover, could do the same for the entire "promotion" by this time next week.
Just. . . Just get a new finishing move, Finn. You're going to hurt yourself.
1. Sami Zayn
This has been a very well done 'road to redemption', hasn't it? Zayn has seamlessly transitioned into being the man that NXT is built around. Excellent in the ring, makes you feel something when he speaks (which is much harder than it sounds, as anyone watching RAW would agree) and should. . . No, I'll go further. . . WILL become NXT Champion in just a few short days.
Unless Mr. Owens has anything to say about it...