After a whirlwind of a Wrestlemania weekend, it's common for fans to turn their wrestle-weary eyes forward and gaze into the future, trying to establish what is likely next for their favorite superstars, which I can happily say now include both male and female talents.
Trouble is, after this particular weekend, that task is difficult. . .If not out and out impossible.
Wrestlemania gave us more questions than answers and tonight's RAW could be one of the most intriguing in ages simply because we have no idea what to expect. Will Shane be there? Could Sting be there? Is John Cena back? Did the League of Nations break up? What about Baron Corbin? WHEN DOES EVA MARIE GET HER WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH?
. . . Ok, so maybe I'm the only one asking that one. . . And even that's just to be annoying. . .
So yeah, WWE is hard to figure out... But so is NXT, and the issues with that brand are even harder to solve!
The Problems with NXT
There's no doubt that NXT has a TON of depth, and actually since I started writing this, NXT has signed eleventeen new talents, including YOUR favorite indie guy. Go check, it could have happened!
The problems I want to talk about today don't have to do with how to manage all of that talent, although that is certainly something NXT will need to figure out. A 60 minute show once a week isn't going to work, long term, with so many superstars that need a chance to shine.
But that's another column.
No, the problems I want to delve into today are the fact that despite this depth, there aren't a huge list of top contenders for NXT's 3 championships. Let's look at them one at a time, in order of the matches as they appeared at Takeover Dallas.
The Tag Titles
American Alpha has climbed the mountain and won their gold, and while I am delighted for Jordan and Gable, who do they face next? Besides a rematch with The Revival. . . What other teams are there? The Vaudevillains? Blake and Murphy? We are all assuming that Enzo and Cass are showing up on RAW tonight. . . Are there even any other tag teams in NXT?
I don't think anyone would mind seeing Dash and Dawson continue their feud with Jordan and Gable into the summer - That tag match was one of the best we've seen in ages - But what happens when that is over? How does NXT quickly establish qualified tag teams, when there aren't many in the first place?
Keep this in mind.
The Women's Title
Asuka has proven herself to be the most dominant female talent since Charlotte, and more than likely she's even better than Miss Flair was. Bayley did a halfway decent job (though as we said on DDT Wrestling this weekend, neither Doc Manson or I were huge fans of their match), but even she paled in comparison to the Empress of NXT.
So who does she fight next?
Sure, we haven't seen a conclusion to the Asuka / Nia Jax and Eva Marie storyline, so there's something. But, just like the tag team situation, who comes after that? Carmella? Alexa Bliss? Dana Brooke? Nobody seems like a qualified contender. In fact, nobody seems remotely qualified to even come close to being a contender!
How does NXT quickly build up their young roster of female talent (Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Santana Garrett, etc.) to be able to even be in the same conversation as their new Womens' Champion?
Detecting a pattern yet?
The NXT Title
Both Doc Manson and I, along with a great number of you out there in the NAIborhood, were CONVINCED that Samoa Joe was going to win the NXT title on Friday night, and Finn Balor would be part of the WWE roster soon after, perhaps even as soon as Sunday's Wrestlemania. That didn't happen, and now once again, we have questions about who becomes the next contender.
In this instance, at least, there are a number of viable contenders to choose from. Austin Aries, Baron Corbin (complete with trophy), Apollo Crews and oh. . . That Nakamura guy. . . All could be potential challengers for Balor's title. Samoa Joe is likely also not done with Mr. Balor, although as Doc and I mentioned, the way Joe handled losing was particularly curious. Not sure what his future is.
Either way, we can be reasonably confident that the NXT male singles scene is relatively set heading out of Takeover - We just don't know what it's going to look like or who's going to step up to challenge the champion.
Yeah we do. . . He's the guy with the knees.
Confusion and questions reign in the two World Wrestling Entertainment properties. Nobody is really sure what happens next. . . Some people can use that to be negative - To fault WWE / NXT for being so muddled and "unprepared". Or, if you follow the Ten Commandments of the NAIborhood, you can be excited about the endless possibilities.
My goodness, it's been a while since I've done one of these rankings. Matter of fact, it's been a while since I've written anything at all. Every time I came up with an idea, I figured I'd save it for the podcast. However, in celebration of the launch of DDTpod.com, let's get back on the horse, shall we?
If you've perused the archives, you know how this works, although I'm tweaking it a bit. Rather than judging based on potential or overall performance, this is now a completely biased and subjective list. This is MY top ten. I encourage you to stop by the forums or, perhaps, write an article yourself in which you give us your own personal rankings.
Finn Balor is not included in this list and neither is Bayley. If you're a podcast listener, you know why this is. I enjoy Bayley's work, though the underdog gimmick is wearing a bit thin with me. As for Balor. . . Oh, Finn, you are floundering right now. He needs the Balor Club far more than NXT or WWE does.
Number Ten - The Vaudevillains
Aiden English and Simon Gotch have been part of my top ten rankings since the beginning of my writing career, and that is NOT a good thing. That means it's been almost two full years with them in NXT, and they still don't seem to be any closer to the main roster than they were previously. While the WWE tag division could use some young blood, there are other teams who are going to get there before them.
Number Nine - Baron Corbin
Baron and I have a rocky history. I liked him a lot when he first made his debut but immediately realized what NXT was doing - accentuating his strengths and hiding his many weaknesses. My enjoyment quickly turned to utter disdain for Mr. "Tall and Terrible", and it would have remained that way forever had he not told Apollo Crews (not on this list until they give him something to do besides "Smiling African American") to go back to Ring of Honor.
Since then, Corbin has found his place in the wrestling world, as the "Anti-Indie" guy, and it really works for him.
Number Eight - Santana Garrett
Remember when we all worried about the future of the NXT women's division once Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch all got called up to the main roster? How we worried that it would just be "Bayley and Friends?" Or maybe that was just me.
Either way, NXT has a very talented crop of young female wrestlers all just waiting for their chance to shine. I could have picked Billie Kay or Peyton Royce to take this spot, but Miss Garrett has been on TV more frequently and has impressed me each time with her in-ring chops. I don't think she'll wind up being the female member of the Wyatt Family (as her Twitter feed creepily alluded to some months ago), but I do think she's going to have a successful career in WWE.
Number Seven - Enzo and Cass
I debated leaving these two off of the rankings, since the writing is so evidently on the wall that they'll be joining WWE following Wrestlemania. The only reason they stayed is because of the significant improvements they have made, both in the ring and on the mic. I know you're saying, "DC, Enzo is a microphone maestro!", and you're not wrong. But they didn't kick it into high gear until they got very serious with The Revival, and that's when I began taking them seriously as main roster candidates.
Here's the thing, though - Carmella needs to stay in NXT.
Unless they are going to make her solely a manager / valet, I don't think she's ready to be part of the Diva's Division. Keep her at Full Sail for a few months, let her only be a wrestler, THEN bring her up sometime in late summer. Sending Carmella to WWE before that only hurts her in the long run.
Number Six - Samoa Joe
The number one contender and, seemingly, obvious next NXT champion certainly impressed with his marathon performance in that two out of three falls match against Sami Zayn (not ranked because he's already a main roster guy). NXT would benefit from Samoa Joe being the dominant champion for much of 2016, building up new stars just by deciding to step into the ring with them. NXT is going to need some time to get the next level of main event singles stars ready for prime time. Joe helps with that.
Number Five - Tye Dillinger
The Perfect 10 is Number 5 for me, even though I know what's coming. There's going to be a problem in NXT in the near future - With all of the new talents coming in at an almost alarming rate (How long until Bobby Roode and Eric Young sign with WWE - two weeks? Maybe three?), guys like Dillinger, who have been in the developmental system for YEARS now, are going to get pushed back down the totem pole.
It's a shame. This guy finally finds a gimmick that works and is likely not going to get to capitalize on it because Shinsuke Nakamura, Austin Aries (both not listed until they have their first match) and others will be in the way. I get why it's inevitable, but I'm sad for the Perfect 10.
Number Four - Eva Marie and Nia Jax
Hate on it all you want, folks, but these two are doing an excellent job filling the void left in the women's division. Dana Brooke and Emma weren't going to cut it as main event level heels, but between Nia's intimidating look and Eva's star power (I don't want to hear it- She is a STAR), they've made things very interesting for Bayley and friends.
Plus, they have planted the seeds for a split at some point, with Nia Jax becoming a face to replace Bayley or another female not yet mentioned who will probably be WWE bound by the end of the year.
Deal with it - Eva and Nia are great.
Number Three - The Revival
Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson (he's the bald one) might not be the flashiest tag team as they walk to the ring or when they pick up a mic, but between those ropes, they are everything you should like about tag team wrestling. Go back and watch some of their matches. Notice how they actually do all of the things you're supposed to do as a tag team - Cutting the ring in half to isolate an opponent, working over a single body part, latching on to it when making a tag, to keep the fresh partner from getting involved. Their new name is appropriate. They could be part of a REVIVAL of tag team wrestling in WWE, and I can't wait.
I want one of their jackets personalized just for me. Make it happen, NAIborhood!
Number Two - Asuka
Do I really need to say anything here? She might not win the NXT Women's title at Takeover (Still not sure Bayley gets the call-up yet), but it's only a matter of time before she wins it. We could see 2016 being the year that the NXT Champions (Joe and Asuka, along with whomever the tag champs might be) absolutely dominate the competition, waiting for challengers worth fighting. I'd be very OK with this notion.
Number One - American Alpha
Could there have been another choice? I don't think so. I might take umbrage with the recent formulaic pattern of their tag matches but without question, Chad Gable and Jason Jordan are my favorite wrestlers in NXT, and among my favorites in the world right now. Jordan's suplexes might just be better than Brock Lesnar's and truthfully, I don't think there's anything that Chad Gable can't do.
Oddly, though, I don't need them winning the tag titles at Takeover. I want this Alpha / Revival feud to last a good long time, well into the summer. These guys are going to set the world on fire if they get the chance, and I can't wait to see it.
So there you have it, folks, the first NXT Top Ten of the DDTpod Era. Comment below and let me know how wrong I am.