”Man plans. . . God laughs”

Maybe it’s been reading Shawn Michaels book on faith, but that quote resonates with me as I sit down to write this column.  I was all set to do another running diary of Monday Night RAW, but for some reason, I couldn’t get into it.  Maybe it was the early hour of the morning, maybe it was being distracted by other matters, but I wasn’t finding my quasi-witty one liners and potentially interesting anecdotes flowing as freely as I usually do.  I was stuck.

That’s when I saw John Cena lock in the STF on Alberto Del Rio, and an idea popped into my head.  All of a sudden, I was brought in a completely new direction, which is what you’re (hopefully) about to read.

2016 Wrestler Resolutions

What should our favorite talents be aiming for in the new year?  Let’s find out.

John Cena -  Use the STF a whole lot less, and the Anaconda Vice a whole lot more.

This is a weird one to begin with, I grant you.  To my knowledge, Cena has never used the Anaconda Vice ever in his life.  For all I know, he’d have no idea how to apply it.  But he still should use it, and here are some reasons why.

Number one - It’s a really good submission move. - As evidenced by the #NAI150 (which will soon have its results revealed to you - Patience, NAIborhood), submission moves are all the rage, and it is my firm belief that every wrestler should have one.

Truthfully, the best person to have this move is Bo Dallas, so he can look down on his opponent and encourage them NOT to tap out.  But that’s a pipe dream at best.

Number two - the STF is terrible - Particularly Cena’s application.  Let Ambrose use the Regal Stretch, which is a much better version of the move.

Number three - It’s a slap in the face to CM Punk - To have the ultimate “WWE guy” using Punk’s pet move would just be entertaining to me.

Alberto Del Rio - Remember that every match you’re in can be a main event match

Del Rio, like Randy Orton, seems to perform best when the spotlight is on him. He needs to remember that the best way to keep that happening is to steal the show as often as possible (provided your name isn’t Dolph Ziggler).  Less of his Kalisto nonsense, more of this.

Roman Reigns - Remember what got you over with the fans

No, it wasn’t making fun of people, nor was it coming up with clever synonyms for body parts.  People started to cheer for you when you got angry and started beating the tar out of people.  I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but it bears repeating.

YOU’RE NOT THE ROCK!  Remember that, and 2016 will be a banner year for you.

Kevin Owens - Keep doing what you’re doing

Each and every week, KO continues to be one of the most compelling talents AND characters we’ve seen in a very long time.  People forget that he’s only been in WWE for about 6 months, and (Spoiler Alert!) he’s been voted by the #NAI150 as having the Match AND Feud of the year for 2015.   What’s going to happen when he has a full 12 months to leave his mark?  Magic. . . That’s what.

Dean Ambrose - Feud with Kevin Owens for as long as possible.

Jason Moltov said it best with his tweet last night - Kevin Owens is beating the boring out of Dean Ambrose.  Not since he was crawling out of the trunk of a car have I been this invested in Dean.  I’m not sure how long they drag this feud out, but the longer it goes, the better Ambrose’s career will be for it.

Sheamus - Continue to invest in any substance that will keep the ‘hawk growing bigger

Gels, sprays, whatever it takes.  Sheamus’ return to main event status had a lot to do with injuries, sure, but it also had to do with his total commitment to embracing his new look.  He didn’t complain about it on Twitter, he didn’t bemoan it on Instagram, he ran with it, and now he’s a TRUE former WHC (not counting the brand extension titles).   Good lesson for a lot of superstars out there.

Speaking of which…

Dolph Ziggler, Curtis Axel, and basically half the entire roster - STOP TRYING TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO GET OVER!

It rarely, if ever, works.  In fact, I’d argue that WWE punishes those who try to rally supporters via Twitter.  That’s not how you play the game in McMahonLand, folks.

Rusev - Stop living in Sheamus’ shadow. . . And keep coming out on your own.

While it wasn’t the most popular storyline in WWE history, the #LoveRhombus worked for a while because, as the most successful gimmicks do, art imitated life.  We saw Rusev get jealous because Lana was more over with the fans than he was - And that was exactly what was happening, and will continue to happen so long as she keeps walking out with him.

Rusev will never be as big a star as he could be if he continues to be defined by the people around him - First Lana and now the League of Nations.  If he wants to contend for the World Title in 2016 (and I’m making a #PreDCtion that he will), he needs to come out completely on his own.

OK. . . He can bring the tank.

The Miz - Build up your Talent Agency and become the best manager we’ve seen this century.

Part of this isn’t up to him - There really haven’t been a lot of great managers in the 2000’s (remember, Paul Heyman is an Advocate), so he doesn’t have to do too much to earn the billing.  Regardless, Miz is one of the best in the world at what he does - Stand around looking ridiculous and be irritating on the microphone.  What better role for him than as a manager?  Gather a stable of lower tier guys, put them with Miz and I guarantee that one of them gets over in a big, bad way.

Doesn’t need to just be guys, either.

Sasha Banks - Ditch Team BAD, join up with Miz, take over the world.

As popular as Sasha is with the fans (and really, the IWC), there might not be a better heel in WWE than Sasha. . . Except for Miz, of course.   With their powers combined. . . There’s no stopping her.

Charlotte - Run as far and as fast as you can away from your father.

As long as Ric Flair is on camera, the focus is going to be on the 16 time World Champion.  Charlotte just becomes his latest arm candy, in a creepy, but totally true way.  If Charlotte wants to recover the huge amount of momentum she has lost in the last few months, she can find it anywhere that her daddy isn’t.

Becky Lynch - Realize that the only way you get truly over hasn’t made his WWE debut yet.

We joke in the NAIborhood all the time about the savior that Finn Balor will be, but in this case, it’s completely true.  Unless we see a Balor / Becky power couple, Lynch will ALWAYS be an afterthought in this division.

Bray Wyatt - Less preaching, more beating

I love the promos of Wyatt, but they have gotten him nowhere.  Time to take a page from the Roman Reigns guide to getting over - Silent and Deadly.  Bring your family, ditch your family, it doesn’t matter.  Just start causing as much destruction as possible.

Vince McMahon - Continue to guard the secret of your Lazarus Pit very carefully

You have to be a superhero nerd to understand the reference - The Lazarus Pit is just a darker version of the Fountain of Youth.  Either way, Vince has one, as he looks as good (maybe a bit more wrinkly) as he did in the Attitude Era right now.

Keep bathing in those waters, Vincent.  You’re the key to WWE success in 2016, and I mean purely as an on-screen character.

---

What do YOU think?  What should WWE talents have as New Year’s Resolutions?  Be Heard

NXT is in the books for October 9th, and here on The #NXT Day, we have our usual 3 big topics to talk about.  Let’s get to it.

If I Could Be Serious For A Minute

Oh, Lance Storm, how little we appreciated you when you were on television each week, and how much we miss you now that you’re not.  You have, however, trained some quality wrestlers, and the biggest star of them all (so far) seems to be taking your favorite tag line to heart.

In fact, if last night’s show had a theme, it would be seriousness - we saw a number of top talents competing with a bit more intensity and a bit less frivolity.
Tyler Breeze defeated Mojo Rawley in sound fashion, even (hopefully) unveiling a new submission finisher with his Fujiwara armbar, a much better match-ender than his very average spinning heel kick.

The Vaudevillains also seemed to have a more serious side this week with their impressive victory over Enzo and Big Cass.  No longer was Aiden English conducting the entire time, nor did Simon Gotch engage in any squats or other strongman shenanigans.  Perhaps their change in theme music had a purpose after all…

Finally, we saw Titus O’Neill, who normally spends his WWE time seemingly as a zookeeper, what with all the bunnies, bulls and gators surrounding him each week, compete in a very long (for NXT standards) and intense match with Sami Zayn, picking up an impressive victory.

What does this all mean in the grand scheme of things?  Well, I might be reading way too much into this, but I think and hope that WWE has learned a valuable lesson.

Lesson: The overly silly or comedic NXT characters have hard transitions to WWE.

Adam Rose and Bo Dallas are, for all intents and purposes, going nowhere on the main roster, and don’t even give me Bo’s winning streak over Mark Henry as evidence to the contrary - that story is much more about Henry’s eventual heel turn than anything pro-Bo.  (Ha!)

Arguably the two biggest NXT debuts of 2014 aren’t anywhere near even the mid-card title picture and I think a lot of that has to do with their characters.  Inherently silly, not very serious at all, which makes it hard for fans to buy in.

So when I see Tyler Breeze unveil a new finisher that seemingly works very well or the Vaudevillains drop some of the schtick in exchange for a more intense approach, I take that to mean that WWE recognizes that while the gimmicks these three men portray are excellent, the characters need to be equal parts style AND substance in order to make an impact in WWE.

And that, Mr. Page, is a very good thing.

Itami Means Pain. . . As In Painful To Watch!

My good friend and fellow truth-teller Josh Petrie (@jpetrie18) and I are not afraid to be heels in our blogs, as evidenced by his recent discussion of Dean Ambrose the non-wrestler and by the fact that I’ve likely pissed off a good portion of the IWC with that image you see above this paragraph.

Kenta has been all the rage for months, if not longer.  He’s got the best kicks in the business, they said. . . Punk and Bryan all basically copied their style from Kenta, they said. . . He’s going to win the NXT title in his first month with the company, they said. . .

Well, its only been a few episodes into the newly-dubbed Itami’s WWE career, but all I have to say to those big Kenta fans is…

Dear God, is Itami hard to watch right now.  I have yet to see him perform a single wrestling hold or move; everything he’s done has been strikes.  And not even entirely good strikes at that - his springboard dropkick on Justin Gabriel a few weeks ago was botched, his hesitation dropkick on Viktor last night was weak. . .  What am I missing, KenTami fans?  Have you enjoyed his NXT matches?  Is this what I should be expecting from these new Big Three signings?  (Considering the multiple matches I’ve been sent of Devitt and Steen, I have higher hopes for those two.)

If Itami doesn’t drastically improve in the ring, he’ll be back in Japan by this time next year.

So far, I am unimpressed.

She's Good. . .Too Good

Last night’s match between Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch was a solid outing between two capable wrestlers who may soon be feuding over the NXT women’s title.  Six months to a year ago, had I watched that match, I may even have called it ‘good’.

That’s before Charlotte changed the game.

It’s time for my weekly “Charlotte is the best female wrestler in WWE right now, and possibly the best in history” proclamation.  I’ve discussed it with some folks on Twitter, though, and I don’t seem to be alone in my thinking.  While others may put talents like Gail Kim or Trish Stratus ahead of Mrs. Bram (a fact I was unaware of until this week), they all agreed that considering Charlotte’s relative inexperience, it won’t last long.

I mean, do you remember the train wreck that was Trish when she started wrestling?  I recall one match where JR had to apologize to the fans for the catastrophe taking place in the ring.  She must have botched just about every move she tried, and she wound up becoming a WWE Hall of Famer.

Charlotte is already immensely talented, so much so that by comparison, the other NXT women seem like they’re taking part in an entirely different sport.  This is like when Brittney Griner was playing college basketball and some people thought she should join the men’s team so it was more competitive.  I honestly saw a headline the other day that said Charlotte should contend for the NXT championship, not the women’s title, but Neville’s belt.  I personally think that’s a ridiculous notion, but just the fact that the conversation can be had at all speaks volumes.
Charlotte needs to get to WWE pronto so that we can stop with the comparisons and let talents like Banks, Lynch and the rest have a fair shot at greatness.

Quick Quips

Only one is our quote of the night, which goes to Renee Young, saying that “The chip on Mojo’s shoulder is actually from the steel ringpost.”   Clever line, Mrs. Ambrose, clever line.

As always, friends and humanoids, feel free to send any feedback, comments and vitriol my way.  Just don’t send me Kenta matches from Japan - I’m too scared to watch them.

Until next week!

Welcome to the NXT Top Ten, edition 4.  It’s been a little while since our last rankings, and a whole lot has happened.  We had arguably the event of the year, Takeover: Fatal 4 Way.  We’ve had some debuts, both of new NXT talents and of some top tier developmental guys on RAW.  Actually, that has required some tweaking, since at the onset of this rankings, I said I wouldn’t include any NXT guys with WWE experience.  Since that would mean getting rid of three rankings stalwarts, we’ll now adjust that to say I won’t include any NXT talent who has had a significant WWE run.

Which brings us to Tyson Kidd.  I haven’t been including him in my rankings as of yet, and I haven’t had a big problem with that up until now.  He wasn’t getting anything resembling a decent push, I thought, so why bother?  Well, now he had arguably the strongest showing of the men involved in the Fatal 4 Way, and this whole “fact” thing seems like it is taking off.  Should I start ranking him?  Help me, #NAIborhood, you’re my only hope!  If you want him ranked, then rank him I shall.

(Note: If you’re curious, he’d likely be in the top 5 somewhere this week.)

OK, let’s do some rankings.

Number 10: Hid. . . Nope, I won’t do it.   His name is Kenta!
Let’s put aside the name issues for now, since it will just raise my blood pressure.  Had these rankings happened right after Takeover (which, in hindsight, should have happened), ‘The Wrestler Formerly Known as Kenta’ would have been ranked higher.  His debut appearance was as good as one could have hoped.

However, and maybe I’m in the minority on this, but I was not blown away by his debut match with Justin Gabriel last night.  There were some definite ‘strong style’ moments, but did he actually apply a hold or do a move?  I recall kicks, elbows, a springboard dropkick that barely connected, and a double stomp that also came very close to missing his target.

Again, I might be crazy, but that match didn’t fill me with excitement over Kenta’s future, nor did his post-match beatdown by The Ascension.

It’s one match, so I’m not pulling an Arnold Skaaland and throwing in the towel on young Kenta, but I’ll need to see a bit more wrestling in order for me to rank him higher in future weeks.

Number 9: Enzo Amore and Big Cass

These two had a strong showing at Takeover, getting the chance to showcase their comedic side, which up until last week, I wasn’t a huge fan of.  While their little vignette last night didn’t strike a hilarious chord (maybe it was the wobbly camera-work of one Big Cass that threw me off), adding a third, female member to their gang is not a bad idea, especially if she can wrestle.  Please tell me she can wrestle?

*Frantically searches Google*

Ok, ok. . . Looks like she’s a wrestler. . . Crisis averted.

Number 8:  Bull Dempsey

Gotta tell ya. . . This hurts a bit. . .

I’ve never claimed (I don’t think) to have an objective rankings.  Having said that, I’ll admit that my love for Dempsey has clouded my judgement a bit.  He’s been ranked 6th, 4th and 5th up until this point, which is probably too high.  Is he amazing?  Yes, I truly think so.  Does he have a bright WWE future?  I really believe that he does.  Should he be ranked higher than current NXT title holders?  Probably not.

Still, he squashed Mojo at Takeover and looks poised to take on a new challenge in the coming weeks.  Sky is still the limit for Mr. Throwback.

Number 7: The Ascension

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. . .  Konnor and Viktor, who held the top spot in my rankings just a few weeks ago, have seen their stock tumble mightily.  First, they lost the belts at Takeover to the Lucha (Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!) Dragons.  Now, this is not a huge deal, since we all seemed to think they were WWE bound, so giving up the belts was a logical step.

Then, they got their butts kicked by a suit-clad Kenta after interrupting his debut promo.  Again, on its own, not a big deal, but that was two indignities on NXT’s biggest stage.  Anyone who used Takeover as a way to introduce themselves to NXT talents was not going to think The Ascension was poised for a big main roster run.

Now, they’ve taken a bit of revenge on Kenta, but that’s about it.  As of this writing, they have not been called up to the main roster, save for a random match here and there.  There doesn’t seem to be a set plan for them yet, which explains how they’ve dropped so far.

(Could we see them at NOC this Sunday? Interfere in the tag match? Become Rollins’ new muscle?  Dare I say it, but could they attack Cena?)

Number 6: Baron Corbin

If you’ve read my Takeover piece (and if you haven’t, how dare you!), you know that Corbin, in my mind, stole the show one week ago.  I mean this sincerely, but when Triple H hinted at more than one debut, the Twitter-verse freaked out, all but convinced we’d see Devitt and / or Steen in an NXT ring.

Seeing Corbin for the first time, just for a second or two, I remarked that if this was the debut Triple H alluded to, and not Prince or Kevin, people were going be all bent out of shape.

Well, it was, and we weren’t.  Corbin’s dominant victory (and impressive finisher) captured our imaginations, and we got another peek at that last night on NXT.  I’m still enamored with his look, his very casual air in the ring, and his finisher (now called End of Days), but I will say that I’d like to see his matches last more than 30-60 seconds.

I’m all for squash matches when they need to happen, but too many matches like that make me start to wonder what is being hidden.  Back in ECW days, there was a giant wrestler named 911, who had multiple squash matches all ending with a fearsome looking chokeslam.  Turns out he wasn’t a very good wrestler, so a squash was really the only way to keep him relevant.  Doubt that’s the case with Corbin, but I’m just the slightest bit concerned.

Number 5: Tyler Breeze

Poor Tyler.  Of the four talents in the main event at Takeover, I’d make the case that he came away looking the weakest.  Tyson looked the strongest in the ring, and the Zayn - Neville storyline quickly took center stage, leaving Breeze in the background, exhibited even more by him being the only one of the four not involved in last night’s NXT.

Perhaps (and I’m being a crazy optimist here) that’s because WWE sees he is the most main-roster ready, so he’s moving on from NXT.  We’ll see him make his debut on the post-NOC Monday Night RAW, and he’ll be selfie-ing (is that a word?) his way into the hearts of the national TV audience.

Or he’s about to get buried. . . You know, either one. . .

Number 4: Kalisto

I suppose you could include Sin Cara here, if you’d like to, since they are the reigning NXT Tag Team Champions.  One could also make the case that since Hunico is now Sin Cara, and Hunico never got a fair shot on the WWE roster, that Sin Cara should be included in my rankings. . . But that’s confusing to read and was even more confusing to write, and I’m tired, so I’ll just stick with Kalisto.

Kalisto has certainly become an uber fan favorite in NXT, as the crowd was dying for the Lucha Dragons to make the save for Kenta last night.  Kalisto is most definitely the star of the team, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Number 3: Adrian Neville

I’ll admit it - I’ve never been a big Neville fan.  Go back and check my rankings; it’s true.  There was even a week where the NXT champ, in my mind, didn’t make the Top Ten cut.

I will say, though, that I have been very intrigued by the ‘heel’ish tendencies Adrian has demonstrated as of late.  His interplay with Zayn has been tremendous, and “stealing” Zayn’s dive by doing a Asai moonsault was easily one of the highlights of the Fatal 4 Way match for me.

If this keeps up, and there is no reason to think it won’t, then I’ll begin to take Neville more seriously as a future WWE talent.  My biggest qualm has been his lack of character, and he seems to have one now. . . And I like it.

Number 2: Sami Zayn

I still hate that he’s got the “can’t win the big one” gimmick right now.  Even worse, I hate that he’s the “microseconds away from breaking up the pin” guy.  Did it in the tag tournament, did it at Takeover, did it last night.  This is the only way he makes it to the WWE roster, I get it, but it’s not a fun thing to watch happen.

Zayn gets the #2 ranking, and an edge over Neville, based almost exclusively on mic skills alone.  I got a big kick out of his interplay with Titus O’Neill last night, and he has the sense of humor and verbal banter to be a huge star.

Plus, did you see the look on his face after doing the standing moonsault?  Then how he chuckled and applauded when Neville one-upped him?  This feud is going to be the best thing WWE does (Not just NXT, the whole roster), besides Ambrose and Rollins, in a long, long time.

Number 1: Charlotte

She’s the best women’s wrestler on NXT.   In fact, she’s the best women’s wrestler in WWE right now.  In fact, she has a really good chance of being the best women’s wrestler.  Ever.  Yeah, she’s THAT good, and that gives her the number one spot in our rankings.

The powers-that-be made the absolute right decision to have Charlotte retain the title at Takeover.  Just like Brock Lesnar, there is nobody on the roster that can touch her right now.  I was almost offended at the amount of offense Emma showed last night.

(By the by, if Emma had won, would the announcers have been able to say “Emma stole a victory?”  Food for thought.)

Seriously, Charlotte stands, both literally and figuratively, head and shoulders above the competition.  The only way she should relinquish the title is if she voluntarily gives it up, since there is nobody worth defending it against.  She’s really that good.  Did you see that Neckbreaker / Natural Selection combo?  Most WWE talents of any gender would love to have that fluid and effective a finishing move.

Say it with me, folks. . . “Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo”

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.

Honorable Mentions

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

I love NXT.   In fact, I think it’s my favorite wrestling show of the week.  RAW has become too long and drawn out, and while Main Event can be fun (haven’t brought myself to watch Superstars yet), NXT is fresh and new.  Each week, I can count on seeing at least one thing I haven’t seen before, which is a rarity when you’re a longtime wrestling fan.

So, we’ll make the NXT Top 10 a bi-weekly segment here at Number Two Contenders.  Remember, this does not take into account any stars with WWE experience; I’m only looking at the purely developmental talents.

I took the following factors into consideration when compiling my list:

-  In-Ring Talent

-  Current character / gimmick

-  Verbal skills / mic talent

-  “It” factor, the je ne sais quoi that draws attention to a superstar.

Honorable Mentions

-  Most people are going to think I’m crazy, but I actually have dropped NXT champion Adrian Neville out of my Top 10.  Part of that is simply because he did not compete on either of the shows between this rankings and the last one.  The other one is that I’m still not sold on where they go with him in the future.  I don’t like his mic work, I don’t see him having a specific character, and guys who are only talented in the ring never get very far in WWE.

- Jason Jordon fell out of the Top 10 this week, though he had some great moments in his tag match against Cassady and Amore.  He and Dillinger have potential, though.  It’s a shame they’re not in the tag title tournament.

Alright, top 10 time.  For those new members of the group, I’ll give a floor and ceiling.  For everyone else, go read my last column.

#10 - Kalisto  (Last time: Unranked)

I know some of you are going to give me a hard time because Kalisto didn’t appear on either of the last two NXT’s either, but consider this penance for not having him in my original rankings.  I was completely blown away by his work; the no-hands rope hand-spring stands out as one of the few times I’ve stood up and cheered during a wrestling match of late.  Had to rewatch it 3 or 4 times just to marvel at the seeming lack of gravity.

I hear that Kalisto and Sin Cara are going to be favorites for the NXT tag belts, but I think Kalisto could be on the WWE roster right now.  He’s Juventud Guerrera if he stumbles and the next Rey Mysterio if he succeeds.  Yet another reason we need a Light Heavyweight title, WWE!

#9 - CJ Parker  (Last time: Unranked)

I’ll get this out of the way first and foremost: I don’t like CJ Parker.  I don’t like his look, I don’t like his gimmick and I don’t like his finisher.  He comes off like Bo Dallas with a social conscience, which defeats the entire purpose of being Bo Dallas, if you ask me.

His floor is easy to see - just pick any borderline enhancement level talent of the last 5-10 years.  If you want specifics, he’s Adam Rose or Fandango, but without the potential.  I have a hard time seeing his ceiling as being anything more than Dean Douglas; a flash in the pan talent who hits the mid-card briefly, then fizzles out.

This ranking is purely based on the amount of NXT screen time he has received as of late.  Unless I see something bigger from him in the next few weeks, he’ll be out of the Top 10 for sure.

#8 - Colin Cassady and Enzo Amore  (Last time: Cassady ranked 8th)

NXT seems to be the place to be if you’re a fan of tag team wrestling.  The WWE tag belts are being defended on the Summer Slam pre-show this year, yet NXT will be dominated by the #1 contender tournament for the next few weeks.

Big Cass and Enzo have got the pre-match patter down, and while they were pretty much dominated by Jordon and Dillinger on this past NXT, they picked up the victory.  I haven’t seen a whole lot of Enzo Amore, so I can’t really tell how much in-ring talent he has, but he’s got the “irritating talker” part down cold.

As a tag team, they’ve got New Age Outlaws potential if they can polish up their verbal skills and continue being annoying.  If not, I see them being a Deuce and Domino type tag team; gone before you know it.

#7 - Mojo Rawley (Last week: 9th)

I still don’t like the “Get Hyped, Stay Hyped” schtick, though he did showcase some more in-depth mic skills in an interview with Renee.  He also gets a little bit of credit for not using his finisher, though that wasn’t necessarily his doing.  Mainly, Mojo gets the bump here because of his tag team partner.  More on that later.

#6 - The Vaudevillains (Last week: 3rd)

Also not appearing on NXT were the Vaudevillains.  Why are they in the rankings, but Neville is not?  Well, for one, the tag team tournament guarantees their relevance for at least another week.

Mostly, though?  I love them, and it’s my column, so they’re ranked.  If you wanted objective rankings, look elsewhere.

#5 - Sami Zayn  (Last week: 4th)

I don’t see him and Adam Rose making huge waves in the tag team tournament, but he at least had some mic and in-ring time.  I think we might eventually see a Neville vs. Zayn feud, which will be very fun to watch.

#4 - Bull Dempsey  (Last week: 7th)

Since I’ve already admitted to being completely subjective, I’ll just come right out and say it: Bull Dempsey is my favorite NXT superstar.  I love the whole thing, except for the outfit, but I’m even coming to terms with that.  His interplay with Mojo Rawley was hilarious (especially the “Stop it” piece), and I now have a reason to cheer for Mojo, which is not something I ever thought I’d say (at least until he becomes a Bo-liever.  I still think it’s happening.)

Dempsey, like so many other talents, needs a new finisher.  We Twitter wrestling fans debated on the right move for him; the Oklahoma Slam was a clear favorite.  I hope we see Dempsey and Rawley last a while in the tournament, then they can feud for a while.

I fully expect Dempsey to be one of those post- Wrestlemania 31 call-ups.  He’s going to be very, very good.

#3 - Charlotte  (Last week: 5th)

I’ve already used her match with Becky Lynch in a previous column, but she’s really the total package.  She could be on WWE right now, and actually would make a lovely addition to the AJ / Paige feud.  Like the next two talents, she’s ready for the big time.  She just needs her shot.

#2 - Tyler Breeze (Last week: 1st)

I still am as high on Tyler as ever.  In fact, the WannaBreeze and the Era of Gorgeous only makes me more confident in his eventual WWE success.  He drops slightly just because his quick squash over Angelo Dawkins wasn’t a whole lot to write home about, and he needs a different finisher.

If he doesn’t win the NXT title, it’s only because he’s going to be in WWE too quickly to bother giving him the strap.

#1 - The Ascension (Last week: 2nd)

Konnor and Viktor earned the top spot with their mic work after destroying another opponent who didn’t even make a tag.  (In fact, I’m not even sure he had a partner).  Letting Viktor handle the meat of it while giving Konnor the tag line was a perfect way to go for them; short and sweet is the way to go with The Ascension.

Whoever wins the tournament wins the NXT titles, only so The Ascension can be WWE bound.  Truthfully, they should just vacate the titles since there isn’t any worthy competition.  I’m still hoping they join Kane in a stable, but if Lesnar does win the WWE title and is only part-time, Konnor and Viktor could be two new Heyman guys to stand between any challengers and the Beast Incarnate.

I just watched an old-school type match.  The two competitors traded offense in the beginning, then the obviously more polished one began to dominate.  They isolated a body part and worked it over, shades of Arn Anderson or the British Bulldog.  The younger talent made a valiant but fleeting attempt at a comeback, but it was firmly swatted down, ending with a quick finishing maneuver.  This was the type of match you saw all the time on TV in the 90’s, and it was excellent to see it today.

Who were the competitors in this excellent event?  NXT Women’s Champion Charlotte and Becky “Thank God they don’t make me Irish step dance anymore” Lynch.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little iffy on women’s wrestling.  Maybe I watched too many botched moves by Trish Stratus back in the day, or maybe I still have nightmares of Bull Nakano (talented, but terrifying), but when a women’s match is on, I usually reach for the fast forward button.   It’s not that I don’t think they are supremely athletic and talented; many of them are.  It’s just usually not my cup of tea.

However, even a not-even-fairweather fan has to admit:

There has never been a better women’s division than there is in WWE right now.

AJ Lee.  Paige.  Natalya.  Brie and Nikki Bella.  Tamina Snuka.  Even Emma, for goodness’ sake.  All quality talents who obviously are giving 100% towards the business of being a professional wrestler.  Not a model who happens to wrestle from time to time.  Not someone who seems to be using the WWE as a stepping stone to mainstream popularity.  A wrestler.

That’s not counting the next generation of women wrestlers (I won’t use the word divas to describe them, since it borders on demeaning in my eyes) from NXT; women like Charlotte (who will likely be WWE bound in the next few months), Becky Lynch, Bayley and Sasha Banks.  The Women’s wrestling division is awash with superstars.

Now, I know what some of you are saying.  “What about the days of Trish, Lita, Molly Holly and Ivory?  What about Gail Kim, Jacqueline, Victoria and Beth Phoenix?  Surely we have had an equally talented roster, if not more so.   I won’t necessarily argue that fact.  In fact, it’s women like those WWE legends that likely birthed the current division we have now.   AJ Lee was a giant Lita fan as a child, so much so that she broke into tears when meeting her at a live event.  I’m sure she’s not the only one who became a wrestling fan partially due to the work Lita, Victoria and the rest did a decade or so ago.

So while the talent itself might not be the highest we have ever seen, the Women’s division is certainly getting hyped (Sorry, Mojo, for borrowing your phrase) more than ever.  Want proof?

- Total Divas obviously should be exhibit A.  WWE has never had a spin-off before, but I would venture a guess that the E! show has brought at least some group of new fans to the wrestling world.

- The Stephanie McMahon / Brie Bella segment was the “main event” slot on two Monday Night RAW’s.  In a row.

- There will be not one, but TWO women’s matches at this year’s Summer Slam, both of which receiving equal billing and promoting (if not more so) than the other cards featuring guys like Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton.

- The Women’s division causes a whole lot of discussion on Twitter, and what was most surprising to me was that it was intelligent debate; people discussing the merits (or lack there of) in Eva Marie rather than just how she looks in a bathing suit.  Didn’t see that coming.

So perhaps this is a lesson to myself that I should set down the remote control each week and watch every wrestling match, regardless of the gender of the performers.  We might be in the Golden Age of women’s wrestling, and I don’t want to miss it.

podcast@ddtwrestling.com
DDT Wrestling. Copyright 2015-2021.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram