It’s hard staying #SpoilerFree.
For someone who tries (most of the time) to let professional wrestling surprise me, sacrifices must be made. To wit, this past Monday, knowing full well that Monday Night RAW was taking place in the United Kingdom, I decided to take a break from Twitter, rather than have the results revealed early.
As I settled in right around 8 PM, I found my way to the World Heavyweight Championship bracket, and as I looked it over, a thought immediately jumped into my mind.
I offered it up immediately as one of my soon to be trademarked #PreDCtions, and as time has passed, my belief has only grown stronger. I firmly believe Kalisto will beat Ryback this Thursday on Smackdown and will go on to also defeat Del Rio, leading to a semi-final match against Roman Reigns at Survivor Series.
Why do I feel this way? I have my list of reasons, as usual, though this time, there are 7 of them.
Each and every March, I make sure to print out NCAA basketball tournament brackets, which are kept up to date rather meticulously through the entirety of March Madness.
How many of these games do I watch on TV? Absolutely none of them.
Why do I do such a crazy thing? Well, for one, I’m a nerd, but that’s a given, isn’t it? I have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with tournament brackets.
I also enjoy looking at the rankings, watching as some small-college darling takes the US by storm, defeating more talented and prestigious programs en route to a Cinderella spring.
Kalisto is our Cinderella.
He’s already undersized, and unlike Neville, Kalisto doesn’t appear to have ridiculous strength to belie his diminutive stature. He’s also been “overlooked” as a tag team competitor in his WWE career. This will be his coming out party as a singles superstar.
Looking at the bracket, he’s fighting one Goliath in Ryback, then (presumably - remember, #SpoilerFree) another one in the far more successful and experienced Del Rio. Beating either of those two, let alone both of them, is an amazing achievement.
It’s also a prime example of
On NAIpod this week, most of the gang assumed that the Final Four of this tournament would look very much like the same quarter who did battle for the number one contendership a few weeks ago - Reigns, Owens, Del Rio and Ziggler, though at least one had Ambrose in there, instead.
It makes all the sense in the world to agree with them, but if that’s the case, why did we have this tournament at all? Why not just have those four do another Fatal 4 Way match to determine the champion?
If WWE is worried about its declining ratings, which it shouldn’t be, they can’t just re-hash the same stories as they did a few weeks ago. Fans are going to want something new.
30. 34. 31. 35. 29. These are the ages of the 5 men who have currently qualified for the quarterfinals (Reigns, Cesaro, Owens, Ziggler, Ambrose.) Now, assuming that Alberto. . . .
I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! I CAN’T LIVE THIS LIE!
I’m sorry, loyal #SpoilerFree heroes, but I failed. I stumbled upon the Smackdown tapings results and. . . I just couldn’t resist! I had to know what happened! I mean, come on, WWE goes ahead and spoils its own tapings all the time, you can’t blame me! It’s the culture that’s wrong!
Anyway, now that I’ve dropped the charade… WWE has obviously been trying to skew younger - establishing newer stars that are all in the opening stages of their careers. 38 year old Alberto Del Rio is not that, whereas Kalisto is a decade younger.
In fact, Kalisto is the youngest wrestler in the entire tournament, so it would only make sense for him to do well. WWE is going to want to build around this lightning-quick talent in the future.
WWE prides itself on being a world-wide company, and because of that, their superstars need to reflect it. The latest tour of Mexico was highlighted by a returning Brothers of Destruction, and while I don’t blame the fans for being excited for such a unique opportunity, it is worth noting that WWE didn’t have any main event level Latino talents, so they had to resort to Hall of Famers who may or may not be on retirement tours.
WWE has addressed its Japanese market with Asuka (and that Hideo guy), but they need a new Mexican attraction. Del Rio is a big help, but he’s not going to be someone who could potentially be the face of the company.
Kalisto can. I firmly believe that he has the talent to match, IF NOT SURPASS, Rey Mysterio in terms of career success. Much like Mysterio, Kalisto does at least one or two things in most matches that I instantly need to see again. He’s a walking highlight reel, and with wrestlers being smaller and smaller these days, he’ll have an easier time keeping up.
This brings us to our upcoming RAW quarterfinal match - Del Rio vs. Kalisto. Not only is it a potential show-stopper, but it also will be a great offering for fans worldwide, especially in Latin America. In the 90’s, Mysterio and Psychosis opened our eyes as to what lucha libre was all about.
This match could do the same, and nobody will have to go underground to find it.
Sorry, couldn’t help it.
With very few exceptions, I’m not sure any of us really have any idea what is going on with the Alberto Del Rio character right now. He’s a heel, we think, even though he didn’t start out that way. He’s got Colter with him, which just adds to the confusion, and much like everyone expected after the excitement of his debut died down, he seems to be floundering already.
Kalisto could fix that. Obviously MexAmerica is going to want to expand at some point, right? It can’t just be a nation of two people, can it?. What if Zeb tries to recruit Kalisto heading into their quarterfinal match? Does Kalisto join up with these two? Either way, how does Sin Cara feel about possibly NOT being recruited? Maybe Kalisto rejects their offer, but Sin Cara takes them up on it, leading to the end of the Lucha Dragons and immediately giving Kalisto something to do as a singles star, with talents he’s comfortable working with, and potentially heading into a mid-card title feud.
It’s not entirely the BEST character work for Del Rio, but it might give him some direction. Truth be told, they need to drop the MexAmerica thing altogether and just be what they truly are meant to be.
World Elite Del Rio leading an international stable of talents. Sheamus, Barrett, the Colon boys without their bullfighter masks. They go after Cesaro and Kalisto, who have to band together to oppose them, joined by Rusev when he returns from his injury.
Boom - Mid Card Managed.
As the boys on NAIpod were saying, there are less than two weeks to go until Survivor Series. Unlike what they were saying, however, I absolutely think that WWE can make some last minute matches in that amount of time, and this is a prime example.
Swagger comes out and distracts Del Rio, allowing Kalisto to pick up the upset victory. Now we have Jack vs. Alberto at Survivor Series (hopefully in a Rascal on a Pole match) and Kalisto moves on to face Roman Reigns. Plus, you could mix this with the ideas I had earlier, with Kalisto and Del Rio having unfinished business.
TLC is in December. Why couldn’t we see Del Rio, Sheamus and Barrett vs. Kalisto, Swagger and Cesaro in some sort of gimmicked flag match?
I brought up the possibility that this tournament could be a replica of the one held at Wrestlemania IV, where Reigns plays the role of Randy Savage, who wrestled four times in a single night to win the title. Now, Reigns won’t have to be such an Iron Man in this instance, but the matches he does have tell a story in and of themselves.
Think of The Princess Bride. Wesley must beat the swordsman, the giant, then the intellectual, proving himself to be superior in every way. That’s where this could go for Roman Reigns.
First up, the giant.
Next up, the powerhouse and technical wizard.
Battling Del Rio in the semifinals makes some sense, I suppose, but not as much as if it’s Kalisto, the aerial ace. Wrestling (and beating - Note I never said Kalisto was winning this tournament) him in the semi-final proves that Reigns is a well-rounded wrestler, leading up to fighting the brawler in the finals (presuming it’s either Owens or Ambrose.)
Kalisto makes the most sense for Roman, which might be, above all others, the biggest reason why he’s Final Four bound.
What do YOU think? Does Kalisto have a chance, or is it inconceivable? (Princess Bride Joke)
I’m the first to admit, I’ve been very lax with my NXT watching. With the sheer enormity of content on the WWE Network, the developmental territory kept getting pushed back in my priorities. However, now that Doc Manson and I are the Number Two Contenders, I had to step my game up. So, for the last few days, I’ve caught up with NXT, beginning with the show post-Takeover to last week’s episode.
Based on this ‘extensive’ viewing, I now present my NXT Top 10. Some quick disclaimers before we begin - I did not consider any talent that had extensive WWE experience; so my apologies to Tyson Kidd, Justin Gabriel and Adam Rose. This is also based on an admittedly small sample size.
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.
I’ll also make two comparisons for each talent, a “floor” of what they could be if they’re just an average talent and a “ceiling” if they win the lottery that is WWE superstardom.
These three came close, but didn’t crack my top 10, so Honorable Mentions go to CJ Parker, Kalisto and Sasha Banks
And here. We. Go.
He only made 2 appearances on the NXT events I saw, one in a tag match and one against Adam Rose, but Jordon caught my eye each time he was on the Network. Part of it is the fact that I’m a sucker for a wrestler with amateur experience (attributing to my own high-school wrestling days, when I didn’t come anywhere close to winning a state title). Part of it is Jordon’s obvious natural athleticism. There isn’t anything remotely close to a character yet, though he was remotely entertaining during his interplay with partner Ty Dillinger, so Jordon obviously has a lot of work to do in NXT.
At worst, I see him being a Charlie Haas type - good mechanic who has some good matches, but basically just enhances other talent on Smackdown and Main Event. If he takes off, though, he could wind up being more like Haas’ partner Shelton Benjamin, an amazing in-ring competitor who has a decent mid-card run.
I hear many of you saying “But Teach, Kofi Kingston already is this generation’s Shelton Benjamin.” I’m inclined to agree, but I’m holding out hope that the new stable Kofi is in gets him to another level of stardom.
#9 - Mojo Rawley
There’s no denying Mojo’s supreme athletic ability, but I can’t get behind his gimmick. What is “hyped” and why would I want to stay that way? It sounds exhausting. I can’t see Mojo in his current character making any impact on the WWE, despite having the physical look Vince usually goes for.
If Rawley goes to WWE without any significant change, he runs the risk of becoming Kurrgan in the Oddities - a large guy who is used solely for comedy. If the NXT braintrust repackage him into something that works, however (I’ve already made my case for him being the first in a Bo-liever stable as a starting point), I could see him capitalizing on that and, with luck, you might be looking at the next Batista.
#8 Colin Cassady
Colin might be one of the few talents I saw week in and week out on NXT, which is usually a good sign. He’s got the size going for him and his in-ring work is solid, though a leaping elbow drop isn’t my idea of an impressive finisher. He’s been reunited with partner Enzo Amore, who serves as the mouthpiece of the group, so he obviously needs some mic work, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen thus far from Big Cass.
He’s got Test written all over him (despite the fact that facially, he looks like Edge’s younger brother), though if he continues to serve as the muscle behind a good talker, there’s Diesel level potential here.
#7 - Bull Dempsey
Bull Dempsey is a throwback, the self-proclaimed “Last of a Dying Breed”, and I have been absolutely captivated by him the two times he appeared. No frills, no fancy hand gestures or dance moves, he just goes out and competes. He also handled himself on the mic fairly well for a debuting superstar, so I think there’s a lot to like with Dempsey.
He runs the risk of becoming the next Mantaur if WWE decides to go overboard with the Bull-ness of his character. (Seriously, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if he came out as El Torito’s big brother El Toro at some point) If they give him time to develop, book his matches right, and for the love of God give him some longer trunks, he could be Bam Bam Bigelow. That might not seem like high praise to many fans, but Bam Bam was a big star in his day.
#6 - Adrian Neville
Alright, now I’ve gone completely nuts, right? How can I possibly rank the NXT champion in the bottom half of my top 10 rankings? I wouldn’t blame you if you got this far in reading and just turned off your computer in disgust, but hear me out.
There’s no denying Neville’s got talent in the ring - he was the only wrestler to receive a perfect score for wrestling ability in my rankings. I just couldn’t give him high scores in the other categories. Outside of being the “Man that Gravity Forgot”, what’s his character? What is it about him that makes me take notice once the match is over?
Obviously he has Rob Van Dam level potential here, and I’m talking RVD in his prime, not the guy Neville beat a few weeks ago. But Neville is in danger of being more like Paul London right now; incredibly talented in the ring but unable to achieve anything higher than low to mid card status.
#5 - Charlotte
The only female to make it into my rankings, Charlotte is the current NXT Women’s champion, and for good reason. I enjoy her in-ring abilities more than any other woman on the roster, and I’m talking both NXT and WWE here. She’s decent on the mic, her conceited heel characters works on all levels, and I’m even beginning to be able to look at her and not think about Ric Flair after a long night in Vegas, parading around in women’s clothing and elbow-dropping the roulette table.
She’s already on par with Natalya, if not a little bit ahead of her at this point, and if she keeps things going, she’s got the potential to dominate women’s wrestling like no female has since Alundra Blayze / Madusa.
Note: We all have to admit, though, that at some point, Charlotte’s going to be “The Nature Girl” or some version of that, right?
#4 - Sami Zayn
I have the same problem with Zayn as I did with Adrian Neville - love the ring work, love the talent, question the character and its progression in WWE. Zayn gains extra points for having better verbal skills than Adrian as well as being everybody’s Independent - wrestling darling.
That’s likely where they’d go with Zayn if he got called up in the near future; independent wrestling hero, our next Daniel Bryan (or CM Punk, though WWE likely won’t be mentioning his name anytime soon). Sami could be Daniel Bryan, too, if they pumped up the underdog angle who has to fight and scratch his way to any success he can get.
I hesitate here because, based on Bryan’s injury and Punk’s disappearance, I don’t know if WWE is going to be gung-ho about promoting another fairly under-sized indie darling to the main event picture. Zayn might wind up being more like Kaval / Low-Ki, who eventually decides going back to the independent scene is a better move after no significant push while in “The Show”.
#3 - The Vaudevillains
Go ahead and laugh; mock me all you want, but I’m not shying away from it. The Vaudevillains have been my favorite part of NXT, and not just because Simon Gotch is the only wrestler to ever retweet me. I absolutely adore everything about these two right now. The black and white vignettes with the poor silent-movie style dubbing, the entrance, their in-ring work, I’m all-in. If they’re not on WWE programming by 2015, I’ll be sorely disappointed.
Yes, they’re always going to be more of a comedy duo in their current iteration, and I’m OK with that. Sure, they might be The Bushwhackers, but do you know who was also mostly a comedy team at one point? Edge and Christian, and while Aiden English and Simon Gotch might never be world champions someday, they have the potential to be that kind of tag team, and I can’t wait to see it.
#2 - The Ascension
One team that will likely never be put in the comedy role is The Ascension. I honestly don’t know why Konnor and Viktor haven’t been called up yet. The tag team division has been stagnant for months and these two have the look and the talent to be big stars.
I need you all to stop here and tell me Viktor (the little one) doesn’t look exactly like Christopher Daniels. I mean, seriously, it’s almost eerie.
The Ascension doesn’t get a lot of mic time, and after seeing a quick promo on a recent NXT, I see why. That’s the one glaring hole in their game right now. If The Undertaker was still a regular wrestler, these two would be the new Acolytes, and that’s their floor right now. However, with the relative weakness in the tag division and the way they’ve run roughshod over the teams in NXT as of late, I’m getting much more of a Road Warriors / Legion of Doom vibe from Konnor and Viktor. These two could be WWE tag champs for the better part of the next 5 years.
Note: Thanks to @_WrestlingWorld for providing this bit of creative booking: Put Ascension with Kane in a stable. Love this idea.
#1 - Tyler Breeze
Tyler Breeze is the most complete package currently on the NXT roster. He’s got the look, the in-ring skills (again, though, I’d advise a different finisher than a spinning heel kick), the mic skills and the “it” factor. He plays his completely self-absorbed character perfectly, which actually lets him get away with any minor flaws in his promos, since he’s too busy looking at himself.
Much like The Ascension, Tyler Breeze could be ready for the call up to WWE right now, but I actually like that they’re giving him time to continue getting better in NXT. As I explained in a previous column, the more time talent has to finesse their character and hone their craft, the better. (This is why Bo Dallas is running wild on RAW and Adam Rose was on NXT last week) When Tyler Breeze is eventually called up, he’ll be able to take the ball and run with it. At worst, he’s a rich man’s John Morrison. At best, he’s Shawn Michaels from post-Rockers to Wrestlemania X, and we all know how that turned out.
To put it another way, the sky’s the limit for Tyler Breeze.