”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.
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
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.