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’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.


#10 - Jason Jordon 

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.

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