Having worked through a good chunk of the WWE roster, its time to take our eyes to Full Sail University, home of NXT. The world has been focused far more of WWE's developmental as of late, what with the ESPN piece (which was quite good and should be watched by one and all) and more importantly, with the news that we may have lost both Sami Zayn and Hideo Itami until 2016 due to injuries.
Today, we'll look at 3 NXT talents who are (for the most part) in need of new finishers. Remember, I give each talent a pair of moves to end their match, almost always from the categories of Power, Strike, Aerial, or Submission.
We begin, as you knew we would, with one of my favorite NXT talents, and most certainly a polarizing figure. .
While I have been relatively successful turning people around on the abilities of Mr. Dempsey (maybe he should join New Day, another group I was right about), we can all agree that his finisher, the diving headbutt, needs to go. Pronto. I'm all for paying homage to Bam Bam Bigelow, which is the only reason I can come up with for why he's doing that, but it doesn't fit at all with the "Throwback" character. Plus, as history has shown, its not a safe move to deliver night in and night out for a pro wrestler. So it's out of here.
Finisher 1 - Oklahoma Stampede
I consider giving him "Greetings from Asbury Park", which was Bigelow's other finishing move later in his career, and also had the benefit of being very similar to the Bulldozer, Dempsey's original finisher. However, even that isn't very "throwbacky", which is a word I may or may not have just made up.
The Stampede, however, is much more of a move from the past, shades of Dr. Death Steve Williams. It's impactful and isn't altogether difficult to use. Dempsey, as much as I love him, isn't supposed to be a technical wizard, so a move like this makes total sense.
For those who need a visual - Here it is.
Finisher 2 - Double Avalanche
While Dempsey isn't your traditional "big man", he is one of the larger competitors you see in WWE products these days, this making these types of finishers more open to him. Plus, as we've seen in his matches, he already has a particularly nasty running splash anyway, so why not incorporate it into the finishing move?
Whip the opponent into the ropes, charge at him like a house of fire, crush him into the buckle, then as he crumples to the mat, hit the ropes, leap into the air and crush him again! He could even do a falling headbutt at this point, which wouldn't be as nasty but would suffice as some sort of Bigelow tribute, if he insists on it.
In truth, up until writing this column, I had a different finisher in mind for Dempsey, but upon reflection, I think it belongs more with the next guy on our list...
Let me get this out there right now - I think End of Days is great. In fact, I'm all for him keeping it as his primary and first finisher. The problem is, that move requires a certain. . . Lack of weight. . . in order for it to truly look spectacular. We saw it when he wrestled Bull Dempsey all those times, there was a definite underwhelming quality to it when its used on a bigger guy.
Corbin will benefit, just as Dempsey did, from the lack of size in modern day WWE. With few exceptions, most of the talents Corbin will be battling will be able to take the move gracefully. Still, for those rare ones who won't, plus for variety's sake. . .
Finisher 2 - Heart Punch
This is the move I almost gave to Dempsey. I love this move so much. You pull the opponents arm over their head, rear back, and just punch them in the chest. Supposedly (if I remember the story behind it), the idea is to "stop" their heart just long enough to get the 3 count. This is the move made famous many years ago by Ox Baker, one of the few wrestlers I can say I've seen up close and in person, as he lived just down the road from a relative when I was a child.
This is also a move used by "Mean" Mark Callous, otherwise known as a very young and red-headed Undertaker. Corbin isn't the Undertaker, to be sure, but this move takes advantage of his height and his obvious physical strength.
I'm not going to come right out and say that the lack of an effective finisher is the only thing holding Breeze back from WWE stardom, but I'm running out of other ideas to explain why he's not on the main roster yet. The gimmick is there, the talent is there. . . I'm not quite sure what WWE is waiting for.
Still, a spinning heel kick is NOT a finisher in today's WWE, unless your name was Mabel/Viscera/Big Daddy V, who could have pulled it off being 500+ pounds. Breeze's finisher should be quick, not power based, and ideally something that messes up the uggo faces he has to wrestle on a daily basis.
Finisher 1 - Shining Wizard
To the best of my knowledge, which there are a lot of kick / knee variations going on in WWE right now, the Shining Wizard is not among them. This move works on all of the levels listed in the previous paragraphs, plus it just looks really good when its done right.
Finisher 2 - Boston Crab variation
Stick with me on this - I know the Boston Crab isn't the world's greatest move. In fact, its the lower body version of the Camel Clutch to me, just kind of "meh", but in this case it works.
Tyler Breeze is a model, right? Who else was a model, perhaps the original one? Rick Martel. His finisher? Boston crab. Historical relevance - Assured.
Breeze was trained by? Lance Storm, yes indeed. One of Storm's finishers? The rolling half crab. Homage to a mentor? Check!
Plus, this finisher gives Tyler every reason to focus on the legs and back of his opponent, and being that he applies a ringpost Figure 4 about as well as anyone not named Bret Hart, that's certainly not a bad thing.
I did say variation because I'm open to options here. Could he do some sort of Liontamer crab? Probably. Could he do a Texas Cloverleaf instead of a crab? I suppose so. Again, this is open to interpretation. Would love to hear your thoughts.
So, what are your thoughts? Would these moves work for these talents? Who should be next from NXT? Be Heard.
On this week's NXT, Tyler Breeze lost to Hideo Itami in the opening round of the NXT title tournament. Prince Pretty has been essentially an afterthought since the new wave of talents have entered NXT, and that's really not that surprising.
Early on in my writing career, way back in July or August, I thought that Breeze was WWE ready. His gimmick was fantastic, his attitude and charisma was great and his in-ring work was solid enough. In fact, based on the gimmick, Tyler Breeze SHOULDN'T be a fantastic wrestler. Why would he, when he can travel the world and make bad music videos?
(Besides, he was trained by Lance Storm, so when push comes to shove, this kid can go.)
Honestly, if I had the book, Breeze would have left right after Fatal 4 Way. Zayn and Neville were going to be the present day feud, you knew you had Balor, Itami and Owens on deck, there was no reason to keep Tyler around. He had just the right momentum to translate to a WWE run, and now a lot of that positive energy has disappeared.
All is not lost, however. There's a way to salvage this, and because I am a giving and loyal friend, NAIbors, I'll share it with you.
Note: I have not read any NXT spoilers, so this is all just a whim of fantasy booking.
We saw a few weeks ago that Breeze is being "haunted" as it were, by some shadowy figure up in the stands. Obviously this is Marcus Louis, the "French Angel" of NXT, who is still stinging from Breeze's insults a month or so ago.
Tyler comes out next week to lament his loss to Itami, and we see another appearance by Louis. Marcus even interferes in Breeze's next match, costing him another victory.
Furious at such disrespect, especially by the "ultimate uggo", Breeze challenges Louis to a match at Takeover in February. He won't allow himself to be in the same company as Louis, so its a "Loser Leaves NXT" match.
Marcus Louis beats Breeze, increasing his NXT stock, and Breeze has to leave. Dejected and humiliated, Breeze picks up the mic as he's leaving, telling fans he doesn't need them, he'll go to his winter home and live his life to the fullest, forgetting the whole NXT universe.
As he gets to the ramp, Triple H (or Steph, it actually would be better that way. . .Could even be Rollins, really.) comes out and whispers in Breeze's ear. Breeze grins, they shake hands, and BOOM! Breeze is on RAW the following week.
What do you think? Is Breeze ready for the big time? How would you get him there? 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.
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!
I’ve always hated how wrestling announcers always seem to say “We are witnessing history in the making!” Tony Schiavone was famous for this kind of thing. Every WCW Monday Nitro (Now available on the WWE Network!) was the biggest one of all, or we just witnessed the most amazing match of our entire lives, and even as a 15-16 year old kid, I knew that was horse manure.
Plus (and this is me just being a pain), EVERYTHING is history. I went out this morning to pick up breakfast for my family, which was, technically, history in the making. It’s just not a history anyone would want to read.
So I usually get my Teacher’s knickers in a twist about that kind of thing. . .
However. . .
On Thursday night, we saw history in the making.
NXT Takeover: Fatal 4 Way was, in my opinion, the best WWE event of 2014, and I dare say we could go back even further. On Thursday night, we saw a group of relatively unknown talents show Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, and yes, even Mr. #KidsAndTroops himself, John Cena, exactly how a wrestling card should be done.
From top to bottom, there wasn’t a weak link. I know this because even the part I liked the least held my interest. As evidenced by the bruising on my remote’s “fast forward” button, the same can not be said for the last few months’ of Monday Night RAW.
What does this mean, exactly, for the future of NXT and WWE? I’m not really sure. All I know is I’m as excited to be a wrestling fan as I’ve been since WCW and ECW were actually on television.
As I sat and watched the event in the wee hours of Friday morning, I jotted down some notes. As I sit here and re-watch it today (a phrase I have not uttered in quite some time), I’ll jot down some more. I submit to you, dear students, some idle musings and comments on “history in the making”, NXT Takeover: Fatal 4 Way
- I like how NXT took over the “Then Now Forever” piece. Cool way to start off a show.
Lucha Dragons vs. The Ascension
- Super impressed with the quick development of the now named Lucha Dragons. The new bright blue outfits are awesome, the matching masks are cool and I’m even willing to forego my usual disdain for the use of the springboard in the entrances, because it looked badass. You could tell right away that the Dragons were primed to win the titles, as obviously a lot of work had been put into fleshing out their image.
-The Ascension’s entrance is still something I have a problem with. If you’re there live, you would totally be able to see them ducking out of camera range! Hopefully when they are full time WWE guys, they rise from the floor like The Brood did.
- Speaking of which, I now need to listen to Gangrel’s theme music, arguably one of my favorites in wrestling history.
Random Thought Experiment: Has there ever been a stable where the leader was completely outshined by his “cronies” as much as The Brood? Edge is a HOF’er, Christian might be too, and nobody ever talks about Gangrel anymore.
- I’m going to keep mentioning it every time I see the Ascension - Viktor looks exactly like Christopher Daniels.
- Wonder if the massive NXT build for The Ascension will actually do them more harm than good in WWE. They absolutely ran roughshod over the tag division at Full Sail, looking huge and dominant. What happens when they wrestle Big Show and Mark Henry? Or Harper and Rowan? If they are anything but equally dominant in WWE, won’t that be a let-down?
I’m also concerned, as many are, with their size. Konnor, the big man of the team, doesn’t look THAT much larger than Sin Cara. You can’t have a monster that looks UP at most opponents.
- There are people on Twitter who think NXT guys won’t get recognized or appreciated when they make it to the WWE roster. I think that idea got proved pretty much wrong with the tag match we saw on RAW, as I heard more than a few “Ole!” chants.
Consequently, when you see Ascension on Monday nights, Konnor is going to get his “Yahhh” chants. Count on it.
- I like that Kalisto is going to get the hot tag. He is going to be the big star of this tag team. In fact, before Takeover, I predicted Kalisto would get the biggest bump based on his performance.
I, like everyone else, didn’t see Baron Corbin coming.
- I’ve been watching the first year of Monday Night Raw, and one of my favorite parts is, of course, listening to Bobby Heenan. In between all the #Heenanisms, he actually discusses strategy, specifically when it comes to tag team wrestling.
I mention this because Heenan would have done a dance of joy seeing the way Konnor held Sin Cara down, keeping him from tagging Kalisto, then (very creatively) forcing him back to the Ascension’s corner.
This might be the way that they get over in WWE - They become the most complete tag team. Double teaming moves, cutting off the ring, frequent tags - all the things that are sometimes lacking in today’s tag matches.
- I imagine that Kalisto is to many fans what Rey Mysterio was to me in 1996 - something I had never seen before. There is a natural grace and style to his moves that immediately make you take notice. Plus, he’s got polish. The sunset flip powerbomb was botched a bit, but he recovers so smoothly I imagine most people didn’t even care.
- Never seen a springboard double corkscrew bodypress. Never seen the step-back enziguiri Sin Cara did to Konnor. Never seen one opponent hold the ropes open with his feet so his partner can dive through them. I love this team.
- The camera angle where it looks like Sin Cara is diving through the ropes into your living room is an excellent feature. Reminds me of when Cactus Jack used to do the apron elbow and look like he’d crash through your TV set.
- OK, I’m speaking directly to Renee Young here. I love your work and think you belong on RAW, but when something is “the biggest upset in tag team history”, your voice needs to express that emotion, and not sound like you’re a news anchor describing the events of the local county fair.
- I hope that, since everyone said the future starts now, it starts with new title belts that don’t look like they were purchased at Party City.
- Watching the Adrian Neville vignette on Thursday, all I could think about was how he is going to need someone to speak for him when he gets to WWE. This time, however, I’m listening to what he’s saying instead of how he sounds, and maybe it’s hindsight being 20/20, but you can hear the beginnings of a heel turn in what Neville says. He’s untouchable, he’s undefeated, he can’t be stopped. A little foreshadowing, perhaps?
CJ Parker vs. Baron Corbin
- I was fuming when I saw CJ Parker make his entrance. He’s easily my least favorite NXT character (I even like Mojo more), so I was flummoxed to understand why they would give Parker the time of day, let alone a match.
Then I saw his opponent.
Obviously Baron Corbin was one of, if not THE, showstopper of Takeover, and a whole lot of that had to do with his finisher, which I give you was amazing. However, I would argue that the most impressive part of Corbin wasn’t the move, nor was it anything that actually happened during the match.
Go back and watch when Corbin is introduced. Look at his face. There is literally no expression. None. He doesn’t look angry, or fired up, he’s not excited to be there or nervous or. . . ANYTHING. That’s when I took notice. Immediately, I was glad to see CJ, because I knew he was about to get his ass kicked. I became a Baron Corbin fan based on that look alone. His little smirk at the end sealed the deal. I’d buy a Baron Corbin t-shirt right now if they were for sale.
- OK, I blew past it earlier, but I will say again, that finisher was excellent. I do, however, give a lot of credit to Parker (Don’t mind the talent, can’t stand the character), because there’s a whole lot of that move that relies on the person who is on the receiving end. Parker sold that like RVD used to sell the Pedigree, where it looked like he literally died.
- Tweeted about this earlier, but I loved Tyson Kidd’s vignette - I don’t know if he’s ever going to get a legitimate shot in WWE again, but between his promo and his performance in the Fatal 4 Way, I have a whole lot more respect for Tyson Kidd than I did a few weeks ago.
Enzo Amore vs. Sylvester LeFort
- OK, this was going to be the part of the show I skipped. Enzo vs. Sylvester. I get that Enzo and Cass are way over, but part of the reason I’m not such a big fan is that I can’t understand what Enzo is saying half the time. Plus, and I’m sorry if this offends some of you, but I just get super annoyed by the “in your face, yippy chihuahua” type people. I actually think those two would work better as heels, because it would be expected that I should be annoyed, but I digress. What I will not deny is that they are super. . .SUPER. . .over with this crowd.
Also, Big Cass looks like Edge’s younger brother.
- I’m not a big Legionnaire fan either, but I will say two things. 1. I like that their entrance music isn’t “Le Marsaillaise”, the French National Anthem. 2. Sylvester’s tights are pretty cool.
Speaking of tights, I can take Enzo a lot more seriously when it doesn’t look like he’s wearing leopard print yoga pants.
- Random question, but do you think we’ll see the Bella feud end in a hair vs. hair match?
I know, me neither. . .
- This match is far more entertaining than I expected it to be. Nothing fancy, nothing overly technical, but a well-told story from beginning to end.
- Look, I get that Cass and Enzo are hugely popular, and I did appreciate the Dudley Boyz nod, but do they need to play to the crowd THAT much?
- I loved how Sylvester ran off in a cartoonish manner. There is potential with his character. Doing a little bit of Wikipedia research I discovered LeFort is a graduate of Lance Storm’s Wrestling Academy, so I immediately take him a bit more seriously than I did before.
- Do you know who else is a Lance Storm alum? One Tyler Breeze, and its time for his vignette. I still maintain he has the most complete character in all of NXT, and while I hope he gets his title run, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him graduate first, especially since Neville and Zayn seem to be heading down the path to an extended feud.
The debut of Hid . . . . Kenta, damn it, his name is Kenta!
- I’m glad Flair isn’t the one introducing Kenta. There isn’t a connection between those two, and besides, as NXT’s GM, Regal should be the one introducing Kenta.
- OK, time for a mini rant. Done it on Twitter, so bear with me.
Look, I understand that WWE wants to market the name, more specifically, to market the name AFTER these wrestlers leave the company. That’s why Bryan Danielson is Daniel Bryan, that’s why C.M. Punk became CM Punk, I get it.
But. . . This guy is Kenta. We all know this. Having him change his name ENTIRELY is a ridiculous notion. You heard the “Kenta” chants; they aren’t going to go away. I don’t care that it’s a tribute to his hero, I don’t even care that Itami is Japanese for ‘pain’. The man’s name is Kenta. Come up with some version of that, please. K.E.N.T.A. would have been fine. Add an extra ‘n’, or an ‘h’. Just don’t insult our intelligence, WWE.
This is going to keep happening, you know. Devitt and Steen will have different names, now. Vince McMahon and WWE think that because they are essentially the ONLY major wrestling company, they can fiddle with history. If they want to bury a guy (Punk), it’s going to happen. If they want to change a name, or a result, or ignore an entire era in wrestling, they’ll try to do it.
The only thing standing in their way is you, the fans. Call out WWE when they’re being stupid. At the very least, you’ll feel better.
There is but one way I would have accepted a name change, and that is if Hogan had totally botched it during the contract signing some months ago.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you. . .Kendo! Kintar! Kaptain Krunch! What’s this guy’s name?”
- Outside of the name change, it was as good a debut as you could ask for. (The chair sit was a particularly nice touch).
The Ascension looks even weaker now that they’ve lost the titles and got beat down by a small guy in a suit, but Kenta (I won’t call him anything else) is a major player in NXT.
Here comes the Itami!
Bull Dempsey vs. Mojo Rawley
- Shh, be quiet. Bull Dempsey is on.
Look, I’ve accepted that I can’t be objective about Dempsey. I just can’t.
Yes, there are issues with his character and look (though I’d much rather he just put longer tights on than those who want him to tone up a bit). Yes, the finish to this match is supposedly (haven’t yet watched it a second time) botched big time. I just don’t care. I enjoy Bull Dempsey far too much, and want him to succeed.
Look, his feud with Mojo is 2-3 weeks old, and we already saw a darker, less “hyped” Rawley on NXT a few weeks ago, so Dempsey is causing positive changes everywhere he goes!
So here’s a disclaimer: I will likely be very high on Bull Dempsey, almost certainly TOO high.
Again, I’m watching a lot of ‘93 WWE, so I’m drawing a huge comparison to Bam Bam Bigelow with Dempsey, and that was even BEFORE the diving headbutt. Total smash-mouth style, VERY stiff (as evidenced by Mojo getting cut open by a Dempsey right hand), always moving forward.
Now, a note on the finish. I know a lot of people think it was botched, and I haven’t asked for reasons why, but I don’t see it. I think Dempsey’s headbutt is going to be aimed at the mid-section, for safety purposes only. We’ve seen the dangerous possibilities of a head-to-head collision one too many times. I’m OK with Bull aiming a little lower.
Was Mojo too far away? Maybe. Is it going to improve over time? Of course.
Where’s my Bam Bam Dempsey shirt? I want one!
- OK, OK. . . So Enzo and Cass ARE entertaining. Good banter, good facial expressions. I’ll admit, perhaps I have been missing the boat on. . . Do they have a name as a team yet?
I still don’t know the name of the other Legionnaire (Marcus Louis, thank you Enzo), but I give him credit for doing what he’s done so far. Hope we see him with some obviously painted on eyebrows. And a beret. . . Definitely a beret.
Charlotte vs. Bayley
- Must say, I’ve never really “got” Bayley. Being so happy all the time isn’t a gimmick - in my mind, its a sickness. Having said that, I have bought into Bayley a little more thanks to that vignette, which is exactly what those things are supposed to do. She’s pretty legit.
Having said that. . . Charlotte is. . . Should I say it? Do I dare? Indeed I do.
Charlotte is THE BEST women’s wrestler in WWE right now. I almost wonder if she’s being kept in NXT (if that is in fact the plan) because she would instantly outshine every other Diva on RAW or Smackdown.
She’s been very good for a very long time, but these little additions of the Flair persona. The “learn to love it” quote in the vignette, the (as Michael Cole would put it) “vintage Ric Flair” moves dropped in now and then. . .Oh, and of course, the “woo”s. Those take her over the top.
Seriously, folks, nobody can touch her. AJ and Paige have a good feud going, but Charlotte is the real deal. At some point, Charlotte is going to need some sort of “Nature Girl” robe variation. Or she’s going to make the “Four Horsewomen”, along with Steph, Nikki Bella and Tamina (though Ronda Rousey would be cool, too.).
- I like Bayley’s new look, and having now heard Tom Phillips giving the proper name of the wave-y things, I can even appreciate that a little more.
- Do we really need the “sparkle” sound when the women’s title icon is displayed? Seriously.
I’m not alone in thinking that this match was the match of the night. Honestly, when was the last time an NXT women’s match stunk? Not since I’ve been watching. On RAW? 2 weeks ago.
Bayley hits a diving rear elbow to a seated Charlotte’s back. Charlotte counters a backslide into a neckbreaker. Everything these two wrestlers do is polished and with purpose.
- Rolling Figure Four Headscissors. Move of the night so far.
This is going to sound absolutely insane. . . But what if Ric isn’t the best Flair?
- One day I would like to have a referee mic’d. I’m sure he’s just giving time updates to the wrestlers, but it would be neat to hear the “inside baseball” stuff.
- Polished and with purpose. I give Triple H a ton of credit, because obviously there is a lot of focus on the “little things” in NXT.
For example, Bayley rolls up Charlotte, who kicks out at 2, and Bayley pounds the mat in frustration as she gets up to try to attack again. You don’t always see those things in WWE.
- This match had the perfect finish. Charlotte has the answer for everything Bayley does, but Bayley won’t quit. Camera in perfect position for the look on Bayley’s face, almost daring Charlotte to keep going. Charlotte hits Natural Selection (excellent name for her finisher, by the by), and that’s the ball game.
I’m not saying I told you Charlotte would retain. . . . But I totally did.
- Haven’t read the NXT spoilers (this show is too good to ruin), so here’s what I’d do from here.
Charlotte comes out and essentially forfeits the title, saying she has nothing left to prove in NXT. She’s beaten everyone who is anyone. Sasha comes out, pretending they’re still friends and assuming Charlotte will surrender the belt to her. Charlotte says that after Takeover, she knows Bayley is the second best women’s wrestler in the company, so she wants her to have it. Regal books a match between the two for the title (since Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch, the only other two women’s wrestlers I can name in NXT, aren’t ready).
Sasha tries to cheat, Charlotte stops her, Bayley wins the belt. She and Charlotte hug it out, letting Flair leave with the same friend she entered NXT with, and also leaving it open for her to be a face or a heel when she makes her WWE debut.
- Somehow, I missed the Sami Zayn vignette the first time, so couple quick thoughts.
Bryan and Rollins clips were perfect. Both undersized guys who we question if they can win the big one (In Seth’s case, it’s the case. Will he turn it in against Lesnar? What if it expires on him?)
More allusions to the friendship between Zayn and Neville, which only makes me think said friendship has a countdown clock on it.
Speaking of which, Neville vs. Zayn in a Best of 7 series? Or a 30 minute Iron Man? TLC? As Kevin Smith is so fond of saying (and I’ll paraphrase for the kiddies out there), forget you - take all my money!
The Fatal Four Way
- Kidd’s entrance has gotten a lot better. The hooded jacket is a nice touch, and while I didn’t get the Beatz at first, the whole “drowning out the crowd noise” is a smart tweak for his character. Plus, he looks a little like Rick Steiner.
- Is it just me or is the crowd very quiet for Neville’s entrance? Don’t hear cheers nor do I hear boos. Do I detect ambivalence, or just loud entrance music?
- Get new titles *clap clap clapclapclap* get new titles *clap clap clapclapclap*
- Zayn taking a selfie on Breeze’s phone was excellent.
Lesson: We like characters who are funny, not funny characters.
DX, The Rock, Austin and Angle were so over because they had senses of humor, just as Zayn does by taking that picture. They are funny, and thus we like them.
Adam Rose, on the other hand, is just a funny character, in the same way Fandango is, just as Duke Droese and The Goon were before them.
Funny characters don’t work, unless they themselves are funny (Santino), and even then, its more about the person than the gimmick.
Ok, I’m done now.
- Why is the Koji Clutch not an official finisher for somebody?
- It’s sad that the guy booked the strongest (Kidd) is also the one least likely to make the main roster. I’ve said it before, but Tyson has done everything one could have hoped - improved mic skills, in ring ability, character. Yet I still fear its too late.
- Neville is definitely turning heel, and I like it. Stealing Zayn’s spot to do his own high-flying move was very cool, and (like all good turns) it is based in reality. Neville really is that much better than everybody else (save for maybe Kalisto) when it comes to high flying, so why shouldn’t he be cocky about it?
- That “This is Wrestling” Chant died quick when Zayn dropped Neville, or when Neville over-rotated. Whoever screwed it up, it done screwed up.
Still, that’s the perfect chant for NXT.
- Loved seeing Breeze try to pin Neville, then quickly move to Zayn, then throw a little tantrum. Passion. Polish. Purpose. The 3 P’s of NXT.
- Enjoy that the Punk chants were quickly drowned out by boo’s. It’s been done, folks. Drop it.
- The “tower of doom” (superplex and powerbomb) has been done over and over, but it never fails to pop the crowd.
- I like seeing Zayn checking to make sure he kicked out after Breeze stole Neville’s pin post-Shooting Star Press. Cool moment.
- Alright, getting on the logic train right here. Loved seeing Neville stopping Breeze from tapping, except Breeze has two hands. Why didn’t he just tap with his other hand?
- The ending of this match was booked beautifully. Whomever the agents were deserve credit galore.
- This is Zayn’s future, isn’t it? He’s always going to be the guy that ALMOST breaks up the pin. Did it in the tag tournament, did it tonight. Seriously, how can he NOT be booked as the underdog for the rest of his life?
- So there ends the best “PPV” of 2014. Looks like Neville is sticking around, showing signs of turning heel, setting up what will almost certainly be an amazing feud with Sami Zayn. If that becomes the “main event” of NXT, I might stop watching RAW altogether. They just can’t compete.
Hope you enjoyed the show Thursday and this trip down short memory lane.
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.
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’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.