Ever since the WWE Network made NXT easily watchable every week, I have looked forward to each Thursday night 9 pm slot. It's a chance to see the future of the WWE grow and evolve, and say you knew them before they made it big on the two main shows (RAW and Smackdown).
The biggest reason I look forward to every episode is that it's something different from the regular WWE product. Here we get less of the bullshit segments and more of what matters: wrestling. At times, the short matches can leave me wanting more...but their 2 hour quarterly specials (Arrival, Takeover) are truly special.
The future looks bright for the WWE thanks to NXT, and I have chosen to highlight the top ten stars who would have the biggest effect in the WWE Universe.
*The number to the right of their name is their age.
The Top 10
1. Tyler Breeze (26)
Breeze recently put his skills on display at NXT Takeover against Sami Zayn for number one contendership to the NXT title. The match was a classic, as the two have great chemistry with each other. Due to it being a special event, the duo had more time than usual to work with. Breeze's ring psychology is matched by his abilities in it and on the mic. His character with a lesser talent could have been doomed to fail, but he not only makes it work- but adds to it. He's a microcosm of our vane society, bent on selfies and an "all about me" attitude. His most recent foray into media was nothing short of brilliant.
Breeze has a title match in his future against the champ, Adrian Neville. I believe if they mean business with the "Prince of Pretty", Breeze should win convincingly and hold on to the title for at a minimum of a few months. Breeze has been with WWE since 2010 (in FCW, pre-NXT), and has the experience and seasoning of a veteran. While I think he is more than ready to be on RAW and Smackdown, there is no reason to rush it. We have seen a few NXTers who have debuted and seemingly plateaued already (Paige, Big E, Bray Wyatt). They have plenty of time to adjust since they are fresh faces, but all the more reason for WWE to take its time with Mr. Breeze.
2. Bo Dallas (24)
I know, I know. Bo Dallas debuted a few weeks back on RAW and Smackdown. But he is elgible for this list because he is so fresh, and he was just on NXT last week (disguised as Mr. NXT). If there was a "most improved superstar" award, Dallas would receive it.
Dallas "debuted" last year after winning an eight man tournament- the winner being a part of the 2013 Royal Rumble. After a quick rumble run and a few forgettable matches on RAW, Dallas was back to NXT and eventually made its champion. But the crowd turned on Dallas, despite him being a babyface and holding the title for about 9 months. This is what forced a change in booking, but for the better.
While his brother (known to fans as Bray Wyatt) was pegged to be the future main eventer, Dallas was more of an afterthought. Except he didn't fade away...he got better. His lack of self awareness and constant positive nature bring back memories of a 1999 Kurt Angle. The positivity isn't only limited to Dallas, but he encourages his opponents as well. He's been able to take a very simple, ho-hum gimmick and make it special. Why? Because he - pun intended- believes. Dallas thrusts himself into his character, and it shows. He's entertaining as hell and turned me from a hater to a Bo-liever. While he is still very much limited in the ring, his character has plenty of mileage left on it. Give it some more time, and this time next year he'll likely be main eventing shows consistently.
3. Enzo Amore (27)
If you follow NXT, you might wonder why Amore is so high up despite not being on television in months. The twenty-seven year old from Jersey has been recovering from a broken leg, robbing new fans of his abilities. He's a force on the mic, probably the best out of the top ten. But he's still weeks away at least from a return.
The one weakness Amore might have is he isn't the best in the ring, like Dallas. You likely won't see any mat classics from him anytime soon, but that doesn't mean he isn't fun to watch.
The biggest thing fans and the WWE look for is the "it" factor. Amore possesses this without question. His promo skills are rare, and his catchphrases are natural. SAWFTTT just rolls off the tongue, and fans are desperate to chant along with Amore. "Badda boom, realest guy in the room." He's from Jersey, and he plays it to his advantage. He isn't another Jersey Shore ripoff like Zack Ryder. He's just a guy with a chip on his shoulder, waiting for his chance to shine. Get him reintegrated in the NXT universe and have the new fans see him, and I can easily see bright things in Amore's future.
4. Charlotte Flair (28)
Charlotte is high on this list, but not because of her last name. Sure, that gets her in the door and gives her a slight marketing advantage...but the girl has skills. She's got size to her (5'10) and obvious athletic prowess. It makes her a natural in the ring. She also shows a ton of personality and could easily slide into a heel or face role depending on what WWE wanted. Right now she has earned her stripes to be the newest NXT Women's Champion, and I don't see her giving up the belt any time soon. Like Dallas, this time next year I'd be surprised if she wasn't the WWE Divas Champion.
Just don't book her as a "woe is me", boyfriend-obsessed damsel in distress. Can you NOT do that WWE? Charlotte is way better than that.
5. Bayley (25)
Bayley has won the hearts of NXT fans back in January 2013. Now that the WWE Network shows NXT every week, even more fans get to see her. She seems built to be a natural face, and can get any crowd on her side. Her entrance is unique, her personality is bubbly and she, like Flair, can go in the ring. She's like the opposite of 2013 Bo Dallas. As a male she'd be considered fake and phony. But as a female? Loveable; someone you want only good things for. While she's not ready to be brought up just yet, season her some more in NXT with an eventual title run and she'll get there.
6. Adrian Neville (27)
The champ is..here? Quite low on the list for the best in NXT right now, no? But while the highflyer known as "The Man Gravity Forgot" holds the gold, his promo skills are almost non-existent. He talks in short bursts on the mic and is eons away from ever being a verbal jouster. But his workrate is what makes him a force in NXT. He can easily put on 15-20 minute classics and has great ring psychology (see: NXT Arrival and NXT Takeover).
Neville can be a star one day if he improves on the mic. In the mean time, he can be a solid mid-card wrestler such as Justin Gabriel or Evan Bourne was- or he could flourish with a partner in the tag team division like Seth Rollins did with Roman Reigns.
7. Aiden English (24)
First off, I hate singing gimmicks. But that is not why English is at 7. English being at 7 might be higher than most would have him, but his talent is there. He hasn't had a chance to shine like some in prolonged matches, but you can tell his ringwork is crisp and accurate.
More often than not as of late, English has been on the losing end of things (thanks Mojo Rawley). While he loses, he's there to make the others look good. But I have faith in his promo and in-ring abilities and believe in the next year or two, English will be primed for a good shot at achieving his WWE dreams.
8. Sami Zayn (29)
Zayn would be much higher if he had any chops on the mic. The former El Generico has been around a while and wrestled all over the world. We know he can go in the ring (most recently against Tyler Breeze at Takeover). But he is nothing but vanilla in backstage promos and on the mic. While his ringwork is WWE ready, Zayn will need a huge character development and more practice on the mic to ever be ready for the bigger stage. Fans need more reasoning to cheer him than "well, he's not the bad guy." He could easily fit into a tag team eventually.
9. Jason Jordan (26)
Jordan is a former Indiana amateur wrestling standout and it shows. He's built like a superstar and can move like a powerful gazelle. He's obviously very strong with plenty of technique, and working in a tag team helps his case for now with as green as he is.
His NCAA background can aid him well like it did for Angle, Lesnar, Hass and Benjamin. At some point he'll need to evolve and have a presence on the mic, but for now he can show off his in-ring capabilities and let the rest develop later. I could see him coming in as a tag wrestler, moving to the mid-card and within the next few years having a shot at being a regular WWE star.
10. Sasha Banks
So far, Banks has been known for her "boss" gimmick in NXT, and being one of HHH's Wrestlemania 30 entrance sidekicks. But hey, CM Punk did the same in 2006 for John Cena- and look how he turned out.
Banks is another star who has grown by leaps and bounds within the last year. Lately she has not been the focus due to Paige's recent success, Charlotte's winning the belt from Natalya and Bayley's rise...but her time will come. She has a unique and exotic look which helps. She has good in- ring psychology. Her acting leaves a bit to be desired- but her presence commands attention. Once Charlotte likely gives the belt up to Bayley, I can see Banks and Bayley feuding leading to some great matches.
If the three divas on this list are injected into the WWE within the next year or so, the future is in great hands.
Kalisto- great tag wrestler and could be the Spanish crossover appeal star WWE desperately wanted Alberto Del Rio and Sin Cara to be.
Alexa Bliss- Cute as a button and pint-sized to boot, Bliss is green in the ring and on the mic, but has the potential to be an NXT star and possibly a WWE diva. Her real life struggle and battle with an eating disorder could tug at fans' heart strings, too.
Marcus Louis- I see Louis as the more talented Frenchman in NXT (over LeFort). His presentation skills promo is the stuff of legend and has been taken off YouTube by WWE. It was a riot and might only be the tip of the iceberg for the young man.
Tye Dillinger- Dillinger tags with Jordan as of now and looks decent. He has a long way to go, but shows plenty of promise and could be an NXT tag team champion soon.
Mojo Rawley- Rawley is the Sheamus/Cena of NXT. He has even less to cheer for with his flimsy "I don't get hyped, I STAY hyped!" catchphrase. His wrestling is almost non-existent as he is in short squash-like matches. Sorry, Mr. English. Rawley's moveset is based off knocking people down with his ass, then jumping and sitting on them for the 1,2,3. Maybe if it was the 1980's....sure. But in 2014? No thank you.
Adam Rose- Rose, like Dallas makes the list here due to his just recently having wrestled on NXT Takeover. His wins have also been in glorified squashes like Rawley, and shows no real ring psychology or actual charisma. For some reason, fans get behind his incredibly dry and boring "lemon/rosebud" party animal gimmick- yet his popularity all revolves around his entrance. Without that, he's just a barely there mid-carder. Repackage him as the South African Leo Kruger, please.
CJ Parker- Parker's new-age hippie gimmick is one that will run out of gas (no pun intended) sooner than later. The only way it can be made entertaining is if he promotes the environment while being a savage in the ring- and I have not yet seen that side. For now, he remains a boring nuisance.
Corey Graves - Graves has been out for about a month thanks to a concussion. He's thought of to be a CM Punk-lite, complete with "STAY DOWN" tattooed on his knuckles. He constantly repeats the motto throughout matches, and is a Randy Orton-like black hole of charisma otherwise, in ring and out. His potential is very limited. He does, however, have great intro music.
The Ascension- The duo has been fortunate enough to be booked to win squash after squash match. Even as the longest reigning tag team champs, I cannot have faith in them. Ask them to put on longer WWE style matches and watch them eventually fail.
Sylvester LeFort - For some reason, LeFort gets chance after chance each week to show his skills. But I still have no desire to want to see him again. NXT. I mean....NEXT.
Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron.