29th Oct2013

‘WWE NXT’ – Talent Report 2013

by Chris Cummings

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So, you might be familiar with NXT, the development show for WWE that runs weekly television shows from FullSailUniversity in Florida. The talent down there is currently very good and features a wide array of styles and appearances from its roster. I write the weekly NXT reviews, here on Nerdly, and with the year now in its final quarter I thought it might be a good time to review the development roster that appears on the NXT show, and give grades and remarks regarding certain talents.

I will grade each of the following with anything from an A+ down to a F. I’ll explain what each grade means below.

A+ – Beyond ready for the main roster, should be on RAW or Smackdown, now!
A – Ready for the main roster, as soon as possible.
B – Could easily transfer to the main roster, but might need a little work.
C – Needs a little more development, in some area, before heading to RAW or SD.
D – Has a way to go before being ready for main roster, but they show improvement.
F – Not ready for main roster, possibly not even ready for NXT television exposure.

Adrian Neville 

The high-flying dare-devil formerly known as “PAC” has been making waves ever since debuting on NXT television in January of this year. He has held the tag titles (with Corey Graves and Oliver Grey) and is now entering a feud over the NXT title, with the likes of Bo Dallas and Sami Zayn. His in ring skills are undoubtedly brilliant but he needs work on his verbal skills. His talent alone would get him over anywhere though, if he is given the chance to shine. Is he ready for the main roster? Possibly, if they intend to push him as an aerial master in a feud with someone who can handle his style. Grade: A

Aiden English

This man debuted on NXT television a few weeks ago with a new gimmick where he sings as he walks to the ring, and the fans applaud, and sometimes throw roses at him after he’s done. The gimmick is over on NXT TV, but I’m not convinced it would get over on the main roster with unfamiliar crowds. I think it’s a good way to get him noticed for now, but it needs a lot of work. His in-ring work, while not terrible, isn’t great either, and his slow pace makes for a need of a methodical and mean-spirited style. With nuances added to his act, and more style and substance added to his ring-work, English may prove to be a player one day, but not right now. Grade: C-

Alexander Rusev

On first glance, Rusev looks like he might be a slow and clumsy big-man with little to offer, but when the bell rings he proves the assumption wrong. His ability to make his offence look full-on and physical is excellent and for a guy of his size he has tremendous agility. With some tidying up of his character and a good, brash mouthpiece, this guy could be a fantastic heel monster on the main roster soon. A talented big guy who has a lot to offer. Grade: B

Bo Dallas

The current NXT Champion, Bo Dallas, has been a hoot since he turned from being a bland babyface to being a heel who thinks everyone loves him. He’s arrogant, he’s condescending, he’s smarmy, and he’s good at it. The fans love to boo him out of the building, and you can tell that he is having fun with the character. His ring work has improved since he was last on the main roster for a short run back in January of this year, but he still needs a little work. This heel character would transfer well to the main roster though, where I could see him being a good mid-card act. Grade: B

CJ Parker

NXT’s resident hippy has been on the shows a lot lately and is in a fun little feud with Tyler Breeze. He seems to get a heel reaction though, when against Breeze, because the fans prefer Tyler’s character. This is a gimmick that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in the 80’s or even the 90’s, but it does today. He could make it work if he added some new elements of irony to the act, but until then it feels strange. His skills in the ring are fine, and he has some nice energy, but it’s all very mild-mannered. A lot of work is needed, but he could pull it out of the bag if given the chance, and some artistic freedom. Grade: C

Colin Cassady

“Big Cas”, the muscle behind Enzo Amore, hasn’t had a lot of chance to show his abilities yet, but his double-act with Enzo is often the most entertaining thing on the show and in that aspect it could be placed on the main roster, and it would garner a reaction. His skills in the ring are the problem, because with the little I’ve seen, he needs time to develop and learn. Without Enzo, I’m not sure how he’d fare right now, but with Enzo he looks like a star. It’s a hard situation, but he should improve. Grade: C-

Conor O’Brian

One half of the NXT Tag Champions, The Ascension, O’Brian is the bigger of the two. He’s been in developmental for a long time, he was even on a season of NXT at one time, and he has only just found a gimmick that sort-of-works. He is able to rely on his partner, Rick Victor, a lot of the time too. He is slow and hasn’t shown me much at all in the ring, or on the microphone. The WWE must see something in the guy for them to keep him around for so long and give him the tag belts, but I just don’t see it. He reminds me of guys like Heidenreich and Vladimir Kozlov. Grade: D-

Corey Graves

A recent heel turn on his former ally, Adrian Neville, should spark a little more charisma in Graves, who works much better in a heel role. His punk-rock image works well and he looks like a future star. I could see him feuding with CM Punk at some point. His in ring work can be a little slow, but I like his way of methodically working over a body-part to set up a finish, ala Bret Hart. He is improving quickly, and will be on the main roster within the next 12 months in my view. Grade: B+

Danny Burch

I’ve always thought that a gimmick that would work well in the WWE would be a British football hooligan. Danny Burch attempts that gimmick, but, whether it’s down to limitations from the office, or just lack of conviction, he doesn’t really pull it off. He looks, on first view, like a football thug, when he scowls, but he needs to “up” the aggression and act more “thuggish” in the ring. I think the gimmick is a fantastic idea, and Burch might have the ability to pull it off if he is allowed to, or if he pulls his finger out. Until he improves and shows some conviction to this hooligan character though, he’ll remain a jobber, at best. I hope he gets better. “C’am on my son”. Grade: D

Enzo Amore

The best talker in developmental? Very possibly. Enzo Amore is very talented and confident on the stick and his ability to get the crowd on his side through his verbal skills and the sympathy he garners from being beaten up every time he gets in the ring is something that should be applauded. His look is bizarre and not what you might consider a “star” to look like, but this only adds to his individual style, and I think that will be the making of him. If you take Enzo and “Big Cas”, let them talk, and use the “SAWFT” joke, and then have them beaten up for a while, until they fight back and eventually pick up a victory, they could be a modern and fresh comedy duo on the main roster. I’d certainly love to see Enzo do his thing on RAW. Grade: A-

Kassius Ohno

The wrestler formerly known as “Chris Hero” has had a mixed time in developmental this year. He, apparently, got a lot of heat from management for not training enough in the gym, so he disappeared off our screens for a while. Kassius came back, a month or so back, and looks to be in great shape. He hasn’t done anything really noteworthy since his return to NXT TV, but it’s only a matter of time. This guy is tremendously talented in the ring, if you doubt me, just check out his match from earlier in the year with William Regal, and he would fit in on the main roster easily. I would get a big kick out of seeing him join The Shield, or reunite with his former tag partner from ROH, Antonio Cesaro, but whatever they do with this veteran, I hope they do it soon. He is one of the guys in NXT that deserves to be given a chance on the main roster instead of being left in developmental for another year or more. Grade: A-

Leo Kruger

This South African veteran is another guy who deserves a promotion to the main roster and a chance to show what he can do. He’s worked hard and is very skilled in the ring and on the microphone. He works well as a heel and a face, and has proved to be proficient in both tag and singles competition. Bring him in as Justin Gabriel’s tag partner, or bring him in as a heel to face a guy like Ziggler or Punk, just do something with him. Kruger could be a big deal, if he was given the opportunity. He doesn’t need developing any further, in my view. Grade: A+

Mojo Rawley

A former NFL football player, Mojo is the sort of talent that the “office” will get behind. He is very green, and I mean VERY green, right now, but he has shown a fire and energy in the ring, and gets a decent reaction from fans when he’s in there. His look isn’t great, and he needs to work a lot on his ring work. I haven’t heard him talk yet, so I can’t even really comment on that. I see potential in Mojo, but he has a long way to go yet. Grade: D

Oliver Grey

Sadly, during his NXT Tag Championship run with follow-Brit, Adrian Neville, Grey suffered an injury and has been off television since. I believe he is ready to return though, and based on his look and ability I can see him returning soon. I saw a snippet of a character he was trying out in a leaked rehearsal video where he plays a James Bond style Englishman who is suave yet tough. That could work really well, and he has the look to carry it off. If he tries this gimmick out and proves to be entertaining with it, I see this guy making some waves in the next year or two, but it all depends. We’ll see, once he makes his return, which he hopefully will, soon. Grade: C

Rick Victor

Conor O’Brian’s partner in The Ascension and co-holder of the NXT Tag Titles, Rick Victor is the more talented of the team he is a part of. He is faster and more skilled in the ring than O’Brian, and so he tends to wrestle for longer portions of the matches, which is only a good thing. The Ascension, as I’ve said in the NXT reviews, seems like a 90’s gimmick to me, like The Brood, or The Ministry. Victor isn’t bad, but the team just doesn’t work, for me personally. Will be make for a good singles wrestler in the future? Who knows, there are a lot of guesses here. He isn’t bad, but he hasn’t shown a great deal yet. Grade: C-

Sami Zayn

The former El Generico, unmasked, has been on fire since he made his NXT debut in May of this year. He is likeable, the fans have taken to him completely, he has good verbal skills, and his in-ring work has been the best that NXT has seen, ever. Is he the best wrestler in developmental, right now? In this writers opinion, most definitely. This guy is going to be a star, he ticks all the boxes and just shows something more impressive every time he enters the ring. His two-out-of-three-falls match with Antonio Cesaro on NXT TV this year was one of the best television matched in WWE in the last 24 months. It’s only a matter of time for Zayn, seriously. Ole! Grade: A+

Scott Dawson

He was in a tag-team for a few weeks with Kris Kristofferson’s son, but then that guy got released and Dawson became a singles wrestler. Under the management of the charismatic Frenchman, Sylvester Lefort, Dawson has been a decent middle-of-the-road performer on NXT television in recent months. He has teamed with Alexander Rusev on occasion, but in my view works better alone. He reminds me of Jamie Noble, and that’s not a bad thing. I think he could get to the same place on the card that Noble got too, but no higher. He’s okay, but I don’t see a mega-star here. Maybe in time. Grade: C+

Sylvester Lefort

This Frenchman debuted as a mouthpiece for Scott Dawson, and then added Alexander Rusev to his group. He is charismatic and confident verbally, and has a natural heel ability about him that is fun to watch. I could see him as a mouthpiece on the main roster similar to that of Armando Alejandro Estrada was for Umaga a few years ago. Does he wrestle? I don’t know, but if he were to stick to being a manager and mouthpiece, I could see him being successful.Grade: B-

Tyler Breeze

The blonde Zoolander of NXT. The male-model who makes his entrance while taking selfies from his cell-phone while pouting. This gimmick has caught on and the fans in NXT pop loud for Breeze, who is supposed to be an arrogant heel, ala Rick Martel. He is proficient in the ring, and this character has taken off, he jus needs to add some new facial expressions to his arsenal, so he doesn’t look so much like a standee. An enjoyable character and a decent worker in the ring, I can see bright things in Breeze’s future. Grade: B-

Xavier Woods

Xavier Woods is another veteran who is ready for the main roster now. He has the look and ability to make it, and I have a good idea on how he could debut. Kofi Kingston is stale, and Kofi and Xavier have a similar style and energy that would translate well to a solid tag-team. It would reinvigorate both men and bring another super-talented team to the improving tag division on WWE TV. There’s little else to say about woods, other than, he’s ready. Grade: A

NXT Divas:

Bayley

She liked to hug people, she’s a mark for Dusty Rhodes, and she can bloody wrestle. The NXT divas are better than the ones on WWE TV, simple as that, and Bayley is one of them. Her gimmick, as the fun, vibrant girl who is a little socially awkward is great and she, like each of these ladies, would add a much needed boost to the floundering women’s division. Grade: B

Charlotte

The least-experienced lady in this bunch, Charlotte, the daughter of Ric Flair, has shown a lot of potential in the ring and on the microphone since she debuted a couple of months ago. She is green still, and a little clumsy at times, but with more experience, she could be very good. Grade: C+

Emma

Emma is incredibly popular with the fans in NXT right now. Her dorky dancing and boisterous, down-to-earth character have gone over really well. She is excellent in the ring and has a knack for humour both verbally and with her face and body. Marketable, fun and talented, she could be promoted to the main roster tomorrow and she’d get over quickly. I can’t wait to see the “Emmalution” take over RAW and Smackdown. Grade: A+

Paige

Another majorly popular diva, Paige is the youngest WWE Diva of all time, and yet she’s still been wrestling for years. Trained by British wrestling royalty, and adding her own gothic look to the package, Paige is a top babyface diva waiting to happen. She could feud with AJ Lee very easily, and the matches would be great, in my view. Another talented lady who could be promoted to the main roster right away, and should, very soon. Grade: A+

Sasha Banks

Sasha was a good worker earlier this year, but that was it, she had no character to speak of, and the fans didn’t really react. Cue a heel turn and a friendship with Summer Rae, and Sasha has become a riot as a bitchy heel who thinks her stuff doesn’t stink. Good worker, and now a fun character to watch, Sasha has shown that she is another diva who could make a mark if she were promoted. Grade: B+
——

So, there you have it, my 2013 NXT roster report. Keep in mind that this is just on guys’ opinion and doesn’t echo any other person’s opinions necessarily. Until next year, keep your eyes on NXT, there should be plenty of interesting things to come in 2014.

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