Wrestling fans, myself included, often complain that some of their favourite performers are trapped in WWE’s developmental territory of NXT.
Yet, in recent years, the yellow and black brand has become more than just a show used to give TV experience to talent before they hit the big leagues of Raw and Smackdown. With many of its current and recent roster members being 10+ year veterans of the business.
That being said, the goal for most of the talent is to one day be called up to either Raw or Smackdown, tour globally on a regular basis and make that sweet main roster money.
In this series I’ll be going through the current NXT roster and issuing each of them a report card. You’ve got to get the grades before you graduate, right? Everyone will be judged, by yours truly, across three categories; In-Ring Ability, Promo Skills and Superstar Factor. The grading system will be A-F, with each roster member receiving an overall grade.
Just because someone receives a bad grade now, doesn’t mean they can’t improve and re-take the test next year. And equally, just because someone receives a high rating in one or two categories, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready for the bright lights.
And now, to pass the time on this lazy Saturday, let’s hand out some entirely meaningless and speculative report cards…
Name: Aleister Black
Time in NXT: 1 Year, 7 Months
In-Ring Ability: B+
Promo Skills: B-
Superstar Factor: A
The current NXT champion has it. The Dutch vampire looks like a million dollars every time he rises from the ground and makes his way to the ring. He has one of those characters that you can instantly see working on Raw or Smackdown.
His in-ring work is often overshadowed at Takeover shows. He’s consistent in the ring, and can pull off some cruiserweight-style athletic moves, but he’s yet to have a “match of the night”. It’s because the bar is now so high for physical wrestling ability, that I’ve opted for the upper-B grade. And while his promos are certainly unique, his reserved delivery can sometimes fail to get me suitably hyped for an upcoming match.
Still, he’s the current face of the brand for a reason, and once his reign is over I expect him to find no problem getting a reaction on Raw or Smackdown.
Name: Bianca Belair
Time in NXT: 1 Year, 8 Months
In-Ring Ability: B
Promo Skills: C-
Superstar Factor: B-
The important thing to remember in any discussion about the self-proclaimed EST of NXT, is that her only pro-wrestling experience is under the WWE umbrella. Unlike many other talents, she hasn’t put years of work in on the independent scene. Her athletic accomplishments are, however, very impressive.
I’d like to see her stay in NXT for another year or so. She still needs to learn how to cut a decent promo, and perhaps polish some of the edges of her character, but it’s scary how talented she is between the ropes, considering her lack of experience. Her matches in the Mae Young classic last year stood out more than others, and the legal hair-whip as a weapon is certainly a unique gimmick.
Keep an eye on Belair, she might not be at the top of the mountain now, but I would expect her to be by next year.
Name: Heavy Machinery
Time in NXT: 1 Year, 11 Months (Otis Dozovic, left) 3 Years, 4 months (Tucker Knight, right)
In-Ring Ability: C-
Promo Skills: C
Superstar Factor: D-
A generic big-guy tag-team with a clear ceiling. I can’t deny that Dozovic has amazing facial expressions, and there’s something strangely captivating about his promos, but Knight is a charisma vacuum.
Having not seen them in a match longer than 7 minutes, their entire act screams babyface tag-team jobbers. I just can’t picture them performing, as they currently are, at the highest level of the business. Knight certainly looked out of place at the Greatest Royal Rumble in April.
Six or seven years ago these guys could’ve worked as a sustainable act, but with the business growing and the bar getting higher, I just don’t see these guys successfully moving beyond NXT.
Name: Lio Rush
Time in NXT: 8 Months
In-Ring Ability: B
Promo Skills: D
Superstar Factor: C
Rush is a young athlete who has already found success across the American independent scene. He joined NXT last year and quickly made his television debut. While he hasn’t had any impactful storylines yet, his in-ring work has been impressive.
We’ve yet to see any promo (or much character) work from Rush in NXT. But his explosive cruiserweight style should mean, at the very least, he gets a place on 205 Live. If WWE’s main-roster cruiserweight division is bolstered with talent like Rush, then it will continue to be legitimised.
It is early days for Lio though. If he’s given more TV time, then we could see a future star that has the ability to rise above the limits of his weight-class.
Time in NXT: 3 Months (Current stint)
In-Ring Ability: C+
Promo Skills: A
Superstar Factor: A
After leaving the WWE back in 2013, EC3 went to Impact Wrestling, where for a few years he was considered the face of the company. Now he’s brought that experience back to NXT, in order to climb higher than ever before.
While his in-ring work is typical of a “top guy” style, his ability to cut a promo and the sheer understanding of the character he plays are hard to match. He may wrestle like Cena or Reigns, but his character of a “1%-er” is infinitely more entertaining.
He’s a guy who could’ve bypassed NXT in favour of the main roster, and he would’ve received few complaints. However, if he can get a couple more 4*+ matches under his belt before he’s promoted, he may further earn the respect of the WWE universe.
Today is Saturday, June 2nd and you can read the rest of my NXT report cards in coming weeks.
Do you think these grades are justified? Would you give a higher or lower score?
Let me know, in the comments below!