WWE: NXT – The Future’s Brighter Than You Think…

The dust is settling from WrestleMania, and we’re all feeling the comedown from the awesomeness that was last Monday night’s Raw (#FandangoRevolution). After all that excitement it sure feels like there’s not much to look forward to in the next few bleak months, right? WRONG!! What you may not realise is that there’s a whole heap of talent waiting in the wings on NXT, ready, willing, and more than able of taking the next step up to the main roster. Since we’re now in what technically counts as a new “season”, I thought I’d guide you through a look at some of NXT’s hottest prospects, who could very well be coming to a Raw or Smackdown near you soon…

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So I want to start this by saying that if you’re not watching NXT, then boy are you missing out on a great little wrestling show each week. Not only are the matches and feuds booked in a beautifully logical manner, the matches then get given plenty of time for these new guys to show us what they can do.

If you think NXT has nothing to offer then I’d like to remind you of current WWE stars such as Big E Langston, The Shield, Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett, and even Fandango (yes I’m including him as a promising prospect and not just a fad). Without NXT we would be deprived of these talents, and that would make the wrestling world a much darker place. With that in mind, I want to take a look at the next wave of NXT wrestlers looking to break out into the main roster.

Bray Wyatt & The Family

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 Who’s that then?

You may know Bray Wyatt better as Husky Harris of Original Nexus fame, last seen  getting his face punted off by Randy Orton ahead of Royal Rumble 2011. Or you may possibly recognise him as one of Mike Rotundo’s boys, and the brother of other NXT prospect Bo Dallas (y’know, the guy who eliminated Barrett at the Royal Rumble). Well Harris is back with a brand new gimmick, and it’s certainly a wonder to behold. Coming off like a modern day Waylon Mercy (which is by no means a bad thing), Bray Wyatt is a preacher, a teacher, a leader of men, and the head of the Wyatt Family. Bray frequently promos during his ring entrance, referencing popular culture from Rolling Stones to Danzig and everything in between, professing to be the thing in the dark that all people fear…

Why should I care?

This man right here is my personal pick for the “Next Big Thing” to hit WWE. Every once in a while someone comes along who understands their gimmick perfectly, and Wyatt is one of those people. Absolutely everything about his performance exudes charisma, to the point where I can’t wait for the slightest Wyatt appearance on NXT. I mark out for the guy just sitting on the stage in his rocking chair, watching his family annihilate whichever poor unfortunates happen to be in their way.

I wholeheartedly recommend hitting up YouTube to look at some of Bray’s work if you haven’t seen him before. Unfortunately Bray has been sidelined for a few months with an injury, which has delayed his inevitable push up to the main shows, but now Bray’s back and I’m expecting a big impact from him in 2013.

Corey Graves

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Who’s that then?

Does the name Sterling James Keenan ring any bells? I should hope so if you were ever a follower of UK promotion 1PW. SJK has been doing the rounds on the indie circuit for at least a decade at this point, regularly popping up over the years in places like Ring of Honor and International Wrestling Cartel. Well until 2011 at least, when WWE finally realised what a lot of wrestling fans knew all along and signed him up to a developmental deal. With a quick name change to Corey Graves, the self-professed “Saviour of Misbehaviour” is now creating his own unique brand of chaos in NXT. As long as you “Stay Down” you’ll be fine…

Why should I care?

It’s undeniable. Graves has “it”. He has the look, the attitude, and if the NXT crowd are anything to go by, he’s starting to get the crowd’s support firmly behind him. Personally I can see Graves taking on the mantle of the Jeff Hardy-esque risk taker who makes the girlies swoon. The tattoos, the rockabilly haircut, the denim ring gear, everything works well with Graves to make him stand out from the crowd. Corey was originally in a tag team with Jake Carter, but it was pretty obvious from the get go who was the HBK and who was the Jannetty of that particular duo. Since then Graves has been pushed towards the NXT title and is currently embroiled in battles with Big E Langston and Conor O’Brian (more on him later) over the developmental belt, as well as being the first person on NXT to stand up to The Shield. You have to believe it’s only a matter of time before Corey gets his call up and his chance to show the big crowds what he is capable of.

Paige

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Who’s that then?

Surely you’ve heard of Paige? Starting out as Britani Knight (daughter of Sweet Saraya and Ricky Knight of UK wrestling fame), Paige has had wrestling in her blood since birth. Since her early teens Paige has worked around the world, wrestling for promotions such as WAWW, Pro-Wrestling: EVE (where she held the World title), and Shimmer, impressing many with an in-ring competency that belies her young age. Just don’t compare her to the other women in WWE. There’s a reason they call her “The Anti-Diva”…

Why should I care?

Are you joking? At a time when the women’s division is the weakest it has been in a while, Paige is a breath of fresh air. The whole “Anti-Diva” gimmick is wonderful to watch, and Paige is rapidly becoming an absolute beast in the ring. There are few things on NXT as fun as watching Paige lay someone out, and the best thing is that she’s improving week upon week. Given that she’s currently involved in a feud with Summer Rae, which is more than likely going to be for the NXT Women’s (that’s WOMENS not Divas) Championship I can’t see her coming to the main roster for a little while yet, but when she does get there I think she’s only going to do good things for a flagging division.

Summer Rae

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Who’s that then?

Okay, so unless you were an avid fan of the Lingerie Football League (which I didn’t even know existed) you’d be forgiven for not having the slightest clue who in the blue hell Summer Rae was. As it stands this is Summer’s first wrestling job, but she’s doing pretty damn well so far. Starting on NXT as the ring announcer, she turned heel after launching an attack on Paige (after Paige accidentally knocked her as she was trying to get an interview). Now she’s the “First lady of NXT” and playing the uber-bitch role brilliantly.

Why should I care?

Because we need more decent women in WWE! Sure she’s not quite the finished article yet, but her character is an instant heat magnet, and she and Paige currently stand head and shoulders above all other NXT women.  Sure her “taking people to Summer’s School” catchphrase is lame, but she’s just starting out. Give this lady a few months and I think she’s gonna be a fantastic addition to the Divas Roster. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see her feud with Paige carry over from NXT onto the main shows.

And she’s, y’know, kinda hot (not as hot as Paige, but there you go).

Conor O’Brian

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Who’s that then?

Remember the dude who looked a bit like a rat on NXT Season 4? Nope? Not surprised in the slightest by that. And it’s probably for the best you don’t remember it, because this Conor O’Brian is a very different beast to the one we last saw on NXT: Redemption. O’Brian is now working under The Ascension gimmick, and was (in my opinion) on the fast track to the big time in WWE with his partner Kenneth Cameron, until Cameron managed to get himself released for getting drunk and insisting on punching some policemen. Like a douchebag. O’Brian has been left behind, still working as “The Ascension” and currently feuding with Big E Langston and Corey Graves for the NXT Title.

Why should I care?

What, besides this dude having the best supernatural entrance since The Undertaker? Because Conor O’Brian is a big, gruff guy, who looks phenomenal when beating people up. Admittedly he’s lost just a little something since losing his tag partner, but I’m still predicting big things for O’Brian. I’m expecting this to be the guy who inherits the supernatural gimmick in the WWE once guys like Undertaker and Kane finally decide to hang up their tights. Ideally I’d like them to get him a new tag partner, or possibly get a small group together as The Ascension, with O’Brian as the leader, but as it stands I’ll happily take Conor O’Brian by himself beating fools into a pulp.

Kassius Ohno

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Who’s that then?

Really this man should need no introduction, but if you’ve been hiding under a rock or the internet doesn’t exist where you are (speaking of which, how are you reading this?!) Kassius Ohno is the most recent incarnation of veteran Indy wrestler Chris Hero. But if you’re the kind of person who’s reading this article, then I’m sure you’re already more than aware of that. Chris Hero has been an Indy stalwart for pretty much 15 years now, travelling all over the world working for a whole heap of promotions too numerous to list here. You’d probably most likely recognise him from his work in PWG, ROH, IWA:MS, or Chikara, or from his run as a member of the Kings of Wrestling along with long-time partner Claudio Castignoli (that’s Antonio Cesaro to those of you who don’t know). Suffice to say Ohno has all the tools, and now’s he getting himself into a position where he can show that off a little.

Why should I care?

Did you not see his brilliant match against William Regal on the 10th April edition of NXT? If not, you’ve really missed out and I urge you to go check it out. Kassius is technically gifted in the ring, but also more than capable of throwing out stiff shots and dropping bombs when he needs to. The guy’s a great promo, works consistently solid matches, and seemingly has a bright future ahead of him. While I’m not convinced just yet that he’s World Champion material, Ohno could make for an excellent midcard champion, and there’s always the possibility of a tag team reunion with Antonio Cesaro which should have the Indy Fanboys drooling at the thought.

Leo Kruger

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Who’s that then?

South African born Leo Kruger is probably most noticeable for his run as FCW Champion, and a smattering of appearances in dark matches on both Raw and Smackdown. Since then Kruger has undergone a gimmick overhaul, morphing from a run of the mill, preening heel, into a South African big gamer hunter, coming across more than a little like Kraven the Hunter from the Spiderman comics. Since returning with the new gimmick, Kruger has been set up as some kind of psychotic gun for hire on NXT, ferociously attacking anyone you wish…as long as the price is right.

Why should I care?

As mentioned, Kruger is a former FCW Champion which means he’s already following in some pretty large footsteps. The fact that Kruger has already been given the nod to appear in dark matches prior to his gimmick change would suggest that WWE already see something in the South African that is worth pushing. In a roster full of superstars who all seem to be cast from the same mould, Kruger’s gimmick, aggression, and attitude should more than make him stand out from the rest of the bunch.

Adrian Neville

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Who’s that then?

Better known to followers of Puro or the UK Scene as PAC (or sometimes Jungle PAC, dependent on his mood), “The Man Who Gravity Forgot” (how epic is that nickname?) has been amazing audiences worldwide for years. Born and bred in Newcastle, Neville is quite possibly the most talented high flyer I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing live. Having set the UK alight in RQW, 1PW, and Irish Whip Wrestling, Pac blazed his way across Europe and on to Japan, wowing audiences with his patented brand of high risk offence. Now in NXT as Adrian Neville, and currently one half of the NXT Tag Team Champions with Oliver Grey, there can surely only be good things in the future of this exceptional athlete.

Why should I care?

Because of the MOVEZ! Seriously, if you’ve never seen PAC in action the guy is truly a sight to behold. He makes high risk offence look effortless as he flies around the ring. Even if you’ve managed to catch him only recently on NXT, then you should be more than aware of his spectacular corkscrew splash finisher. Normally I’m not a big fan of the high flyers, but in Adrian Neville’s case I’m willing to make an exception, especially if you look at the distinct lack of high flyers currently active. Mysterio’s pretty much done, Sin Cara never really got started, Tyson Kidd is out injured, Justin Gabriel is getting jobbed out until his tag partner returns, and Evan Bourne is probably slumped in a corner somewhere with red eyes, giggling his ass off, there’s really only Kofi Kingston available to provide us with a dose of “high-flying death defying”. WWE needs a high flyer fast. Someone who can wow the crowds, flip like there’s no tomorrow, and nail high risk offence without botching it (Damnit Sin Cara!). Gravity may have forgotten about this man, but mark my words, once he hits the main roster the last thing he’ll have to worry about is anyone forgetting who he is.

So there you go, we all like to worry that WWE has no real plan for the future, but from taking a look at that list I think the future could be a lot brighter than any of us imagined it could be. But that’s just me, what do you think? Drop us a comment in the opinion box below, or join us over on the Talk Wrestling Online Forums and make your voice heard!

Until next time!

Graphics made exclusively for Wrestling 101 by Tom Kneeshaw

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