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CHIVERTON'S NXT SCOUTING REPORT: New NXT Rankings following Takeover, plus Evaluation of Takeover fall-out

Dec 28, 2014 - 9:01:04 PM


NXT Rankings & Evaluation
By George Chiverton, PWTorch NXT specialist

Boom! New Rankings! Straight out the gate following NXT R-Evolution...

Latest Network Era Rankings

(1) Sami Zayn (NXT champion)
(2) Charlotte (NXT Women’s champion)
(3) Adrian Neville
(4) Finn Balor (debut)
(5) Kevin Owens dDebut)
(6) The Ascension
(7) Tyler Breeze
(8) Bayley
(9) Tyson Kidd
(10) Hideo Itami (debut)
(11) Enzo Amore & Colin Cassidy
(12) Sasha Banks (+2)
(13) The Vaudevillains (-1)
(14) Lucha Dragons (NXT Tag champions) (-1)
(15) Baron Corbin (debut)
(16) Marcus Louis (debut)
(17) Becky Lynch (-1)
(18) Bull Dempsey (+1)
(19) Alexa Bliss (-1)
(20) C.J. Parker
(21) Mojo Rawley

So, after sterling performances at NXT R-Evolution, Sami Zayn, Charlotte, and Adrian Neville all hold their places at the top, but from here it’s all change. Finn Balor storms into 4th following his electric debut month in NXT. Ever since appearing to help out Hideo Itami, Finn has owned every segment he’s been in. Although there are some question marks over his mic work (which could see him be eclipsed by Kevin Owens in the long run), I’d argue no one has been as explosive, innovative, and exciting as him both in the ring and in his entrance. He’s a breath of fresh air in the WWE and takes a very respectable 4th.

Hot on Finn’s heels is my favourite wrestler, Kevin Owens. To judge him objectively is honestly a tad tricky, but WWE is clearly confident in his ability and he is yet to let them down. At Takeover he put himself front and centre of the future of WWE with a broken nose and a nasty powerbomb, and he followed up on that brilliantly this week (as you will see). There is a lot to like about Owens’s character: he’s first and foremost a fighting competitor whose single goal is to make as much money with his ability to hurt as many people as possible. That is a pretty solid base for any character in wrestling, but combine that with Owens’s size and look and you’ve got some serious cash money on the table.

The question is whether Owens can sustain the early momentum. I believe he can, but to be safe I’ve not shot him to the moon on my rankings just yet. I’m a proper, unbiased author after all. Cough.

At a potentially disappointing 10th is Hideo Itami, who, except for his first night, has been largely underwhelming so far at NXT. Poor creative work has made his character seem stupid, while in the ring he hasn’t had the chance to be the star he can be, instead building heat for Finn to feed into. Is this his fault? No, of course not, but the Creative issues combined with the language barrier has left Hideo without the shine his competition can brag. Will he improve? Absolutely. Will it happen while he is in a tag team? Not unless the focus shifts away from Finn. Let’s get to singles action already, please.

The biggest gainer on my rankings is Sasha Banks whose memorable performance opposite Charlotte at Takeover is still one of my highlights looking back. She was tough, belligerent, and a heel to take notice of. It was honestly hard not to send her even higher, as a great performance at R-Evolution seems so much more important than those on standard editions of NXT. However, Sasha has lacked the consistency of the likes of Kidd, Breeze or indeed Bayley and until that comes about she won’t be ascending any further. If she can kick on though and build on her performance I must say that Enzo and Big Cass’s days in the Top 10 are numbered.

Baron Corbin is another man breathing down his competition’s necks debuting at 15th on my rankings. His amazing presence had my attention even during his early jobber days and now he is running through competitors every week he seems to have a bright future ahead of him. However, we aren’t there just yet, and before he can be judged against the likes of the Lucha Dragons, etc. he has to have a proper feud and, more importantly, a proper match that goes more than 45 seconds. A budding issue with Bull Dempsey would suggest we will see that soon and even though he’s only been wrestling a couple of years, all the signs are that this could be something special.

Below Baron at 16th is pseudo-debutant Marcus Louis. Having not done a lot with The Legionnaires, Marcus is now on a new and odd path as baldy Kane version 2.0. It’s been interesting, although not a lot has come of it since the beating by Tyler Breeze just before R-Evolution. With more time he may well find himself in this character although for now 16th seems about right. He certainly won’t be challenging the Top 10 just yet, let’s put it that way

Our final gainer is Bull Dempsey who climbs a place thanks to Alexa Bliss barely making an appearance as of late. I still don’t think he belongs in WWE at this point in his career but hey maybe his program with Baron will show us something new and exciting. Maybe.

So that’s the state of play in NXT and it has to be said I don’t think the roster has ever been stronger. Following the early days of the Wyatts, Seth Rollins, and Paige NXT hit a rut with Bo Dallas eventually rising to the occasion to carry the roster forward. Now, though, there is a wealth of talent on display and writing seems to get more exciting every week. On that, shall we get to business?

NXT Episode - December 18 Analysis

- To kick things off, a sad-looking Adrian Neville trudged down to the ring. He does look odd without the title, and that’s a great testament to his reign. Full Sail responded with warm applause and a ‘Thank you, Neville’ chant. The commentary team was shown on-camera with another reminder that Corey Graves is now on-board. After a zinger at Jason Albert’s expense, we came back to the ring.

Neville, with a mic, said it should be Sami Zayn in the ring right now. He talked up his match with Sami Zayn as the crowd responded with an ‘It was awesome’ chant. He said the better man won, even though it was a bitter pill to swallow. He said he wishes he could introduce Sami and have a moment of celebration, but he couldn’t due to Kevin Owens.

Owens came out, cut still prevalent on his nose, and sauntered down to the ring. Neville stared him down, clearly furious. He took a mic, but before he could talk Adrian got in his face and said, ‘What you did last week was shameful,’ before questioning why someone would do that on their debut. Neville fired up even more and went full Geordie shouting, ‘Shame on you man! Shame on you!’ Full Sail followed suit with a ‘shame on you’ chant. Owens fired back that he doesn’t care what Neville has to say as his opinion is irrelevant. He cares about being here in NXT and that Sami Zayn isn’t because he is. He has one reason to be here: to get to the top and if that meant fighting Neville he would. He closed by calmly stating, ‘If you want a fight, you got a fight’ before bailing and walking up the ramp. YUMMY YUMMY YUMMY. Owens is so grounded in his delivery that he comes across as a legit badass. I’ve been craving me a competitive heel so long and Santa brought me one yaaaay!

- Replay from the R-Evolution pre-show of Becky Lynch decking poor Bayley during an interview with A-Ry. NXT then cut to Devin Taylor and Becky Lynch backstage. Lynch explained her heel turn was due to needing to win matches and get to the next level. It was perfectly good stuff from Becky and her accent is absolutely spell-binding. Becky, if you need a distinctly average husband I am all yours.

- The commentary team let us know that a main event of Owens vs. Neville was set. Wow. NXT is throwing out nothing short of dream matches every other week at the moment. It does make you wonder whether it is maybe too early to give away this match. Well, maybe it is, but it makes perfectly good sense in the storyline, solidifies Neville as a face again, (if we weren’t there already) and will be a bloody good match that I am too greedy to turn down. So all in all, I’ll say I’m down with this.

- Bayley made her way to ring with a brace on her left knee. She seemed slightly downbeat selling the knee injury subtly but effectively. That’s called getting the little things right. Becky Lynch came down head-banging as per. The rock chick thing actually worked for me this week. She just seems to be clicking as a heel right now which is great to see. Charles Robinson was in charge once again. I wonder why he is down at NXT. Is he mentoring? Or, has he done something wrong?

Bayley came out the gates as aggressive as I’ve ever seen her, firing up following the recent shenanigans from the BFFs at her expense. This included a lot of strikes and shoulder tackles. The commentary team speculated on the state of Bayley’s knee while Becky began to fight back after the early onslaught. Being a heel, she went straight for the knee which would turn out to be the theme of the match. Bayley managed to reverse out this time, though, and kept up the pace in her favour. She got a two off of a suplex as Becky kept trying to reach for the leg.

After reversing a glory roll, Becky finally got a hold of Bayley’s leg. She did a crazy amount of tangling up before rolling into a sick-looking submission which made Bayley rapidly tap. I’m all about that finisher for sure, that’s awesome. Becky eventually let up and soaked up the moment. It’s a big win for Becky and a well-told story of Bayley doing everything she could to avoid the inevitable. These two seem set to feud and I’ll be interested in what they can produce together as this was very promising.

- Backstage was William Regal in his office. The camera feed went old-timey as The Vaudevillains made an entrance with an iPad. So, they’re so old-school that the camera breaks, but they also use a tablet computer. And everyone is okay with that. Okay then. Anyways, Aiden English wasn’t happy about a perceived injustice and showed Regal a seven or so second video clip on the tablet before asking ‘Do you see?’ Regal cottoned on immediately, ‘Not the legal man.'

Now, being the neurotic guy that I am I just went back and reviewed the footage and this is absolutely correct: Gotch was pinned while English was legal. However, the final tag from The Vaudevillians took place a full two minutes (two minutes and one second to be exact) before the conclusion of the match, so how The Vaudevillains communicated this in the few seconds Regal saw I have no idea. Well, they didn’t, they’re only pretending to show Regal the clip, but if they wanted to pretend really good like they should have at least of done some scrubbing. I know I’m being anal about this but at the same time it’s these little things that can take you out the moment that infuriate me. Just think about it chaps.

Anyways, they explained what they saw before Regal offered them a re-match. They asked for it tonight before Regal said they were all booked up. The Vaudevillains went all 1920s villain laughing on the way out, which Regal joined in heartily with. That was until they departed at which point Regal went stony-faced throwing out a British jibe. Funny little bit this aside from the tablet rubbish.

- Bull Demott Dempsey came out for a ‘match’ with a guy with big wrestling boot pads. He took his time comparatively speaking, beating the heck out of big boots before coming off the top with the headbutt for the win. As one may have predicted, halfway up the ramp, the motorbike was revving and the lights went out meaning only one thing: Baron Corbin. The crowd, and in particular the ladies, went pretty mad. Baron stared down Bull as he walked past him on the ramp before hopping into the ring. Corbin would be facing a create-a-wrestler gone wrong as Bull watched on from the ramp. Full Sail got to a count of 14 (although I made it 12 seconds) before Baron was declared your winner. For the first time, Bull stayed put and Baron made a beeline for him after the match. After a quick stare down, Bull pushed him before jumping off the ramp and exiting stage left with a smile on his face. This came across to me as clumsy flirting more than anything else but hey, we may be getting close to the match so that’s good.

- The full Jersey crew made their entrance with the crowd hot as all heck for them. Enzo reeled off the standard spiel with Cass and Carmella playing along the whole time. Once in the ring, Enzo and Cass sang the Seven Days of Christmas with some slightly modified lyrics. Cass going for it on the 'Five Golden Rings’ really popped the crowd and the whole thing was characteristically brilliant as per. The Ascension made their entrance, which was just as awesome even if it was in a very different way.

Cass and Viktor kicked off with some brawling action before Cass got a slight upper hand with a splash in the corner. Enzo blind-tagged in though and ran across the ring to forearm Konnor off the apron. Konnor didn’t move, though, much to Corey Grave’s amusement. He was then caught with an STO which was good for three. Oh, well, that was that then.

The announcers played it up as Enzo trying to impress Carmella instead of focusing on the match. Given we have never seen him perform well in this team, it means absolutely nothing to see him do badly here. Hopefully we will see him dump his Carmella infatuation and actually start doing some work for the Jersey Boys. If that happens then these two could be heading for the Tag Titles. They have the crowd on side after all and that gets you all the plaudits at Full Sail.

Viktor took the mic and said Finn and Hideo won on beginner's luck and that the war wasn’t over. If they met again, The Ascension would rise. Sure thang guys, although I have some thoughts on you later...

- Main event time with Adrian Neville coming out first looking ready to go. Full Sail were solidly behind him for this one and it would seem he is fully face once again. Kevin Owens got a largely negative response, which, considering he is still a new star, is a testament to the collective work done by Neville, Zayn, and Owens in putting him over as a heel.

Match on. Owens immediately stalled to the outside. Graves, playing heel, jumped to his support. When he came in he was quickly caught by a reverse heel kick from Neville, which saw Owens bail once again. When he got back in he started firing off some big strikes. That was until Neville popped up with some more delicious headscissors and began kicking up a storm. Again, Owens being the big ol’ heel he is bailed to ringside. Fair play to the Owens for competing tonight as his nose still looked a mess even under a plaster.

Owens slowly got into the ring again as the commentators acknowledged he was a veteran who was doing a good job to dictate the pace against the usually high-paced Neville. After teasing getting in the ring he again dropped to the floor. Neville had finally had enough and tried a baseball slide. Owen’s dodged and ended up clotheslining Neville in the back of the head. Graves was loving it and so was this bloke.

Owens was in control and started to really heel it up outside of the break, running his mouth about Neville’s earlier comments. He followed up with a stiff back elbow off of the ropes. Owens mocked Neville’s reign while using knee strikes to continue to keep the former champ grounded. He continued the slow and steady beating as Neville stayed down including some nasty stomps in the corner.

Eventually Neville avoided a corner attack and swung a big roundhouse to stun Owens in the corner. He followed up with a running European uppercut, some big kicks, and a drive-by style kick to a grounded Owens. He kept the pace up with a springboard dropkick for a two count. Full Sail was fully rallied behind Neville as he tried to springboard in once again. This time, though, Owens caught him in a Fireman's Carry before dropping him into a nasty gutbuster. He followed up with a massive senton for a close two. Way to wreck Neville’s intestines there, Owens.

Neville got to his feet only to take a big chop. Owens then set up Neville on the top turnbuckle and began to climb only to be knocked off by Adrian. Neville had the briefest of openings and was about to go for the Red Arrow before Owens managed to stumble into the top rope to send Neville tumbling to the floor. Adrian is one of the best at selling these sorts of crashes, making every single one look genuinely incidental and painful. Owens scooped him up, placed Neville’s feet on the top rope and, dang, absolutely spiked Neville with a DDT. Oh man that’s brutal. Neville folded up like a broken human with no spine as Owens went for the cover. Neville somehow kicked out popping the crowd.

As Owens pulled him to his feet, Neville’s eyes looked glazed over but he still managed to fight out of Owens’s grip before reversing into a German Suplex off the ropes. Wow, that is some impressive use of momentum and power from Adrian. Kevin rolled to the outside, but here came Neville flipping over the top with a huge plancha.

Full Sail went crazy as Neville fired up sensing he could win this. Neville tried desperately to get Owens’s big, lifeless body into the ring only to get pulled into the ringpost in a desperation move from Owens. The ref, who had been counting the whole time, got to ten with both men down and was forced to count both out to boos. Owens slowly got to his feet first and still tried to get in the ring. The ref explained to him it was a double count-out and Owens looked mortified. He then looked down at Neville and everyone in the arena knew what was coming next. With all of Full Sail begging him not to (which is so freaking rad, where else in wrestling today would you see people begging for a guy not to hit a big spot?) Neville was hoisted up and driven nastily into the apron with a powerbomb. It wasn’t as bad as Zayn’s, but it was still ruddy nasty. Owens, seemingly insane, screamed at Neville, before roaring, ‘Who’s fighting now?!’ and making his way up the ramp.

‘How many times are we going to let this guy get away with this?’ asked Graves as doctors and a stretcher poured out from the back. NXT cut to close on Owens looking furious.

Choo choo. All aboard the hype train! The match was superb, with a uniquely slow pace that effectively built to a thrilling climax. One of the criticisms that is often levied at indie talents coming into the WWE is that they don’t sell enough and hence don’t get enough out of the risks they take with big moves. Here, Owens was getting more heat off of his nasty-looking brawling than many others would get from flashier moves and slams. It meant when he did hit the big stuff, the crowd was super hot for it. Neville sold as well in this match as he ever has, too, and these two feuding down the line (if they aren’t doing so already) is definitely a smart move.

Then the post-match attack happens and Owens is now effectively the top dog in NXT. I cannot wait to see where this goes and with Raw becoming more and more turgid every week, it may not be too long before people decide to give up on Raw altogether. Comparing the two products, you wouldn’t blame them? Electric stuff! NXT!

Here’s a question. What on earth are WWE doing with The Ascension? Having gone through a million evolutions (back in the FCW days Riccardo Rodriguez was a central member) The Ascension were in a perfect place as gothic ass-kickers. It was tried and tested and a massive success at Full Sail. Then we get a vignette for them on Raw that is utterly ridiculous. Egyptian eye paint, new gear, odd facial hair, and clichéd lines like ‘Brutality is our business and we’re open all night long.' What is this? And what’s the point of NXT as a development ground if WWE are just going to come up with new, untested gimmicks when they bring someone up? It makes absolutely no sense to me at all. They had something perfectly good and WWE covered it in dumb. Could Konnor and Viktor make it work? Well sure they could, but they’ve gone from grounded and awesome to something verging on camp and comical. They almost seem like a parody of the Road Warriors and I’m pretty sure that’s not an easy road to getting over at all. But hey, what do I know? I said that Adam Rose would sink for the same reasons and I was totally wrong with that... oh wait.

Oh, another question: Has anyone got any idea where Richie Steamboat is? I was reading back some of my old work (would you believe this is better than it used to be?) and his was a name which kept popping up. There seems to be some confusion on whether he has or hasn’t been released by WWE, but he had potential and I would be interested in knowing whether there are any plans for the son of the Dragon.

Anyway that’ll do it for me and I’ll see you lovely chaps soonish. Oh and heck, happy Christmasanuka you rag tag bunch of hooligans. I have had an amazing time writing for you this year and I can’t wait to carry on next year. In the mean time I’ll be @GeorgeChiverton and eagerly anticipating your attention next week.

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