NXT is now free to watch on Hulu, meaning a lot more WWE fans are likely to tune in. And since many of those fans are probably not familiar with all the NXT superstars, I've decided to create this handy NXT "New Viewers Guide" to catch everyone up on what's been happening down in WWE Developmental.
So, without further adieu:
Basic Gimmick: Fake-Face Who's Really a Heel
The NXT champ, and the guy everyone loves to hate. As recently as six months ago, Bo Dallas was just a fiery youngster who loved to compete - in fact his (lame) catchphrase was "Fire and Desire." But this bland gimmick, combined with a seemingly inexplicable push and an eminently punchable face, has now turned Bo into the biggest heel on NXT. See, Bo and the NXT bookers caught on to the fact that Bo's smiley routine was earning him a lot of haters, so they went ahead and just cranked the volume to 11 and made him the top heel, encouraging the "No More Bo" chants with intentionally (but seemingly obliviously) obnoxious behavior. It's a smart move that makes the most out of Bo, and he's doing a great job running with it, from calling Sami Zayn a "rookie," to his selective memory regarding past failures and successes, to his appropriation of the Mr. Burns bit claiming the fans aren't Boo-ing, they're Bo-ing, and more. Bo went from being one of the worst parts of the show to one of the best - and that's one of the great things about watching NXT, you get to see stuff like that happen right before your eyes!
In the Ring: Bo is solid, but unspectacular. He is a very good seller, and has a grasp of fundamentals and psychology, but his moves are mostly boring - although now that he's turned heel, maybe that's a good thing. His finisher is either a crappy belly-to-belly suplex into a pin, or an arm submission he recently debuted (or occasionally a spear).
Basic Gimmick: Internationally Renowned Nice Guy Who's Also a Cool Guy
Sami doesn't really have much of a character hook, but he's just such a naturally likable guy, he kinda doesn't need one. He's very comfortable and natural-sounding on the mic, and the way he works in the ring just exudes sympathy and charisma. It's hard not to root for the guy. He's billed as being an international type, a Canadian with Syrian heritage who has traveled all around the globe competing, who can speak like 9 different languages and work any style. His on-screen chemistry with backstage interviewer Renee Young is appealing as well. Right now he is embroiled in a chase for the NXT title - but Bo is making him prove himself worthy first, since he's an NXT rookie. The contrast between his likability and Bo's hate-ability has whipped the NXT crowd into a frenzy, and when these two finally face off for the title, the reaction will be a sight to see.
In the Ring: The best on the roster. He's got it all - spectacular moves, charisma, psychology, you name it. He's got this amazing ability to get you behind him. His finisher is a tornado DDT where he grabs your hand, runs up the ropes in the corner, and spins off into a DDT.
Basic Gimmick: The Man Gravity Forgot
Although Sami is the overall best ring worker in NXT, Neville is the most spectacular. Neville is one-half of the NXT tag champs, along with Corey Graves. He doesn't really have much of a character to speak of, and he's pretty wooden on the mic, but it kinda doesn't matter - he's that amazing in the ring. He's one guy who would get over on the main roster on the strength of his moves alone.
In the Ring: Amazing. I've seen him pull of some awesome stuff, fantastic suicide planchas, springboard moonsaults to the outside, a phoenix splash off the 2nd rope. And he's not just flashy moves, he's got good psychology, selling, etc. His finisher is the Red Arrow, a twisting shooting star press which he hits perfectly every time.
Basic Gimmick: Underground Lifestyle Street Thug
Graves is the other half of the tag champs. He earned his shot at the gold alongside Kassius Ohno, with whom he had created an uneasy alliance against the then-champion Wyatt Family, but since Ohno has been taken off TV and Neville replaced him. His character is that of a street tough you might meet down at your local tattoo shop, he's a grungy type of fellow who is more of an anti-hero as a face. His tattoos are a big part of his character, as is his hedonistic lifestyle, although the sleazier components of his character have been toned down since he turned face at the beginning of the year. His mic work is pretty good and he's got a unique style and appeal, not a personal favorite of mine but he's a good performer. He and Neville are currently feuding with The Ascension (more on them later).
In the Ring: Pretty good but a little boring. He's got good fundamentals and with the style he wrestles his lack of impressive physique isn't a big problem, but I've never really loved a match I saw him in. His finisher is a leg submission called Lucky 13.
Basic Gimmick: South African Demented Hunter/Poacher/Mercenary
Kruger is one of the most main-roster ready guys on the NXT roster. He's got a defined gimmick, he does the little things, and he's good in the ring. His overall persona is somewhat similar to Kraven the Hunter from Spider-Man, but he's also a former soldier who has committed acts which "make nations cry," according to one promo. He recently feuded with Bo Dallas in a bizarro world feud where Kruger, acting as the heel, was still the crowd favorite due to the NXT crowd's intense hatred of Bo. He now seems to be back to his full on heelish ways though, as a segment this past week showed a seemingly unprovoked attack on fan favorite Xavier Woods, which presumably will lead to a feud between the two.
In the Ring: Kruger is a solid worker and really plays up the hunter aspect of his character in the ring, dissecting his opponent's arm with focus and precision, leading to his finishing hold the GC3, an arm submission.
Basic Gimmick: Zoolander Obsessed With Selfies
Formerly the vanilla jobber Mike Dalton, Breeze is another great example of getting to see a talent develop before your very eyes. Where once he had no character or personality to speak of, Breeze is now one of the most charismatic and entertaining people on the NXT roster. He has so many great touches to his character - the live broadcast of his phone camera during his entrance, his appropriation of the Elvis/Shawn Michaels "has left the building" gimmick, the constant selfies before, during, and after the match, the way he freaks out when someone threatens to punch him in the face. Breeze has recently been feuding with CJ Parker, whose photobombing and generally lax attitude have infuriated the prissy Breeze, who calls himself the Prince of Pretty.
In the Ring: Since debuting the new character, Breeze has only been involved in very short matches, but looking back to his FCW/NXT work as Dalton, it's clear the guy can go - he seems to be focusing more now on playing his character during the match, which he is doing a great job of. His finisher is a spinning heel kick (yeah I know hopefully he gets something better soon!).
The Ascension - Conor O'Brian and Rick Victor
Basic Gimmick: Freemason Occult Vampires
O'Brian used to team with Kenneth Cameron as the Ascension, but he got fired back in December of last year. O'Brian did the gimmick solo for a little while, but it really works better as a tag team, and in the last few months he has started teaming with Victor, who had previously been unused on NXT proper. Their epic ring entrance is a fine spectacle, and their in-ring intensity is a major part of the gimmick. They are currently feuding with Graves and Neville over the tag titles.
In the Ring: O'Brian has some good power moves and good intensity, but is fairly limited overall - good as a tag wrestler though. Victor is a good technician, albeit a little boring at times. Their tandem finisher is a Total-Elimination type move, with O'Brian sweeping the opponent's legs as Victor hits a leaping European uppercut.
Sylvester Lefort, Scott Dawson, and Alexander Rusev, the Legionnaires
Basic Gimmick: French Playboy, Trailer Trash, and Bulgarian Brute Together To Make Mo-Nay
Lefort originally managed the team of Southern boys Dawson and Garrett Dylan - an odd pairing of Frenchman and southerner brought together over the common goal of making lots of money (or MOH-NAYY, as Lefort frequently intones). Dylan was let go a few months ago however, and so Lefort carried on managing Dawson as a solo act. They were recently joined by Alexander Rusev, a monstrous European with a unique fighting style. Lefort can be annoying at times but overall he's very funny and a good classic manager. Dawson is not bad on the stick himself, and is a solid all-around performer. Rusev only debuted a few weeks ago, but looks impressive so far.
In the Ring: Lefort has never wrestled on NXT, acting solely as a manager, although he is an in-ring veteran. Dawson is reminiscent of Jamie Noble, and is a good no-nonsense brawler. His finisher is a teardrop suplex, like Shawn Michaels used to do. Rusev has been very impressive for a big man from what we've seen so far, busting out some real agile moves - but he's only had 2 televised matches so far. His finisher is the Camel Clutch.
Enzo Amore and Colin Cassaday
Basic Gimmick: New York/New Jersey Cocky Douchebags/Realest Guys in the Room
Amore is probably the most entertaining mic worker in all of NXT, with catchphrases out the wazoo. The NXT crowd particularly loves it when Enzo calls someone "S-A-W-F-T saaaawwft!" Cassaday is not bad on the mic himself, and as a near 7-footer, brings some in-ring credibility. These two were heels feuding with Mason Ryan until recently, when their hilarious antics endeared them to the NXT crowd so much that they were turned face. They were last seen facing off with Lefort's group.
In the Ring: Neither man has really had a chance to show much of anything in the ring so far, having only very short matches - so the jury is still out.
Basic Gimmick: Knockout Artist/Full of Fighting Spirit
Ohno was one of the top stars on NXT before he was banished from TV for a reported lack of dedication to conditioning. He hasn't been on TV for a couple months, but hopefully should be back by the end of the year. Many of you may know Ohno as Chris Hero, and he is an extremely accomplished indy wrestler who is one of the top in-ring talents in the whole WWE. He's got great moves, psychology, and can pull off some surprisingly agile maneuvers. He had not quite hit his stride yet in NXT, but seemed to be picking up steam following a face turn after his great feud with William Regal earlier this year. As a heel, he plays a vicious KO artist, but his face character was more of a strong style-type straight wrestler gimmick. He has been working on his body since being taken off TV and in recent photos already looks bigger in the upper body, so it's only a matter of time before they let him back on TV - he's too talented to be kept off.
In the Ring: One of the best there is in the WWE. His finisher was a rolling elbow, but since Wade Barrett started using an elbow strike as a finisher on the main roster, Ohno switched up to an inverted cravat submission he calls the Kassius Clutch.
Basic Gimmick: Nostalgic Child of the '90s, Funk-Loving Dancer, Highly Educated
Woods is legit a real smart guy, having just earned his doctorate in communications, and has a real fun, charismatic character. Since coming back from a break to finish his studies, he still plays up the school bit and his funky dance moves, but his main thing is a love of all things '90s, like beepers and Power Rangers. I'm looking forward to seeing him get some more time on TV now that he's done with school, as he is a very entertaining all-around performer. Last week set up a feud between Woods and Kruger which should make for some good TV.
In the Ring: I haven't seen him ever wrestle anything other than a short match or a tag match, but he's got some exciting moves and plays to the crowd very well. His finisher, the same move as Gail Kim's old finisher Eat Defeat, is called Lost in the Woods.
Basic Gimmick: Super-Chill Hippie Dude
Parker used to just be one of those happy-to-compete faces with no real gimmick, so although his new gimmick has drawn mixed reviews from some, I like the fact that he's trying something. With long multicolored dreadlocks and a hippy-dippy speaking pattern, the "Moonchild" is a definite throwback. The most entertaining thing he's done so far is photobombing Tyler Breeze, leading to their current feud.
In the Ring: He's only had like 2 matches since debuting the new character, but like Breeze his past work shows good ring skills. His finisher is a modified reverse DDT.
The rest of the male roster: Former Nexus member Mason Ryan is a big muscular dude whose gimmick is that he is, well, a big muscular dude. Travis Tyler, Baron Corbin, Mickey Keegan, etc. are all jobbers basically. Aiden English is basically a jobber too (up to this point anyway), but he has a character, he's a theatrical type who calls himself the Drama King. Jake Carter was being used more until recently as "your girlfriend's favorite" and a former partner of Graves, but he hasn't been on TV lately. Oliver Grey is Neville's tag partner and former tag champ, but he's been out for a while with a knee injury.
Basic Gimmick: The Anti-Diva
Although they have strayed away from the anti-diva moniker in favor of calling her "the diva of tomorrow," anti-diva is a pretty good description of the NXT Women's Champ's character. Rejecting the blonde barbie-doll-ness of most divas, Paige is instead a no-nonsense Brit with a mean streak. Her primal scream is her trademark and the crowd loves it. She has a long-standing rivalry with Summer Rae, who is currently trying to turn Sasha Banks into a vicious hate monster for the purpose of taking down Paige.
In the Ring: Pretty damn good and better than most of the main roster. Her finisher is lame, however, a tame version of the Lightning Spiral called the Paige Turner. She has also used a Texas Cloverleaf as a sub finish.
Basic Gimmick: First Lady of NXT/Huge Bitch
Summer is not as advanced in-ring as some of the other ladies on NXT, but is one of the best promo cutters (her and Emma re the best) and plays her character very well. She is the quintessential "mean girl" and is good as the top female heel in NXT.
In the Ring: Not great, but not unwatchable or anything. Her finisher is like an inverted fameasser, I believe she calls it Summer's End.
Basic Gimmick: Goofy Bad Dancer Who Is Irrationally Confident And Optimistic
Emma's happy-go-lucky personality and un-self-conscioussness have made her a real crowd favorite. The crowd loves to do Emma's (intentionally bad) dance. The bit where she always messes up skinning the cat on the way into the ring is funny. And she's actually good in the ring! Emma recently made it to the finals in the NXT women's title tourney before losing to Paige in a big face vs. face matchup, but her subsequent pursuit of the title has been interrupted by (who else) Summer Rae.
In the Ring: Probably the best worker on the female side in NXT. She's actually good, not just good for a woman, and has some cool moves. Her finisher is the Muta Lock submission, which she calls the Emma Lock.
Basic Gimmick: Naive Starstruck Fangirl
Bayley is very cute and does a great job playing her character, the bashful fangirl who has surprising grappling skills. Think Eugene sort of, but less mentally challenged, and with a way nicer ass ;-) haha. She is only recently starting to get a decent amount of TV time, and has quickly become a crowd favorite.
In the Ring: Very solid, and like Emma, not just "good for a woman" - she looks good in there, period. Bayley does not have a finisher yet.
The rest of the female roster: Charlotte is Ric Flair's daughter, and her gimmick is basically just the standard "peppy youngster" gimmick, with a dash of her gymnast background and of course references to dad. She's got potential but looks pretty green out there. Aksana is a Eurotrash mean girl - nothing special but she's pretty good. There are some former main roster girls too like Sasha Banks and Alicia Fox.
I think that pretty much covers it. Hope you all enjoyed and please feel free to chime in with you agreements, disagreements or your own take in the comments below!