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Way too early rankings of what is & isn’t working on NXT 2.0

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Amidst a lot of rumors and drama, WWE repackaged their Tuesday night show as NXT 2.0. Debuting on Sept. 14, the show is brighter and a lot more colorful. Beyond the new look, the brand is getting back to its developmental roots and focusing on Vince McMahon’s team’s idea of what future Superstars look like.

That’s meant less of the former independent stars we’ve seen over the last several years, and more of the former pro athletes and fitness models/competitors WWE is teaching the business to. That means watching people figure how to be - or if they can be - pro wrestlers live on national television. It’s also given us a lot of new characters and gimmicks to sort through.

Partly to spur discussion, and partly in an attempt to sort through all the new acts, our fearless leader Geno kicked off this discussion in the Cageside “offices” earlier today. Which of these performers and their schticks has us wanting more? And which are we already getting ready to pass on?

What is working

There’s a lot of overlap in these lists, but even when there’s not, the common denominator is these folks look comfortable doing what WWE is asking them to do. In some cases that could be their natural charisma or in-ring ability shining through, regardless of gimmick. In others, it’s that character is well matched to a performer’s strengths.

Our top fives are mostly made up of people who’ve debuted since 2.0’s launch, but there are a few names who’ve been repackaged or re-pushed in the past month that our staff really feels has benefited from NXT’s new direction.

Geno Mrosko

  1. Bron Breakker
  2. Mandy Rose
  3. Trick Williams
  4. Chase U
  5. Tony D’Angelo

Marcus Benjamin

  1. Bron Breakker
  2. Mandy Rose
  3. Trick Williams
  4. Chase U
  5. Diamond Mine

Claire Elizabeth

  1. Bron Breakker
  2. Carmelo Hayes & Trick Williams
  3. Ikemen Jiro
  4. Diamond Mine
  5. Toxic Attraction

Stella Cheeks

  1. Diamond Mine
  2. Bron Breakker
  3. Carmelo Hayes & Trick Williams
  4. Ikemen Jiro
  5. Chase U

Sean Rueter

  1. Bron Breakker
  2. Julius Creed
  3. Gigi Dolin
  4. Xyon Quin
  5. Tony D’Angelo

What isn’t working

The same names show up on a lot of these too, and it’s the flip side of the “What’s working” coin. In most cases, it’s not that we don’t think the performer could be a successful WWE Superstar. It’s that the way they’re trying to succeed right now comes across as awkward, or highlights the weak spots in their game. There are also more than a few names on here who are trying to work a gimmick we just don’t see as sustainable in the never-ending world of pro wrestling sports entertainment.

Just like above, we’ve got a few names from 1.0 in these rankings. In these cases, the performer either doesn’t seem to fit in the new NXT, or is being de-emphasized for some reason.

Geno Mrosko

  1. Duke Hudson
  2. Lash Legend
  3. Harland
  4. Joe Gacy
  5. Von Wagner

Marcus Benjamin

  1. Tony D’Angelo
  2. Lash Legend
  3. Harland
  4. Joe Gacy
  5. LA Knight

Claire Elizabeth

  1. Joe Gacy
  2. Harland
  3. Grayson Waller
  4. Duke Hudson
  5. Josh Briggs & Brooks Jensen

Stella Cheeks

  1. Joe Gacy
  2. Josh Briggs & Brooks Jensen
  3. Duke Hudson
  4. Jacy Jayne
  5. Harland

Sean Rueter

  1. Lash Legend
  2. Duke Hudson
  3. Tian Sha
  4. Von Wagner
  5. Chase U

Another point of this exercise from my (Sean’s) perspective is that it’s interesting to have a show like NXT 2.0 in our lives. Watching WWE’s development process in this way is something we haven’t been privy to in quite some time; in some respects, it reminds me of the NXT I first fell in love with circa 2014. If it hadn’t been for the dark cloud of releases and rumors before the reboot, I believe this is a show a lot of wrestling fans would get a kick out of.

Let us know what you think. Are you still watching? Considering checking it out? What’s working for you on NXT 2.0? What isn’t? Give us your top fives (or threes, or ones) below, and join the conversation.