Gutteridge's WWE NXT Awards: The Next Big Call Up, Rookie of the Year, Disappointment of the Year, Wrestler to Watch in 2013
By Darren Gutteridge
Welcome everybody, I hope you had a spectacular holiday season. I failed to eat an entire Christmas chocolate log on Christmas Day, after also failing to finish the turkey dinner at the first attempt too, so my festivities were shrouded in defeat. I hope you were much more successful in your eating endeavours. It's the first day of 2013, so let's take a look back at the year that was for NXT as I offer my own awards.
NXT Rookie of the Year: Big E Langston - Since Day 1 of NXT, it has been a two horse race for who is the guy between Seth Rollins and Big E Langston. Seth has been positioned as the poster boy for the show, and has handled the pressure of being top dog very well, having consistently solid to good matches, decent mic skills, and a nice, well rounded (if a little ill defined) gimmick. But undoubtedly, if you look at crowd reactions at least, Big E is the guy the Full Sail cult seems to have taken to the most.
Big E was initially positioned as a monster heel, dismantling opponents as all beast heels do. But in a similar vein to Ryback (or maybe directly because of Ryback's position as a face on TV), the crowd started to cheer him, not least because he granted their wish of 'one more time', something the crowd had chanted at other wrestlers, only to be ignored. Big E listened, and then worked in the 'five count' chant to his persona, further including the audience in his wins. Now, Big E has the most signs and the biggest pops, and he has STILL yet to have what you would call a "big time" victory. Although he's main roster bound now, it has undoubtedly been earned in his NXT time, and I hope he goes from strength to strength with Dolph Ziggler and AJ by his side.
NXT Disappointment of the Year: The Ascension - I was going to pick Kassius Ohno here, because his persona has been a letdown so far. Considering his admiration in internet fan circles, coupled with his level of experience, I had hoped to be blown away by the artist formerly known as Chris Hero, but so far I have not been. But, I can see the potential for him to get over with a few tweaks. The Ascension, however, has been the thorn in my side since I started watching the show.
The 'Underworld'-esque vibe of the team feels out dated and far too over the top to work in modern wrestling. In the entire six months of TV time, the gimmick has yet to work on any level - the visuals and promo style are laughably ridiculous and campy; the in ring work, while well synched with the personas of Conor O'Brian and Kenneth Cameron, is irritating and dull; and there never ending feud with the Usos has over stayed its welcome. I can't tell you enough how much I want this whole routine to play itself out and leave my TV screen.
NXT 'One To Watch' 2013: Richie Steamboat - NXT's biggest appeal is 'the superstars of tomorrow, today', and so far there have been a lot of people that the show has showcased that have the potential to go forward and make a splash on the main roster. Leo Kruger has given us an off-putting, interesting villain, and Corey Graves and Xavier Woods have impressed in the brief time they have been given. But I am looking for Steamboat to be the guy to push his way to the top of NXT in the coming year.
While by no means the finished product, Steamboat has the shown a certain spark in all aspects of his game, from the ring to the mic. More time spent on the NXT side of the company will give him a chance to improve further, and from there I really do think he can push on to the main roster, carving out a career of his own, away from his father's shadow. Do I think he's a future WWE champion? Not at the moment, but if his dad Ricky showed anything, it's that you don't need to win the 'big one' to be remembered.
'The Next Big Call Up' 2013: Bray Wyatt - While technically his second call up, the days of Husky Harris should be quickly forgotten once WWE pulls the trigger and moves Wyatt to Raw or Smackdown. An injury has decreased his time on NXT slightly, but the fact that he is by FAR the No. 1 choice for this accolade speaks volumes for the impact he has made on the show. Wyatt's character is very different from anyone on the roster, and one main stream viewers haven't been shown since CM Punk had his Straight Edge Society. And while he has only been in one match in half a year, he showed on Season 2 of NXT that he isn't a 'rabbit in the headlights' rookie in the ring.
WWE is a little heel heavy at the moment, so maybe the timing isn't right, but once the storm that is Wrestlemania has passed, and new blood can be injected into the roster, Wyatt should be the first round pick in a heartbeat.
'Give That Guy a Match!' 2013: TAC - A quick look at the NXT roster page on the FCW website, and you may fear the worst for this show in the next year. The guys we have yet to see on TV seem to most fall into one of two groups - either non-descript, goatee wearing serious types, or hobos. The immediate exception, based entirely on looks, is TAC. HE HAS A HEAD TATTOO! Nothing says 'not to be messed with' like a tattoo on your frickin' head. He's big, he's memorable, and he has the seven sins tattoo'd on his ribs. I don't care if he's green, get him on TV, NOW!
NXT 2012 Overall - I was a big fan of NXT seasons 1 and 2. Although some hated the weekly challenges (and don't get me wrong, I hated them more often than not too), I thought the general idea was great - new wrestlers, being spotlighted for one hour every week. And now, WWE has decided to go whole hog with the idea. It may only be until the international contracts run out, when it may cease to exist, but hopefully WWE sees NXT for what it has been - enjoyable TV, featuring unseen guys and giving them a platform to work on before being called up to the main roster.
For years, new guys where just thrown into the deep end on TV, but now, they can get used to the WWE style of TV shows months before they need to do it on Raw and Smackdown. The show has been consistently watchable since it began, and looks to continue that way, as more and more storylines are put into the show. I also think the show gives the hardcore fans a weekly treat - those willing to seek it out get to see wrestlers long before the TV crowd does, allowing them to say things like 'I've liked Seth Rollins since before he was cool'. So while it hasn't been perfect, and there’s lots of room for improvement, NXT can be rightfully happy of their first six months of TV, and look to make 2013 even better.
I would now like to thank those of you who read my articles every week. I am very hopeful that WWE does carry NXT on after the overseas obligations are fulfilled, as I really don't want to slip back into obscurity. So WWE, please grant my holiday wish? If you do, I may even be willing to give The Ascension a second look.
Thanks for reading. If you had any comments or thoughts on the show or this review, add me on Twitter via @Dazatheg
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