Four weeks ago, WWE debuted NXT, in which they teamed eight NXT Rookies with eight WWE Pros. Four weeks into this sixteen week competition, I am now going to break down my thoughts on the eight rookies.
8. Michael Tarver
- I thought Michael Tarver looked impressive in his first week. He came across well in his video package and he showed some great intensity in his tag debut with Carlito against Christian and Heath Slater. However, he took the pin in that match, and has been treated as an afterthought since. Week Two, he was a non-entity, and in Week Three, he was just at ringside with Carlito as Carlito became the first Pro to job to a Rookie. Is it any surprise that when he wrestled Slater in Week Four, without Carlito at ringside, that the crowd was dead? Carlito has been treading water for years until WWE finally just releases him, so being paired with Carlito was clearly a kiss of death. Tarver is billed as being capable of knocking out any man in 1.9 seconds, but is the forgotten rookie on this show.
Conclusion: I like what I have seen, but Tarver was doomed before this started.
7. Heath Slater
- Slater is the "One Man Rock Band", and seemed to be a natural fit with Christian. WWE has been pushing him hard, with he and Christian beating Tarver and Carlito in Week One, and Slater being the first Rookie to pin a Pro in Week Three. He recently beat Tarver one in one in what was a fine enough match, but the crowd just aren't buying this guy. He comes across as a whiny tool, such as when Carlito spit apple in his face, and Christian has made him look like a doofus a time or two in backstage segments.
Conclusion: Arguably being pushed harder than any other NXT star, Slater just isn't getting any traction. Tons of face time, a victory over Carlito and the best record among the rookies, but nobody cares. At the end of the day, that's going to sink Slater unless they find the key to making people care.
6. Skip Sheffield
Pro: William Regal
- This one pains me. I love his interactions with Regal, and he's a nimble big man with a ton of personality. He's one I would probably make sure I kept, if it were up to me. However, Sheffield hasn't gotten a ton of camera time, although he did get to appear on Raw with Regal. I still just can't help but feel as though the deck is stacked against Sheffield, which is a shame as he could be a great midcard face.
Conclusion: He's got the WWE look, and he has more charisma and speed than your average WWE big man...so why isn't he being showcased more? Is he too "Southern"?
5. Darren Young
Pro: CM Punk
- If I had written this last week, Young would have been ranked in at number seven or so. However, he showed some great intensity in his tag match with Punk against Matt Hardy and Justin Gabriel, making me believe that he could be an effective heel if given a chance. I also think that, no matter what, he will remain on the show until late in the run as an excuse to keep CM Punk on the show.
Conclusion: They haven't tried to treat Young like anything special, he's been squashed by David Otunga, and he's been punked out by Luke Gallows. If it wasn't for the fact that Punk is a heat machine, I think he would be an early candidate for removal from the show.
4. Justin Gabriel
Pro: Matt Hardy
- Gabriel is a very flashy high flyer, who sells very well. His pairing with Matt Hardy has been very popular, and Gabriel looks very crisp in his movements. Honestly, I think we'll see everyone from this point on remain in the WWE in some capacity. After all, they have always said "one dream", not "one contract". What will happen to Gabriel when he get promoted? Well...
Conclusion: Meet the next Evan Bourne. Flashy finisher? Check. Sells effectively? Check. The downside is, he doesn't even have the facial expressions or mic skills of Evan Bourne...so looking for the next Rey Mysterio is going to be reaching WAY too high.
3. Daniel Bryan
Pro: The Miz
- He's gone 0-4, including a loss to The Great Khali, which caused the internet to explode, even though Bryan doesn't quite come to Khali's kneecaps and still got more offense on Khali than his average opponent does. He's gone toe to toe with the World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho, lost to Jericho's protege on the back of an injury sustained in the previous match, and has come to blows with his mentor, The Miz. Part of me almost figured WWE would job him out and then release him, but now I think he will eventually get that match with The Miz and even beat him...maybe even for the US title.
Conclusion: Bryan will get a contract, even beat The Miz, but will find himself toiling in midcard Hell on Raw or Smackdown before an eventual "creative has nothing for him" release. The Internet will explode in protest, but he will go back to wrestling five star matches in Ring of Honor.
2. David Otunga
- I don't like R-Truth. I don't like Otunga. The guy botched his finisher while squashing Darren Young. He doesn't have heel charisma, he just comes across like a prick. WWE is very high on the guy thanks to being over-roided, combined with being D-List famous thanks to being married to Jennifer Hudson, whose last major accomplishment was Dreamgirls. Plus, his matches are botchfests that make Batista look like Eddie Guerrero. Is it any surprise that the wrestling element of NXT was way better this week, and he wasn't present?
Conclusion: WWE loves him, and they will protect him through the competition. I expect that either a big head will tank him, or he will be an epic bomb for WWE and get released quietly post WrestleMania in a year or two.
1. Wade Barrett
Pro: Chris Jericho
- Barrett has been heavily protected. He has the charismatic heat machine World Champion Chris Jericho as his mentor, and his matches have all been booked to make him look strong. He has a good look and carries himself very well, plus he's a foreigner, which always helps with the overseas tours.
Conclusion: Barrett is in great shape on the show, thanks in part to the association with Jericho. If he will just keep working on his in-ring stuff while they are protecting him so heavily with three minute matches, he could graduate into a very effective heel on Raw or Smackdown.