Imagine a bird that makes other birds jealous once it touches the sky—that's NXT's Adrian Neville.
The No. 1 contender for the NXT Championship has been compiling a number of memorable matches at Full Sail University. Many fans are eager to see his flight path head to the main roster, but as talented as he is, success at that level is not guaranteed.
One can't help but notice Neville when he begins a battle, but he's weighed down by out-of-the-ring concerns—mic work and character deficiencies.
Amazing moves come so easily for him that one has to question if he indeed came from this planet. Neville, a rare athlete, will rely heavily on his physical prowess in the future.
If the WWE did its version of the NFL combine, Neville would be its star. All of his measurable abilities are stellar.
He moves so quickly across the ring that his legs become a blur. He bounces, spins and soars with such ease that it feels as if someone plopped a video game character into the real world.
Add to those skills a sturdy, muscular build that's perfect for the punishment the WWE life doles out, and you have a Superstar primed for success.
To watch a Neville match is to watch physical art.
His array of moves are more exciting than anything the high-flyers on today's roster are doing. He tumbles forward like a gymnast and reaches unbelievable heights on his moonsaults, as seen in these clips mostly pulled from a match against Cesaro.
His finisher alone is enough to slide one's jaw open.
The corkscrew shooting star press he calls "Red Arrow" makes Evan Bourne's Air Bourne look easy in comparison. When Neville spins his body in midair, looking away is not an option.
Neville is no spot monkey, though.
Over the last few years, Neville has improved his in-ring storytelling ability, merging those fantastic moves into the flow of a match. Moving toward drama and away from circus-act spectacle, Neville has found the ideal balance.
His recent matches with Tyler Breeze, Bo Dallas and Sami Zayn have showcased that growth.
In a match against Zayn in November 2013, he put on a memorable performance. This was an engaging bout that would have been at home on a WWE pay-per-view.
Seeing Neville in action against Zayn, there's no question he could thrive against Daniel Bryan, Alberto Del Rio and the best the main roster has to offer. It's his work outside of the ring that is holding him back for now.
Neville lacks spark on the mic. He delivers his lines well, but in a world where larger-than-life characters reign, he will get trampled on by bigger personalities than his own.
People often point to Rey Mysterio as a world champ who succeeded without elite mic skills, but Mysterio is more charismatic than Neville, even as understated as he is.
A clip of Neville alongside his NXT peers highlights what he lacks. Breeze and Scott Dawson are funnier, more eye-catching and have more energy than "The Man Gravity Forgot" in his practice session.
He can't be taught to be more magnetic, but he can definitely get more confident in promos over time. His ceiling for mic work, though, is serviceable. He is as ordinary a talker as he is extraordinary a ring worker.
WWE has yet to find the right character for him as well.
Alexander Rusev shot up the NXT ranks once he became a barbarian warrior, Windham Rotunda's career trajectory shifted dramatically once he became Bray Wyatt and Mike Dalton never got the kind of attention that he's getting now as Breeze.
Neville is a poor fit for something as gimmicky as Breeze's narcissist role or Fandango's dancing braggart character, but fans don't have a point of entry in terms of connecting with him.
Finding that will alter Neville's career forever.
WWE has to do more than play up him being a Geordie. Fans are cheering for him just based on his physical wizardry, but that can only get him so far. This is a business built on personalities.
Even the greatest athletes and amazing wrestlers don't reach the highest rungs when the crowd doesn't latch onto their personalities. Call it the "Shelton Benjamin syndrome," if you will.
Benjamin was a spectacular athlete with the kind of ability that makes scouts' mouths water. He had a successful WWE run but could never quite make it to top-star status thanks to unimpressive mic skills and a lack of a character.
Neville is in danger of following Benjamin's lead in that way.
His size (5'10'', 194 lbs) doesn't help him, either. Smaller wrestlers have succeeded, but WWE has made its preference known through its actions, giving Ryback more opportunities than Tyson Kidd, for example.
The story of Neville's career will be how far his ring work carries him in spite of tussling with giants and being an unimpressive talker.
Should WWE find a way to maximize the charisma he has and have the audience root for him, Neville's ceiling is to become the next Mysterio in terms of in-ring excitement.
Neville will dazzle in tag team matches and in bouts that kick off a WWE event with great energy. What he can do in the ring will garner him a passionate fanbase.
High-flyers come around often, but Neville is a special talent.
His lack of magnetism will have WWE unsure of what to do with him, though. For that reason, uncertainty lines his future.
Ultimo Dragon, as incredible an athlete as he was, flopped in WWE, putting together a run with the company that only the smallest percentage of fans even remember. Poor booking could send Neville in that direction, but finding the ideal path for him will give him the opportunity to have more of a Mysterio-like impact.
His magnificence in the ring can obscure his flaws, for the most part.
For Neville to reach his full potential, though, for him to tear through the clouds and become a beloved star like Mysterio, he needs some refinement.
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