Just when you think Adrian Neville's stock at WWE NXT can't go up any higher, he rises again.
Thursday's NXT featured a number of prospects showing their limitations and proving they still need refinement, but Neville remains a jet with an ever-growing supply of aerobatic stunts.
Bull Dempsey impressed in a beatdown of Angelo Dawkins. Several other wrestlers at Full Sail University, though, left with less to celebrate.
Bayley, Wesley Blake and CJ Parker sputtered to varying degrees in their journey to WWE's bigger stages.
Bayley: Stock Down
Clearly having fun in the ring, Bayley showed off an overstock of energy in her match against Summer Rae. It's other parts of her game that need improvement.
She often seems to be pulling back on her strikes. She doesn't need to be the next Stan Hansen and leave her foes bruised, but her punches and clotheslines aren't convincing enough yet.
An added touch of aggression would help her matches tremendously.
There were also a few awkward moments during the bout. There wasn't anything worthy of putting on Botchamania, but some spots felt more like acting than what naturally unfolds in a match. The closing sequence where Summer counters a belly-to-belly with the Summer Crush is a good example of that.
She will need to work on making her ring work crisper and sharper.
It feels strange to criticize a wrestler who is already a superior technician compared to many females on the main roster, but she has the potential to be several levels better than she is now. The more experience she gains, the closer she'll get to fully tapping into that.
Bull Dempsey: Stock Up
For those who saw Smith "Big Game" James on the independent circuit, watching his transformation into Bull Dempsey has to be mystifying.
He has always been a good showman, but he's greatly elevated his striking ability, his aggressiveness and stage presence. Sneering, Dempsey landed hammer-like elbows onto Dawkins' shoulders. He rubbed his wrists into his foes' face and came off as a nasty, powerful brute.
The announcers played up his toughness and strength, a great sign of what WWE thinks of him. Dawkins, on the other hand, didn't get talked about much at all.
Dempsey followed up his win with a brief address to the audience. He didn't have time to do much here, but he is clearly comfortable with the spotlight in his eyes and the mic in his hand.
His promo skills were his best trait in his pre-WWE days. This is going to help him standout from his NXT peers the more the company allows him to show it off.
Wesley Blake: Stock Even
Blake's match against Sin Cara left him right where he was before it.
It's one of the bigger opportunities he's received at NXT, but all of the strengths he showed off during it were counterbalanced with flaws. Blake is a good brawler and an above-average seller.
That led to him snapping his head back perfectly when Sin Cara hit him and taking bumps smoothly. His best moment was a flesh-smacking right hand that had the fans and the announcers go "ooh!"
There's little else that Blake showed here, though.
He's a lot like Curtis Axel in that he handles himself well in the ring but lacks the spark to get fans to care about what he's doing. Star power isn't wafting off him.
He doesn't stand out. Rather, one's eyes naturally drift toward his opponent.
Blake is going to struggle to move up at NXT with more magnetic performers ahead of him.
CJ Parker: Stock Down
WWE is giving Parker more to work with, and he's whiffing.
It's clear that Parker is working hard to better his nefarious environmentalist character, but it's falling flat. Parker apologized for what he said on last week's NXT about Xavier Woods. Woods soon confronted him, a showdown ensuing.
Woods showed more spark here. It's troubling that a Superstar that WWE has found little use for on the main roster outshined Parker.
The fans responded to Woods' lines far more than Parker's.
A kick to the head sent Woods to the mat. Parker stood over him, pulled on his afro and wore a look that wasn't nearly as intense as it should have been.
Parker is not coming off as a convincing threat or a villain worthy of fervent boos. He seems to have maximized his potential and is now digging deeper for something that's not there.
He'll have a great chance to silence his critics with this developing feud with Woods. This will be a test of how much magnetism he can muster.
Adrian Neville: Stock Up
Neville is already a top NXT prospect. The NXT Championship being in his possession is proof of that.
He still manages to impress with each outing, upping his value. Teaming with Sami Zayn, he capped off Thursday's NXT against Tyson Kidd and Justin Gabriel.
Kidd's cheap path to victory is understandably the big headline coming out of that match, but Neville showed off some eye-widening moves before that.
Zayn got on all fours and Neville stepped onto his back. The NXT champ then launched himself into the air and performed a corkscrew moonsault. To be able to hit that move from such a low height reminds fans and WWE officials just how special he is.
He added a few other tweaks including some spinning kick variations.
Neville and Zayn worked tremendously well together, exhibiting chemistry as they double-teamed their foes. The performance plants the idea in WWE officials' heads that the company has an easy way to bring these two stars up.
Pair them as a team, play up their parallel indy past and let them fly.
Neville has so often thrived with each opportunity he's given. Count on that being true when he and Zayn square off at WWE's live events in Japan this weekend.
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