NXT Season 1: Ranking the Futures of Season 1's Rookies
It has been more than a year since the first season of WWE's revolutionary idea for television, NXT, has debuted. Since that season started, dreams have come true and some have been broken. There have been invasions and stable fights. Needless to say, the winds of change are blowing in the WWE, now let's see how the futures of each Season One rookie will play out against the other...
No. 8: Michael Tarver
Let's be honest, who didn't see this one coming? Tarver didn't have anything going for him from the moment NXT started. His WWE Pro was Carlito, who was released during the first season. He lost almost all of his matches on NXT, with his lone win coming against Daniel Bryan, who was in his "growing pains" stage of the WWE.
The only thing Tarver had going for him was his cool little "T" pose, his face cover-up thing that made him seem like a bad ass, and his finisher Tarver's Lightning, which was arguably one of the coolest finishers out of all the NXT rookies.
Tarver was a filler guy during the Nexus invasion, who seemed like a bad ass because of his face cover-up thing and his gimmick. But he never really did anything and was too much of a follower to ever be considered a future champion. Ever since John Cena "destroyed" Tarver during his first night of Nexus duties, Tarver has taken time off to recover from a groin injury. He's been seen in backstage segments on both Raw and SmackDown (confusing the hell out of the IWC) before being sent back down to FCW.
Tarver's future seems bleak with little chance of a resurgence, but anything is possible in the WWE. Hell, if John Cena and Batista can be world champions in the WWE, I'm sure they can find something for Tarver. I know this may seem like a stretch, but my guess is that Tarver is the first guy from Nexus to get "future-endeavored" (not including Daniel Bryan).
Finisher: Tarver's Lightning
Chance's of Being a Champion: Terrible
No. 7: Darren Young
It really kills me to do this, but Darren Young is next on my list. It sucks because I really like Young, I think he has good ring skills, he has good charisma, and his mic skills (though they could be better) are better than some of the superstars on the main roster (Vladimir Kozlov, the Great Khali, Mark Henry, etc), but he definitely got the shaft when he was labelled as "the weakest member of the Nexus," when it should have gone to Tarver.
Darren Young had the best record of any NXT rookie at the time of his elimination, despite his lack of connection to his WWE Pro CM Punk. When he was with the Nexus, he was, along with Tarver, a filler to go along with the idea of the "pack of dogs mentality," before being the first man to be kicked out of Nexus (not including Daniel Bryan) after a pretty good match with his white counterpart John Cena.
Nowadays, Young has been regulated to WWE Superstars losing to guys like Zack Ryder, William Regal, Primo, etc. Unfortunately, I don't think, as a singles competitor, we can expect much more from "the Black John Cena." His ring skills are a tad above average compared to other Superstars, despite his totally whack finisher, the Heatwave (the full-nelson lift into a flapjack).
If WWE keeps him as a singles competitor, we can expect Darren Young to be released in 2011. If WWE is smart, they'll pull Percy Watson up to the main roster and pair him with Young, reuniting "the South Beach Boys" tag team. They'll be really good contenders for the WWE Tag team Championships, but that's as far as I see Young getting close to championship gold.
Chances of Being a Champion: Poor
No. 6: David "A-List" Otunga
I'm probably going to get some major flack for this, but I don't see David Otunga going very far, especially if he's associated with the New Nexus for much longer. I'll give him credit for being the only member of the original Nexus to be associated with them still, but Otunga is on the fast track to falling out of favor. The only reason the former Harvard law graduate is still with the WWE is because he's Mr. Jennifer Hudson.
Otunga finished second in the first season of NXT behind Wade Barrett mostly because he has charisma, the "it" factor, and a solid veteran WWE Pro in R-Truth, despite having terrible ring skills. Let's face it, Otunga is arguably the worst wrestler in the WWE. His finisher, the Verdict, is pretty bad too.
His tenure in the Nexus was interesting, going from being a loyal member, to "that guy" who rebels against the leader, to being the guy who brought in CM Punk as the new leader of the new Nexus. Hell, he also had a one-day WWE Tag team Championship reign with John Cena before losing them to Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel.
As far as Otunga goes, if he breaks away from the new Nexus, I think there might be hope for him, but very unlikely. I see him getting "Ted DiBiase treatment" and being sent down to the midcard. However, if he improves his ring skills, I see him being a sold US Champion or IC Champion, maybe even a future world champion, but the ring skills need to improve. But hell, if the Great Khali can be a World Champion, Otunga probably could too.
Finisher: The Verdict
Chances of Being Champion: Average
No. 5: Skip Sheffield
Skip Sheffield has all of the tools to be a future superstar in the WWE. He's got the look, he's got the mid skills, and his ring skills aren't that bad either. The only problem is his gimmick.
Sheffield was given a stupid cowboy gimmick during the first season of NXT that made me want to cut myself every single time he said his stupid little catchphrase of "Yip yip yip, whatitdo" or something like that. Nobody was happier than me when Sheffield was eliminated from NXT, but upset because they wasted a veteran WWE Pro, William Regal, on Sheffield.
But then Skip re-emerged as the powerhouse of the Nexus and immediately I became a fan of him as he demolished superstar after superstar with his devastating clothesline finisher. The fact that it took three superstars to eliminate him in the Team WWE vs Nexus match at SummerSlam made me very happy and thought he could be a great superstar one day.
But then tragedy struck when Sheffield broke his ankle at a house show during the summer and unofficially became the second man to be kicked out of Nexus.
Now that it's been almost six months since Sheffield's injury, he should be coming back soon and rumors are that he will be back as a babyface. I think this is a terrible idea, especially if he goes back to the cowboy gimmick. Sheffield needs to be built up as a monster heel or a bodyguard because that's his look. The only way he can be a future champion is if he's brought back as a heel in some form.
Finisher: High-Impact Clothesline
Chances of Being a Champion: Average
No. 4: Heath Slater
I like Heath Slater a lot. I don't know why, there's just something about him that makes me interested in how he does and makes me want him to be a future world champion. A lot of people give Slater crap for some reason and I don't know why, he's got great ring skills, a never-before-seen gimmick, mic skills to fit that gimmick, and charisma. He's got all of the tools to be a good superstar in the WWE, he's already a three-time WWE Tag team Champion with Justin Gabriel.
When on NXT, Slater became the first rookie to defeat a WWE Pro (granted that pro was Carlito) and with his WWE Pro, Christian, Slater was the last remaining rookie to go undefeated before losing to Kane, who made a guest appearance on NXT.
Slater has a look that will make you remember him as a superstar and his finishing move, Sweetness, has taken on many changes, from a leaping Russian Leg Sweep, to a reverse bulldog, now to a reverse DDT. But no matter what, Sweetness is believable and so is Slater as a champion. He has the charisma and the "it" factor to do so.
When the Corre implodes eventually, I don't see Slater being immediately thrusted into the main event scene like Wade Barrett, Sheamus, or Alberto Del Rio. Slater is going to have to work his way from the bottom up like the Miz did, winning a midcard title and establishing himself as a main eventer with feuds with former champions like Sheamus, Edge, Rey Mysterio, or Kane. But I think Slater has the skills to do it.
Chances of Being a Champion: Above Average
No. 3: Justin Gabriel
Justin Gabriel is probably one implosion away from being a superstar. He has the look and the ring skills, his mic skills could use some work, but besides that, Justin Gabriel is definitely one of the superstars to watch out for once the Corre implodes.
Justin Gabriel, with WWE Pro Matt Hardy, lasted in the top three of NXT Season 1 before being eliminated because of his subpar mic skills. Gabriel then became the unofficial finishing man of the Nexus with his finisher that has taken out names like John Cena, Mr. McMahon, Chris Jericho, Big Show, etc. Come on, what superstar do you know that hasn't been hit by a 450 Splash by Justin Gabriel.
It was obvious in the original Nexus that Gabriel was the No. 2 superstar behind Wade Barrett and with good reason, his skills were definitely up there with the best the WWE had to offer.
Justin Gabriel's one problem is this: he needs to turn babyface. His entire look, his move set, is all that of a babyface. Surprisingly, at least to me, he hasn't been a bad heel, especially since he plays the silent finisher of both the Nexus and the Corre. But once he's out on his own, he's going to need to turn babyface if he ever plans on being a world champion. He's a three-time WWE Tag team Champion with Heath Slater, he's dating Kelly Kelly, I'd say Justin Gabriel has a pretty good future ahead of him.
Finisher: 450 Splash
Chances of Being a Champion: Good
No. 2: Daniel Bryan
What a year it has been for Daniel Bryan. First, he gets paired with WWE Pro the Miz, then he gets eliminated on NXT, then he joins up with the Nexus, then he gets fired for the tiegate incident, then he gets rehired and brought back as a member of Team WWE against Nexus at SummerSlam, then he enters a feud with the Miz, now he's currently the United States Champion and has been since September. Daniel Bryan is currently the longest reigning champion in the WWE today.
Daniel Bryan, in a perfect world, will be a future world champion. The IWC Golden Child is arguably the best wrestler in the WWE today and is definitely over with all of the fans. His only problem is that he lacks some charisma and is stuck with a stupid ladies man gimmick where he's been the love interest of both Gail Kim and the Bella Twins. Once he sheds that gimmick and gets more time to showcase his own talent, I think Daniel Bryan will soar to new heights in the WWE. The rumor going around is that Bryan will be defending his United States title against Sheamus at WrestleMania XXVII, which I think could be Bryan's WrestleMania moment.
With the LeBell Lock as a finisher that's made guys like the Miz, William Regal, Ted DiBiase, and Dolph Ziggler tap out, Bryan is looking to be in the fast lane to being a future WWE breakout star, especially with the entire Internet Wrestling Community backing him up on his way to the top.
Fisher: the LeBell Lock
Chances of Being a Champion: Very Good
No. 1: Wade Barrett
Who didn't see this one coming? Wade Barrett is the total package. He has the look of a champion, he has the ring skills of a champion, he has the charisma of a champion, and he is probably the best talker in the WWE right now. Hard to believe this guy used to be the commentator in FCW.
Barrett was the winner of the first season of NXT and had probably the best WWE Pro in NXT history in former World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho. Barrett would then go on to lead the other NXT rookies to Raw in the NXT invasion and would later be dubbed the leader of the Nexus.
In 2010, Barrett had four opportunities at the WWE Championship and was in the SmackDown Elimination Chamber in 2011, so it's pretty hard not to see that the WWE creative team is very high on Wade Barrett.
He had an incredible feud with John Cena for the better part of 2010 and nothing gets you over with the fans than a feud with the current face of the WWE. Then he was kicked out of Nexus by the new leader CM Punk, then resurfaced on SmackDown as a member of the Corre with Ezekiel Jackson, Heath Slater, and Justin Gabriel.
With his finisher Wasteland (gotta love finishers with the opponent on the shoulders) Barrett, without a doubt, is the standout member of NXT Season 1 and should be a world champion in 2011, if not, then 2012.
Chances of Being a Champion: Excellent
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