(Writer’s Note: I had this column all ready to go before CM Punk’s return to WWE. Yeah, I could’ve shelved it and did a column about the return, but I stayed the course for a few reasons. One, LWO4Life posted a column after Survivor Series that talked about Punk. Two, I feel like I’ve written 50 CM Punk columns since his AEW return two years ago. Finally, I can still talk about it in the Weekly Power Rankings section of the column, and trust me, I will.)
Two years ago, I did a series of columns that looked at the rosters of NXT, WWE, and AEW for the exact reason specified in the title… to see who I felt was overpushed, underpushed, and who was being pushed just right.
A lot has changed since that series, so I thought I would revisit the idea here.
I have tentatively scheduled this series to stretch out over three columns, with this week covering the NXT roster, next week covering the AEW roster, and the following week covering the WWE roster. Things could change that schedule, of course. Other news stories could happen that would require the “main section” of my weekly column to be focused on them, forcing this series to be pushed back a week. I could end up running long on a particular column (I’m looking at you, AEW, with your 1,915 contracted wrestlers on the roster) and end up splitting that in two. Using AEW as an example, that could be the male roster in one column, and the female roster in the next week’s column. I don’t want to do that, though, if at all possible, as I already have a few weeks in December and January that are for other columns. I’d hate to start this series at the end of November 2023 and have to end it in, say, February 2024.
Enough rambling. Let’s get things started with the NXT roster, who will be listed in alphabetical order. Any talents on the injured list will be included, but only if they have wrestled at least three times on television or pay-per-view this year. The same goes for any inactive talent, as well. Keep that in mind if you’re looking for a name on the list but don’t see them anywhere.
Andre Chase: This is something that has changed recently. For a long time, Chase was one of the most interesting characters in all of NXT. His character is something that is supposed to be silly, and if we’re being honest, probably shouldn’t get over at all with live crowds. It says a lot about the man who used to be called Harlem Bravado that he has not only gotten over, but has become one of the most over acts in NXT. That level of crowd reaction didn’t really match up with his position on the card, though, as he was losing matches far more often than not. He kept on keeping on, and then, almost out of nowhere, he and Duke Hudson would become the NXT Tag Team Champions. That’s a great spot for him, and a “reward” that he has earned through his hard work and dedication, even if the reign didn’t last any longer than three weeks. Up until recently, I wouldn’t have said this, but right now, the Dean of Chase University has a push that is Just Right.
Angel Garza: Underpushed. For sure. I’m not sure why, but he and his cousin should really be making waves on the main roster right now. They damn sure should be making waves in NXT. Instead, they’re lucky to get a match on television, and when they do, they were losing efforts until right before Thanksgiving. That’s insanity. I guess we’ll just have to see if they can build on their win, or if they’ll go back to where they were before the holidays.
Arianna Grace: She just made the cut here, after missing nearly a full year with a knee injury. Although she is, for all intents and purposes, enhancement talent, but she still has a character and is given the opportunity to showcase said character. She isn’t just being trotted to the ring with no presentation, only to lose a match in 90 seconds. Her “beauty queen” character gets some focus, win or loss. The proof of that is her recent match against Gigi Dolin, where she would lose, but after the match, the camera was focused on Ms. Grace, who still put her crown on and did the beauty pageant wave through tears and a grimaced face. That was entertaining. The daughter of Santino Marella is still young and relatively new to the business, so there’s plenty of time for her to grow and move up the ladder. Right now, though, I think her push is Just Right, because she shouldn’t be winning matches right now, but there should be some sort of focus on her character work, which is already good.
Ava: It’s crazy to think that we’re coming up on the four-year anniversary of Simone Johnson first reporting to the WWE Performance Center to begin her journey as the first fourth-generation wrestler in company history. It took over two-and-a-half years for her to make her debut on television, and then another five months before she made her in-ring debut. That’s a long time without any activity, and honestly, you could see why in her matches. She hasn’t been asked to do much, but what she has done has been pretty rough. I do think that her charisma and personality have come a long way since she debuted, but her in-ring skills haven’t made the same journey. Is it fair to wonder if she would even be in this situation if her father was Dwayne Johnson, the telemarketer from Philadelphia, instead of Dwayne Johnson, the global icon? I’m going to call her Overpushed, simply because I don’t think she’s ready for this just yet. In the right situation, I think she could be beneficial as a manager of some sort, though. As I said, her personality has really started to shine recently, so I could see her aligned with a wrestler or two with a severe lack of charisma, in an attempt to get everyone advanced together.
Axiom: This is a pretty easy one for me. Underpushed. He took a very silly character and made people forget about it because of how fun his matches were. Eventually, he moved up to the North American Title picture, but was unsuccessful in two attempts at becoming the champion. Since then, he has been planted firmly at the spot on the ladder where he wins matches on the NXT house show loop, only to lose his matches on NXT television. He’s worthy of a much better spot.
Baron Corbin: Honestly, I think he’s being pushed Just Right. He is someone that has done a lot of big things on the main roster, and all jokes aside, he is someone that can give an easy “rub” to the members of the NXT roster simply by having a good match with them. I’m not sure if he’s in NXT to win any titles, but I don’t think it would shock too many people if he did. Again, I think he’s able to help get people like Carmelo Hayes and Ilja Dragunov more over simply by having competitive matches against him. He’s big, he’s bad, and he’s someone that has wrestled and beaten names like Kurt Angle, Roman Reigns, Kevin Owens, Rey Mysterio, Sami Zayn, AJ Styles, Finn Balor, Dean Ambrose, and more. That’s where he is right now.
Blair Davenport: For a while, it seemed like Blair Davenport was going to be a big deal in NXT UK after a really successful stint with Stardom in Japan. When that didn’t happen, it seemed like she was going to be a big deal when she was moved to the original NXT. So far, that hasn’t happened, either. She’s just another woman there, for all intents and purposes. With the focus recently being to try and get a bunch of younger women over, Davenport seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. She’s Underpushed, and by a wide margin, as she is so much better in the ring than a lot of these new kids on the block that NXT seems to be focused on right now.
Bron Breakker: Underpushed. Yes. Absolutely. Not because he has anything left to accomplish in NXT, but because he’s still in NXT at all. He should’ve been moved to Raw or Smackdown months ago, and yet, he’s still in NXT, taking entirely too many losses. Dropping the NXT Championship to Carmelo Hayes at Stand & Deliver was fine, and I’m fine with him losing the rematch nearly two months later. He has been pinned four more times after that, though. It’s ridiculous. Even though his losses have come against big names (Seth Rollins, Ilja Dragunov, Baron Corbin, Carmelo Hayes again), they didn’t need to happen. After Stand & Deliver, or at least after Battleground in May, he should’ve been called up and tearing things up on Monday or Friday nights. It’s bordering on ridiculous that he’s still in NXT, feuding with Von Wagner after he nearly murdered VW and gave him some sort of traumatic brain injury.
Bronco Nima: In some ways, it’s hard to grade Nima, as he’s still really new to the televised NXT roster. I will admit that I’m intrigued by his character, his team with Lucien Price, and their partnership with Scrypts. I’m not confident that it will end up going anywhere, but capturing my attention is the first step in getting me to truly care. Right now, I’m going to say his push is Just Right, mainly it’s because it’s so early on, making it difficult to truly talk about if it’s too much or not enough. If you wanted to say Overpushed, though, because tag teams that are more “ready” should be getting that television time, I wouldn’t fight you on it.
Brooks Jensen: A little over a year ago, Jensen and Josh Briggs were the NXT UK Tag Team Champions, and were competing in a Fatal Four Way to unify those titles with the NXT Tag Team Titles. They would lose the match, but it seemed like they were at least going to be major players in the NXT tag scene. Well… perhaps not. They spent entirely too much time over months and months playing out a possible breakup storyline, with some of the worst acting you’ll see in wrestling, along with Fallon Henley and Kiana James. Jensen’s in-ring year has been equally poor, with him only being victorious on television once, and that was nearly seven months ago. I’m going to say Underpushed, but only because it would be difficult for him to be receiving less of a push in the first place.
Carmelo Hayes: Just Right. That was easy. He is the complete package and deserves to be pushed as one of the top acts in all of NXT. If I can add something, though, it will be that he might come close to reaching Bron Breakker’s level. Now that he has dropped the NXT Title, and then lost the rematch for it, there’s not a lot left for him to do on Tuesday nights. Once the next step in the Trick Williams story comes and goes, Melo should be moved to Raw or Smackdown quickly.
Channing “Stacks” Lorenzo: Lots of ups and downs in a short amount of time for this guy. He signs with WWE, then is moved to NXT television quickly as part of Tony D’Angelo’s “family” with Troy “Two Dimes” Donovan. Then, two months after their debut, Donovan is fired after failing a drug test, leaving Lorenzo to team up with D’Angelo instead. They’re working their way up the ladder, but then D’Angelo injures his knee and is forced to miss a few months of action. Once D’Angelo returns, they make their way back up the ladder again, eventually winning the NXT Tag Team Titles. After a three-month reign, they lost the belts, but they would regain the titles three weeks later. I’ll say he’s Overpushed because of that last fact. Of all the great tag teams that have come through NXT, there are only a handful who have won the brand’s Tag Team Titles on more than one occasion, and D’Angelo and Stacks are one of those teams? Yikes. My only issue with him, as well as with D’Angelo, is that their characters are one trick ponies that don’t have a lot of room for any sort of growth. Does that limit their ceilings a bit? It often does with wrestlers that don’t have layered characters to work with, so we’ll see.
Charlie Dempsey: He’s William Regal’s son, so you know he’s going to be more than solid in the ring. Does he have his father’s personality, though? NXT fans haven’t really been given an answer to that. He’s had a decent enough run in NXT so far, with some good wins, but also some bad losses. What stands out for him right now is that he hasn’t wrestled on television in over two months, so it’s difficult to gauge just where his push is right now. Because of that, I’ll say his push is Just Right, playing it safe. I would like to see him get a chance to show more personality, though, if at all possible. Too many people come to NXT from Europe and they’re simply thrown out on television like “hey, this person can wrestle really well” and nothing more.
Cora Jade: Who knows? She has everything it takes to be one of the top heels in NXT, and perhaps a very successful heel on the main roster, but… we don’t know where she is. After losing a match to Dana Brooke, she stormed out of NXT in kayfabe, and really, if you lose to Dana Brooke, you should be upset. That was it, though. We haven’t seen her in four months, and there aren’t any reports of her being injured or anything along those lines. There is, of course, the unverified rumors that she is out of action after having breast enlargement surgery, as photos of her over the summer seem to show some new curves, but again, those are all unverified. She’s Underpushed, though. As I said, she should be a major part of NXT’s women’s division, but she’s not even there at the moment.
Damon Kemp: Around this time last year, I was one of many people complimenting Kemp for making big advancements in his character work and his in-ring work. He was feuding with the Creed Brothers after turning heel on them, and it looked like his future could be bright, especially if his brother, Gable Steveson, could potentially be on the way as a new partner or as an opponent. Nothing ever came of it, though. He rarely appeared on television, and when he did, he would do so in a losing manner. It has been almost three months since he was on the winning end of a televised match, and over a full calendar year since he last won a televised singles match… which was by disqualification. Every company needs people to lose matches, though, so… Just Right? I guess? He’s definitely capable of more, though.
Dani Palmer: She doesn’t appear on television very much (six times in 2023, one of which was a Battle Royal and one was in the Breakout Tournament that features talent who don’t really wrestle on television), but she’s almost always there to lose when she does. Unlike what I just said about Damon Kemp, though, I’m going to go with Overpushed here. I just don’t think she’s ready for television, even in losing efforts. It would be preferable to have more people appearing on television that belong there.
Dante Chen: The criteria to be included here is that a wrestler has to have at least three matches on NXT television or pay-per-view in 2023. Well, Dante Chen just met that criteria on Halloween, with his third match on television this year. Yes, they were all losses. You have to go back to September 2021 to find the last time Chen won a match on television. On the bright side, though, that match was against Trey Baxter, now known as Blake Christian aka the GCW Heavyweight Champion, so maybe Chen should knock on the Forbidden Door to see about a title shot there. In NXT, his push is Just Right. Once again, every company needs people to lose matches.
Dijak: This man has had an interesting run in NXT. During his time there, you could argue that he has been smack dab in all three categories listed this week. Right now, I think he’s Underpushed. I’ve been calling for him to be more of a big deal in NXT for a while now. At bare minimum, he’d be a great “gatekeeper” there, always at the fringe of the main event scene, and being the final “test” for a wrestler to see if they can defeat him and become a main event player themselves. He just isn’t around often enough. It seems like we’re about to be on the verge of a push for him, and then he disappears for a bit, only to return again and seem like a push is coming, and then he’ll disappear again. I do think he could be a very believable NXT Champion, but I’m aware that I might be in the minority with that line of thinking.
Drew Gulak: He’s one of the best pure wrestlers in the business right now, and even though he has shown to have a good amount of personality to go with that, it hasn’t exactly translated to much of anything in WWE. The start of 2023 saw him have some good times in NXT, with a winning streak leading to him having a shot at the North American Title in May. It has been almost all downhill for him after he was unsuccessful there. I have to say he’s Underpushed now, though. He would be a perfect addition to that North American Title scene, and would be great as one-half of a team going straight after the Tag Team Titles, but instead, we haven’t seen him win a match on television in a few months.
Duke Hudson: This is probably going to be a controversial take because I don’t feel the same way about Duke Hudson that a lot of people on social media seem to. I think he’s Overpushed. He looks the part of someone who could, and should, be successful in the wrestling business. However, NXT has tried pushing him in a handful of different ways, with different characters, and none of them have worked. Putting him with Andre Chase, one of the most over acts in NXT, was the company’s latest attempt. It hasn’t led to much of a change for him and his character on his own, but it has led to him being one-half of the Tag Team Champions. He would still be floundering if it wasn’t for the more popular, and more talented, Chase.
Eddy Thorpe: Here’s another weird case. There was some buzz surrounding him when he signed with WWE, coming in from New Japan Pro Wrestling. He picked up a bunch of wins early on, seeing victories on NXT television, house shows, as well as the LVL UP show that streams on Peacock and the WWE Network. His “spot” was easy to figure out… he would defeat the guys who were “lesser” than him, only to lose to names that were clearly “greater” than him. Then, he hit a bit of a losing streak, before finally knocking off Dijak (after two losses to Dijak prior to that point) in a Strap Match that I feel is one of the more underrated NXT matches of the year. Cool beans, right? Well, he didn’t wrestle on television for two months after that. With all that, I have to say he’s Underpushed, as it sure seems like he could be used more than he is.
Edris Enofé: I don’t know what’s going on with this guy’s push. He and tag partner Malik Blade won a contender’s match in June to earn a shot at the NXT Tag Team Titles. As fun as they are, there was no kayfabe reason for them to even have a shot at a shot, as they hadn’t won a televised tag match in over eight months before this. Of course, they would lose their title match, and they’ve made exactly two appearances on television in the four months since, losing both, and one of them was in a Tag Team Battle Royal. He’s one-half of a tag team that seems to be decently popular with NXT crowds, but he seems to be pretty much at the bottom of the barrel with how the company views him. I wouldn’t debate you if you wanted to say he was Underpushed, based on that popularity, but there are a lot of moving parts in the tag division, and again, someone has to lose matches, so I’ll say his push is Just Right.
Elektra Lopez: I don’t know how else to say it, but I feel that Elektra Lopez is just… there. She’ll win a match or two, then lose a match or two, then disappear for a bit, then lose a match or two, then disappear, then win a match or two, then disappear, and so on. No real storylines for anybody to sink their teeth into. Nothing. If she were one of the better workers in the women’s division, it would be one thing. Unfortunately, she isn’t, and is mostly known for the sex appeal that she exudes on screen. In this day and age, you should need more than that to get a real push. Let’s mark her down as Just Right.
Fallon Henley: Her 2023 has basically been a tale of two halves. Well, a tale of three thirds, but “two halves” sounds better. Fuck you. She spent the first few months of the year winning a lot of her matches, even getting to win the NXT Women’s Tag Team Titles (with Kiana James) in February. Sure, they dropped the belts in their first televised defense, but even that match was at Stand & Deliver. If you’re involved in a title match of any kind during a WrestleMania weekend show, you’re in an important spot. Once Henley and James dropped the titles, the next couple months were spent seeing their momentum shift and they lost more. The final stretch saw Henley almost become a complete afterthought. Her recent loss to Tiffany Stratton was her first match on television in five months, and that previous match was a Battle Royal spot, so you’d have to go back another month to her previous “regular” match. I think she’s Underpushed, though. It feels like she has been passed up by a handful of younger women who aren’t as “ready” for the stage as she is. I’m not sure if she’s going to win the NXT Women’s Title anytime soon, but she’s a lot better than “miss nearly half a year for no reason” at this point.
Gigi Dolin: Remember back in February, when Jacy Jayne nearly took Gigi Dolin’s head clean off of her shoulders with a big boot, ending their friendship? At the time, it looked like that would be the start of Jayne becoming a huge heel star, but also, the start of Dolin becoming an even bigger face star. After defeating Jayne multiple times to “win” their feud, Dolin would just become another woman on the NXT roster. If you take one look at Gigi Dolin, she looks like someone who should be a megastar. She looks like a million bucks and stands out in a crowd, no matter who else is there. It’s not like she’s bad in the ring, either. She’s clearly Underpushed, and is someone that the women’s division should be built around.
Hank Walker: He has wrestled on television 11 times so far in 2023, losing all but one of those matches, with his only win coming against Tank Ledger back in May. Hank and Tank would then go on to become tag partners, but that hasn’t changed much for either man when it comes to their places on the roster. I’m just of the thinking that NXT television time could be used in better ways right now. It’s hard to be Overpushed when you don’t ever win, but somehow, Walker finds a way.
Humberto Carrillo: Underpushed. By a lot, actually. He and Angel Garza could easily be a successful team on Raw or Smackdown, but they’ve been in NXT for a few months now… with no success. The closest they had come to winning a match on NXT programming until recently is when they were one of the final two teams (with Andre Chase and Duke Hudson) in a Tag Team Battle Royal last month, which then turned the match into a tag bout between both teams, won by Chase U. In the world of NXT, Carrillo and Garza should be in full blown contention for the Tag Team Titles, if not the outright champions. They’re not, though, and I have no idea why.
Ilja Dragunov: Well, he’s the reigning and defending NXT Champion, so it’s difficult to receive a bigger push in NXT. He’s in a position that is Just Right, though, as one of the best in-ring performers in the world right now. The title is elevated simply by being in his possession, and it’s hard to ask for much more than that from your top talent.
Jacy Jayne: Go back to the Gigi Dolin entry and you’ll find a lot of the same opinions as I would put here for Jacy Jayne. She really should’ve become a bigger star after the split with Dolin, but it just never happened, for one reason or another. While I do think there’s more money to be made with Dolin, I’m going with Underpushed for Jacy, as well.
Jakara Jackson: She’s more of a character piece for the Meta-Four group than an actual wrestler these days, or so it seems. It has been four months since she wrestled on television, and in those four months, she only has four house show matches and one match on LVL UP under her belt. Right now, NXT is actually playing to her strengths. As a wrestler, she is still really green, and probably wouldn’t be used much. However, as a personality, she shines, and she has been entertaining with the Meta-Four. Let’s say her push is Just Right, unless she starts getting more matches, which will change her grade unless she has made great strides over the last few months.
Javier Bernal: If NXT wants someone to lose, they call on Big Body Javy. He loses on television, LVL UP, and NXT house shows. He would lose here or there, in a box, with a fox, with a goat, or on a boat. I’ll say it again, though… someone has to lose matches. Just Right.
Joe Coffey: I’m not 100% sure what it is, but Gallus has never truly “clicked” with the NXT fans in North America. Some say it’s their style of work, but there have been plenty of workers from the United Kingdom that have come over here and found great success, not just in NXT, but on the main roster, as well. When Mark Coffey and Wolfgang won the NXT Tag Team Titles, I was worried that it was too much, too soon for them. They were having good matches, but again, there was a struggle to find that connection with live crowds. Winning the titles didn’t do anything to change that. Once Joe Coffey came to Florida to join the group, they had some relatively high profile matches and feuds with the likes of Butch, Ridge Holland, and Tyler Bate, but still… no real connection with live crowds. All of the members of Gallus are capable of more, but they’re fighting a ceiling that will keep them down unless something changes. For now, let’s go with Just Right, as they’re still relevant enough to be around regularly, but not enough to make people sick of them.
Joe Gacy: If you’ve been reading my work, you know exactly how I feel about Joe Gacy. To say that he’s the Great Value version of Bray Wyatt would be an insult to Bray Wyatt. Gacy’s time in NXT is more like Kevin Sullivan and the Dungeon Of Doom from WCW, where the point is supposed to be serious, but everything is comical because of terrible acting and writing that wasn’t much better. Gacy has been the man with the port-a-potty hands, turning everything he has touched into a festering mound of warm shit. There are much better ways to use valuable programming time. Overpushed.
Josh Briggs: A lot of what I said about Brooks Jensen applies here. One year ago, Briggs and Jensen were the top team in NXT UK, and were competing to become the top team in the O.G. NXT. Then they were almost completely derailed by the cornball storyline involving them, Fallon Henley, and Kiana James. Once that storyline came to an end, it was like Briggs and Jensen were afterthoughts. We were coming up on seven months since either man had been involved in a televised victory before Briggs defeated Carmelo Hayes in an Iron Survivor Challenge qualifying match. It was a victory that required a distraction from Lexis King, but it’s still a victory over one of the top names in all of NXT, one way or another. Like Jensen, Briggs is Underpushed. There’s still some damage from that Henley and James storyline that needs to be worked out, but as a team, Briggs and Jensen are better than they’ve been presented as for the last several months.
Kelani Jordan: Making it to the final match of the Breakout Tournament shows that those in charge of the decision making in NXT see a bright future for her. Her in-ring debut was only a year ago, and while there are times that her inexperience is glaring, you can see that she’s further along than a lot of the younger women on the roster. That makes it just fine that she’s on television semi frequently, so it’s going to be a vote for Just Right from me. That could change very quickly if NXT wants to take advantage of her momentum and take it too far, so they need to be careful with how they handle her in the near future.
Kiana James: If you were to ask me who I feel is the most underrated in-ring worker in all of NXT, my vote would probably go to Kiana James. Recently, my vote would’ve been for Tiffany Stratton, but she was pushed in such a way that people really began to take notice. Like Stratton, Kiana James seems to have people focused more on her character than what she does in the ring. Would I fast track Kiana to a main event spot at WrestleMania four months from now? No, but she is not only really solid in the ring, but she’s getting better at a rapid pace. I think she’s in a good spot right now. She’s a pretty regular part of the women’s storylines, and she has rubbed elbows with main roster talents like Becky Lynch and Shotzi in recent months. Just Right for the time being, but 2024 could be a really big year for her.
Lash Legend: Like her Meta-Four partner, Jakara Jackson, Lash has been much more of a character piece in the group than an in-ring performer. In fact, she only has five televised matches in 2023, and two of them were Battle Royal appearances. She has charisma for days, but she looked pretty rough in the ring from what little we were able to see. She’s still really new to the business, coming over from the pro basketball world, so she still has plenty of time. I’m just not sure about having her be a part of the Iron Survivor Challenge at Deadline. That’s the kind of thing that could expose her, but it’s clear that the right people in the right positions of power feel she’s up for this pressure. For now, I’ll say she’s Overpushed, because I think she could use some more work before getting a push, even one of this level.
Lola Vice: A couple weeks ago, this woman celebrated the one-year anniversary of her in-ring debut, coming over from the world of MMA. Even if you find women like Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir, and so on attractive, a lot of their MMA careers were spent focusing more on what they could do in the cage. Lola Vice, even though she has a 4-1 record for the Bellator MMA promotion, has always been a spectacle of badassery and sex appeal. She has leaned in to how she looks, flaunting her body at any chance she gets, and that has continued in NXT. That helped people pay attention to her, long before she was able to prove what she could do in the ring. As an added bonus, she has picked up this whole pro wrestling thing pretty quickly. She has an incredible level of athleticism, and it shows in her matches. As the winner of this year’s Breakout Tournament, she is now in possession of a future shot at the NXT Women’s Title. That is where everything could change for how she’s graded here. Right now, let’s say she’s being booked Just Right. They’re bringing her along nicely, and not letting her take on too much. If she goes on to win the title, that will be a bit of an overpush at this stage of her career. At the same time, if she gets destroyed in her title match, that’s an ending she doesn’t deserve.
Lyra Valkyria: To say that she is currently on the receiving end of a huge push would be an understatement. She was pushed up the ladder quickly, and would go on to defeat Becky Lynch to become the new NXT Women’s Champion. It has been four months since she has lost a televised singles match, and that loss came to Rhea Ripley. To find her last televised singles loss to a member of the NXT roster, you have to go back six months, when she lost to Tiffany Stratton at Battleground. Even the way she was treated after winning the title showed that Shawn Michaels, who worked with her when he was tasked with essentially running NXT UK for a while, is a huge fan of hers. Honestly? I’m not quite on board yet. She’s pretty good in the ring, but she hasn’t been able to show enough of a personality to make that work in America. Like I’ve mentioned with Gallus, Lyra hasn’t really built much of a connection with live NXT crowds yet. HBK is pulling a “just trust me here” with people, so we’ll see how that works out in the long run. I think Lyra is currently Overpushed, though. She has been given A LOT, even though you could say she isn’t anywhere near the top of the line when it comes to who is over in front of those NXT fans.
Malik Blade: It’s pretty much exactly the same as I said for his tag partner, Edris Enofé. They lost and lost and lost and lost, then won a Tag Team Title shot out of nowhere, then went back to losing, and then they pretty much completely disappeared. Say it with me, folks… someone has to lose wrestling matches. It just happens to be the role of people like this. Just Right.
Mark Coffey: Another entry that I could almost copy and paste from a different entry. Even though Mark Coffey and Wolfgang won the NXT Tag Team Titles, they just didn’t get the type of responses that I feel the company was hoping for. With Shawn Michaels working with NXT UK, he really seemed focused on bringing a bunch of their talents to America when the UK brand was shut down, and some of them are suffering by being pushed for “no reason.” All three members of Gallus are really good. They’re involved in things just enough to remain relevant, but not enough to make people sick of them. Just Right.
Meiko Satomura: If you’re looking for someone who just barely met the criteria to be included here, look no further than Meiko Satomura. A minimum of three matches wrestled on television or pay-per-view is the criteria, and she has wrestled a grand total of three times on television or pay-per-view in 2023. She is one of the most decorated joshi puroresu performers of the last few decades, and even at the age of 44, with nearly 29 years of in-ring experience under her belt, she is still pushed and viewed as one of the most intimidating women in the business today. With that said, it has been nine months since she has wrestled. Not just wrestled on television, but wrestled, period. Fans were wondering if she was injured, but according to Dave Meltzer (yeah, yeah, I know), she was hired to be a Coach in NXT, which would explain her lack of on-screen appearances. I’d still love to see her show up here and again, ready to put a heel in her place or to help put someone over, like she did with Roxanne Perez at Roadblock in March. Underpushed, because she should be around more, Coach or not. I’m just saying.
Myles Borne: I have a confession to make. As I was going through the NXT roster to type these names down, I came across the name “Myles Borne” and it took me a few seconds to even remember who that person was. He has wrestled on NXT television three times this year, and none of those matches reached the three-minute mark, so you’ll have to forgive me if he hasn’t had the chance to make a mark on my brain yet. Pure enhancement talent. Say it with me… someone has to lose wrestling matches. Just Right. I guess. Maybe. Sorry, Myles.
Nathan Frazer: When he was known as Ben Carter a couple years back, he really caused a lot of buzz with his insane high flying moves. He seemed destined to sign with AEW, especially after appearing on the company’s YouTube shows on a few occasions. He eventually ended up in NXT UK, where he always seemed to be in some sort of title picture, although he did go 0-3 in his title matches there. When he came over to the original NXT, there was a lot more buzz, as he had grown to become a better overall performer by that point. I wouldn’t call his NXT stint a disappointment, necessarily, but I do think he has had more start-and-stop moments to pushes than he probably should’ve seen so far. He had a two month reign with the Heritage Cup, but that has been the peak so far. The North American Title picture seems to be where the company wants him, as he has had four televised shots at the belt, albeit in losing efforts. I think he’s Underpushed right now, because he is one of the most consistent talents in all of NXT, capable of impressing against anybody he faces, but he hasn’t really seen it go much of anywhere yet. I’m of the thinking that he could be in line for a big 2024, though.
Noam Dar: I have to give credit where it is due… Noam Dar has entertained me a lot more than I expected he would. While I still think the names thrown together for Meta-Four are random as all hell, and I also think the Heritage Cup rules aren’t really being accepted in America, it’s also important to point out that neither of those complaints has anything to do with Dar. He was always a very talented in-ring performer, but he wasn’t always given an opportunity to be entertaining. This run has changed things in that regard. He’s pretty good at the comedic part of pro wrestling. Showing off more of a complete package means that I’m going to say he’s Underpushed. The Heritage Cup stuff is fine, but he should be in the North American Title picture, if not the NXT Championship picture.
Oro Mensah: While he has seen a ton more television time since the beginning of the Meta-Four stable, it hasn’t translated into a ton of matches. The group has been around for six months now, and in that span, he has wrestled five televised matches. Like Jakara Jackson and Lash Legend, Mensah is used a lot more as a character piece for the group than anything else. That works. Also like Jakara and Lash, that’s the best spot for him right now. His push is Just Right. More matches means more losses, most likely. Have him be entertaining in segments and promos, and have him be involved in Noam Dar’s matches, but don’t give him too much more than that, and he’ll be fine.
Roxanne Perez: From the moment she signed a WWE contract, everyone knew big things were in her future, as she’s been a bit of a wrestling prodigy for a while. Her 2022 was solid, winning the NXT Women’s Tag Team Titles with Cora Jade (although the reign was almost immediately ended when Jade turned heel) and closing the year by dethroning Mandy Rose to become the NXT Women’s Champion. She dropped the Women’s Title at Stand & Deliver back in April, then was involved in a title rematch three weeks later, but that was it for her. She hasn’t competed for a title in any way, shape, or form in seven months now. What I really like about where she is now is that NXT is giving her chances to show more of a character than ever before. She has always just been the smiling “little sister/best friend” type, and nothing more. Now, she is getting a chance to show more of an edge, and show off more fire in her promos. Her push is Just Right, but not for long. She is far too good to stay away from title pictures for too long. If she continues down that path much longer, she’ll switch to Underpushed, without a doubt.
Scrypts: Is he even a wrestler anymore? Who knows? Does it matter? Since aligning himself with Bronco Nima and Lucien Price over four months ago, he hasn’t wrestled on television, being more of a manager and mentor to Nima and Price instead. It’s all for nothing at the moment, really. Nima and Price aren’t really “ready” for television yet, and Scrypts is going to have to become the second coming of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan or Paul Heyman as a manager to wash the stink off of him that was put there by his run as Reggie and his face run as the masked version of the Scrypts character. Overpushed.
Sol Ruca: It’s almost unfair to include her here, as she tore her ACL back in April and is still on the shelf because of it, but she met the criteria of televised matches in 2023 before the injury. When she was around, she wasn’t winning many matches, but even in losses, she was allowed to show off her impressive athleticism that comes from an acrobatics and tumbling background. There were definitely some rough moments in her matches, as expected with only a few months of wrestling experience, but the promise and potential was there. While NXT is the place to show off younger talent, I still think she could’ve used a lot more seasoning before she was brought to television. If all it takes to make it to television is to be pretty and have the ability to do flips, then we’re going to be in trouble moving forward. Overpushed. Here’s to hoping that she can get some of that extra seasoning before she returns to television, whenever that is.
Tank Ledger: As a singles wrestler, Tank wasn’t winning any matches. Once he was paired with Hank Walker, he still wasn’t winning any matches. Alrighty then. Like his partner, I’m going to go with Overpushed. Yes, that’s difficult to pull off when you’re literally doing nothing but losing, but you can be an enhancement talent and still bring something to the table. I don’t feel Ledger or Walker are doing that.
Tatum Paxley: Like Tank Ledger, Tatum Paxley has yet to win on NXT programming this year. Unlike Tank Ledger, she’s capable of bringing more to the table right now, and she gets to show that from time to time. There’s not much else to say here, other than… say it with me… someone has to lose wrestling matches. Her push is Just Right at the moment.
Thea Hail: Yet another wrestling prodigy. She first came to the attention of the masses when she was 18 years old, working a couple times on AEW’s YouTube shows. When I say 18, I mean freshly 18, as her first AEW appearance came two days after her 18th birthday. She would sign a WWE contract soon thereafter, and would eventually end up as a “student” and “cheerleader” for Chase U, which was a character match made in heaven. She has been relatively successful so far, building herself up to the NXT Women’s Title picture, getting two shots over the summer, and teaming with Jacy Jayne to get a shot at the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles at Halloween Havoc. While she hasn’t won any titles yet, I think it’s pretty clear that she has a very bright future. She’s still only 20 years old, and she is being brought along perfectly. Just Right.
Tiffany Stratton: Way back when, I said Tiffany Stratton was basically the “next Bianca Belair” and a lot of people didn’t know how to react to that. What I meant was that, like Bianca, Tiffany came to WWE without any experience on the independent scene, but their athletic backgrounds were impressive. Bianca had a successful collegiate track and field career, and was an impressive member of the CrossFit community. Tiffany had a successful gymnastics, trampoline, and tumbling career, even being a member of the USA National Team. They’re both women who arrived on the scene and, from day one, were faster, stronger, and more athletic than just about anyone else they were around. Bianca picked pro wrestling up rather quickly, but Tiffany picked it up even quicker, moving up the ranks faster than Bianca did. Her 2023 has been full of impressive performances, leading up to a three-and-a-half month reign as the NXT Women’s Champion. She has since dropped the title, but remains an important piece of the puzzle in NXT. It’s where she belongs. Her push is Just Right, but I’m thinking things will change somewhat in 2024, as she’s inevitably going to end up on Raw or Smackdown.
Tony D’Angelo: There was a time when D’Angelo was damn near social media’s favorite part of NXT. Even in the earliest stages of his time there, you would always see people posting about how great he was. While some of that was of the unserious variety, there was plenty of it that was 100% serious. A lot of that hype seems to have died down by now, though. I don’t need to say much here, as I’ve already gone over it in my entry for Channing Lorenzo. He’s had an up-and-down run, but I just can’t get over the fact that he and “Stacks” are two-time NXT Tag Team Champions. He’s Overpushed because of that. As a one-trick pony, you could argue that he shouldn’t be a one-time champion at this point, but two times? With all of the kickers tag teams that have come through NXT and won the titles once or not at all? I can’t go with that.
Trick Williams: There was a point when it looked like Trick wasn’t even going to be a wrestler, and instead, would be a physically imposing, slick talking manager-type for Carmelo Hayes. Then he started getting more and more with NXT crowds, organically becoming a major player on his own. Those in charge of NXT have fallen in love with Trick, and for good reason. He’s on the verge of really big things, and realistically, he might be in line for a bigger 2024 than anyone else listed in this column. For now, though, his push is Just Right. He is being brought along at the perfect pace.
Tyler Bate: When it comes to the best overall in-ring performers in NXT, there aren’t many who can compete with Tyler Bate. He’s still having a lot of success in this NXT run, floating around the North American Title picture and having a proverbial cup of coffee with the Heritage Cup, but it’s pretty clear that he isn’t being pushed like he was in his previous stints. Prior to this, he was the NXT UK Champion, squaring off against NXT Champion Bron Breakker in a title unification bout. Before that, his stint saw him having show stealing matches on Takeover events as a tag team wrestler with Trent Seven. His first stint saw him as the WWE United Kingdom Champion, leading up to a classic match against Pete Dunne at Takeover: Chicago in 2017. He’s worthy, and capable, of so much more than he’s doing right now. Underpushed, and it isn’t even close.
Valentina Feroz: She started 2023 off as a singles competitor that wasn’t seeing any success, losing her four appearances on NXT television. Then, she was placed in a tag team with Yulisa Leon, and while that move got the attention of a bunch of people online for… aesthetic reasons… it didn’t lead to much success, as they lost three of their four televised matches together (including a one-minute squash loss to Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn on an episode of Smackdown in Ma), with their only win coming in a eight-person tag match at Great American Bash. Then, Yulisa Leon was released from her contract as a part of WWE’s “budget cuts” and we haven’t seen Valentina wrestle on television in four months. Just Right? I guess? She has gotten better in the ring as time went on, but really, not by much. The NXT product isn’t struggling without her on television, but hey, if you want to say she’s Underpushed, you do you, booboo.
Von Wagner: At one point, Von was best known for being, arguably, the worst talker in the business. All of his promos were a roller coaster of shithousery that just kept getting worse the more you listened. His matches weren’t necessarily bad, but man, those promos were something else. He has gotten better on the mic, albeit in the most minuscule of ways, but that’s a lot of wretched stench that might be next to impossible to wash off. He’s 1-9 on NXT television, so it hasn’t been great in that regard, either. On the bright side, all but one of his losses (DQ to Luca Crusifino) have come against the likes of Bron Breakker, Tyler Bate, Ilja Dragunov, Tony D’Angelo, Wes Lee, and Dijak, so at least his losses are happening against some of the top names in NXT. That has to count for something, right? He’s still 6’5″, 255 pounds, and looks straight out of a Geico caveman commercial from the 90’s, so he’ll probably remain somewhat regular on television. This spot is Just Right. He’s harmless.
Wes Lee: From November 2022 to July 2023, when he dropped the NXT North American Title to Dominik Mysterio, Wes Lee won 30 consecutive matches in NXT, counting house shows, television, and pay-per-views. That’s an impressive streak. Counting his title loss, he’s 2-8 over his last ten matches, and hasn’t won a match of any kind in three-and-a-half months. This is someone who is capable of being a legitimate main event talent in NXT, but he just happens to be in a funk right now, with the top level of NXT being extremely crowded. That’s not his fault at all. He’s still having really good matches with everyone he faces, and he could easily make his way back up again with no problem. For now, I’ll say his push is Just Right. Like I said, there is quite the logjam at the top of NXT, so being in the tier below that isn’t always viewed as a bad thing.
Wolfgang: By now, you’ve read my entries for Joe Coffey and Mark Coffey, right? The same thing applies here for their fellow Gallus boy. Success in the ring, including an NXT Tag Team Title reign, but a serious lack of connection with the NXT crowds outside of the United Kingdom. All three members are good enough to remain somewhat relevant without making people sick of them, though, so they’re all receiving pushes that are Just Right.
Your turn. Obviously, you don’t have to talk about everyone on the roster, but what are your thoughts on some of my picks? Do you think I nailed any of my choices? Am I completely wrong on any of them? As always, you can hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Now, let’s get to my Weekly Power Rankings, followed by my list of the music I was listening to as I created this very column.
Weekly Power Rankings
CM Punk: The residents of hell are ice skating. Two years ago, we were all stunned when Punk debuted in AEW, making his return to the sport after seven years away. By that point, I had just about given up on the idea that Punk would ever wrestle again. What we saw at the end of Survivor Series completely topped the AEW debut on a shock factor level, though. Money talks, but I really and truly believed that there was too much bad blood, hurt feelings, bridges destroyed, and huge egos between Punk and WWE to work together again. Whether you love Punk, hate Punk, or anywhere in between Punk, he is now the biggest story in the business, and this moment is something that is going to be talked about for a long, long time. Before anyone asks, I 136% believe Seth Rollins’ reaction to Punk’s return is a work, but I’m not quite sure about Drew McIntyre’s reaction. That one is going to be interesting to monitor moving forward. My final point is that, while it would’ve been preferred to have Randy Orton’s return not be overshadowed, it isn’t going to hurt Orton in any way. He’s going to be just fine. This isn’t going to relegate him to jobber status. It’s a similar situation to AEW All Out 2021, when Adam Cole made his debut for the company, only for Bryan Danielson to make a bigger debut mere minutes later. Danielson overshadowed Cole there, but Cole has done just fine for himself there.
Randy Orton: After 18 months away with what was thought could be a career-ending back injury, it was so good to see Orton back in the ring. He appeared to be in great shape, possibly even carrying some extra muscle mass than before. The company didn’t ask him to do much in his return, but the story being told made perfect sense. Imagine how different that would’ve been if he showed up immediately, was the first entrant for his team, and wrestled for 35 minutes.
Men’s War Games Match: A hot match in front of an even hotter crowd, where nine competitors got to look strong at points, and JD McDonagh was also there. As is the case with all of the modern era War Games matches, fans are going to complain about the lack of blood and true violence, but I think this did everything it needed to do, and then some.
Eddie Kingston vs Brody King: I’m so confused right now. During a backstage promo, Eddie Kingston announced his inclusion in the Continental Classic tournament, but also that he would be putting up both the RoH World Title and the NJPW Strong Openweight Title in every match he competes in during said tournament. Then, in his first match, he loses to Brody King… who isn’t the champion. When Eddie made the announcement in the first place, it was ridiculed online, with people saying it was stupid and unnecessarily complicating the tournament, especially with the whole “winner gets the Continental Title to become a Triple Crown Champion” thing. Now you’re telling me that either he screwed the announcement up? Sheesh. Don’t backtrack now. This was a really, really good match, but it’s time to do the right thing. Put the belts on Brody, you cowards.
Noam Dar vs Chad Gable: I’m starting to see more complaints online about the Heritage Cup matches. People feel that Noam’s matches are too formulaic now. They’re of a high quality, sure, but then he always finds a way to escape via some sort of interference or shenaniganery from the members of Meta-Four. I feel those complaints have merit because we’re seeing the same formula in Roman Reigns matches, as well as matches of Judgment Day members. Heels cheat, and that’s fine, but to have it happening every… single… time… all across ALL THREE OF YOUR SHOWS is just lazy. It takes a lot away from matches like this, which was a lot of fun, but will only be remembered for the interference.
Becky Lynch vs Xia Li: It seems Becky is squarely in the phase of her career where she feels she needs to give back to the younger talent and get them over, assuring that the future of women’s wrestling in WWE is as bright as possible. She’s doing a great job of it so far, that’s for sure.
Women’s War Games Match: As I mentioned in my Survivor Series review column, it got a bit weird at times because it always seems like women in WWE are uncomfortable when weapons are used in their matches. You’ll either see weapon shots that are delivered poorly, or that are received poorly, and it just seems like it’s because they don’t have the experience needed in those types of matches. That always knocks a bit of score off for me, but this was still enjoyable, and a good way to start the show.
Mark Briscoe vs Jon Moxley: It’s good to see Mark Briscoe back from his injury, especially if he’s going to deliver performances like this. I’m not sure how many matches he’s going to win in the Continental Classic, but I’m glad he’s there.
Drew McIntyre: His explanation for why he attacked Jey Uso made perfect sense. His turn didn’t have to be much of a turn at all. He still mentioned his fans, and he’s clearly not on great terms with The Judgment Day, even though he did this to team up with them at Survivor Series. All he wanted was to be in a cage with Jey Uso to get his revenge for everything Jey did as a member of The Bloodline. I like it.
Gunther vs The Miz: Going in, I was almost sure the notoriously wild Chicago crowd was going to cheer Gunther, at least a little bit. Well, not only did they boo Gunther, but they cheered for The Miz. Not only did they cheer for The Miz, they cheered for him more and more as the match went on, getting completely behind him by the end of it. Kudos to both men for doing their jobs well and getting that reaction.
Jey Uso vs Drew McIntyre: A good match with the expected outcome, as the man advantage for War Games was on the line, with heels almost always getting that through the years.
Chad Gable vs Shinsuke Nakamura: Nakamura is having a bit of a career renaissance recently, although it still isn’t enough to put him over the top in WWE. Gable, on the other hand, continues to show why he should be treated better in WWE, delivering great performances on a regular basis.
Swerve Strickland vs Jay Lethal: This was similar to Briscoe vs Moxley, as you know Lethal is going to do his thing and have good matches, just like Mark Briscoe, but I’m not sure how many matches we’re honestly supposed to believe he’ll win in the tournament.
Katsuyori Shibata vs Wheeler Yuta: A fun match that saw a title change. That title change made a lot of sense when it was reported that Shibata was heading back to Japan for the foreseeable future. This is Yuta’s third reign as the RoH Pure Champion, while nobody else has ever won it more than one time. You know what this means, right? Time to replay the story of Gunther (longest Intercontinental Championship reign ever) and The Miz (going for the most Intercontinental Title reigns ever), with Yuta’s most Pure Title reigns going up against Nigel McGuinness and his 350-day reign that made him the longest-reigning Pure Champion ever.
Claudio Castagnoli vs Daniel Garcia: AEW needs to find the perfect line for Daniel Garcia, with a renewed push to making him a serious wrestler, but also allowing him to show his personality via his dance that fans love so much. This was a good example of what can be done in that regard. I enjoyed it. It’ll still take a lot more to wipe the stink of Chris Jericho off of him, though.
This Week’s Playlist: “Labios Mordidos” by Kali Uchis & Karol G… “Venom” by Smash Into Pieces… “Purgatory” by The Narrator… “Lovin On Me” by Jack Harlow… “Raindrops” by Dead Horse One… “Fell On Black Days” by Soundgarden… “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden… “Spoonman” by Soundgarden… “Hunger Strike” by Temple Of The Dog… “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King… “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke… “Runaround Sue” by Dion… “Little Bitty Pretty One” by Frankie Lymon… “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes… “A Song For You” by Donny Hathaway… “Turn Off The Lights” by Teddy Pendergrass… “I’m Your Puppet” by James & Bobby Purify… “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf… “Got To Give It Up” by Marvin Gaye… “Love Me Tomorrow” by Chicago… “Hard Habit To Break” by Chicago… “You’re The Inspiration” by Chicago… “Will You Still Love Me?” by Chicago… “What Kind Of Man Would I Be?” by Chicago… “When Doves Cry” by Prince