No need for a lengthy intro. You already know how this is going to go. For those who are checking this out without reading the first two columns in this “series” I’ve been doing, here is the only rule we’re working with:
- We’re only talking about wrestlers that are currently active. If someone is injured, they’re not being counted, and if someone is off of television because of an injured tag partner, they’re out, as well. Wrestlers who are healthy, but simply aren’t being used for one reason or another, aren’t going to be used here, either.
That’s it. Let’s talk about some pushes.
Adam Cole: Not that he’s had a ton of matches in this span, but it’s crazy to note that Adam Cole hasn’t won a match in over four months now. For one of the biggest and most decorated stars that NXT has had over the last four years, that’s a wild stat. He’s fresh off of a heel turn that disbanded The Undisputed Era, and hasn’t had a match since losing an Unsanctioned Match to Kyle O’Reilly at Takeover: Stand & Deliver a little over a month ago. We don’t know what the future holds for him, as there are always main roster rumors surrounding him, but I can say that his push is just right. As long as he’s in NXT, he’s going to be treated as a big deal, and he has earned that right. Even in losses, he isn’t losing, if you know what I mean.
Ashante Thee Adonis: Here’s another person that wasn’t going to be included in this column, and then boom, they had a match this week. He hadn’t wrestled for NXT since January 20th, and hadn’t seen a televised victory for the brand… ever. What he did have was some impressive performances at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, mainly backing up Swerve Scott in his feud against Legado Del Fantasma. Now, Ashante is in an even bigger and brighter spotlight, while still aligned with Swerve. Hit Row looks like it could be something special if the cards are played correctly. For now, though, I have to say his push is just right, simply because it’s too early to tell anything else.
Austin Theory: If you’ve been reading my columns for a while, you know I’ve been hyping Austin Theory up as a future star for a while. Just take a look at him… you know good and well that Vince McMahon and Triple H love what they see. Theory’s NXT and WWE career started off a little… underwhelming. He showed up on Raw out of fucking nowhere after WrestleMania last year and was part of Zelina Vega’s group with Angel Garza and Andrade. That main roster run started with approximately 258 straight matches against The Street Profits and ended with approximately 199 consecutive matches against Humberto Carrillo. Then, just as quickly as he appeared on the main roster, he was gone. His win/loss record in NXT since returning to the brand is a dismal 3-15. He hasn’t had a win in three-and-a-half months. The best part about it? He’s in a much better spot now than he was months ago. As a member of The Way, he is basically guaranteed a chunk of television time every week. You have to believe that his win/loss record is only going to get better. Whether it’s staying with Johnny Gargano’s crew or getting a singles push after splitting from the group, I think it’s going to happen for him. For the time being, though, I’m going to say his push is just right. Could he be doing better? Yes, of course. Should he be doing better? Probably, yes. Someone has to lose, though, and he’s doing it while still being somewhat protected, so it’s not all bad.
Bronson Reed: I had this entry typed out before this week’s episode of NXT, but I’m not changing my grade at all. As of this very moment, I think his push is just right. He’s an incredibly talented “big man” worker on a roster where his size makes him stand out even further, as NXT is littered with smaller guys. As one of the biggest guys on the roster, he gets a chance to showcase himself in every match. He closed out 2020 on a hot streak, and carried that over into the beginning of 2021, and now, he’s the brand new North American Champion. That’s a good spot for him. He has worked his way up to this point.
Cameron Grimes: *ahem* As always, I am contractually obligated to mention that Cameron Grimes nearly broke my leg at an independent wrestling show a few years back. If you’re talking about his pushes, he’s an interesting case. NXT has gone a long way to protect him in his losses, but they’ve also never truly pulled the trigger on a sustained push. As a comedy character, it often gets overlooked that he can really and truly “go” in the ring. With that said, I think this is a man who is definitely underpushed. I don’t know what the end game is with Grimes and his feud with Ted DiBiase, but I’d like to see a move to the North American Title scene once “The Million Dollar Man” is gone. Grimes can easily do that and remain as entertaining as he’s been.
Chase Parker: Good ol’ Ever-Rise. They’re not exactly setting the world on fire. Parker has a win/loss record of 1-13-1 on NXT television in his time with the company. That one win? A disqualification victory over the team of Drake Maverick and Killian Dain, in a match that lasted less than three minutes and saw Maverick wear both members of Ever-Rise out with a steel chair. As I said… not exactly setting the world on fire. I’ve been a fan of Parker and Matt Martel, going back to their days as 2.0 in CHIKARA, but like I said in the Austin Theory entry, someone has to lose. They’re doing that. A lot. Their push is just right.
Dexter Lumis: His gimmick is that of a creepy stalker that borders on being a serial killer. He pulls it off well because he comes across as, and looks like, a creepy stalker that borders on being a serial killer. That’s cool and all, but it’s also as far as I can go with the compliments. He’s still really limited in the ring, and the gimmick actually makes him even more limited. I think he should fade into the background… heh… and just be a part-time wrestler at this point. It’s not like he’s a 23-year-old that is brand new to the business with a ton of room to improve. He’s a 37-year-old that made his pro debut 14 years ago. Overpushed.
Drake Maverick: I’m not quite sure WHAT, but this company had SOMETHING when they brought Drake Maverick back after releasing him in April 2020. He was getting support from every corner of the internet after his passionate, emotional promos that he was releasing on social media. When he was placed in the tournament to crown an interim Cruiserweight Champion, people were calling for him to win and get a run with the title. He made it to the final match of the tournament before losing to Santos Escobar, then NXT decided to take all the momentum he had built up and… *fart noise*. I will admit that his “odd couple” tag team with Killian Dain has been a lot more entertaining than I expected them to be, but now, people are thinking the team will be split sooner than later when Dain joins Imperium. With almost all of that momentum gone, Drake’s current push is just right.
Fabian Aichner: Aichner and Marcel Barthel had a three-month reign as the NXT Tag Team Champions in the early stages of the COVID shutdown, but that, like most things from 2020, seems like it was a decade ago. In the almost nine months since they dropped the titles, Aichner has had a total of eight matches. I know… travel restrictions and all… but my point remains. He hasn’t been around much. In those matches, he has a 4-4 record, so it’s not like he’s climbing the ladder or falling from it. It makes sense, though. I like Aichner and Barthel as a team, but they just don’t have a real connection with the NXT crowd in America. That’s the kind of thing you might be able to ignore when there’s no fans, but now that they’re back, it can’t be avoided. The lack of connection is really preventing them from being higher in the rankings, and because of that, I think their push is just right.
Fandango: Like Imperium, it feels like Fandango and Tyler Breeze won the NXT Tag Team Titles back when Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars wanted to be billionaires so fucking bad. Even worse, I haven’t cared about Fandango and Tyler Breeze’s act since you could find 50 Cent in da club, bottle full of bub, with the X if mami was into taking drugs. When they first moved to NXT, I thought it would be a good idea to refresh their act, as well as adding some depth to NXT’s tag division. The latter has worked, but the former? Not so much. I can’t even say they’re overpushed, though, because they aren’t receiving any push at all. It has been eight months since they won a match. That’s a long time. I guess that means their push is just right, because I don’t feel they should have a bigger “push” than what they’re having now.
Finn Balor: Balor was exactly what NXT needed when he returned to the brand in 2019. Not only was he someone that could come in and provide more veteran leadership in the locker room, but he was also someone that could add star power to the roster, all while being able to have great matches with just about anybody put in front of him. Finn has stayed at the top of the NXT card pretty much the entire time, but he’s putting in some of the best work of his career, so I think it’s warranted. His push is just right. Less than a week after this column gets posted, Balor faces Karrion Kross for the NXT Title. If Balor wins, he will become the first three-time champion in the nine-year history of the belt. That might change how some people feel about his push, but it won’t affect my opinion.
Isaiah “Swerve” Scott: Everything is finally coming together for Swerve. Things are finally clicking for him. He did a pretty good job in NXT when he first arrived, but this new character twist? I love it. This Hit Row Records stuff is perfect for him, and should provide a great vehicle for Top Dolla, B-Fab, and Ashante Thee Adonis, too. Swerve is one of the best high-fliers on the brand, and while he’s had chances to showcase his talents, it hasn’t amounted to much. He had a couple title shots for Santos Escobar’s Cruiserweight Title, but he wasn’t able to take the belt home. He’s underpushed, but I have a sneaking suspicion that his push will be just right before too long.
Jake Atlas: A win/loss record of 6-16 on NXT television doesn’t exactly look great at first glance, but I think someone with some pull in NXT sees something in him. For a while, he was in the role of “lose most of your matches but look good and competitive in them” for the brand, even feuding with Santos Escobar over the Cruiserweight Title. His positioning on the card has been spotty in 2021, mostly based on weird usage. I don’t know if he was injured or what, but he went two months between matches to start the year, and then went another month without a match after that. It’s pretty difficult to move up the ladder like that unless your name is Brock Lesnar or someone along those lines. Right now, I guess I’ll say he’s being pushed just right. I’d like to see more of his work, though, because he was really making strides in the ring at the end of 2020. A win over Cameron Grimes (you know, the guy who nearly broke my leg at an independent wrestling show a few years back) is a big deal for him, even though it was because of a distraction by Ted DiBiase. We’ll see, I guess.
James Drake: It’s weird to see how NXT uses James Drake and Zack Gibson, collectively known as Grizzled Young Veterans. They get these little mini-pushes, as evidenced by reaching the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic in back-to-back years. However, they lost both of those matches. They’ve never held the NXT Tag Team Titles, although they were the inaugural NXT UK Tag Team Champions, so that has to count for something. GYV closed out 2020 on a hot streak, riding that into 2021, where it would continue. The hot streak earned them a shot at those NXT Tag Team Titles at Takeover: Stand & Deliver, where they were unsuccessful. It’s hard to say anything other than that they’re being pushed just right for the time being, but if you wanted to say they’re underpushed, I wouldn’t fight you over it.
Joaquin Wilde: This one depends on how you like to look at things. If you’re basing it on win/loss record, Wilde is someone that is winning matches at barely above a .500 clip. On the other hand, if you’re basing it on card position, he rates differently solely because of his involvement with Santos Escobar in Legado Del Fantasma. He gets more screen time and has been involved in bigger matches because of Escobar, even if he didn’t “deserve” it. Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of the guy. He’s not terrible. I just didn’t really get into his work as Shiima Xion, Zema Ion, or DJZ in his pre-NXT days. Even in his early NXT days, I thought he was just… decent. He has really come into his own as a member of Legado Del Fantasma, though, being able to focus more on the in-ring work than silly character stuff. When he and Raul Mendoza were competing for the NXT Tag Team Titles, I was more than ready to say he’s overpushed, but that mini-push appears to be gone, so things are back to being just right.
Johnny Gargano: In the six years that Gargano has been in NXT, he has accomplished everything there is to do. One reign as the NXT Champion, one reign as an NXT Tag Team Champion (with Tommaso Ciampa), and three reigns as the NXT North American Champion. He is the first Triple Crown Champion in NXT history, has main evented eight Takeover events, has participated in three NXT Match Of The Year winners voted on by fans, and so on. The man has been more than ready for a main event spot for a while now, but he’s using his powers for good. Not that she needed the help, but Candice LeRae has been elevated by being at Johnny’s side. Austin Theory has been helped, as well, but Indi Hartwell is really becoming a future star because of her time with The Way. While I still think a main roster spot would be good for him, I can’t help but appreciate how he’s elevating everyone around him. You can even say he has now helped to elevate Bronson Reed by dropping the North American Title to him. His push is just right.
Karrion Kross: I’ve said this before, but there aren’t many wrestlers under WWE contract right now that see a more divisive fan reaction than the current NXT Champion. Go ahead and search social media posts about the guy. You’re either going to see people say that he has one of the best entrances in the business and is a monster that needs to be pushed to the moon… or you’re going to see people say that his entrance is poorly-executed schlock and that his matches bore them to tears. That’s it. There usually isn’t much of an in-between when it comes to this guy. Even I’m struggling to figure things out. If you’ve read my work, you’ll know I’m a fan of his. I really dig the entrance, and I think he does the methodical style really well. He’s 14-1 since joining NXT, with that loss coming in a tag bout where he attacked his partner (Finn Balor) and basically walked out of the match, and is now in his second reign as the NXT Champion. My problem with him right now is that NXT seems to be confused about how to book him. He does and says things that should make him a heel, but he also does and says things that should make him a face. Recently, his matches have also seen him giving up way more offense to his opponents than before. It’s all weird, and I think it’s causing a bit of a disconnect. I went back and forth about this one, but if I’m forced to choose, he’s being pushed just right. He has a presence about him, and his matches come across as a big deal. That’s what puts him in the “just right” category for me.
Killian Dain: Since forming a team with Drake Maverick, Dain’s win/loss record is 4-8-1. That’s not good enough. Dain is one of the more entertaining bruisers on the roster. He deserves better than what he’s getting right now. This is an easy underpushed for me.
Kushida: For almost his entire NXT run, Kushida has been one of the most underpushed members of the roster. That changed on April 13th, when he won the Cruiserweight Title. Finally, his work had paid off, and the crazy push he was getting actually went somewhere. For a while, he was just winning matches with no real end in sight. As the reigning Cruiserweight Champion, his push is just right. I’m very happy to see it. Now, I’m just anxiously waiting a match between him and Finn Balor, two of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s all-time greatest Junior Heavyweights. We’ll have to wait and see if that happens.
Kyle O’Reilly: O’Reilly is one of the best in the wrestling business when it comes to combining pro wrestling with mixed martial arts. He has spent a large portion of his career as a tag team specialist, but has been able to shine as a singles wrestler when given the opportunity. That’s his NXT run in a nutshell, as well. He’s a three-time NXT Tag Team Champion, but has recently been transitioning into more of a singles role, competing for the NXT Title on two different occasions. Personally, I don’t really like the “Cool Kyle” version of his character that we’ve been seeing recently. I understand that it has to do with letting him show more of a “personality” on television, but that could’ve been done without damn near turning him into a different person. If he’s going to be the NXT Champion at some point, my personal preference would just be to see the Kyle O’Reilly that we saw as a member of The Undisputed Era. He’s still being pushed just right. I can’t deny that, because he deserves to be one of the brand’s top stars, which is where he’s at right now. Maybe just give us more of the “old” Kyle O’Reilly, eh, NXT?
LA Knight: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… I do not get the hype about this guy whatsoever. If I want to watch someone who thinks he’s The Rock when he cuts promos, I’ll just cut out the middle man and watch The Rock cut promos. I’ll watch The Miz matches if I want to watch a former reality television “star” put on average-to-good performances every week. There’s just no desire within me to care about anything this guy is doing, but he continues to get the buzz and the hype. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was the North American Champion by the end of 2021. Pass. Overpushed.
Leon Ruff: Think back to November 11th of last year. On that night, Leon Ruff had his “1-2-3 Kid Moment” and defeated Johnny Gargano to become the new NXT North American Champion. We knew his reign wouldn’t be a long one, and it wasn’t, lasting a total of 25 days. The intriguing part was what would happen to him after he lost the title. Would he go back to being the underdog of underdogs on NXT, or, like The 1-2-3 Kid, would he actually start to move up the ladder? Well, he has a 3-9 record since dropping the title, and hasn’t won a match in three months now. He’s not exactly climbing that ladder, but he is being allowed to look good in a lot of his losses. The most recent example of that is his Street Fight loss to Swerve Scott two weeks ago. I’m not sure I can say he’s underpushed just yet, because as I keep saying, someone has to lose. Therefore, his push is just right at the moment. There’s a lot of potential in his future, though, if people are able to look beyond his size.
Marcel Barthel: Pretty easy to figure this one out. Just about everything I said in Fabian Aichner’s entry fits here. Aichner is being pushed just right, so that means Barthel is also being pushed just right.
Matt Martel: Another pretty easy one. Martel’s tag partner, Chase Parker, is seeing a push that is just right. Therefore, Martel’s push is just right, too.
Nash Carter: A 7-1 record in NXT. Winning the NXT Tag Team Titles in their fifth match. MSK has been changing the tag game in NXT, where most teams seemed to have a similar smash mouth or Euro-style to their matches, for the last four months. To be honest, the division needed that type of shake up. It was filled with very good teams, but again, they were very similar. Bringing in a young, exciting, high-flying duo was a great idea, and MSK hasn’t let anyone down yet. Just right. I look forward to seeing their continued growth as the head of the division.
Oney Lorcan: As a tag wrestler, the artist-formerly-known-as Biff Busick is doing pretty decently. He has a 3-1 record in 2021 in tag matches. However, when it comes to the singles game, the man is struggling, to say the least. If you want to find his last televised singles victory, you have to go alllll the way back to June… 2017. Ironically enough, the man he defeated that night is his current tag team partner, Danny Burch. With Burch currently out with a shoulder injury, let’s say I don’t have a lot of faith in a big singles push for Lorcan. I think he’s underpushed, though. He’s fully capable of being a solid midcard performer in NXT instead of having a four-year singles losing streak.
Pete Dunne: Underpushed. That was easy. Seriously, though, I’m really surprised we haven’t seen him as the NXT Champion yet. He had a 685-day reign as the NXT UK Champion, as well as an 86-day reign as NXT Tag Team Champion, but he has only had one shot at the NXT Title thus far, losing to Finn Balor at Takeover: Vengeance Day three months ago. With his physical in-ring style, he wrestles a lot bigger than his listed size of 5’11” and 221 pounds. That allows him to work with opponents that are his size, or that are much larger, and not have to change anything up. I want to see him at the top of the NXT mountain.
Raul Mendoza: Like Joaquin Wilde, Raul Mendoza has really been given a chance to shine as a member of Legado Del Fantasma. Also like Joaquin Wilde, Raul Mendoza’s push is just right. He’s doing a very good job as a henchman for Santos Escobar, and that’s about where he needs to be on the card.
Roderick Strong: He just barely makes the cut for this column, missing almost two months of in-ring action as of the moment I type this sentence. When he was around, he wasn’t exactly on a hot streak, being on the losing end of his last five matches, and six of his last seven. The last match he won was on January 21st, which was when he teamed with Adam Cole to defeat Breezango. His last singles victory? September 8th, when he defeated Killian Dain. That was nearly eight-and-a-half months ago! He’s too talented for that. He is clearly underpushed.
Santos Escobar: This is one of the easier options on the entire roster for me. Underpushed, without a doubt. As I’ve said in my columns before, he’s a main event talent in NXT. He’s someone that can even shine on the main roster. You know… if Vince McMahon wasn’t around. He’s one of the best overall in-ring performers in wrestling today. His Cruiserweight Championship reign was very well done, elevating himself, and the title itself, tremendously. Now that he has dropped the title, and then lost the rematch, I’m interested to see if he does get moved up the card eventually. I’m not sure if keeping him in the Cruiserweight Title picture is going to be beneficial for him right now.
Timothy Thatcher: Thatcher’s first match for NXT was 13 months ago. In those 13 months, he has only wrestled a total of 23 matches. I don’t know why it felt like he’s been involved more, but it certainly has. Not all that long ago, he was in that weird holding pattern where he would be given wins against “lesser” names, but would almost always come out on the losing end of matches against bigger stars. Joining up with Tommaso Ciampa should’ve been a career boost for Thatcher, but so far, it simply hasn’t worked out that way. Their record as a team is 2-3, and they aren’t really any closer to the top than they were when they started. As talented as Thatcher is, I can’t help but think about his “ceiling” in the world of NXT. He’s been a major singles champion in a few of the promotions he wrestled in before NXT, but this is an entirely different ball game now. I don’t think he’s going to be an NXT Champion. The North American Title is a possibility, but even that seems miles away at times. Because of that, I have to say his push is just right.
Tommaso Ciampa: I’m really torn on this one. Like Johnny Gargano, I’ve often felt that Ciampa doesn’t have anything left to accomplish in NXT. I mean, he LITERALLY has things to accomplish… he hasn’t won the North American Title, for instance… but he’s been a star for so long. At the same time, though, he hasn’t been any sort of champion since March 13th, 2019. That was the day he was forced to vacate the NXT Title because he needed to have neck surgery. In case you didn’t notice, that was over two years ago. I think he should be on the main roster, but while he’s in NXT, he’s seriously underpushed. He’s just floating around with no real direction.
Top Dolla: Your guess is as good as mine. As a fan of the NFL, I knew who AJ Francis was before he was a wrestler. In the world of wrestling, I knew nothing about him other than the fact that he’s one of the stars of the WWE’s Most Wanted Treasures show. As a member of Hit Row Records, he has a definite opportunity to be a special act in NXT. It already looks like we could be seeing Top Dolla and Ashante Thee Adonis working in the tag team division in the future, which is a great idea. Like Ashante, I have to say Top Dolla’s push is just right for now, because I can’t really say anything else yet. Things are still too new to say over or underpushed.
Tyler Breeze: As I said about Fandango, it’s been a while since I’ve really cared about the Breezango act. To find the last time I cared, you probably have to go back to when Vanessa Carlton was telling me how much… duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh… that she needs me and how much… duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh… that she misses me. I said Fandango’s push was just right, so Tyler Breeze’s push is just right, as well. They’re not really getting a push, but they shouldn’t be having one, so it works out.
Tyler Rust: We’re two weeks away from him being matchless for two months, which would’ve excluded him from this column. He has a 2-4 record in the three-and-a-half months that he was truly active, with his two wins coming against “enhancement talent” level guys, and his losses coming against varying levels of established talent. There’s just not much to go on here, you know? Just right, basically by default.
Wes Lee: Copy and paste from the Nash Carter entry. Just right. If you’re not entertained by these guys, I really don’t know what to tell you.
Zack Gibson: Another copy and paste job for the most part. James Drake’s push is just right, so Zack Gibson’s push is also just right.
Aliyah: You’re going to see a bit of a pattern with some of the women of NXT, starting here. Before this week, we were a week away from Aliyah not even qualifying to be involved in this column. She didn’t have a match in almost two months, but what was she doing when she was wrestling? Losing. She hasn’t had a win since August 12th of last year, when she teamed with Mercedes Martinez to defeat Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter. Her last singles win was two months earlier, on June 17th, when she beat Xia Li. It would be pretty difficult to be overpushed with that kind of record. At the same time, I can’t call her underpushed, because she hasn’t exactly shown many reasons why a push is deserved. That makes her, almost by default, in the “just right” section.
Candice LeRae: Underpushed. Yes, I realize that she’s one-half of the NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions. That doesn’t matter to me. It took her almost three-and-a-half years to win her first championship with the company when she came in as one of the top women on the independent scene. I’m honestly shocked that she hasn’t won the NXT Women’s Title yet. I like the work that she’s been doing with Indi Hartwell, but I still think she can, and should, be doing more.
Dakota Kai: We’re all in agreement that everyone is just biding time until the inevitable moment when the friendship between Dakota and Raquel Gonzalez ends after Dakota attacks Raquel, right? Okay, good. We’re also in agreement that it was a crying shame Dakota and Raquel didn’t defeat Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Titles, right? Okay, good. Not only was that a poor move, it was made to look even worse by NXT just creating their own set of Women’s Tag Titles and then just handing them to Cap’n Kota and Big Mami Cool. Then, THAT decision was made to look even worse when Kai and Gonzalez lost the titles to Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart in the same night they “won” them. Just a clusterfuck of clusterfuckery all around. Dakota’s win/loss record isn’t anything terribly special. She wins and she loses, with nothing really standing out. That’s the problem for me, though. She deserves better than that. I think she’s underpushed because she’s one of the top workers in the division, but she is rarely treated as such. Even the inevitable split with Gonzalez will probably just see her disposed of by the “monster” of the division. I will continue to hold out hope, one way or another.
Ember Moon: Prior to losing the NXT Women’s Tag Team Titles, Ember was on a winning streak that nearly lasted three months. Her time on the main roster was a mess thanks to poor booking and, more importantly, poor health. She belongs in NXT, though, and I don’t mean that as an insult. This is where she has done her best work, and I think it will be where her best work in the future will come from. It’s probably only a matter of time before she returns to the NXT Women’s Title picture, and that’s fine with me. For now, I think you can say her push is just right, depending on how she bounces back from losing those Women’s Tag Team Titles, of course.
Gigi Dolin: Hmm… she’s had one match in NXT, and that was almost two months ago, making her just barely eligible for this column. This is a woman who looks like a superstar, and has a presence to match. Unfortunately, she’s not quite on that level yet with her in-ring work, which might be a reason why we haven’t seen her in two months. I think it’s only a matter of time before she gets a chance to showcase herself in NXT. For now, what other choice do I have? Her push is just right. She’s not ready for anything more, but it’s hard to have anything less.
Indi Hartwell: If there’s going to be a controversial pick for the women in this column, I think this will be it. She’s overpushed. It’s not that I think she stinks in the ring or anything. Far from it, actually. I just don’t think she’s ready to be one-half of the NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions. Prior to the title victory, she had lost five of her last six matches. Her televised record was 3-10 before winning the titles. Even from a kayfabe aspect, she wasn’t “ready” for the push. I will say this, though… she’s in a great spot as far as being a member of The Way. She’s going to learn a ton from Candice LeRae, as well as from Johnny Gargano. It might not be long before her rank here changes.
Io Shirai: 304 days. That’s the length of her NXT Women’s Title reign, elevating the belt along the way. She was a fantastic champion, having numerous great matches and moments during her reign. Everybody has to lose eventually, though, and she met her match in Raquel Gonzalez. Where does she go from here? Well, we don’t quite know yet. We haven’t seen her since losing the title, so it’s hard to label her in any category. Will she end up on the main roster, like many expected once she was no longer champion? It’s certainly possible. She might just return and go back after “her” title. Whatever she does, though, she’s going to be a big deal. She’s one of the best in the business today. Her push is just right.
Jessi Kamea: The last time we saw her in the ring was a little over a month ago, when she lost to Mercedes Martinez. You have to go back two more months to find her previous match, and that was a tag team loss, when she teamed up with Aliyah and lost to Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter. Outside of a disqualification victory over Toni Storm in February, she has lost all of her televised matches as a member of the NXT roster. Does any of that sound like a push to you? She is squarely in the “enhancement talent” category, but as I keep saying, someone needs to do it. Just right, by default.
Kacy Catanzaro: Hey, another woman that is a week away from being ineligible for this column. Her last match was on March 31st, her last win on February 17th, and her last singles win on October 21st of last year. There was a point when it looked like she and Kayden Carter could very well be built up as one of the top rising teams in the company, but then that was snuffed out pretty quick. If she was still a regularly active performer, I think I still might call her overpushed, though. Her matches are 100% “look at all the cool flips and stunts this former American Ninja Warrior phenomenon can do” and 0% “look at the wrestling she knows.” She’s still relatively new to the business, signing with WWE less than three-and-a-half years ago (with a six-month retirement making her time even shorter), but she’s got a ways to go before she’s ready to be a real contender. For now, I’ll say her push is just right. We’ll have to see what happens when she returns to television.
Kayden Carter: Like her tag partner, she’s also a week away from being ineligible for this column. She’s closer to being “ready for primetime” than her partner is, but… not by much. If she was more of an active participant in NXT, she’d also be dangerously close to the overpushed category, but I’ll call her push just right, too. There’s not much else I can do until she returns to television and moves up or down the card.
Mercedes Martinez: She’s one of the biggest badasses in all of women’s wrestling, but she’s also going to be 41 years old soon, and a lot of people think that’s putting a cap on what she can accomplish in NXT. It’s hard to tell, really. On one hand, she hasn’t won any championships with the brand. However, on the other hand, she has had three title shots (two at the NXT Women’s Title and one at the NXT Women’s Tag Team Titles) in the last three months, after having a total of zero title shots in her time with the company prior to that. Does that mean she’s on the rise? Maybe a third unsuccessful title shot means she’s on the decline? I think she has the unfortunate luck of being in NXT at the same time as Raquel Gonzalez, honestly. Apparently there’s only room to really push one badass Latina, and Raquel wins by being younger and taller, I guess. Mercedes is very much underpushed. I don’t give a rat’s ass about her age. She’s still capable of slapping the fire out of anybody’s mouth at any given time.
Raquel Gonzalez: With Raquel, you have two camps of opinion from fans all over Jessie Mei Li’s internet. You have one group who feels pushing her to the top of the division was the right move because she’s a six-foot-tall monster with all the presence in the world, and has been built up at a steady pace. Then, you have the other group who feels it was a bad idea pushing her to the top because her in-ring skills don’t come close to matching up with the likes of Io Shirai, Charlotte Flair, Rhea Ripley, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Kairi Sane, and the usual women that become NXT Women’s Champion. Both groups are right, to an extent. She is a six-foot-monster in a division that badly needs someone like that, and she was built up at a steady pace for this ride… and she also isn’t anywhere on the same level as those aforementioned champions when it comes to skill and match quality. The thing with that last point is that she doesn’t have to be. Just like not every men’s champion has to be prime Ricky Steamboat in the ring, not every women’s champion has to be a technical marvel. Raquel does her job, and she does it VERY well. She belongs in this spot, and she’s going to potentially help to build a star when someone is finally able to come along and knock her off her pedestal. Her push is just right.
Sarray: Sarray looks to continue the tradition of Japanese women who were very successful with NXT. She has big shoes to fill there, but she’s been hyped up since signing, and is now 3-0 with the company. Her matches haven’t come against the top tier of talent, but they’ve been showcases for her to get herself over, and that appears to be working out well. It’s hard to really grade her on only three matches, so let’s say her push is just right, and we’ll keep it moving.
Shotzi Blackheart: I’ve made this type of comment in previous columns about Shotzi, but she’s like a magnet to madness in the ring. On a pretty regular basis, her matches are going to include at least one spot where she nearly dies or nearly kills her opponent. What does that tell you? It tells me that she’s still very sloppy. She has an incredibly unique look, and is easily one of the most popular women in NXT, but she shouldn’t be this sloppy in the ring still. It baffles me. I think that makes her overpushed. Again, I get that her look is something that is marketable. I even get her popularity, as I certainly don’t hate her. She just isn’t someone I find to be ready for the push she’s been getting in recent months.
Toni Storm: While we’re talking about things that baffle me… I just don’t understand Toni Storm’s booking in NXT. Signing with WWE as one of the biggest female stars in Japan and the United Kingdom, there was a lot of hype surrounding her. Prior to her signing, she made it to the semifinals of the first Mae Young Classic, losing to eventual tournament winner Kairi Sane. After her signing, she would win the 2018 Mae Young Classic, defeating the legendary Meiko Satomura in the semifinals and Io Shirai in the finals. Three months after winning the MYC, she defeated Rhea Ripley to become the NXT UK Women’s Champion, holding that title for nearly eight months. She would finally make her original NXT debut in 2020, picking up a couple wins, and then… the world shut down. After being inactive for seven months, she would return to NXT in October, where she picked up some more wins and even had an appearance in the women’s Royal Rumble this year. Counting that Rumble match, she went on a seven-match losing streak to start 2021, with that streak only snapped last night, when she defeated Zoey Stark after an incredibly impressive Ruby Cutter/Driver. There is no reason she shouldn’t be competing at the top of NXT. None. Zero. She’s underpushed like very few in all of WWE, but maybe this week’s win will be what she needs to change that.
Xia Li: Hey, remember when Xia Li looked like she was about to be pushed to the top after being repackaged as a complete badass with the power of Tian Sha and its leader, Mei Ying? Pepperidge Farm remembers. Li ran off six straight wins to start 2021 off, and then she completely disappeared. She’s yet another woman that is one week away from being ineligible for this column. What the hell happened?!? We haven’t heard anything about an injury, so did someone in charge of NXT decide the entire Tian Sha thing was too “out there” to continue? Until further notice, Xia Li is being pushed just right, and I can’t say otherwise. I thought there was a lot of potential with the gimmick change, as long as some of that weird supernatural-type stuff was toned down. Hell, maybe that was the final straw. The last time we saw Xia Li, she won a Handicap Match against Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter, but the lasting memory of that match was Mei Ying kinda sorta blowing some sort of smoke into Carter’s face (more getting in her hair and the general vicinity of her head due to a misplaced exhale) and knocking her unconscious with it. Did someone like Triple H see that and pull the plug on the entire thing? I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.
Zayda Ramier: She’s only three matches deep into her NXT career, so it’s pretty hard to judge her, but hey, she has a victory over Toni Storm. That’s gotta count for something, right? She’s been given the chance to show off some tremendous athletic ability, making it seem as if there is a ton of potential in her future. For now, though, I just don’t have much to go on, so I have no choice but to say her push is just right.
Zoey Stark: This is a woman who made her NXT debut three months ago, racking up a total of eight matches in that span. A 2-6 record in those matches doesn’t look all that impressive, but you have to look at some of those losses closer to see the real information that you need. She lost to Io Shirai, but it was a match that went 12 minutes in only her second-ever match for the brand. Her next match was a loss to Dakota Kai, but that match went a little over 12:30 in length. The following week, she teamed up with Shirai and lost to Kai and Raquel Gonzalez, but it was another 12-minute match. She lost to Sarray in Sarray’s NXT debut match, but looked very competitive in doing so. This week, she lost to Toni Storm in a match that nearly went 11:30. She also has a pinfall victory over Toni Storm in a ten-minute contest. These are some big names, and she looks very competitive against all of them, win or lose. You don’t do that to someone if you don’t see something special in them. NXT is treating her like a future Women’s Champion, and you know what? I’m all for it. She has looked very impressive in her matches, and I could definitely see her at that level later this year or, more likely, in 2022. Right now, her push is just right, but that’s probably going to change, one way or another, pretty soon.
Well, there you have it. I’ve looked at AEW, Smackdown, and now NXT, so you know what that means? Join me next week for my look at Raw, which I promise will be the end of this “series.” What are your thoughts on the NXT roster? Who do you think is overpushed and underpushed? As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Roman Reigns vs Cesaro: It was every bit as good as I could’ve hoped it would be. Cesaro proved that he belonged in the main event scene.
- Rey & Dominik Mysterio: When you win the Smackdown Tag Team Titles, you’re probably going to be featured in my weekly rankings. Making history as the first father and son duo to become any sort of Tag Team Champions in WWE only makes it better.
- Miro: It took long enough, but the man is finally being treated like the monster he is in AEW. Ironically enough, his TNT Title win came on Miro Day, of all days.
- Bronson Reed: He’s had quite the journey to get where he is, but he’s the new NXT North American Champion. Well done, and well deserved.
- Anthony Ogogo’s Face Turn That Isn’t, Technically, A Face Turn: Look… say whatever you want about Cody Rhodes’ promo on Dynamite last week, and Lord knows everything under the sun has already been said about it. In 2021, these jingoistic pro-USA promos don’t exactly hit home like they used to. In his response to Cody’s words, Anthony Ogogo has responded on social media, continuously pointing out all the reasons why the United States isn’t anywhere as great as people make it out to be. The problem is that he didn’t tell a lie. The key to a great heel is that they have to believe in what they say, and that… quite often… they don’t see themselves as heels. He’s speaking negatively about the United States in the United States, but hey, we DO have a problem with how much we value money. We DO have a problem with letting people rot and die on the streets. There IS an issue with how unfair it is that people can’t afford health care. We DO have thousands of kids trapped in cages because they’ve been taken away by their parents who came here for a better life. He even downplayed a tweet that referred to him as a hero, saying that the doctors, nurses, firefighters, and foster parents of the world are the true heroes. This isn’t a heel, folks. Is AEW preparing for a double turn at Double Or Nothing? It’s possible. They may have backed themselves into that corner, intentionally or not.
- Sheamus vs Ricochet (From Raw): I haven’t seen their match on the WrestleMania Backlash pre-show yet, but I’ve heard it was fun, yet short. Their match on Raw was a ton of fun, and did two things successfully. One, it showed Ricochet can still be a valuable player in WWE if the company decides to get behind him. Two, it continued Sheamus’ streak of having phenomenal matches against any and all comers over the last several months. The man is on fire right now.
- Tamina & Natalya: It wasn’t the best match ever, but that doesn’t matter to me at the moment. Congratulations to Natalya, but especially to Tamina, on becoming the new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions. I don’t expect it to be a lengthy reign, but kudos to Tamina for putting in the best work of her career and being rewarded for it.
- Bobby Lashley vs Drew McIntyre vs Braun Strowman: As I said, this match was like watching three tanks play demolition derby against each other, and that’s exactly the match it should’ve been with who was involved.
- Jon Moxley vs Yuji Nagata: Not the longest television match you’ll see, nor was it the best television match you’ll see. It was so cool to see Nagata back on American programming, though. Just a fun match and blah blah blah forbidden door blah blah blah. I look forward to possibly seeing bigger names from New Japan coming to AEW in the future.
- The Young Bucks vs SCU: We knew the run was going to end at some point, but it was still emotional to see Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian have to stop teaming together after taking the loss here in what was a very entertaining match. Daniels becoming a bloody mess only added to the drama.
- Rhea Ripley vs Charlotte Flair vs Asuka: I didn’t really know what to expect here. Rhea and Asuka haven’t shown a lot of in-ring chemistry lately, but the pairing of Charlotte and Asuka have delivered gold. This was a fun, hard-hitting Triple Threat that saw the right woman win. I’m not exactly a fan of Rhea’s post-match celebration with the stupid “nanny nanny boo boo” taunt and the faces she made. She looked like a fucking child, and I don’t think that’s the right direction we need to be going in.
- Kofi Kingston’s Return To The Main Event: Yes, it is probably just for one match so that Lashley can have another opponent to beat as a “bridge” to get to the next event, but hey, Kofi’s back in the main event spot he shouldn’t have lost in the first place.
- Hit Row: There’s something potentially special building here. Swerve can be a big star for NXT. Ashante Thee Adonis and Top Dolla can be another in a long line of good “little man/big man” tag teams. B-Fab looks and feels like a future star. If the newcomers get their in-ring work up to par with their personalities and charisma, watch out.
- Zoey Stark vs Toni Storm: Another match where Stark takes the loss but gets to look good in doing so. A much-needed win for Storm, and a new finisher that got everybody talking. It’s a “win”/win for everybody.
- Fans Who Want WWE To Get New Sets For Their Television Shows: The rumor is that both Raw and Smackdown are going to have new sets and stage set-ups in the near future. That, of course, is exciting for those of you who have been tired of the company’s programming looking the same all the time. Now, if only their writing could get a fresh makeover, too.
This Week’s Playlist: “Say So” by Doja Cat… “Streets” by Doja Cat… “Higher Power” by Coldplay… “breathe again” by Joy Oladokun… “Rumours” by Timex Social Club… “Sara Smile” by Hall & Oates… “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates… “Kiss On My List” by Hall & Oates… “You Make My Dreams (Come True)” by Hall & Oates… “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” by Hall & Oates… “Maneater” by Hall & Oates… “Out Of Touch” by Hall & Oates… “Your Love” by The Outfield… “Piano Man” by Billy Joel… “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” by Billy Joel… “Just The Way You Are” by Billy Joel… “It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me” by Billy Joel… “She’s Got A Way” by Billy Joel… “Uptown Girl” by Billy Joel… “The Longest Time” by Billy Joel… “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel… “The River Of Dreams” by Billy Joel… “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley… “Together Forever” by Rick Astley… “It Would Take A Strong, Strong Man” by Rick Astley… “Cry For Help” by Rick Astley… “Two Tickets To Paradise” by Eddie Money… “I’m On Fire” by Bruce Springsteen… “I Wonder If I Take You Home” by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam… “Head To Toe” by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam