COOL POINTS: NXT Rankings (Road to Takeover: Brooklyn IV)
Jun 20, 2018-Aug 15, 2018
Welcome to the Cool Points. May this exercise in research and reflection provide you with all the info and insight you need to properly enjoy Takeover: Brooklyn IV this coming Saturday.
After following nXt closely for almost three years, I’ve determined that a monthly ranking is not as effective as a periodical ranking. Reason being, often storylines and matches all build towards the next major event. For nXt, that’s TAKEOVER, which happens 5 times a year.
This edition tracks the Men’s, Women’s and Tag Team Divisions from Takeover: Chicago II to August 15, 2018, a few days away from Takeover: Brooklyn IV.
Read on for the cool points, covering the last 9 weeks of nXt.
Use the table of contents below to jump to whichever division you want to read first, or keep scrolling and read it all in one sitting!
Tag Team Division
|#4||Adam Cole (NA Champ)|
8. Kona Reeves (1-1)
“nXt’s Finest” earned his biggest match to date, on August 1st, taking on EC3. The promos leading up to the match were fun. Both wrestlers have a similar personality and vibe. Reeves also has the benefit of two signature moves that riff off some pretty famous stars: the Kona (Cobra) Clutch and the Hawaiian (Samoan) Drop.
Reeves is only 4 months into his newest run on nXt TV, and the men’s division is quite stacked with talent. Another feud with a big star might give him enough attention to get a whiff of championship contention, but that’s with heavy emphasis on “might”.
7. Kassius Ohno (2-0)
Ohno’s been busy losing to the top names on this list, which has significantly affected the perception of him being a champion. Still, with his size and in-ring experience, he can be considered a credible threat to win in any match. So, nXt uses him to enhance talent like EC3 and Tommaso Ciampa.
With 2 wins over guys in their debut matches on TV, Ohno’s rebuilding the credibility needed to be that aforementioned threat. I’d love to see him in a match against Ricochet at some point.
6. Ricochet (#1 NA contender)
Ricochet’s appearances on nXt TV have been carefully chosen, and with his wrestling work mostly happening at Takeovers, he has maintained a mystique. On a weekly basis, though, this means that his lack of TV time prevents him from making a bigger splash in the Men’s Division. His one match was a 6-man tag, with Moustache Mountain, losing to Undisputed Era on June 27th.
Ricochet’s wrestling Adam Cole for the North American Championship this Saturday and, no doubt, it will be a fantastic match. I maintain that Ricochet should be wrestling for a championship belt, and maybe a feud with Cole will help him rise to the next level.
5. The Velveteen Dream (1-1)
Coming off a loss to Ricochet at Takeover: Chicago II, Dream seemed somewhat directionless. It took him a few weeks to recover, but, after defeating Chris Dijak on July 4th, he found a new heatseeker to take on in EC3.
For the most part, Dream has been facing the fastest rising stars since November. His poolside promo with EC3, last week, was an entertaining exchange that left Dream treading water in the pool, after some crafty banter. It would’ve been even better hearing that banter over the course of a month, instead of a week, but nothing can be done about that now.
Dream’s such a talented star that he doesn’t need to win. EC3 needs the win more than him, unless a feud starts that carries these guys to the next Takeover. That wouldn’t be so bad though.
4. Adam Cole (NA Champion, 2-0)
As leader of the Undisputed Era, Cole has spent much of the last four months talking the talk and hyping up why his faction owns nXt. He missed defending the North American Championship at Takeover: Chicago II and nXt General Manager William Regal delighted fans by announcing he would accept Ricochet’s challenge for Takeover: Brooklyn IV.
Cole warmed up for Saturday’s match by defeating Danny Burch to end that feud, on July 11th, and Sean Maluta, on July 25th.
A pre-match attack on Ricochet last week established just how difficult it will be to beat Cole, since he has the luxury of calling in reinforcements if needed. Will the Undisputed Era remain in nXt post-Takeover? They ought to, if a second War Games match is in the cards. Cole doesn’t need a title to make that work, does he?
3. EC3 (1-1, #2 Contender)
The rise of EC3 has begun. That main event match against Johnny Gargano, on July 4th, was no mistake. Despite the loss, EC3 held his own and demonstrated to a new audience of fans why he has been repping as “The One-Percenter” for years in Impact Wrestling. He’s more than capable of playing a starring role in nXt and the match against Velveteen Dream, on Saturday, is his opportunity to prove it.
A win over Kona Reeves, on August 1st, while overcoming an interruption from Dream, and every promo and in-ring appearance EC3 has made at Full Sail has gained him more fans. It’s a great time to be EC3.
2. Johnny Gargano (#1 Contender)
The descent into madness continues for Johnny Gargano who inadvertently cost Aleister Black the nXt Championship on July 25th. Using the same strategy as Blackheart himself, Gargano tried to hurt Ciampa and cause him to feel the same pain Gargano did, not becoming nXt Champion. The plan backfired and it led to a match, last week, against former champ Black, that ended in a no contest due to Ciampa’s interference.
Yes, Gargano did beat EC3 early in July, but I feel he lost some of the fan support by hurting Black the way he did. Lucky for him, Black is injured and will not fight at Takeover: Brooklyn IV. So all of the fans who may have been split in who they’d cheer for will likely revert to the Johnny Wrestling Camp. Gargano’s so good on the chase but Brooklyn is nXt’s Wrestlemania. The fans might be going home happy on Saturday.
1. Aleister Black (Former nXt Champion)
Stunningly, Black’s nXt Championship reign, and undefeated streak in singles matches, came to a halt on July 25th. Tommaso Ciampa, the most reviled man in nXt, capitalized on a mistake by Johnny Gargano and made Black eat the mat to become the new champion. Black expressed his disdain for Gargano with a Black Mass the following week, and then the two fought last week in the main event. The match result was a no contest, due to Ciampa’s interference, and GM Regal booked a triple threat for Takeover: Brooklyn.
The triple threat championship match was to be the first ever in nXt Takeover history. Sadly, Black won’t be competing due to an injury sustained in the Full Sail parking lot. A “Whodunit” style video trended on Twitter and allowed for many possible suspects on who attacked him. The timetable for his return is unknown. Fans and critics point towards a possible call to the main roster, so it remains to be seen if Black will get his revenge.
nXt Champion: Tommaso Ciampa
Claims that Tommaso Ciampa is the best heel in the WWE today are not unfounded. His interactions with fans, in person and on social media, are consistently callous and mean. The amount of boos and jeers he receives by simply walking out on to the entrance ramp might well be unprecedented in nXt. The way he has targeted and brought down Johnny Gargano over the past year has been tremendous. And now he’s nXt Champion, going into the biggest show of the nXt calendar to, once more, face his former tag partner, as the most notorious man in the company.
Everything Ciampa has done since that hellacious match in Chicago has been perfect. He has played the game perfectly and come out on top, manipulating all of the main players, including GM Regal, into agreeing with his plan. Brooklyn IV is Ciampa’s show. With Black injured, the smart play would be Ciampa retaining and carrying this feud as far as it will go. Bring on the CAGE!
6. Bianca Belair (1-0, injury)
The summer appeared like it was going to belong to Bianca Belair. Her record went to 7-0, on June 20, when she defeated nXt’s sweetheart, Dakota Kai. She got married and went on honeymoon, but still opted to cut a promo from her vacation spot, insisting she’d be ready to continue owning the Women’s Division upon her return.
Belair lost her spot in the #1 Contender’s match, that was held July 18th, due to injury. She hasn’t returned to the ring yet, but when she does, she will force her way into a collision course with whomever is champion this fall.
5. Dakota Kai (1-2)
For all of the adoration Dakota Kai has received for overcoming the bullying and intimidation of Shayna Baszler, she has yet to appear like a #1 contender to the Women’s Championship. The underdog role suits Kai, and this allows her to wrestle and build up others in the division, while remaining credible enough to keep the role.
After losing to Lacey Evans on July 18th, Kai hasn’t been seen on nXt TV, and she finds herself on the periphery of a Women’s Division that is heating up with challengers for the title.
4. Nikki Cross (#3 Contender, 1-2)
After getting the nod to face Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler at Takeover: Chicago, Cross has continued to be the most stable and unstable part of the Women’s Division. Her personality and dramatic in-ring presence proved to be an interesting watch against the all-business, ground and pound game of Baszler. Cross looked crazed but brave in defeat, smiling while she lost consciousness.
She did not have the same effect in the #1 Contender’s Triple Threat match that made way for a new #1 Contender, but saved face with another TV match victory last week over Amber Nova. Hope to see her in the spotlight at Evolution in October.
3. Candice LeRae (#2 Contender, 1-2)
Being in the spotlight alongside her husband, Johnny Gargano, helped fans get to know the personality of Candice LeRae. This has made the last few months all the more enjoyable as she has introduced us to her in-ring abilities against all of the top names in the Women’s Division. The highlight has to be her non-title match against Shayna Baszler, on August 1st, where she showed off a versatile, high-risk offense that included two tornado DDT’s and an Unprettier on the champ.
There’s no shame in tapping out to Baszler in her first match against her, and, like the nXt commentary team noted, she belongs in the discussion of future nXt Women’s Champions. She’s already wrestled in a #1 Contender’s match, and it won’t be long before she’s in another one.
2. Lacey Evans (2-2)
From May to August, Lacey Evans has been featured more often on nXt TV than the champion. That suggests how important she has become to the Women’s Division, easily a #2 heel behind Baszler. Although she lost to LeRae on June 27, she has since won two in a row, including one over Dakota Kai.
She’s arrogant, sassy and hard-hitting, striking a fine balance between top rope offense and her go-to punches, like the “Women’s Right”. Evans is worth giving some attention and should be in the #1 Contender’s picture by early next year.
1. Kairi Sane (#1 Contender, 2-0)
After an engaging series of matches against Lacey Evans pre-Takeover Chicago, it is now clear, in hindsight, how that was preparing Kairi Sane for a proper run at the Women’s Championship. She is the best candidate to defeat Shayna Baszler, given their historic Mae Young Classic Tournament Final last summer, when Sane beat the Queen of Spades.
Sane won the #1 Contender’s Triple Threat, on July 18th, in convincing fashion, and despite her limited English, she has repeatedly announced her intention to beat Baszler at Takeover: Brooklyn IV. If it happens, expect an immediate rematch. More likely, Sane shines brightly at the Evolution PPV and gets another shot at the title when a new champion is crowned.
Women’s Champion: Shayna Baszler (2-0)
With every win that Baszler earns, she becomes more insufferably confident. Whether she’s forcing Candice LeRae to tap out, or getting under the skin of Dakota Kai, Baszler does and says whatever she wants. Her past against Kairi Sane doesn’t bother her in the least and even when Sane ran down to save LeRae from further injury, Baszler casually walked away, snickering at the fussing of Sane and nXt referees.
Rumours have been circulating that a main roster callup is imminent, and the Women’s Division will rebound as it always does, but Baszler’s got a big fight aura that should be appreciated and utilized as long as possible. A Baszler victory in Brooklyn provides more fuel for the fans’ ire against her, and more time for them to truly get behind a woman who can beat her.
Tag Team Division
5. Street Profits (Dawkins/Ford)
The Street Profits were off nXt TV for 2 months, but, in recent weeks, they have returned to cut a few promos and even make an appearance in the crowd on August 1. Their boisterous and entertaining presence has been missed in the Tag Team Division, which has provided other teams with opportunities to shine this summer.
Dawkins and Ford look to get the spotlight in the coming weeks, in a feud against The Mighty.
4. Heavy Machinery (Knight/Dozovic)
Heavy Machinery continued their feud with The Mighty, formerly known as TM61, evening up their feud at 1-1, with a win on August 1. A month earlier, Tucker Knight was injured prior to the match that evening and that forced Otis Dozovic to wrestle a handicap match. He lost but got the rare chance to shine in a solo effort.
Great seeing this team make their presence felt on nXt TV, although I get the feeling they might get bounced by the Street Profits as that happy-go-lucky, face tag team in the coming weeks.
3. The Mighty (Thorne/Miller)
Their new name is a clearer nod to their name on the independents. More importantly, it has indicated a significant difference in attitude. Since the post Takeover: Chicago show, Thorne & Miller tossed the TM61 name aside. Perhaps a loss to the War Raiders that night made them realize their regular approach wasn’t working.
Displaying an edge and a tendency towards cheating in their matches, The Mighty re-engaged in their feud against Heavy Machinery, which is now tied at 1. The Street Profits’ distraction in that match will likely spark a feud in the coming weeks.
2. War Raiders (Hanson/Rowe)
As far as I’m concerned, the War Raiders are all set for a Tag Team Championship opportunity. Aside from their post Takeover: Chicago win over The Mighty, the team has only wrestled at live events, dominating their competition. TV time has been fairly consistent though and, in their last appearance, on August 1, they told Moustache Mountain they would be ready to take on them or the Undisputed Era.
Really, there is no other sensible option for the next #1 Contenders. The only question is when they will get the title shot.
1. Moustache Mountain (Bate/Seven)
Picking up where their counterparts, Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan left off, this tandem excelled with not one, but two match of the year nominees against the nXt Tag Team Champions. The match, on July 11th, was breath-taking: the counters, the effort from both teams, and, literally, the pain of watching Trent Seven battle through his leg injury, not tapping out, not even when Tyler Bate threw in the towel.
It was pleasing to see Bate and Seven address that towel throw to the nXt fans, on August 1st, after a win over Knox & Taylor. The fact that they have reunited, with no hint of dissension, suggests this tag team is here to stay. Still, a win over Undisputed Era will be a surprise at Takeover: Brooklyn IV.
Tag Champions: Undisputed Era (Strong/O’Reilly/Fish/Cole)
Still champions and still waiting for Bobby Fish to return from injury, Roderick Strong and Kyle O’Reilly fought hard to retain the nXt Tag Team Championships over Moustache Mountain. To win, they didn’t need much in the way of outside interference though because their shenanigans and dogged perseverance were enough. Either strategy works for them and they must be seen as the favourites.
I’m curious to see if a few of the other British Strong Style wrestlers get involved to ensure the numbers game is even at Takeover: Brooklyn IV. If so, we may see Undisputed Era retain and another featured role for them in the WarGames match, this November.
That’s a wrap on the rankings from my perspective. Naturally, the best part of this type of presentation will be the discussion that results from it. I look forward to reading where you agree and disagree. Here are three questions to help guide your comments.
Will the Ciampa/Gargano feud end on Saturday at Takeover: Brooklyn IV?
Who should be the next #1 Contender for the Women’s Championship?
Which wrestler or tag team deserves more TV time in the coming months?
A quicker turnaround between Takeovers has made for quite an exciting summer of 2018 in nXt. We’ve enjoyed a number of amazing TV matches, while seeing the ascent of new stars in all of the divisions. There’s never a dull moment in nXt and this weekend will cap off another year of exceptional growth for the developmental brand.
My Takeover predictions will be shared this evening in the nXt Results column, but a long form discussion on the matches can be found via “The Doc Says”, available now on LOP Radio. Doc and I had a cool conversation about what to expect in Brooklyn, and what we hope will happen.
Check it out here: The Doc Says- nXt Takeover & SummerSlam Preview Podcast
Looking forward to your thoughts, comments and cool points. Please share them in the comments section or join the conversation on Twitter by clicking the button below.