COOL POINTS: NXT Rankings (Road to Takeover: NOLA)
Jan 27, 2017- Mar 21, 2018
After following nXt closely for over two 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 5-6 times a year.
So, starting last December, I re-launched this rankings column, in hopes of more accurately analyzing the trends and stories of the wrestlers as they work towards the next major card.
This edition tracks the Men’s, Women’s and Tag Team Divisions from Takeover: Philly to March 21, 2018, a few weeks away from Takeover: NOLA.
Last edition, I received a few comments about increasing the number of male wrestlers from a Top 7 to a Top 10. I will expand to a Top 9 this time and see if that helps cover the most important guys in that division.
That takes care of the logistics and explanations. 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!
|CHAMP||Andrade “Cien” Almas|
|#5||Pete Dunne (UK Champ)|
|#8||Tyler Bate (UK#2c)|
8. Tyler Bate (UK#2c)
Bate lost his #1 contendership for the UK Championship on January 31 to Roderick Strong and then lost to rising star Velveteen Dream on February 28. He keeps putting on great matches, but his momentum has slowed.
Bate was all set for a tag run with Moustache Mountain in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Classic, but an injury this month has him sitting out. Will he get healthy enough to wrestle in New Orleans? Where does he fit in at this point?
7. Velveteen Dream (3-win streak)
Dream’s appearances have been well-managed since his big win at Takeover: Philly over Kassius Ohno. He’s kept the win streak going, defeating No Way Jose and Tyler Bate in consecutive weeks.
Since his beloved match against Aleister Black in November of last year, Dream’s all but guaranteed some facetime in New Orleans. It’s just a matter of how and against whom. 2018’s going to be a huge year for Dream.
6. Roderick Strong (UK#1c)
Strong’s got a lot going for him these days as he balances time between 205 Live and nXt. He became the first American to challenge for the UK Championship, defeating Tyler Bate for the #1 Contender’s spot. This led to a great match on Valentine’s Day, which, despite losing, seemed to gain him some respect from Champ Pete Dunne.
The reason I say that is that last week, Strong successfully petitioned to replace Moustache Mountain in the Dusty Classic. His request for tag support from Dunne was granted and the two defeated Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan in a tough as nails match. Wouldn’t be surprised to see this surprise team win the tournament and appear at New Orleans to face the Undisputed Era.
5. Pete Dunne (UK Champ)
The Bruiserweight is rolling right now. He’s defeated his two challengers so far in 2018: Strong and Adam Cole. All of those matches are worth watching. Seems he’s got an interest in proving himself in the tag division, too, since he joined Strong to defeat Burch & Lorcan last week in the Dusty Classic.
Dunne will be in New Orleans, one way or another, and it could be challenging for the nXt Tag Team Championships against the Undisputed Era. Fans are starting to cheer more for him, too. Interesting times!
4. Adam Cole
Cole’s got a lot of fans wondering why he’s having such a hard time getting wins in nXt. He’s been the busiest singles wrestler since Takeover: Philly and his Extreme Rules match loss to Aleister Black. Losing hasn’t hurt him though and he’s got plenty of potential opponents moving forward, after matches with SAnitY, Pete Dunne and a nice win over Kassius Ohno last week.
Cole is a main event wrestler and he doesn’t need to win every night. That said, it’s important that he start being taken more seriously and, moving towards Takeover: NOLA, Cole will be on the card. Who will his opponent be?
2. (tie) Johnny Gargano
The comparisons of former #1 contender Gargano to fan favourite and recently cleared for in-ring action Daniel Bryan are absolutely on point. The nXt fans have pushed hard for Gargano’s underdog story to claim a happy ending, in his feud against Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to shake the menacing shadow of his former tag partner, Tommaso Ciampa.
He lost his roster spot, which was on the line in his final title shot against Almas on February 14. As Ciampa has recently returned to nXt TV for weekly appearances, Gargano showed up in the crowd last week to answer back and brawl with Ciampa. It looks like we’ll get an unsanctioned grudge match between these two, and it will provide one of the highest emotional peaks of the Wrestlemania weekend.
2. (tie) Tommaso Ciampa
Most of what applies to Gargano applies to Ciampa, except to say that Ciampa’s heel work is the best of anyone in the WWE Universe these days. He’s got fans seething and booing as soon as he shows his face, so much so that he holds the mic to his mouth, and the boos and chants shower down relentlessly upon him.
Ciampa’s face finally met the fists of Gargano last week, 10 months overdue from when they were originally owed him. It will be quite a sight to see Ciampa get what’s coming to him in a few weeks at Takeover: NOLA.
1. Aleister Black TO
“Whether he wins the Fatal Four-Way or has to wait until Takeover: New Orleans, he should fight for the nXt Championship and he should win.”
The above words were written in the last edition of this countdown and they remain as poignant now as then. Black is exactly where he should be. His in-ring work has been kept to a minimum, only having to resolve a few loose ends with Killian Dain on March 7.
The contract signing for the nXt Championship match at Takeover: NOLA didn’t even end in physical conflict with Almas. Instead, Black got Candice LeRae to brawl with Almas’ manager, Zelina Vega. There’s still time for the two to mix it up, but there’s no need. This match has plenty of hype, by virtue of Black’s undefeated streak in singles competition. It’s Black’s time to shine!
nXt Champion: Andrade “Cien” Almas w. Zelina Vega
There was a point where it seemed a foregone conclusion that Almas would lose the nXt Championship at Takeover: Philly. Claims of Almas being a “transitional champion”, a term that some fans abide by and others cringe at, fell flat though as he managed to defeat Gargano. Then, he did it again on February 21, thanks to some help from Ciampa.
A new #1 Contender, Aleister Black, will prove to be a very different challenge than Gargano. Black is a bigger threat to Almas because of his striking style, with which he can win at a moment’s notice with Black Mass. How will Almas find a way to win this time or is his time up?
5. Dakota Kai
Kai made her first weekly TV appearance in two months, defeating Lacey Evans. Kai was the unfortunate victim of a defeat and post-match attack from Shayna Baszler in early January. Perhaps she was injured, perhaps she was scared off for a time, but Kai’s returning to a rather wide-open Women’s Division.
Since the round of call-ups early in the year, the Women’s Division needs new stars. Kai could be one of them.
4. Kairi Sane (Mae Young Women’s Tourney Winner)
Sane’s last few months have been rather lacklustre, and, unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to seize upon the momentum gained from last year’s Women’s Tournament win. She did interfere with the Women’s Championship match on February 14, but all that did was piss off Baszler and gift her an opportunity to lose to Baszler on the 28th.
nXt needs to build up other women stars to ensure there’s a competitive division post-Takeover: NOLA. Sane’s already got some credibility, and so perhaps that’s why she hasn’t been getting much TV time. Does she deserve better? Maybe some promos to build support?
3. Nikki Cross
Cross has had 2 wins since Takeover: Philly and just enough appearances with SAnitY to remind us that she’s still ambling around. It doesn’t seem like she’s a factor in the title hunt, but she could well be a queenmaker. She could be the one that tests up and coming stars on if they can be worthy of a title shot. That would produce some compelling weekly TV matches.
2. Bianca Belair
Belair’s unique look and moveset is the one new notable push on weekly nXt TV during the past 3 months. With wins on January 24, February 7 and March 7, she’s got a winning streak against lower-card wrestlers and is primed for a real feud.
Following Takeover: NOLA, Belair needs a respectable opponent and some time to shine. Then we’ll know if she can hang with the top level ladies. The Iconic Duo would be the perfect foils for her.
1. Shayna Baszler
Baszler and Moon have given the Women’s Division a meaningful feud during a critical time where they lost 4 of their wrestlers to the main roster, and 2 to leaves of absence. As a result, their feud is the only one worth watching and will deservedly get a third match at Takeover: NOLA. Shockingly, Baszler lost to Moon at Takeover: Philly. Don’t think she loses again.
Baszler’s continued to get under Moon’s skin, whether it be a brawl or on commentary. She also defeated Kairi Sane after Sane interfered in the championship rematch on February 14. The Women’s Division needs to build up a few ladies for fans to cheer, and Baszler is the best choice to continue bolstering the credibility of the title.
Women’s Champion: Ember Moon
Ember Moon’s survived a very legitimate threat in former MMA fighter Shayna Baszler. She’s revealed a little about her personality by standing up for her peers who were getting attacked by Baszler. A willingness to defend the title is an honourable characteristic of a champion but why Moon gave Baszler a title shot, just because she made a few girls tap out, we’ll never know.
Has she been lucky to hang on to the title after surprising Baszler through enduring that armbar to pin her? Was she lucky when Kairi Sane interfered on February 14? Will she be lucky a third time at Takeover: NOLA? Doubtful.
Tag Team Division
|#2||Authors Of Pain|
|#6||Tino Sabbatelli & Riddick Moss|
6. Tino Sabbatelli & Riddick Moss
Sabbatelli & Moss should be happy for the TV time they’re getting, although they’re missing out on the benefits of a steady feud against the Street Profits, which took place last fall. As expected, their Dusty Classic run lasted one round. They lost to SAnitY on March 14. They can be counted on to put on a decent match, but this team doesn’t appear to be championship-bound anytime soon.
5. Heavy Machinery (Knight/Dozovic)
The only difference between Heavy Machinery and Sabbatelli & Moss is that the Bulldozer Boys have one more win, which was against them on February 7. Certainly the most entertaining and fan-friendly team of the division, they seem fated to lower importance when they are amidst the company of teams like AOP and SAnitY.
Even the Street Profits have jumped Heavy Machinery in the ranks, on account of their Dusty Classic victory over them in the first round. Too bad.
4. TM61 (Thorne/Miller)
After about a year of absence due to injuries, the Australians finally returned to nXt TV on January 31, post Takeover: Philly. They picked up a few wins over the low-card teams, after receiving the benefit of some well-produced promos in January.
Unfortunately, their Dusty Classic run was cut short as they lost to Authors of Pain in a rematch from the 2016 Dusty Classic Finals. TM61 are as good as any team in the division and should be featured consistently throughout the spring and summer months.
3. Street Profits (Dawkins/Ford)
Good on Dawkins & Ford for picking up a huge win in the Dusty Classic over Heavy Machinery, on March 14. That was their only appearance of note over the past 2 months since the #1 Contender’s match against Authors of Pain before Takeover: Philly.
Although unlikely that they’ll make it to the tournament finals, they have gained the support of FSU crowds. What they are lacking is a strategy that can help them overcome much bigger and stronger tag teams like AOP and SAnitY.
2. Authors Of Pain (Akam/Rezar)
Authors Of Pain are at an interesting point in their nXt career. They are no longer the invincible tag team they were this time last year. They’ve been without the tag titles for about 6 months, but they remain an intimidating presence. What they are lacking is numbers against bigger stables in the division who can outnumber them, sometimes via shenanigans, to win.
Good to see them get a win over freshly returned TM61 in the first round of the Dusty Classic. Will they get a chance at a rematch against Undisputed Era at Takeover: Philly? I’m not so sure.
1. SAnitY (Young/Wolfe/Dain)
This is the team we should see win the Dusty Classic and challenge Undisputed Era at Takeover: NOLA. Following a 6-man tag win against them, on February 7, these guys started off strongly in their first round matchup, soundly defeating Sabbatelli & Moss.
There is plenty of heat between these two teams, since Undisputed Era stole their titles in the fall, but the teams have yet to face off for the championship at a Takeover. Doing so in New Orleans would be the perfect climax to this story. Will they win? That depends. How bad do RAW and SD Live want them?
Tag Champions: Undisputed Era (Cole/Fish/O’Reilly)
Most of the TV time for Fish & O’Reilly has been of them, talking backstage, about how nobody can beat them, as they wait for the Dusty Classic to give them a contender. Aside from losing a 6-man tag match to SAnitY, on February 7, they’ve done very little. Adam Cole even told them not to bother showing up during his match last week against Kassius Ohno. Cole was right. His buddies weren’t needed.
Glad to see the spotlight on them at Takeover: NOLA and, honestly, there’s no good reason for them not to be champs the next week. The division is waiting for another team to rise up and challenge them.
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 two questions to help guide your comments.
Will the Undisputed Era be nXt Tag Team Champions come Takeover: Chicago?
Who will be the next rising star in the Women’s Division?
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.