WWE NXT Big Board: Updated Prospect Rankings and Analysis for January 23

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nxt prospect rankings

 

nxt prospect rankings

The chase for the No. 1 contender’s spot saw a number ofWWE NXT prospects exhibit promise and hint at the height of their ceilings.Hideo Itami had his best effort at WWE developmental to date. Tyler Breeze showed off his showmanship, Finn Balor stood out and Wesley Blake made sure folks were paying attention to him.The lead-up to NXT’s first live special of 2015 also allowed the audience glimpses of other wrestlers’ skills with a mic in hand.That event is going to afford opportunities aplenty with Kevin Owens entering his biggest NXT match and four Divas all vying for the women’s title. In the meantime, prospects made their mark in more subtle ways.The following is a look at how the NXT talent stacks up after this week’s show. Order is based on in-ring performance, mic work, charisma, gimmick and look. Only prospects who have debuted on TV are on the list.The SuperstarsProspect just outside the top 20: Mojo Rawley, Dash Wilder, Marcus Louis.Balor the Graceful BeastOne of Balor’s most important qualities is that he is distinct. His theatrical entrance may come off as strange to some, but it most certainly makes an impression.In a talented group of wrestlers, Balor has quickly moved toward the top thanks to his ability to catch fans’ eyes by either his unique style or fun-to-watch ring work.Up against Curtis Axel, we saw more of how fluid and quick he is. That athletic elegance merges with an aggressive, hard-hitting style to make a memorable combo.He delivered hard forearm shots, nasty kicks and some of the high-flying he displayed so often for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Balor also knows how to space out his highlight-reel moments. His matches aren’t a succession of big moves, but in-ring dramas with the right amount of action throughout.Advancing in the No. 1 contender’s tournament means he’ll get a major chance to make his mark at NXT. He next opposes another man who built his name in JapanItami.Itami vs. BreezeItami is still in transition. He hasn’t looked like the same compelling warrior that he was in his home country, but his battle with Breeze was the best he looked in singles competition at Full Sail University so far.When he went on an offensive flurry, things got electric quick. Diving and kicking at Breeze, he was a hypnotizing force. It’s impressive how exciting he made a jumping clothesline, turning the standard move into a highlight.Still, he’s not quite clicking as he did pre-NXT. Learning to work with new opponents, new expectations and having to scale back how hard he kicks is clearly going to take time.The man he knocked off to move onto a date with Itami had a good night as well.Breeze came off as crafty and dangerous. His collection of good matches on his resume grew thanks to how well he sold Itami’s attacks and some creativity as well.Prince Pretty hit some sort of crucifix slam that wowed the crowd. Adding a move or two like that will boost him in a big way. For now, he relies a lot on the chinlock and kicks, his bouts begging for variety.Blake Moves UpBuddy Murphy has been the member of his team that has stood out so far. Mid-match feats of strength and explosive offense have seen to that. Blake, though, was the bigger star for one night at least.In that duo’s win over The Vaudevillains, Blake hit some eye-catching springboard moves and went on a tear during the typical babyface comeback sequence. The announcers noticed, noting that he was adding sizzle to the match.Both during and after the action, Murphy and Blake showed good chemistry together.They come off as guys who genuinely like each other. They fit together well, both in their look and their personality. That’s invaluable for a tag team, especially with how many guys are just tossed into a pairing.In an interview backstage, Blake was the more personable of the two, a ball of energy with a winning smile.Other NotesThe crowd reactions for Aiden English and Simon Gotch are going in the wrong direction. Fans have usually played along with the villain’s antics, but didn’t seem as into it for this show.Bull Dempsey gave a quality pre-taped promo. His interviews, like his ring work, have an enjoyable, throwback style.Being as dependable and consistent as he is on the mic is going to be a huge asset for him.Kevin Owens looked excellent backstage as he brushed off a new interviewer. He feels like a star already.A more vicious side of Sami Zayn emerged as the NXT champ beat down Tye Dillinger. Snarling and swinging away, he not only showed off his acting range, but a glimpse of what it might look like if he ever turned heel.The DivasAn Issue of AggressionCharlotte needs to watch some tape of Sasha Banks’ strikes. The NXT women’s champion is clearly going to be a star and gets better in the ring at an impressive rate, but her chops, punches and clotheslines remain her weak point.In a short match against Banks, she again seemed to be holding back as she wailed on her foe.Banks delivered strong right hands mounted atop Charlotte. Charlotte’s attacks, meanwhile, were often limp. At one point, she hit her father’s trademark knee drop and it didn’t have nearly enough impact.She’s in need of some refining here to go from great to greater. Charlotte is already better in the ring than a good number of women on the main roster, but welcoming aggression will elevate her even further.

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Daniel Harrison

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