Hey guys, it’s Psyniac; back within the second installment of the Steel Cage Standings. It’s been a pretty interesting month for debating in the WWE; after a miserable build to a mostly below-average PPV you would think I have very little to say. Gladly, NXT put on one of if not the best WWE event of the year (at least since ‘Mania) with Takeover R-Evolution. Darrell pointed out to me I made the feature, I make the rules so one month in we’re changing the format. Here are the Top 10 NXT Stars and Top/Bottom 3 Main Rosters stars. Let’s hope the Road to WrestleMania gets under way quick but for now I’ll quite happily ramble about the future of the business.
THE TOP 10 OF NXT:
10. Baron Corbin
It’s definitely early days yet but Baron Corbin has 75% of what someone needs to make it in the WWE. He’s got the look, the entrance (I love those fading spotlights) and the moves; we’ll find out in due time whether or not he can make a match longer than 30 seconds look good. The “anything you can do” storyline is a bit obvious but it’s simple enough to keep me interested to see where this oncoming feud with Bull Dempsey goes.
09. The Vaudevillians
Like a lot of heel tag teams, The Vaudevillians may have missed their opportune moment to get the win and secure the gold at NXT R-Evolution against the Lucha Dragons. Both teams are in danger of losing steam from here on out which is a real shame considering how “complete” English and Gotch feel; the former should be particularly complimented for his display of ability by catching both luchadores at once (above) and prompting a taunt of, of all things, “chivalry”.
08. Enzo Amore & Big Cass
Enzo and Big Cass have taken a bit more of a backseat this month in NXT which is not surprising considering the grandness of Takeover and the fact that they’re a comedy duo. Or trio, in fact, now that Carmella is fully a part of the group. I absolutely love this contribution to the team and it’s going places already with the two losing a match due to Enzo showing off to the diva-in-training. Even with less airtime recently their usual mic-work schtick is as strong as ever and how can you not love Hideo joining in (seriously, look it up)?
06. Charlotte Flair & 06. Sasha Banks
I may as well write about these two at the same time since they feuded through December and faced off against each other at Takeover. It’s honestly hard to say which of the two I prefer. The future might carve out a path for one more than the other but right now Flair and Banks have made each other and themselves look good in a feud that has felt more personal and had more at stake than any main roster Divas storyline of the last half-decade. Not only that but week after week NXT, with these two at the helm right now, has reminded us all that female wrestlers can not only have a good match but can steal the show and bring the house down.
05. Adrian Neville
This month Neville has yet again proven why he deserved to get the NXT Championship in February. I can’t think of a better foil for Zayn; not just in the squared circle but for the entire programme. The reluctant heel Neville became as he used every trick in the book to hold onto his title was an organic shift for both his character and the character of Sami as he got progressively more and more frustrated to the point of voluntarily putting his career on the line in a final showdown at Takeover. In the ring the two complimented each other perfectly; speed and athleticism clashing in desperate attempts to get the win. Whilst it was definitely Sami’s night, it wouldn’t have been the same without Neville in the other corner.
04. Hideo Itami
Hideo Itami had his work cut out for him at R-Evolution being paired alongside the hypnotising Bálor but he still managed to get possibly the single biggest pop of the night when he went for a (failed) Go to Sleep on one of the members of the Ascension. It’s a moment that may not have quite gone over as well had it been on Raw but it was a great moment none-the-less. His entire storyline facing up against the tag-team has made everyone cautiously optimistic and whilst I’m not entirely sure he’s quite won me over yet he’s definitely starting down the right path. He’s clearly trying his hardest to grab NXT and America by the balls with his wrestling and his constantly improving English and I look forward to seeing what he does every week so that has to count for something.
What an utterly insane debut. Not only did Kevin Owens (formerly Kevin Steen) arrive at what was already the biggest NXT show to date but he made an impact at both ends of the show. Starting with an emotional walk to the ring, his quite simply explosive match with CJ Parker resulted in accidental colour that only added to the excitement that Owens had arrived as he bled for the rest of the night including the final moments of Takeover wherein he proceeded to place himself in the title picture immediately. Follow that up with a solid match against Adrian Neville the following week and it’s good to see that Triple H quite rightfully seems to have no doubts about the future for Owens.
02. Finn Bálor
In professional wrestling entrances aren’t everything but when you have something special you are absolutely guaranteed to get over. It might just be great music, a unique approach to the ring or it might be something else totally original. Finn Bálor has all three and has brought his enigmatic, mysterious out-of-this-world character to NXT with tremendous success, huge cheers and chants of “that was awesome” just for getting into the ring. It was mesmerising.
But let’s not take anything away from what he did once he got there. Switching into a totally different mode for the fight under the make-up as if he was someone totally different, Bálor proved that he, along with all the rest of the indie greats at NXT, is going to be ready to snatch the spotlight away the instant he reaches the main stage of WWE. As long as every step they take in building him is as calculated and perfectly in-sync as his Takeover debut (including not over-using the gimmick) then he could be World Heavyweight Champion before you have time to catch your breath.
01. Sami Zayn
Around this time last year on main WWE TV we were in a six-month storyline that Vince and his cronies didn’t want to accept but finally gave in to at WrestleMania XXX with Daniel Bryan winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Technically, Sami Zayn has been clawing for the NXT Championship since September 2013: over a year. That fact alone made for a hell of a moment when he finally became the champion at NXT Takeover R-Evolution by defeating Adrian Neville.
But it wasn’t just time that gave the audience this connection to Zayn. Words can’t quite explain how he manages to blur character and performance but Sami is the complete package: it takes only a few seconds to understand his all-or-nothing, born-to-do-this underdog character and it was on prime display against Neville in what was surely one of the best matches of 2014. Every spot was a perfect call-back to previous encounters without being an overbooked mess and every minute ramped the intensity higher and higher until Zayn finally got the three-count and lifted the belt above his head.
It was a fulfilling moment for viewers and superstars alike but it didn’t end there. Kevin Owens has forced his way violently in the path of Sami Zayn’s title run and I couldn’t be more thrilled. What’s particularly key about this is the quality of the title picture. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are both indie darlings and they’re going to bring years of experience working together to the NXT stage and in a few years time, who knows, maybe they’ll clash on the main roster. All I know is I will be on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens every week and that’s how I want to feel about wrestling.
TOP 3 OF MAIN ROSTER:
03. Damien Mizdow
The Miz and Mizdow are such a unique team. The former is doing his best heel work yet and the latter is one of the most over guys on the show (again, who saw that coming?) and it makes the entire gimmick super hot right now. Just adding new ripples to the two every show has kept things interesting and they were really running with the two of them holding their titles aloft out-of-sync to jump from crazy cheers to crazy boos. Now we may be taking our first step on the road to the end of the team and if we’re lucky the blow-off will be every bit as good as this lead-up and lead Mizdow the star he so clearly is.
02. Seth Rollins
As Edge and Christian pointed out, he’s the man of many nicknames: “The Architect of The Shield”, “Mr Money in the Bank” and now “The Guy Who Made Mr Never Give Up Give Up”. Seth Rollins has somehow managed yet again to defy expectations and become an even bigger heel by threatening Cena with Edge’s life (literally, in fact, which is horribly dark and a guaranteed way to get heat) and forcing his hand to bring back The Authority. Seth Rollins has been entrusted with so much high-end talent and the main event of so many shows that he’s no longer the future of the WWE, he’s the present.
01. Dolph Ziggler
When Ziggler lost his Intercontinental Championship to Luke Harper at the beginning of November I wasn’t sure how to feel but I knew I wanted more from those two. With Survivor Series behind us, we were treated to just that. The two put on a hell of a show in TLC’s ladder match and then again and once more on Raw the next few weeks just in case you weren’t paying attention. Every match had something new to say but they all conformed to the Big Guy Who Can Move VS Wily Agile Underdog stereotype that often works so well.
After being match of the night for about three weeks in a row it was time to move on and on the final Raw of 2014 Ziggler was a part of the best match Rusev has ever had with a logical ending that gave neither of them a proper loss. With the crowd still firmly behind him and him not receiving pointless strikes under his name the future is still shining for the Show-Off.
BOTTOM 3 OF MAIN ROSTER:
03. Roman Reigns
I wouldn’t be the first to “deglare” that I don’t care much for Reigns right now. I don’t totally hate him and I think he has potential in the future but I’m relieved that WWE seem to be cooling their jets a little in regards to making him “the guy”. He’s shown in basically every appearance since his return (and hell, on the way to that return) that he’s just not ready. I have no problem with them setting him up for something cool down the road but giving him the strap at WrestleMania 31 seems laughable at this point.
02. The New Day
I wanted to love them. I still do. But Kofi, Xavier and Big E just haven’t connected like they should. It seems like WWE officials don’t want to try either after their last appearance was met with (so I’m told) “NXT” chants. It would be a shame to see them drop off the face of the planet already rather than work to fix the issues there. How about more backstage content? There’s nothing wrong with a “positive” stable as long as it’s actually fun so let them be funny pre-match or something since they so clearly have that ability within them. How hard can it be to try?
01. The Bella Twins
I’m sorry, what? Let’s see if I understand this correctly. Nikki Bella suffers the wrath of Stephanie McMahon because of Brie Bella’s absence. Nikki turns on Brie. Nikki beats Brie in a match with the stipulation that the loser becomes the other’s personal assistant for 30 days. Nikki bullies Brie; gets her to do things against her character and drops a smoothie on her etcetera. On her last night under this 30 day contract, Brie kisses AJ Lee to distract her so Nikki can win the Diva’s Championship. And now the two are buddies again. What? What did we just watch? And moreover, why? Was this storyline just there to tell us “hey sometimes life is shit and people get away with awful things and you don’t get your retribution”? Or maybe it was “we have no idea what we’re doing and hopefully you’ll suddenly have a stroke and forget any of this ever happened”. If only.
You can find Psyniac on Twitter at Raw is Psyniac where he tweets about Raw 18 hours after it’s aired, how much he loves Dolph Ziggler and, occasionally, candy.