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The Top 10 prospects in NXT
By PATRIC LAPRADE - SLAM! Wrestling


Charlotte is next for a big push from NXT, believes Pat Laprade. Photos by Bill Otten, B&B Productions.

I've always been a fan of prospects in sports. Whether it was the top rookies in baseball or the young future NHLers at the hockey draft, I've always been interested in knowing who would be the next stars. Keeping that in mind, I was excited to see a recent NXT taping live since I consider it the Triple A or the AHL of the WWE, with people there hoping to be one day called up by the major league.

On April 24th, I attended my first live NXT taping and since the four shows have aired and that we are days away from NXT Takeover, here's my personal Top 10 stars to watch, just like you'd get Baseball America or The Hockey News.

Bear in mind that this is done based on what I saw at that particular set of tapings, pretty much like a scouting report based on one game or so. It doesn't include wrestlers who already work for the big office, like Natalya, Tyson Kidd, Emma and Big E, or wrestlers that are working their way back to the main roster, such as Brodus Clay, Curt Hawkins and El Local (Ricardo Rodriguez).

I also excluded wrestlers who recently debuted in the big league like Bo Dallas, Alexander Rusev, Paige, and Adam Rose.

Also, it is based on the gimmick the person has at this moment and the potential of that gimmick in the WWE. As we can see with Leo Kruger/Adam Rose, sometimes a person with a gimmick that wasn't going anywhere can suddenly be the hottest ticket in town.

This is not the ten best wrestlers in NXT but the ten best gimmicks I foresee making it to the main roster. So there's a balance between talent and potential. In accordance to this, I won't play Triple H and switch a wrestler to a valet, manager or announcer because it would be changing their gimmick.

Let the debate begin!

10-Rich Brennan & Alex Riley
Formerly known as: Rich Bocchini; Kevin Kiley
Background: Hockey; Pro wrestling
Ages: unknown; 33
Years of experience: 15; 1
Okay, I know they are not wrestlers, but they are part of the developmental program and they have the same goals as anyone else. Brennan and Riley have the background and the tools to make it as announcers. Brennan has 15 years experience as a hockey announcer doing play-by-play for the AHL, United and Central leagues. He also learned his wrestling craft working for the NWA promotion in Houston. Riley is the son of a former ESPN sportscaster and seems to be a natural, if only he could have more freedom in what he's saying. He's the perfect example of someone that started as a wrestler and perhaps found his way in broadcasting. For those wondering, Renee Young is not a prospect to me anymore as she works regularly with WWE and is the best female interviewer WWE had in years.


Sasha Banks
9-Sasha Banks
Formerly known as: Mercedes KV
Background: Indy wrestling
Age: 21
Years of experience: 4
She improved a lot especially since becoming Robin to Charlotte's Batman. Their act made me think of Layla and Michelle McCool, with Charlotte playing McCool's role. Although she is not the wrestler Paige and Emma are, and she is not as impressive as Charlotte, Banks has the look and personality WWE usually likes.


Sylvester Lefort & Marcus Louis. Photo from @SylvesterWWE
8-Sylvester Lefort & Marcus Louis
Formerly known as: French Stallion; "French Paradox" Pierre Marceau
Background: Indy wrestling; kickboxing
Age: 30; unknown
Years of experience: 7; 8
These two could very well be the next team of Frenchmen, following the path of The Legionaries (Sgt. Goulet and Sgt. Leboeuf) and La Resistance (Sylvain Grenier and Rene Dupree). Even if Louis is much greener than Lefort, they both have good physiques, are handsome, and could appeal to the European market and to a certain extend the Quebec market too. They're not there yet, but are definitely a project I'd be working on.

7-Colin Cassady and Enzo Amore
Formerly known as: Big Bill; Eric Arndt
Background: College basketball; College football
Age: 27; 27
Years of experience: 3; 2
Big Cass and Enzo are very gimmick oriented. Enzo didn't even wrestle the night I was there and I can still see something in them. Both of them can talk, which is so important nowadays. They have done a commercial for NXT merchandise (I don't know if it's going to air on TV or not) and they were great. I always liked a tag team act with one of them being taller and bigger. Both have a great presence, good charisma and their punch line is very catchy and could be brought up too.


Bailey
6-Bayley
Formerly known as: Davina Rose
Background: Indy wrestling
Age: 24
Years of experience: 6
Her gimmick is to be star struck by other superstars and NXT wrestlers. Her act is directed at a younger audience who can relate to feeling the same way. She's like a 12-year-old seeing Justin Bieber for the first time. With WWE wanting to have a family-oriented product, she's the perfect girl for it. I would even see a character based on her in a Scooby-Doo-like movie or in Slam City. It is a little similar to Emma, although it would be more of a childish/comedy role, she can back it up with her wrestling. She had the best women's match the night I went.


Aiden English
5-Aiden English
Formerly known as: Matt Marquee
Background: Acting
Age: 26
Years of experience: 3
If not for Damien Sandow, Aiden English would probably be in the WWE already. To make a baseball comparison -- and Triple H would like it -- if you already have a set-up man in the line-up, you don't need another one -- yet. For any wrestling fans or historians who have seen pictures of the pioneers guys like Frank Gotch, Tom Cannon or Tom Jenkins, he actually looks incredibly similar. Google them, you'll see. Old is new they say. On top of it, English can sing really well and with some tweaking he has a gimmick almost ready for WWE.


Ascension
4-Ascension (Konnor & Viktor)
Formerly known as: Conor O'Brian; Apocalypse
Background: Indy wrestling; Indy wrestling
Age: 34; 33
Years of experience: 13; 13
The Ascension have been fine tuning their gimmick for a while now. They've done a few house shows including Madison Square Garden. They are the Road Warriors or Demolition of 2014. They often are doing squash matches, but it's something that worked before (i.e. Goldberg, Ultimate Warrior, and more recently Ryback). That being said, I would ultimately see them against a top babyface team like the Usos or The Shield. They have the size WWE is usually looking for, that's for sure.


Tyler Breeze
3-Tyler Breeze
Formerly known as: Mike Dalton
Background: Indy wrestling
Age: 26
Years of experience: 7
Tyler Breeze's gimmick is probably the best gimmick the NXT roster has. In a world where people constantly take pictures of themselves to put on Facebook or Instagram, a phenomenon called selfie, people immediately relate to him. The native of Winnipeg gets to the ring taking a selfie video of himself and the big screen is showing it at the same time, which is pretty cool and clever. Breeze might not have the raw skills some others have, but the potential charisma he's showing and the gimmick itself will lead him to the main roster sooner than later. He's the epitome of what 2014 is all about.


Sami Zayn crossbody blocks TJ Wilson
2-Sami Zayn
Formerly known as: El Generico
Background: Indy wrestling
Age: 29
Years of experience: 13
I believe Sami Zayn is someone who connects really well with the crowd, someone who is bringing new moves to the table, moves that nobody else have done yet in the WWE. And this is not just some crazy bumps with no story behind it. He's a great storyteller, his selling is amazing, probably better than most who are already on the WWE roster, although he has to make sure he's not overselling sometimes. He can also appeal to the Arabic market, the Canadian market and of course the French-Canadian one too. The gimmick is ready, he is ready, the only thing missing is the right reason to bring him to the next level.


Charlotte in action.
1-Charlotte
Formerly known as: Ashley Fliehr
Background: College Volleyball
Age: 28
Years of experience: 2
Charlotte is the most athletic of the women in NXT, and she's the tallest. To boot, she is actually the best wrestler out of Ric Flair's kids. She has all the tools to become a superstar. She's still green, she still needs experience leading matches especially when working with a greener girl, but definitely a huge potential. She could easily be a future Diva champion or have the lead role in Total Divas. Sky's the limit for her.

Random thoughts...

-I'm happy to see three tag teams in the top 10 since it's a division I always liked, that has a great history and is better than ever now with The Shield, The Rhodes, The Usos and The Wyatts.

-Kalisto (Samuray Del Sol) is very good, but has the same height as Rey Mysterio and is not as muscular. Could be the next spoke-person for the Spanish fans, as he already knows the American style.


Camacho
-Adrian Neville, the NXT champion, is one of the best three pure talents in NXT, but has no gimmick. His name is weak and his mic work is below average. They should repackage him as the "Man Gravity Forgot" and let him be the best high flyer out there, which is why they signed him.

-You can see that Mojo Rawley is a good athlete, but he's not there yet. He looks and seems to have Nikolai Volkoff's strength. You'd like to give him the Bill Goldberg streak. But I'm not sure if he can back it up. He's a long term project.

-Camacho has some very good upsides and WWE should try to get Tama Tonga down the road, because both of them could very well be the next Usos, maybe with their father, Haku (King Tonga), around them. Haku's reputation could help them too.

-Alexa Bliss is greener than grass and shouldn't be on TV right now. Chad Gable, who was sold to me as the next Kurt Angle, is only 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds and is not a gold medallist. CJ Parker didn't wrestle or do a promo, just a cameo during one match. Brandi Rhodes does a fine job as a ring announcer.

My first impression coming off the NXT tapings is a very good one actually. The venue is good. The show has the feel of an indy show with a professional edge added to it. The crowd looks like your regular indy show crowd but seemed to invest more into NXT than anything else. Full Sail University has even its security escorting the wrestlers to their car after the show, especially the girls. Talent is very accessible before and after the show for any fans seeking for pictures and autographs. Bottom line, it was a very good experience that I would recommend to anyone in or going to South Florida.

Pat Laprade was really proud to see Sami Zayn live in NXT after having seen him so many times before, from his second wrestling match ever to his great matches with Kevin Steen in ROH. If you want to discuss NXT or any pro wrestling topics, feel free to add him on Facebook or Twitter.