Posts tagged Velveteen Dream
First Black Champ - Tyler Breeze Is A Good Looking Al Bundy

NXT Takeover 25 is wrap and we got new Black Champs! We deep dive on that as well as why it's time for Velveteen Dream to leave NXT. All these are signs of wrestling truly changing and it being the best time ever to be a black wrestler. Then we talk Jon Moxley on Talk is Jericho and what it really means for him, being a writer in the WWE and if it's the right move for everybody else on this weeks #FirstBlackChampPod.

As Justin Bieber readies to drop much anticipated new music, enjoy this Barber's Chair playlist of the best hits in Bieberveli's arsenal! 
Apple Music: https://apple.co/2HdG2yN
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2HbTcME
Tidal: http://bit.ly/bieberveli

Throw your diamonds up for more than a decade of heat with the new TIDAL-exclusive Roc La Familia playlist from The Barber's Chair! The greatest hits from the most prolific label in hip hop history.
Listen here: https://tidal.com/playlist/dfcd8a98-7eb0-473e-8666-170acc564443

Listen to the new bangers playlist on Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music!
Tidal: bit.ly/tidalbangers
Spotify: bit.ly/spotifybangers
Apple Music: bit.ly/applebangers

Becky might no longer have two belts but you can still get your #FreeTheMan tee on the Barber's Chair Net merch shop
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or
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First Black Champ - If You Don't Have WWE Network You A Cheap Bitch!

Happy Birthday to the WWE Network! It's been five years since the way we consume wrestling content has change and we are better for it with more money in our pockets! We talk about that and celebrate our new Black Champ, The Velveteen Dream! How bad was the original NXT call ups for us to get the repackaging of NXT as a traveling brand with top tier guys on RAW and Smackdown last week? We unpack that Kofi Kingston and the reason we think Roman Reigns is returning on this week’s #FirstBlackChamp podcast!

Follow Cam Quotes on Twitter: @ImCamQuotes
Follow JR Bang on Twitter: @jrbang

Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!
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Nearly Canceled: Entourage is available right now exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
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NXTop10: The greatest matches in NXT Takeover history

Capping off a wonderful first year of The Barber's Chair with our latest NXTop10! Rob, Chris, Lincoln and Post Wrestling's Braden Herrington join Pierce as they count down the 10 greatest matches in NXT Takeover history!

Follow Pierce on Twitter: @HennyOmega
Follow Rob on Twitter: @RobertONeill31
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisMNovak
Follow Lincoln on Twitter: @MaAdLynx
Follow Braden on Twitter/IG: @TheBrayD

Celebrate your division champs by grabbing one of the NEW shirts straight from The Barber's Chair merch store!
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Nearly Canceled: Entourage drops New Years Day 2019 exclusively on the Barber's Chair Patreon! Become a patron of The Barber's Chair on Patreon! $5 a month will get you a thank you on Ball Don't Lie and guarantees you access to Nearly Canceled: Entourage, along with more exclusive premium content from The Barber's Chair!
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intro music: "No Money" by Yung Kartz - hooksounds.com
outro music: "Jive" by The Loyalist - hooksounds.com
Audio courtesy of the award-winning WWE Network. Please support wrestling and look up these matches.

The 2019 WWE Top 25: "Preseason" Edition

Hello out there. Welcome to what’s hoping to be a staple of The Barber’s Chair Network’s wrestling coverage for the entirety of 2019. I give to you a new premise, aptly titled the WWE Top 25.

Out of the gate, you might have some questions. The good news is, I have answers for you. So, let me get this started here.

What is the WWE Top 25?

Great question! The WWE Top 25 is going to be a list, published right here to The Barber’s Chair Network, of the top performers in WWE, month-by-month. At the conclusion of each month, I will publish the list. This will continue on and progress all the way through. You might see superstars rise, you might see superstars fall. You might see them completely fall out of the rankings. Think of it like the college football and basketball polls. Only it will just be one person “voting.”

How are the rankings determined?

These rankings are going to be determined on match quality. That’s it, that’s all. I will be watching matches on WWE’s weekly TV programs and WWE Network events, grading the matches (0 stars-5 stars) and calculating their scores thereafter. Superstars eligible for these rankings will have to have competed on Raw, SmackDown Live, NXT, 205 Live AND NXT UK. If any NXT brands are created within the next 12 months, those superstars will become eligible to be used as well.

What is the grading system and how is it calculated?

This grading system will be calculated very simplistically and easily. I will be weighting certain thresholds differently than others. Here is how it’s going to go:

  • If a superstar’s match is graded 0-*3/4, they will be given 0.25 points.

  • If a superstar’s match is graded **-**3/4, they will be given 0.5 points.

  • If a superstar’s match is graded ***-****1/4, then they will be given between 3-4.25 points, depending on the star rating they receive. This allows for those who have good-great matches to receive their due while not completely overweighting their performances.

  • If a superstar’s match is graded ****1/2, then they will be given 9 points. The 4.5-star rating will be multiplied by 2.0 to weight for quality.

  • If a superstar’s match is graded ****3/4, then they will be given 11.875 points. The 4.75-star rating will be multiplied by 2.5 to weight for quality.

  • Finally, if a superstar’s match is graded the FULL FIVE *****, then they will be given 15 points. The 5-star rating will be multiplied by 3.0 to weight for quality.

Also, it probably goes without saying, but those who are part-timers will likely fall short of being high to very high on these rankings lists, month-to-month and by the end of the year. The more matches you wrestle, the higher your score will be. But, you also will have to show out as well in order to get up way high.

So, I hope that explains everything. I used this formula for individual performances at TakeOver and it came away with pretty good results. It’s all obviously in the eye of the beholder. I don’t consider myself an ace star rater or anything of that but I figure this could be a fun project.

Are you really going to be watching EVERYTHING?

I sure as hell hope so!


So, anyways, it’s time for me to produce my “Preseason” Top 25. This is the only edition of the rankings that will be completely rooted in superficial BS. These rankings are based on how I think 2019 will look by the the time December 31, 2019 comes around. So, anyways, with that said, let’s roll with the WWE Top 25, Preseason Edition.

25. Bayley

Okay, if you follow me… did you really expect anything else here? But on a serious note, I think Bayley does have a standout 2019. The fact that Women’s Tag Team Championships are on the way greatly help her and her tag team partner (whom you’ll see shortly) in a big way. The one thing I will say, and this pertains to the entire Raw women’s division, is that opportunities are going to be interesting to sort out… for several reasons. Most of which will be explained later. But do I think The Hugger will be back to form? You bet.

24. Velveteen Dream

Velveteen Dream is probably going to have another great year. 2018 was a breakout year for the youngster and he just had his best singles match ever against Tommaso Ciampa at TakeOver: WarGames 2018. Velveteen has no doubt shined in the big spots and how many TV matches he gets will go a long way towards determining where Dream is going to be. That type of stuff can be variable if you’re not the champ and not on Undisputed Era, so I have him 23rd to start. But I can see a Top 15 finish for sure.

23. Shayna Baszler

Shayna is one of NXT’s best big match performers. As the brand’s Women’s Champion, she’s no doubt going to get plenty of big matches to perform in naturally. She’s shown a great ability to work with just about anybody, and her series with Kairi Sane was legit great. I don’t think working with the new crop that NXT has is going to hurt her at all, whatsoever. And a probable call up for the rumored 4HW vs. 4HW feud wouldn’t either.

22. Sasha Banks

‘The Boss’ finds herself 22nd on my ‘preseason’ Top 25. Banks had a great start to 2018 and I’d definitely argue that if her rivalry with Bayley actually came to fruition she’d have been even higher on anybody’s Wrestler of the Year lists. Banks can have great matches with anybody and that much is absolutely certain. If big opportunities come her way, you just know she’s going to take the spotlight and make it her own. Like Bayley, Banks should see a resurgence in 2019. So long as a couple of factors go her way.

21. Pete Dunne

The UK Champion finds himself 21st on my rankings list. Dunne is likely going to be in NXT UK for good now since he wrapped up all his indie dates just a short while ago. So his opportunities will be increased big time. But the question is… how many are there going to be? They’re running a TakeOver soon and I figure there’ll be more on the way, but just how many? Will he have opportunities over in the States on the regular NXT brand? Dunne is a great talent no doubt and could go way high on this list. But we’ll see how everything plays itself out.

20. Drew McIntyre

Drew Mac has a legitimate shot at being one of the biggest faces on the Raw brand. I thought he had a good not great year this past year that was obviously hurt by the fact that he was… well, hurt at the start of it. He’s not yet had that standout match but had some good matches with Seth Rollins, Kurt Angle and a few others. If he gets that shot as being the top heel then we’ll probably see a huge year. That is yet to be seen, though.

19. Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey has no doubt shined this year. She’s arguably one of the top performers in the company and the entire industry. She’s yet to have a bad match. So why in the world is she 19th? A couple of reasons here. For one, Ronda doesn’t ALWAYS wrestle on TV. She’s had maybe one or two singles matches so far on Raw, and has otherwise competed in tag matches. So the lack of opportunities will probably hurt her in the end. And secondly… the great unknown. Everyone KNOWS that she’s going to be here through WrestleMania. But what about after that? Is she going to stick it out for the whole year? She’s made comments that might have you believe she might not be TOO long for this. So just how long is she going to be around here? No one REALLY knows. So despite the fact that she’s a great worker, I’m putting her 19th and letting things happen from there.

18. Ricochet

NXT’s North American Champion had an AWESOME first eight months in the brand. He showed out in the NA Title Match and performed at a super high level against Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole. He also didn’t miss against Pete Dunne on TV and in the 3-way against Dunne and Cole either. As with Dream, the TV match # is important to watch here, but he’s a huge star and attraction for the brand so he could wind up finishing way higher than 18th.

17. Mustafa Ali

Opportunities aren’t going to be hard to come by for one of 205 Live’s greatest success stories anymore. Mustafa Ali is off the 205 Live island and is officially on SmackDown Live, and he’s already being thrust in with some of the brand’s biggest performers. Ali is a prime candidate to have a US Championship run and could have some banger TV matches as a result. Expect another big year for Ali.

16. Matt Riddle

This is easily my most ambitious pick. But I think I’ll be repaid for it in the end. Matt Riddle is a wrestling prodigy and going to NXT was huge for him and the brand. He’s wrestled all over the world and had absolute bangers just about everywhere. So do I foresee that happening in NXT? Absolutely. Riddle being on numerous TakeOver cards should be the expectation and he’ll likely have PLENTY of TV matches going forward. With the kind of performer he is, I wouldn’t even be shocked if he somehow got into the Top 10 by year’s end, bro.

15. Finn Balor

Finn Balor might be one of WWE’s most consistent performers. He was pretty easily in the Top 10-15 performers for WWE this year and was one of their best TV match workers. Balor could have big things on his way if he gets more opportunities and due to his current positioning on Monday Night Raw, that’s a strong possibility. While some fans crave a lot more for Finn, I think they may very well get their wish. I think he’s going to have another great year.

14. The Miz

Like the aforementioned Finn Balor, Miz always shows out in TV matches which is going to help his cause and then some. He’s also showcased himself greatly on PPVs and is easily one of the most consistent workers in the company. Which is a crazy thought, ain’t it? Miz should definitely find himself very high on this list by year’s end and will likely get off to a great start in the first month of the year.

13. Kyle O’Reilly

Like his fellow Undisputed Era mates, Kyle O’Reilly is one of the best in the world. O’Reilly produced NOTHING but hits last year tagging alongside Roderick Strong as the best tag team on the entire planet. O’Reilly doesn’t always get singles match opportunities which may ‘hurt’ his chances of climbing up but you definitely could’ve made a strong case for him to be Top 10 in WWE last year. KOR should continue that momentum in 2019 and, of course, keep shredding, Kyle. Keep shredding.

12. Andrade “Cien” Almas

Andrade had a huge start to 2018, partaking in two of the matches of the year against Johnny Gargano and Aleister Black. And… then he got called up to WWE and… well… the opportunities thinned themselves out. It’s unfortunate, because it’s obvious that Almas is one of the greatest wrestlers on planet Earth. But such is life. I think that changes course however in 2019 and we get a huge year out of Almas, who has a shot to be as good as Top 5 if they let him.

11. Charlotte Flair

There is no better big match performer than Charlotte Flair. Despite a few hiccups in the middle of the year, she showed OUT. Flair had a great match against Asuka at WrestleMania. Then, she turned around and had an incredible series with Becky Lynch that elevated the two of them. She closed out with a monster showing in the TLC match at TLC for the SmackDown Live Women’s Championship. She’s ALWAYS going to get opportunities on TV and at PPVs, so she’s going to be one of the top performers this year. That’s a safe bet.

10. Adam Cole

Perhaps nobody broke out as much as Adam Cole did in 2018. He was thought to be the weakest of the talents in Undisputed Era in the ring. All he did was have great matches at every single TakeOver and had some tremendous showings on TV, as well. Cole and the rest of UE are going to get numerous NXT TV matches so it’s a safe bet that Cole is going to shine and shine brightly.

9. Tommaso Ciampa

The current NXT Champion shined very brightly this year. Ciampa was injured and off TV for much of the start of the year but had great showings against Johnny Gargano, Aleister Black and, recently, Velveteen Dream. Because he should continue to be a huge mainstay at the top, predicting big things for Ciampa is a very safe bet. He starts 9th, but Top 5 isn’t out of the question.

8. Asuka

Given that she’s Women’s Champion now and might have the avenue to herself if Charlotte and Becky move to Raw, Asuka has a chance to be the ace of the SDL women’s division. As a result, you find her here at this spot. The Empress is going to get her due now and has always been a high-level talent. I would suspect that she’s duking it out for the crown of best women’s wrestler in the company by year’s end.

7. Johnny Gargano

What’s the only thing stopping Johnny Gargano from being near the top again? Probably just himself or bad writing. Granted, the latter happened at the end of 2018 and really nuked his chance of being Top 5 or even Top 1. But his TakeOver resume is undoubtedly amazing and he’s a safe bet to have incredible matches any time he’s on TV. It all really depends on how everything is portrayed and how everything is pieced together. If it all goes well, Johnny Wrestling will once again be one of the best wrestlers under the WWE umbrella.

6. Becky Lynch

Do I foresee big things for The Man? I mean, do I want to say no? Have you seen what she does to people who dare cross her? Becky had a phenomenal run in the back half of 2018, but her early stuff definitely would’ve limited her if I did a rankings list like this for 2018 since she was barely on television for the first four months of the year. But that’s not going to be the case in 2019. Becky is the biggest star in the company and whether it’s on SmackDown or Raw, she’s GOING to get her shots. She hasn’t missed lately and with banger possibilities coming up against Ronda Rousey and maybe some of her old friends on Raw coming up, Becky will be right back up here soon enough.

5. AJ Styles

The face of SmackDown Live has been nothing if not consistent since he got to WWE. Styles may have had his moments in 2018, but he’s still without a doubt an elite in-ring worker. With fresh faces on SmackDown for him to possibly work with (I don’t foresee him going to Monday Night Raw in a Superstar Shakeup, but it’s certainly not an unreasonable thought) he could have a chance to piece together yet another great year. The only thing that might stop him? Styles is 41 going on 42 and he might wind up working a little bit of a lighter schedule, therefore limiting his chances of getting enough points to be up this high.

4. Roderick Strong

Roddy Strong had a phenomenal 2018, so is he destined to do the same in 2019? I’d argue yes. He’s the best in-ring worker in Undisputed Era (although he is definitely closely followed by at least two of his comrades). He’s also one half of what I believe to be the greatest tag team in the entire wrestling world right now alongside his UE buddy, Kyle O’Reilly. Also, I think rather highly of him as a singles wrestler and he cashed in on all of his chances in 2018. 2019 should see him get even larger amounts of success, so I think Strong has a great chance of being near the top again.

3. Seth Rollins

Rollins was a very popular pick for Wrestler of the Year in 2018 and it’s easy to see why. He went beast mode at the start of the year and was incredibly consistent in the spring and summer. The last few months have soured people a little bit with some dull and repetitive matches with Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose. But, with that said, it’s still probable that he has an outstanding 2019. He’ll get his chances on TV and at PPVs, and Seth should be able to cash in.

2. Buddy Murphy

Are you a little surprised? Maybe you shouldn’t be. Buddy Murphy pieced together an absolutely incredible 2018 and it’s arguable that he was the greatest story of 2018. Forgotten in NXT, Murphy took a huge leap in becoming one of the biggest stars on the 205 Live brand. The current Cruiserweight Champion had standout matches with just about everyone (Kalisto, Mustafa Ali, Cedric Alexander, etc.) I am putting him very high on this list because of two reasons: One, he’s very young and while it might be hard to replicate a year like his 2018, he’ll no doubt have his chances. And secondly, I foresee him getting off the 205 Live island at some point by the time he eventually drops his championship. So an abundance of chances against top-level workers could come his way.

1. Daniel Bryan

After a three-year absence from the ring, Daniel Bryan returned with a vengeance in 2018. Bryan may have been ‘sterile’ in some eyes but he was producing at a high level. As time wore on, Bryan found his comfort zone and it really started at SummerSlam. By November, Bryan looked like the old Daniel Bryan or, hell, the old American Dragon. His matches with AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar were at a ridiculously high caliber. It is the opinion of this writer and probably many more that by the time 2020 is about to come around, Daniel Bryan will once again be known as the best wrestler in the company and arguably the best wrestler in the world. If he already isn’t right now.

The 10 greatest NXT superstars of all-time

In six years, NXT exploded from a shitty competition-style show to fill the left-over hour of the dearly departed ECW brand, into a global phenomenon. Triple H's vision has essentially turned WWE's minor league into a quasi-indie promotion, featuring the biggest up-and-comers to have not yet grace a WWE ring.

From Seth Rollins and Big E, to Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn, to Bayley and Finn Balor, to Asuka and Johnny Gargano, NXT has thrilled audiences with its fresh style of wrestling and storytelling, a stark contrast to the five hours of weekly WWE programming. Its performers over the years have changed, but the hype remains the same, if not larger than ever before.

There are so many superstars over the years who have made an impact in NXT that the debate began: if we were to rank the 10 greatest superstars in NXT history, who would (and wouldn't) make the cut? So we here at the Barber's Chair decided to put our heads together and rank them, 1-10. The list is VERY controversial, especially our top 3; SO controversial that the superstar with the best average ISN'T number one on this list! For a deeper look into our rankings, you can check out the accompanying podcast where we discuss why each superstar fell where they did on our list.

Before we go into our top 10, let's name our best of the rest.

WWE

WWE

The Shield

Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima. Delta.

The Shield arrived on the scene in WWE at Survivor Series 2012, but they did have a spell together in NXT towards the end of Seth Rollins' NXT title run. Of the three, Rollins was the standout out on NXT, but Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose held their own. They were the first superstars to defect from NXT to the main roster and have an immediate impact, thus why they made our Best of the Rest.

WWE

WWE

Velveteen Dream

The most eccentric superstar in NXT history very well might crack our top 10 when we revisit this list a year from now. Patrick Clark took the Dream from a poor Prince imitation and molded it into his own character, raising his charisma to 10 and his in-ring skills to another level. The Dream is the next big thing in the company, IF they do right by him.

WWE

WWE

Dash and Dawson

The greatest tag team in NXT history, the Revival were the throwback to old school tag team wrestling, and their dominance helped establish the NXT Tag Team division in 2016. Their series of matches with DIY and the Authors of Pain have gone down among the greatest tag team matches in modern wrestling history, so it's only right they cracked the best of the rest.

WWE

WWE

Aleister Black

No man is ever truly good. No man is ever truly evil. From the second Aleister Black's music hit in NXT, he became a superstar. The Black Mask is one of the most lethal, protected finishers in the brand's history, and his mystique is captivating. His run with the NXT Championship was incredibly lackluster, but it hasn't hurt his standing among the best the brand has ever seen.

WWE

WWE

Adrian Neville

Neville was the first major superstar for NXT after the inception of the WWE Network. He helped carry the brand through the infant stages of the Network when NXT was the only weekly show around on there. His bouts with Tyson Kidd, Tyler Breeze and Sami Zayn helped to elevate NXT before their real takeoff; that says something about a guy Neville's stature to be that over and make such a stand in history.

WWE

WWE

Undisputed Era

One year ago in Brooklyn, Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly shocked the system when they debuted in NXT. A dominant faction of indie darlings would never work off the bat in WWE, but in NXT the Undisputed Era are a game-changer. The addition of Roderick Strong in a HOT heel turn in New Orleans gave the group a new element. Thanks to Fish's injury they have yet to hold every single title in NXT, but it's only a matter of time until they do.


10. Shinsuke Nakamura

T.C. Fontaine: The first quarter of 2016 saw many top names from New Japan Pro Wrestling make their way over to the WWE; but perhaps none bigger than Shinsuke Nakamura. Without a doubt Nakamura is the biggest Japanese-born star to compete in WWE, and his signing to NXT garnered appropriate attention, complete with a press conference in Tokyo. “The King of Strong Style” would make his highly anticipated WWE debut during Wrestlemania weekend at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, defeating Sami Zayn in a critically-acclaimed bout.

Nakamura quickly shot up the NXT ranks, triumphing over Finn Bálor, which solidified himself in the title picture. His year-long NXT run was notable for his feud with Samoa Joe, which saw Nak defeat Joe for top NXT crown at TakeOver: Brooklyn II. He and Joe would trade the NXT Championship throughout the second half of 2016, culminating with Nak winning the strap a second time in his home country, and retaining in a classic cage match in Australia.

Although it was a brief run in developmental, Nakamura definitely made a name for himself as one of the best in NXT’s history.


9. Samoa Joe

Chris Novak: On May 20, 2015, NXT produced TakeOver: Unstoppable. It’s an event best remembered for a clash between Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, but many fans will also recall how the show concluded. As reigning NXT Champion Kevin Owens stood tall after defeating Sami Zayn and Finn Balor, the fans in Full Sail witnessed an historic arrival. After spending over 10 years with TNA and Ring of Honor, NXT was graced by the presence of The Samoan Submission Machine.

When Samoa Joe walked out that night in Full Sail and confronted Owens in the ring, it produced quite a moment. It was perhaps the first of the “Oh Shit!” kind for NXT, a brand that was just 15 months into the Network Era. Those past 15 months solidified it as a rising brand, and one that was producing better results than the main roster. But adding Samoa Joe? This was the kind of moment that turned heads. This meant that NXT wasn’t only a developmental brand, but something that was about to take it around the US and the world, as well.

Throughout the duration of Joe’s career in NXT, that’s exactly what they did. It helped that they had the likes of Finn Balor, Bayley and later Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka, but Joe was a household name. The kind of impact that he provided NXT at the gate was a powerful and evident one. It’s probably why he was around there for so long. An impactful presence away from the ring will absolutely land you Top 10 consideration, so it’s no surprise that he was on this list.

Not only that, but Joe’s in-ring accomplishments were great in NXT history. He was the first ever two-time NXT Champion; he won the first-ever Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic with Finn Balor; he defeated Balor, alongside a host of big names in NXT’s history. While his workrate wasn’t nearly what it was 10 years ago or even a few years before his arrival to the brand, he was still more than competent.

And plus, his mic skills still remain aces.


8. Tommaso Ciampa

Markus Howell: *Fuck you Ciampa* *clap clap clapclapclap*

Tommaso Ciampa deserves his spot in the top 10 greatest NXT superstars of all time based off everything after his knee injury alone. The run he’s had since his return in January is impeccable. His social media work? Flawless. In-ring work? Vastly underrated. Heel tactics? Legendary. Ciampa’s story is largely attached to Johnny Wrestling but what great evil doesn’t have a great good guy to attempt to foil? Ciampa is currently the NXT champion (something his counterpart cannot currently say) which puts his run right now on another level.

Now, his DIY work with Gargano also attributed to his status as one of NXT’s greats, but the singles work he has put in on his own has catapulted him over some others who deserve it. Ciampa’s subtleties are what make him such a great heel and an even better character. I mean hell, NO THEME SONG?! Incredible.

But seriously, Ciampa deserves this spot as one of the greats due to his overall body of work. All I can hope for is that when Ciampa is gone and his feud with Johnny is over, he debuts on the main roster with no theme music. Like….never get a theme song. Ever.


7. Kevin Owens

WWE

WWE

Markus: From the moment Kevin Owens stepped onto the NXT scene at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution, he made it known that he was in NXT for business and business only.

Owens’ NXT career was arguably one of the best we have ever seen. He debuted in a vicious and vile way, defeating CJ Parker in his first match before attacking his best friend and new NXT Champion Sami Zayn later that night, letting the audience know what he was here for . “Prizefighter” Kevin Owens, the most dangerous of Owens’ personalities, came into Full Sail to do what he needed to do in order to provide for his family.

Throughout his tenure in NXT, KO put on countless quality matches with Sami, Samoa Joe, and Finn Balor, helping to elevate NXT to a new level with his ruthlessness. However his legend on the roster will be known for what he did on the main roster as NXT champion.

KO made his main roster debut unannounced as the NXT champion, answering John Cena's U.S. Open Challenge. This set up a match at Elimination Chamber weeks later, which Owens won cleanly. This firmly put Owens in the “Oh Shit, we should pay attention to this guy” category along with bringing an audience to NXT that they did not have before.

Owens’ impact on the main roster is largely underrated but rightfully overshadowed, but what he achieved in his brief tenure is not to be dismissed. KO is arguably the first or second-most successful NXT alum and looking back at his NXT run, you shouldn’t be surprised.


6. Sami Zayn

Robert O'Neill: After years of making his name in Ring of Honor as El Generico, Sami Zayn’s arrival in NXT in 2013 marked a huge step for the promotion. After The Shield got promoted to the main roster, the brand was starting to look a little barren of talent. That all changed when Zayn signed in January and made his debut a few weeks later, with a bang. Zayn defeated Curt Hawkins and Antonio Cesaro on the same night to announce to the world that he was there.

The rest of 2013 would see Zayn work against Cesaro, whom he had a ton of familiarity with from his ROH days, before entering a title feud with Bo Dallas. He ultimately lost the feud, though, and would go on to lose a few more feuds over the course of the early part of 2014, but he won a feud against Tyson Kidd and started teaming up with NXT Champion Adrian Neville in tag bouts. That is, until Neville cost Zayn the title at NXT Takeover: Fatal 4-Way.

From that point on, Zayn was desperate for another title shot. So desperate that he put his career on the line against Neville’s title at NXT Takeover: R Evolution. Zayn proved victorious and captured the elusive gold, but, as you probably know, his joy was very short-lived. His recently signed longtime friend/foe Kevin Owens came down to the ring to celebrate with Zayn before turning on him and throwing him into the ring apron.

To be entirely honest with you, the Owens/Zayn feud was almost a rough draft of the ongoing Johnny Gargano/Tomasso Ciampa feud. Owens and Zayn were best friends turned into bitter enemies, and Owens was able to get the title off Zayn after just two months, winning by referee stoppage at NXT Takeover: Rival.

While Zayn remained in the NXT title hunt preparing for his rematch against Owens, he answered John Cena’s United States Open Challenge on Raw in his native Montreal, being introduced by Bret Hart. Zayn lost to Cena, but put on a great match. However… he suffered a an injury in the match and was written off TV at NXT Takeover: Unstoppable when Owens beat him down to the point where he couldn’t partake in the match.

Seven months later, Zayn returned, but things were different. He no longer found himself in the title picture and looked poised to go to the main roster soon. He partook in the 2016 Royal Rumble, eliminating Kevin Owens, and then returned to Raw in March to team up with Neville to face Owens and Miz. However, Zayn had one more match ahead of him in NXT.

Wrestlemania weekend was set to commence from Dallas, and while it was a weekend loaded with high-caliber matches, Sami Zayn versus a debuting Shinsuke Nakamura stole the show. Nakamura got the win in Zayn’s send off, but it was a perfect way to send off a guy who was the ultimate underdog for so long.


WWE

WWE

5. Asuka

Lincoln Ricketts: The undefeated empress of NXT belongs on this list without any hesitation.

While walking in the shadows of the "Four Horsewomen", Asuka had to endure a slow influx of talent, yet she prevailed nonetheless. From her entrance to her wrestling skills, Asuka maintained an aura that attracted fans to watch her matches regardless of her opponents.

Asuka’s reign will be remembered as Goldberg-esque, dominating her opponents with ease. Luckily she gained a few adversaries who matched her talents in the ring, most memorably Ember Moon who gave Asuka the best match of her career thus far. After a Triple Threat Match for the Women’s Championship with Ruby Riot, Nikki Cross gave Asuka an exceptional Last Woman Standing match, with both women pushing it to the absolute limit.

In the end, no one was ready for Asuka, as she relinquished her title before leaving for the main roster.


WWE

WWE

4. Sasha Banks

Lynx: Sasha Banks is one of the best heels that NXT ever created. Banks was the BOSS that let everyone know who she was, from wrestlers to the viewers. Banks came up with a character for herself and it worked out extremely well; she wound up becoming NXT Women's Champion and was part of the best women’s match in NXT history with Bayley.

It’s amazing that NXT planned to use her in order to make other Superstars look good. I mean think about it; almost every wrestler who has been in the ring with Sasha Banks has had their best match with her. Banks’ feud with Becky Lynch shows her character and her worth in the ring. Before TakeOver: Brooklyn, Banks vs. Lynch was must-see TV. Banks sacrifices herself to ensure that the match gets to that next level.

Sasha (as well as the other Four Horsewomen) changed our mindset on how women wrestle. She pushed forward and broke through the glass ceiling to become one of the best NXT wrestlers of all-time. Banks popularity transferred to the main roster, as she is one of the most popular stars in WWE today.


WWE

WWE

3. Johnny Gargano

Rob: What is there to say about Johnny Gargano at this point? He’s one of the best tag team wrestlers AND best singles wrestlers in NXT history, and that’s why he was #1 on my ballot despite finishing third in the overall rankings.

Gargano and Ciampa really burst onto the tag team scene in late 2016 after they won the titles against The Revival at NXT Takeover: Toronto. They dropped them shortly later to Authors of Pain, then fell short again in the rematch vs. AOP and Revival at NXT Takeover: Orlando, but the duo never stopped fighting to get the gold back. Well, until they did.

NXT Takeover: Chicago saw DIY face AOP in a ladder match. Though coming very close, Gargano and Ciampa lost the match in the end. That’s when everything changed. As the show was set to go off the air, Ciampa snapped and savagely beat Gargano on the stage.

Nothing would ever be the same.

Ciampa left to deal with injuries, but it was always in the back of everyone’s mind that he would be back and Gargano would eventually be waiting for him. In the meantime, Gargano faced off with Andrade “Cien” Almas in Brooklyn, and lost when Zelina Vega threw a DIY shirt at Gargano. He persisted, though, becoming the #1 contender for Almas’ title at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia and delivering WWE’s first five-star match since 2011, but Gargano fell short yet again. To make things worse, Ciampa attacked him with a crutch after the match.

Then, on NXT TV in February, Gargano put his career on the line against Almas’ title. With the referee knocked out, Ciampa came out and assisted Almas for the victory. Gargano convinced William Regal to give him an unsanctioned match against Ciampa in New Orleans to try to get his job back. What followed was a brutal contest with all sorts of weaponry, and this time Gargano got the win to get his job back.

They weren’t done yet, though. After Gargano was awarded a championship match against Aleister Black on NXT TV, Ciampa took him out on the entrance ramp. This led to another match, this time a Chicago Street Fight in Rosemont. What followed was one of the most punishing wrestling matches of all time, featuring an incredible table spot, and a DDT onto the exposed wood underneath the ring. Ciampa got the win this time, but still the feud rages on.

This weekend in Brooklyn, Gargano and Ciampa (now the NXT Champion thanks to Gargano’s interference in Ciampa’s match with Black leading to Ciampa’s victory) will face off in a Last Man Standing match of the NXT Championship. It will likely be the final match in the feud, and there’s no better way to cap off this 15-month war.

Gargano’s ability to play the ultimate white meat babyface to Ciampa’s blackhearted heel, combined with his in-ring excellence is what has made him #1 on my list of all-time NXT superstars.


2. Finn Balor

WWE

WWE

TC: In the spring of 2014, Finn Bálor was the first of several major post-Network era WWE migrations from New Japan Pro Wrestling. After a short stint tag-teaming with Hideo Itami upon his debut, he soon set his sights on the NXT Championship. The Demon King’s victory over Kevin Owens at the Beast in the East special saw him become the first superstar to win the NXT title outside of Full Sail arena (also the first and only title change that has occurred outside of North America).

Over the course of his record 292-day reign (which no titleholder has come close to since) Bálor defended the title in several standout matches, including a classic ladder match versus Kevin Owens at the inaugural TakeOver: Brooklyn event. His reign also saw him win the Dusty Rhodes Classic with Samoa Joe.

All of these things considered, it’s impossible to argue against Finn Bálor being one of the greatest NXT superstars of all-time.


1. Bayley

WWE

WWE

Chris: It’s not difficult to see why Bayley was voted as the greatest superstar in NXT history. For one, as of writing, no ‘story’ ever crafted by the brand has ever reached the kind of climax that Bayley’s reached. She was the truest of underdogs from the jump, not winning a singles match until November 2013. It was that night, when she defeated Summer Rae, that the hope truly began. The belief that some day, Bayley could assert herself at the top of the mountain.

2014 was when she started to turn the corner. She began to gain the attention of the NXT Universe, and many more began to take her seriously. She was part of NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way, where she came up short in an effort to wrestle the NXT Women’s Championship away from Charlotte. She lost that night in Orlando, but fans began to flock. In 2015, she sought to become champion and rid the ‘loser’ reputation. A reputation that, smartly, gained more fuel when her contemporaries -- Becky Lynch, the aforementioned Charlotte, and Sasha Banks -- were called up to the main roster. The only member of the ‘4 Horsewomen’ who wasn’t? That was Bayley, who “fell behind.” And it was during this time that she began a crusade for the NXT Women’s Title that nobody would soon forget.

The climactic moment of this chase, and perhaps the greatest moment in NXT history, took place at the biggest NXT event ever. TakeOver: Brooklyn on August 22, 2015 saw the best women’s match in company history. Bayley went toe-to-toe with Banks, and captured the title that eluded her. It was this moment in time that jumped off the page. It was the conclusion of an incredible ride for Bayley, who captured the hearts of everyone around the wrestling world. From kids to adults, marks to smarks, it didn’t matter.

Bayley’s impact on the brand was substantial away from the ring, as well. She was different, in that for the first time in a long time, NXT (and WWE still, to this day) had someone to market towards young girls. Her ‘huggers’ were always around, capturing her attention. Her presence helped bring families to the shows on NXT’s Florida circuit. It was commonplace to see a multitude of young kids with their mothers and fathers, all screaming and cheering their hearts out for Bayley.

She was family-friendly and accepted among the ENTIRE fanbase, too, in a day and age where WWE being “PG” is still occasionally lambasted. It was against the usual grain, and her absence from the brand only showcases what was lost. Families don’t typically show up in large volumes like they used to anymore. They’ve now elevated and gone to WWE house shows. So not only did Bayley have an impact on TV, but she also had impact at the gate, and for one of the targeted audiences. The void still hasn’t been filled, and may never be filled to the extent that it was again.

Bayley is, was, and always will be the quintessential NXT superstar. The lovable underdog. The purest babyface this side of town. All that was right. Someone who even made the most cynical smark bellow out the loudest of cheers in appreciation. She’s the greatest superstar the brand has ever seen and will ever see.

Why The Velveteen Dream is poised to take over and redefine wrestling and the life around it

When Patrick Clark was eliminated from WWE's Tough Enough competition in 2015, the show's judges felt that he lacked humility; that he was arrogant and loved to harp on that.

Fast forward three years and the man behind the character The Velveteen Dream continues to show match-in and match-out that he wasn't telling a single lie.

The Velveteen Dream is arguably one of the best in-ring performers in not just NXT or WWE, but the world. It's not just about what he can do that stands out, his character combined with his in-ring ability redefines what we as fans watch inside the ring and believe outside of it. 

When The Velveteen Dream debuted in NXT in May 2017, something about him was just....different. Gone was Patrick Clark (Velveteen himself stated he has no recollection of who that is) and in his place is a character so enthralling, so charismatic, so electric that you can't help but watch everything that he does. His character mirrors that of Prince, yet takes elements from Goldust and ramps it up to 10. 

Since The Velveteen Dream experience first graced our screens a little over a year ago, he's gone on to have a great run of matches. I mean hell, I don't think the man has had a match less than 4.5 stars yet, he's THAT good in the ring. His Purple Rainmaker diving elbow is enchanting, and for a man as young as 22 (he turns 23 in August) he has the crowd control, the ring psychology, and the ring savvy of a wrestler twice his age. Just look at his matches at NXT's major events, NXT Takeover. He personalizes each one down to the gear he wears in the ring, from having Aleister Black's face spray painted on his tights at Takeover: Houston to ones that resemble the one's his opponent - Ricochet - wore as Prince Puma in Lucha Underground for their match at Takeover: Chicago. Velveteen Dream is a student of the craft; he has all the tools necessary in ring to take this company to the next level over the next 10-15 years. His character is what will catapult him to super-stardom.

When Goldust first hit the airwaves back in 1995, fans were confused and maybe even uncomfortable with his sexually suggestive mannerisms and drag queen style. Goldust was ahead of its time, but The Velveteen Dream character comes along at the perfect moment. Now neither WWE nor Patrick Clark have commented on the sexual orientation of the Velveteen Dream. However, his androgynous character can bring the company into a bright new era while also being a role model for young men who look up to him. 

In a time where the company is trying to change with the times, it is important for them to be inclusive. The crowd is ready. Society is ready. And with Finn Balor's Wrestlemania entrance and the arrival of Sonya Deville, WWE's first openly-gay superstar, it seems as if they are ready as well. The Velveteen Dream is the perfect package and a perfect storm. For a company like WWE to promote a character like Velveteen gives men, black men specifically, the comfort level and the courage to be who they are.

The Velveteen Dream is going to be around for a long time. He will be a world champion, a fan favorite and a focal point of WWE programming. He has IT. It's been said before that all great characters are just an extension of the person behind the character. Whether or not that applies to Velveteen is to be determined, but the man is doing a hell of a job with his gimmick. Once he hits the main roster, The Velveteen Dream should be given the keys to the spaceship and drive it straight to the moon. He will redefine what we know today. He will make others step their game up. Hell John Cena, the GOAT HIMSELF, has already given Dream the co-sign. At this point, it's only a matter of time before we see The Velveteen Dream as THE top face in WWE.

Money in the Bank guide: previews, predictions for NXT Takeover & MITB

What started as a unique concept for Wrestlemania has turned into the fifth of WWE's new "Big Five" pay per views: Money in the Bank! The big event returns to the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, but this time bringing its indie darling, NXT, along with it for a stacked card on Saturday night. Of course, the main course will be not one, but TWO Money in the Bank ladder matches - one for the men and one for the ladies. The Barber's Chair has your guide to all of the matches this weekend, including who we think will leave Chicagoland victorious.

nxt takeover chicago.png

Ricochet v. Velveteen Dream

Pierce: This is a Dream match, no pun. Not because I've wanted to see it for years, but because I didn't know I wanted to see it this badly. This should open Takeover, and could attempt to steal the show just like the ladder match did in New Orleans. Dream has his sights set on one of two things: an NXT title or a WWE call-up. A win furthers both objectives.
Prediction: Velveteen Dream

T.C.: I didn't care for Dream's whole schtick when he first debuted, but his match with Aleister Black at War Games completely changed my opinion of him. I think he's an easy choice to face Black in a rematch in Brooklyn, so it'll be smart to keep his momentum going into SummerSlam weekend.
Prediction: Velveteen Dream

Markus Howell: Let me be the first to tell you that I might be the biggest Velveteen Dream fan just because of everything he represents and how damn good he is. Dude is a MEGASTAR. That being said, this match is a MOTY candidate for sure. Ricochet is proven between those ropes and Dream ain't too bad himself. Dream needs a win here though before he enters "Bray Wyatt" range.            Prediction: Velveteen Dream

Chris Novak: This match really fascinates me. I think it has major steal-the-show potential and will probably end up kicking things off on Saturday night. I get the sense that Velveteen Dream is going to win. Ricochet may have only started a couple months ago, but he's a big star. He can afford the loss, and can afford to put Dream over. You can easily slide Ricochet into a feud with Adam Cole for the NA Championship or even have him in a side feud with Aleister Black on the road to Brooklyn, and nobody would really bat an eye. Speaking of which, I think this Dream win will tee up Dream/Black II in Brooklyn, like T.C. said. 
Prediction: Velveteen Dream

Robert O'Neill: The first of two MOTN candidates, I really can't wait to watch these guys in person. They were the high points of the best multi-man ladder match of all time at Takeover NOLA and there's no reason to believe this match won't be awesome. Dream wins though because I think he's going to be the next #1 contender for the title and this is your start of that.

Prediction: Velveteen Dream

NXT Women's Championship - Shayna Baszler (c) v. Nikki Cross

Pierce: Shayna is mid to me, but they're running with her as long as they can. Nikki Cross belongs up top anyway.
Prediction: Shayna Baszler

T.C.: What the hell happened to SAnitY debuting on the main roster? I'd assume they're holding off until Nikki is done in NXT, but I can see them trying to distance her from the group at this point as she gets a run with the Women's title down in Orlando.
Prediction: Nikki Cross

Markus Howell: Seems like this match was thrown together randomly. But hey, whatever. This has all the components of a filler match until Bianca Belair is done smoking everybody else in the division.   
Prediction: Shayna Baszler

Chris Novak: Haven't minded the build to this. Nikki is crazy as hell and I think her finally getting a 1-on-1 TakeOver opportunity rules. I don't see her winning the belt though. She'll fall to Shayna, but this match should be real good.
Prediction: Shayna Baszler

Robert O'Neill: It's really hard to get a read on this because Cross is probably overdue for a title shot and Shayna really hasn't done much as champion, but they likely won't have her lose yet. Baszler retains.

Prediction: Shayna Baszler

NXT Tag Team Championship - Undisputed Era (c) v. Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan

Pierce: Burch and Lorcan are good hands but they have no business winning the tag titles over Undisputed Era.
Prediction: Undisputed Era

T.C.: Undisputed Era are flaming hot right now, and things are only looking up for the group. Burch and Lorcan have had the Undisputed Era's number the last few weeks, but it's not their time yet.
Prediction: Undisputed Era

Markus Howell: Undisputed Era > nWo. Kyle O'Reilly air guitar with the title > Hollywood Hulk Hogan air guitar with the title. Do I need to say anything else?
Prediction: Undisputed Era

Chris Novak: Markus, I completely agree about KOR's air guitar being better than The Hulkster's. This match is going to surprise a lot of people who may not be familiar with Lorcan and Burch. Then again, if you watch NXT, you probably are anyway.
Prediction: Undisputed Era

Robert O'Neill: While a lot of people were surprised that Lorcan and Burch got the title shot, I think it’s it’s pretty cool. However, I think Undisputed Era retains because they have the numbers in their favor provided Adam Cole goes to the ring with KOR and Roddy Strong.  

Prediction: Undisputed Era

NXT Championship - Aleister Black (c) v. Lars Sullivan

Pierce: Ion really fuck with Lars.
Prediction: Aleister Black

T.C.: Aleister Black hasn't really had a chance to show off as champion since winning the belt back during WrestleMania weekend, and I can't see him losing here. Lars Sullivan has laid the champion out multiple weeks now, and looks stronger than ever heading into Chicago, but Black will finally overcome the thorn in his side.
Prediction: Aleister Black

Markus Howell: This match here has seemingly gotten overshadowed with the Ricochet/Dream and Gargano/Ciampa feuds. LARS (Yes we capitalize that man name around here) has looked great in the past few months. Black has been relatively quiet waiting on this new challenger to appear and boy has LARS appeared. It's a bit too early for Black to drop the title though so look for him to hold on the strap a while longer.
Prediction: Aleister Black

Chris Novak: I'm not surprised that this match has gotten a second- or third-billing deal. This feels like Roode/Itami from last year in Chicago, in that it's a transition feud where the challenger doesn't stand much a chance. I like Lars a lot but putting Black over is the easiest choice of the night. 
Prediction: Aleister Black

Robert O'Neill: The NXT Title match is the third most hyped match on a five match card, which is odd, but also perfectly fine. This will be a good match that a lot of people will sleep on. Black retains.

Prediction: Aleister Black

Chicago Street Fight - Johnny Gargano v. Tommaso Ciampa

Pierce: This rivalry is destined to end in Brooklyn, so it's only right Tommaso wins, probably through some fuckery involving Candice Lerae. These two put on the match of Wrestlemania weekend and could do the same in Chicago.
Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

T.C.: Usually when someone's wife or girlfriend gets injured in a personal storyline, that's a red alert to me that they'll be turning on their partner down the line. Ciampa wins after interference from Candice LeRae, setting up a Hell in a Cell battle in Brooklyn.
Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

Markus Howell.: Ciampa is the best heel in the business and possibly the best heel we have seen in YEARS. Everything about this man just oozes evil and he does not care one bit. Using simple wrestling logic here though, it says he will pull out the win in a brutal, yet satisfying match and set up the final installment in this epic rivalry at Brooklyn.
Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa      

Chris Novak: Ciampa wins because Candice LeRae incidentally costs her husband, Johnny Gargano, the victory. No heel turn here, but she'll try to save Gargano from himself and he'll pay for it. Hell in a Cell cometh in Brooklyn.
Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

Robert O'Neill: How poetic. It all comes back to Rosemont, where Ciampa turned on Gargano in the first place. It kills me to say it, but I think Ciampa wins and sets up a rubber match with all the stakes in Brooklyn.

Prediction: Tommaso Ciampa

mitb.gif

Women's Money in the Bank
Charlotte v. Sasha Banks v. Natalya v. Ember Moon v. Becky Lynch v. Alexa Bliss v. Naomi v. Lana

Pierce: Booking history tells me Natalya wins & probably cashes in on Ronda, but the superstar who needs the briefcase the most is Becky. She talked on Smackdown about falling to the back of the pack since being the first SDL Women's Champion. She needs something to reinvigorate her character, so give her the briefcase and let her have fun with it.
Prediction: Becky Lynch

T.C.: If Natalya doesn't win this, then I don't see the point in them making her a focal point with the biggest star in the division the past few weeks.
Prediction: Natalya

Markus Howell.: Okay so look, I think everybody knows I'm not a fan of this person but I'd be hard pressed to find someone who is a more "That's so WWE" pick to win this match than Ember Moon. Yes, they are setting Natalya up for another turn (she's like the female Big Show when it comes to that I swear), but Ember just screams "safe pick".                                                                Prediction: Ember Moon

Chris Novak: Have to agree with T.C. here. The obvious choice based on EVERYTHING they have put out there is Natalya, as terrible a wrestler and performer that I find her. Alexa and Charlotte have no business winning this, and neither does Lana. Ember hasn't been here long enough. And while Becky, Sasha and/or Naomi would be great choices because of the kinds of performers they are, well... it wouldn't be the first time or the last time they overlooked ability.
Prediction: Natalya

Robert O'Neill: This one certainly has me more hyped than last year’s version. I really want to see Sasha or Becky win, but it will likely be Natalya which will be dumb.  

Men's Money in the Bank
Braun Strowman v. The Miz v. Finn Balor v. Samoa Joe v. Kevin Owens v. Rusev v. Bobby Roode v. Big E/Kofi Kingston/Xavier Woods

Pierce: All of these guys would make for a great winner besides Bobby Roode, but the Awesome one has killed it the last two years and will get his long-deserved second run with the belt in due time.
Prediction: The Miz

T.C.: My head says Samoa Joe, but I'm selecting my choice with full stan mode enabled: The Miz wins. 
Prediction: The Miz

Markus Howell: Ahem. Click here
Prediction: Samoa Joe

Chris Novak: Mike "The Miz" Mizanin wins MITB for the second time in his career. I would say that he'd cash in later in the night, but this match will probably main event the show. 
Prediction: The Miz

Robert O'Neill: This is probably the hardest match of the night to pick because I could see any of the eight men winning. If I had to pick one, it would be The Miz, and I'm not even super sold/confident on that.  

Daniel Bryan v. Big Cass

Pierce: Daniel doesn't need a win here. He made Cass submit last month. I hate even steven booking but if Daniel wins here, what am I supposed to make of Cass?
Prediction: Big Cass

T.C.: Part of me wants to think they'll give Daniel Bryan the win again (especially if there's still some backstage heat on Cass as reported a few weeks back), but I'm gonna assume there's a swerve in the making with Cass evening the score against his tiny foe.
Prediction: Big Cass

Markus Howell: Outside of not giving two shits about this feud.......yeah that's all I got man. It's a warmup feud for the both of them returning from their respective injuries so whatever. Prediction: Daniel Bryan

Chris Novak: I didn't think Bryan needed the win over Cass at Backlash. But they gave him it in emphatic fashion. I don't think he needs the win here at MTIB either. But Cass has been written as kind of a dickheaded goof. So maybe Bryan will make him tap out anyway. I gave Cass a chance, and he hasn't exactly been great. Just put Bryan over again.
Prediction: Daniel Bryan

Robert O'Neill: I guess Cass could use a win over Bryan, but I'm also not sure Cass can be saved at this point. He just doesn't have "it". Whatever happens, I hope this is the last match these two have.

Prediction: Big Cass

Roman Reigns v. Jinder Mahal

Pierce: Is it fine to say I just don't care where they go with Roman anymore?
Prediction: Roman Reigns

T.C.: Contrary to public opinion of these two, I actually think they're really good workers. But the chemistry between the two isn't working for me as a fan. Hope this is a one and done and they both move on to something else next month. 
Prediction: Roman Reigns

Markus Howell: NOW THIS IS WHY IM HERE BABY. CONTENT. THE MAHARAJA HIVE IS HERE. DON'T HINDER JINDER. I DON'T GET WHY PEOPLE HATE JINDER. THE MAN HAS DONE NOTHING BUT WORK HIS ASS OFF TO GET BETTER AND PEOPLE HATE HIM. The Maharaja ain't losing to no dude who wear Brett Favre wranglers in his downtime man. Hell no. Prediction: Jinder Mahal

Chris Novak: This will be a better match than the crowd gives it a chance to be. I will side with Markus here and say that the Maharajah is successful.
Prediction: Jinder Mahal

Robert O'Neill: Contrary to what the likely crowd reactions will lead you to believe, this should be a perfectly fine match. Each man cost the other a spot in the MITB match, so the motivation for this match is clear and smart. I think Jinder wins with underhanded tactics and Roman gets him back at Extreme Rules.

Prediction: Jinder Mahal

Bobby Lashley v. Sami Zayn

Pierce: This is my piss break.
Prediction: Bobby Lashley

T.C.: Absolutely pointless and terrible feud. Hopefully this doesn't go more than 7 minutes.
Prediction: Bobby Lashley

Markus Howell: #FreeElGenerico
Prediction: Sami Zayn

Chris Novak: God, this feud sucks.
Prediction: Bobby Lashley

Robert O'Neill: Lashley wins and we never have to think about this feud again.

Prediction: Bobby Lashley

Smackdown Tag Team Championship - The Bludgeon Brothers (c) v. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows

Pierce: The Bludgeon Brothers finally got some competition in Anderson and Gallows, and while I think the Good Brothers will get the strap eventually, now's not the time.
Prediction: The Bludgeon Brothers

T.C.: Harper and Rowan have been built up as THE guys in the Smackdown Tag Team title division (rightfully so, they're the champs), and it doesn't seem like the Good Brothers have enough momentum right now to start another reign right now.
Prediction: The Bludgeon Brothers

Markus Howell.: The Good Brothers and The Bludgeon Brothers. The Brothers against The Brothers. Which sounds better? Good or Bludgeon? Cool hand gestures and a dude with a nickname like Machine Gun or dudes with fake ass mallets and horrible ring gear? Yeah, exactly. Prediction: Anderson and Gallows

Chris Novak: SmackDown Live's tag division is not nearly as dead as Raw's is, but for a division that has Bludgeon Brothers, Good Brothers, The Usos, The New Day AND The Bar as well as Rusev Day, this should be a hell of a lot better than it is. I digress. The Bludgeon Brothers will likely win on the kickoff show.
Prediction: The Bludgeon Brothers

Robert O'Neill: There's been a surprising lack of build to this match, but it should be pretty solid provided you enjoy watching four big dudes beat each other up. If you don't, well, it's not for you. Bludgeon Brothers retain.

Prediction: The Bludgeon Brothers

RAW Women's Championship - Nia Jax (c) v. Ronda Rousey

Pierce: I was back and forth on this until Ronda's UFC Hall of Fame induction was announced. WWE would be smart to flex her as their champion at the event.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey

T.C.: I'm sure WWE caught some early rumblings about Ronda Rousey getting inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame next month, and decided to hot shot her into the title picture ahead of the time they wanted to. Always thirsty for mainstream attention, they'll slap the belt on Ronda, get some press the following Monday, and then have Natalya cash in the following night.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey

Markus Howell: This match gonna be trash. Nia, as fine as she is, aint that good in the ring and Ronda just too green in the ring. Ronda can legitimately beat Nia ass so idk man. Having Ronda win is a real slap in the face. To who? Take your pick. Also kinda dumb how they just randomly made Nia a heel in this feud. Also dumb how much Rousey smiles and taps hands with the fans. It's annoying. Idk who wins here but for kicks and giggles.......
Prediction: Nia Jax

Chris Novak: I still don't understand why this match is happening so early but, like T.C. said, this probably has a lot to do with fishing for mainstream press. Ronda wins, but I don't think she makes it out of Rosemont with the championship. Nattie's going to cash in and win it, meaning Natalya vs. Ronda Rousey will be the summer women's program. God help us all.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey

Robert O'Neill:  Well, Ronda certainly isn't going to lose her first singles match. The big thing to watch is if there's a cash in after.

Prediction: Ronda Rousey

Smackdown Women's Championship - Carmella (c) v. Asuka

Pierce: Carmella has no business losing the belt two months in, no matter how good Asuka is.
Prediction: Carmella

T.C.: I have no idea what is going to happen here. When Carmella had the MITB briefcase, I always looked at her as a transitional champion and nothing more than that. However, she's GOLD as a character, and the belt only enhances that. I'll be safe here and say Asuka comes out with the W.
Prediction: Asuka

Markus Howell: I. Love. Carmella. As. Champ. There I said it. She's been looking better. Her mic skills are gold. Her character has improved. And her in ring skills....well......she don't need to show them because of her heel work. I love it. Asuka has lost her aura since losing at Mania and I just don't get what the payoff was for that. Not sure what's gonna happen here but Asuka aint winning.
Prediction: Carmella

Chris Novak: Carmella wins because James Ellsworth is going to return and help her get the W.
Prediction: Carmella

Robert O'Neill: Carmella’s run has been delightful and I think it continues either by countout, DQ, or underhanded tactics

Prediction: Carmella

Intercontinental Championship - Seth Rollins (c) v. Elias

Pierce: The Walk With Elias Intercontinental Title Tour is about to heat up all summer '18! Elias is crazy over... some times gimmicks don't click in NXT but they work in the Federation, and Elias has made the most of his time up. Rollins is a great guy to take the belt off, and it doesn't hurt him to lose; it only propels him to that inevitable championship match with Brock.
Prediction: Elias

T.C.: I've been huge on Rollins' run as IC Champ thus far, and a huge fan Elias' whole run on the main roster. I feel like it's time for Seth to move on to bigger and better things, but with Extreme Rules a month away, I can see them dragging this feud out until then.
Prediction: Seth Rollins by DQ

Markus Howell: It's Elias' time. Seth doesn't need the title anymore and I'm sure Elias can continue to elevate the IC title. Also, the IC title > Universal title. But anyway, this match should be a great one. I wouldn't be surprised to see Elias win clean, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see a DQ. Prediction: Elias

Chris Novak: It's time for everyone to walk with Intercontinental Champion Elias. Seth won't lose anything by dropping the belt to him. Depending on what you read into with the rumors about Brock, this could free him up for a feud at SummerSlam with him. If not, then we get a summer feud between these two. Either option is OK with me.
Prediction: Elias

Robert O'Neill: If they're going to do Seth/Brock at Summerslam, which seems to be the natural plan, why not have Elias get the win here? He has the fanbase and ability. I would like to see it

Prediction: Elias

Last Man Standing match for the WWE Championship
AJ Styles (c) v. Shinsuke Nakamura

Pierce: Well we know the prediction below won't happen because the men's ladder match will reportedly end the show, but it's Nakamura's time. He's waited long enough, and the heel turn set in motion at Wrestlemania has done well in turning him from one of the most beloved babyfaces to one of the most interesting heels to watch in the company. He'll watch out of Chicago with the championship.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

T.C.: This feud hasn't been nearly half as interesting as I thought it would be, but it's picked up a bit in the past few weeks. Please, no more. AJ Styles gets the W in a hard fought battle, but gets booked in an impromptu match with The Miz. Both MITB briefcase holders cash in within 24 hours, as WWE tries to freshen up the gimmick a bit.
Prediction: AJ Styles, The Miz cashes in and walks out champion

Markus Howell: I'm tired of seeing this. Leave it to WWE to take something good and ruin it. I don't know how they do it but dammit they are talented. Shinsuke should've been champ months ago yet they turned him into a dick punching japanese dude who picks and chooses when to speak english. I hate this company sometimes.
Prediction: Shinsuke after he hits a super kinshasa on AJ's family jewels

Chris Novak: I don't have a clue about this one. I'll say Shinsuke because they've given him enough chances over the last year to win the WWE Title and he hasn't. If not, I have no idea what they do.
Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

Robert O'Neill: I think Shinsuke has to win eventually, so why not this one? He picked the stipulation so it would make sense for him to get the win.

Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura

NXT Takeover Philadelphia results

Andrade Cien Almas retains NXT Championship over Johnny Gargano

The best men's single's match in NXT history, maybe the best ever (I was there for Sasha-Bayley I so there's bias at play). Almas and Gargano have incredible chemistry in the ring. The pacing on this one was fast, with reversals and near falls galore.

NXT has done a brilliant job of building Gargano into the biggest babyface the brand has ever had, and every close fall made you even more invested in wanting to see him win. Zelina Vega got involved a few times, even hitting Johnny with a hurricanrana!!! Wifey Candice LeRae was having none of it and chased her from the ring. Philly erupted when Gargano got a near fall with the Slingshot and then he slapped the Escape on Andrade but he found the ropes. Almas later sent Johnny to CTE Medical Center with double knees to the ring post before putting him to bed with a DDT.

I haven't immediately rewinded a match that quickly in so long... not even for Omega-Jericho. This was an all-time classic, and the most-anticipated return of Ciampa sets up what's gonna be a wild ride to Takeover New Orleans.

Robert: Good lord. There’s so much to unpack about this match, I could go on for pages upon pages.

For starters, I have no reservations in saying it was the best NXT match of all time. That’s right. It beat Bayley and Sasha Banks’ Brooklyn epic in my eyes. In fact, it was the best WWE match since John Cena and CM Punk at the Rosemont Horizon back in 2011.

Literally everything about this match worked for me. Zelina Vega was eventually counteracted and equalized by Gargano’s wife, Candice LeRae, and every single near fall in the final ten minutes of the match (which went 32 minutes, by the way) felt like it was going to be THE ONE. The crowd made the match even better, living and dying with everything Gargano did.

Gargano was already a star heading into the night, but he’s a superstar now, even in the loss. Almas, on the other hand, was a perfectly good wrestler coming into the night that had lacked a big NXT moment. Not anymore. To top it all off, Tomasso Ciampa hit Gargano with a crutch at the top of the ramp to end the night. It was absolutely perfect storytelling.

Aleister Black defeats Adam Cole

Pierce: Black and Cole put on a war of an Extreme Rules match. These two took some insane spots - off tables, ladders, chairs, oh my! Adam Cole is tremendous to be able to take some of the bumps that he did. The dual chair spot is a backbreaker, so hopefully the MDMA Shawn Michaels comparisons don't become factual.

Black hit a diiiiirrrtttyyyy double knee takedown through the announce table, and after the two superkicked the shit out of one another, Black caught Cole napping for the 1-2-3. Aleister Black is a future WWE Champion and Adam Cole should captain NXT for the foreseeable future.

Robert: An extreme rules match in Philadelphia was always going to have a ton of hype to live up to, but this did it. In 2018 WWE where headshots and other overly dangerous weapon spots are (rightfully) banned, you have to get creative. And they sure did that.

Black had the upper hand before Cole superkicked him off the top rope through two tables. Black got back in the ring and got the upper hand again, but Undisputed Era came out to help Cole. Sanity took down Fish and O’Reilly, and Black stomped Cole through the announce table for the eventual win. It seemed like the penultimate match would once again be the match of the night, a Takeover staple at this point. But…

Ember Moon retains NXT Women's Championship over Shayna Baszler

Pierce: The right story was told throughout the match. Shayna demolished her opponent to near submission, but Moon - who hasn't had that moment where the fans can get behind her - showed resilience and pinned Baszler's shoulders to the mat for the pin.

Afterwards, Shayna took the champ out. The storytelling makes this match; Ember gets her empathetic victory, Shayna establishes herself as the baddest bitch in NXT and next in line for the title. Shoutout to Philly for keeping with kayfabe on the Dallas hate.

Robert: The first (only?) real shock of the night. A lot was made about Ember’s character coming into the match, as she has yet to really been the babyface that people can get behind. That changed in a hurry as Baszler dominated most of the match, targeting Ember’s arm and looking to cinch the armbar and win the title. Even when she eventually locked it in, Ember fought through it for what seemed like minutes, and rolled Shayna up for the win.

Shayna will probably get the upper hand in New Orleans, but this was a big step for Ember’s progression.

Velveteen Dream defeats Kassius Ohno

Pierce: Dream is 23 and will be a WWE Champ by 26. He's got IT! with a bold capital exclamation point. Excellent awareness to come out to the ring with the purple airbrushed rocky fit. It was a sloppy match but it doesn't have to be perfect to be compelling. A talent like Dream can make a sloppy match matter. Also, can we get Dream and Jalen Ramsey to be the new Billy and Chuck?

Robert: This was awesome. From the crowd counting to 30 in response to Dream saying he would knock Ohno out in 30 seconds, to Dream actually doing it, to Ohno getting back up and beating the hell out of him for a while, to Dream eventually winning by jumping from the ringpost to the middle of the ring to hit the Purple Rainmaker. Things got a little sloppy towards the end, but it was a ton of fun. Dream is going to be a star, and probably soon.

Undisputed ERA (Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish) retain NXT Tag Team Championship over Authors of Pain

Pierce: Par for the course. I loved the finish. AOP's finisher collapsing in what should be their last match in developmental is how they should go out. Undisputed ERA is just passing time until all three are holding gold.

Robert The one big takeaway from this match is that the Authors of Pain are ready for their WWE call-up. This was an awesome way to open the show, as both teams had the crowd behind them in a huge way. The ending was a little sloppy, but I liked how AOP’s resistance on double team moves eventually did them in. It seems like just a matter of time before Fish/O’Reilly/Adam Cole all have titles.

Quick Notes

War Machine, Richochet and EC 3 are here. NXT just got a whole helluva lot stronger on the road to Takeover NOLA.

(All photos courtesy of WWE)

NXT Recap: a new challenger emerges for Undisputed Era

NXT's first new show of 2018 was one to love. I know it's packaged and pre-taped but the presentation is absolutely flawless. This week's fleshed out the rest of the card for Takeover: Philadelphia. This month's shows we're filmed at Atlanta’s Center Stage (former home of WCW Saturday Night) so the change from Full Sail was very welcoming. (All photos courtesy of WWE)

Main Event

Originally Undisputed ERA were supposed to defend their tag-team titles against Sanity in the main event, but UE beat up Sanity before their match. Luckily, William Regal presented a new tag team for them to battle: Roderick Strong & Aleister Black.

If a friend of yours asks what type of wrestling does NXT showcase, show them this match. This battle was hard hitting, with clean transitioning and fluidity throughout the whole match. Strong's hot tag towards the end was one of the main highlights of the match; his chemistry with Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish was clearly shown. Adam Cole getting into Black’s head, controlling the situation to help his teammates get a win over Strong, was great booking as it furthers the rivalry between Cole & Black. Due to the post match beat down, Regal booked Cole vs. Black in a Extreme Rules match at Takeover: Philadelphia. Get ready for a brawl.

More Regal is a good thing

I’m not huge into GMs being involved in every storyline but William Regal is perfect as a GM for NXT. Regal has shown that he could be any type of authority figure; from telling Shayna Bazler that she won’t get a title shot, being interviewed by Street Profits showing his goofy side to displaying his strictness and disdain to Undisputed Era’s heelish ways

Smackdown Live’s problem is that the Authority Figures are taking over the show more than the wrestlers themselves; Regal compliments each wrestler & their angles that is presented into the show without overshadowing the talent.

P.S. We need more Regal & Street Profits promos.

Shayna Bazler is SCARY

Shayna is being presented as a monster heel, as she should be. Normally it’s always been the bigger & larger wrestlers who are shown as unstoppable forces but this is nice change to the norm. Shayna wants to do one thing to her opponents: hurt them, hurt them BAD.

Fans were wondering why she’s getting a push ahead of other deserving wrestlers but tonight’s performance against Dakota Kai expresses why creative has faith in her. While this can be a build to the Four Horsewomen MMA/WWE match at Wrestlemania (her theme music starts off with a subtle nod to the Four Horseman theme), she is earning respect from the fans and is in the position to become the next contender for Ember Moon’s championship.

Quick Hits

Velveteen Dream is back as he questioned Johnny Wrestling’s spot as the #1 contender to the NXT Championship. Dream couldn’t be part of the tournament due to injury, so expect a match between the two, which should be a great one.

Lio Rush is still part of the WWE and is still paying for his Emma/Asuka tweet. Lars Sullivan demolished Rush in a squash match but he still resonated with the crowd as the underdog throughout the match, that’s a plus.

We are getting Street Profits vs. Authors of Pain next week for a shot at Undisputed Era's tag team titles at Takeover: Philly. It will be the Street Profits' first real test against a formidable tag team.

NXT stars to watch in 2018

Johnny Gargano

It should be a universal agreement that Johnny Gargano is the best babyface in the company, whether it is WWE & NXT. 2018 will be the year of Johnny Wrestling as he continues to put on classic matches with anyone on the roster. If you have any doubt on his wrestling skills, re-watch his matches with Kassius Ohno, Andrade Cien Almas, & Pete Dunne from 2017. Johnny’s infectious energy makes you want to root for him. NXT has done a great job building Johnny’s singles run, with Gargano taking a few early losses to gain the sympathy from the fans. He's is now the #1 contender for the NXT Championship at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia during Royal Rumble weekend. The year of Johnny Wrestling is 2018.

Undisputed ERA

Even though Adam Cole is the clear star in the group, Undisputed ERA will be a force to be reckoned with in 2018. From the vicious strong hitting style of Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish to the charisma of Adam Cole, Undisputed ERA is a legit stable that can make a lasting mark in NXT. The trio won a hellish battle in War Games at the last Takeover, & the recently won the NXT tag team championship. With the resurgence of the tag team scene, everyone will be gunning at Undisputed Era for their tag belts and it will be up to the team to show off their talent in the ring. Adam Cole will continue to rise up in the NXT championship ranks and become the star that NXT needs right now.

Velveteen Dream

Velveteen Dream's amazing performance at NXT TakeOver: War Games created instant attention for the young 22-year-old. Dream's match with Aleister Black was one of the best stories told in a wrestling match in 2017. From his charisma to his actual technique, Dream's crafted such a distinctive character, and success is headed his way in a huge fashion. His feud with Aleister should propel Velveteen Dream to new heights as he becomes more of a fixture on NXT programming.

Bianca Belair

One of the stars of the Mae Young Classic, Bianca Belair is a star in the making off the strength of her wrestling style. Not only is she hard hitting, her grappling ability is unmatched. Bianca's character will come across to the casual viewer even if you've never heard of her. Watch her match against Kairi Sane in the Classic; she more than held her own against the seasoned veteran. Bianca is unique in her own right, as she uses her long hair as a whip to gain the upper hand against her opponents. Bianca is a natural heel with unparalleled athleticism and a wrestling style that gets heat every time. Continue to follow Belair in 2018 as her potential seems limitless in NXT.

Street Profits

PASS THE CUPS! This fresh and exciting tag team is on the rise in NXT, bringing their energy to the crowd and duplicating that in their matches. With innovative moves and natural chemistry, Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins can grab the NXT crowd at any moment. The more charismatic Ford is the key figure, but together this tag team can propel into the championship picture and create entertaining matches technically and comically.

(All photos courtesy of WWE)