The NXT Three

As the Season 2 finale for NXT draws closer, here’s a quick look at the three finalists, and an assessment of their attributes and skills. I’ll give my thoughts on who should win and what the future may hold for the trio win lose or draw…. ok well win or lose.

Alex Riley

Starting alphabetically, we have A-Ri (as Michael Cole insists on calling him). At 6’2″ and 240lbs, he’s pretty much the WWE prototype. He’s got an extensive athletic background that commentary teams can tout until they’re blue in the face (Jack Swagger anyone?), and was kind enough to bring a ready-for-television gimmick to the dance. Whilst the name Varsity Villain may smack of old school in the bad way, the general idea if solid; he’s a jock. He’s going to run his mouth, beat up nerds for lunch money, flash a cocky smile and then get it done in the ring. His ring gear fits his character perfectly and he certainly has that oh so elusive ‘look’ that everybody raves about.

It only made sense that he’d be teamed up with The Miz, as he’s essentially Miz-lite. I still can’t quite decide if it’s a good thing that the two are so similar. On the one hand, Riley can hope that the similarities lead to some kind of rub, that he’ll be pushed as… well, another Miz. Riley follows Miz everywhere, and this means that the Monday night audience are familiar with him already. However, Riley also gets completely outshone by Miz (as is to be expected with a personality so big), which hurts him if you ask me. His gimmick is essentially a bully, and yet he more closely resembles the bully’s stooge, leaning around to shake his fist menacingly and agree with everything the bully says whilst the bully does all the actual bullying. Miz beats people down, cuts promos and causes mischief while Riley makes sure to never be more than 5 steps away from him. At times he seems to convey a sense of feeling out of place when he’s running around committing capers with Miz.

When he’s alone, Riley brings the goods though. Most of his best work has been when Miz was away for one reason or another and Riley was allowed to shine on his own. He seems like he’ll operate best as a solo star, rather than as part of a group or a tag team. Perhaps a valet could add to his appeal, but he seems pretty set so far. Whatever happens tonight, Miz will likely continue to bring Riley with him to Raw and he’ll start getting matches. He could do pretty well for himself in the mid-card, but I don’t see him flirting with the main event in the way Miz has done in the last year or so.

Kaval

I’ll do my best to keep this impartial. He’s Low Ki. He was the ROH & PWG World Champion. He was an X-Division Champion in TNA. He’s one bad-ass New Yorker. Now that’s out of the way, let’s assess his work as Kaval.

Remember how Daniel Bryan looked so short in Season 1 stood next to the other rookies? That hurt him a bit in my eyes. Well, it’s twice as bad with Kaval. He looks miniature, so he has a lot working against him. He’s also not setting the world on fire with his microphone work. Most of his promos have been about how he’s too small but he’s got heart, and though I’ve got love for the dude, his voice becomes difficult to take seriously. He’s done exactly what Danielson did and tried to push the envelope in places he probably shouldn’t have, such as kicking the punching machine, and dropping the words Total Non-Stop Action in his rap (which did not go down too well). This is all pretty damning stuff.

However he’s been the best in-ring performer by far and the fans know it very well. I don’t doubt a decent portion of the audience have seen him in one iteration or another – whether it be as Senshi in TNA, Low Ki in the indies/Japan, or even during his short-lived run on Heat and the other D-List WWE shows – but he’s also winning over the rest of the audience with his exciting move-set. Bryan Danielson was the best in-ring performer in Season 1, but his moves, while technically sound, aren’t the most exciting. Kaval is springboarding, throwing stiff kicks, cartwheeling, and jumping off the top rope, which is a quick way to get the fans to love you. He’s also wrestling a good submission game and showing off some technical skill while he’s at it.

Another advantage he has over Daniel Bryan is that he hasn’t played up the fact he used to be an indie wrestler. From day one Danielson was established as a former star of the ‘minor leagues’, and it was instantly worked into his gimmick, with Michael Cole picking a fight that is still going on months later. Kaval has just kept his head down and wrestled, and that’s a great way to avoid road blocks on the path to the top. Cole has still found ways to insult him though, so he hasn’t deviated too far from the Daniel Bryan formula.

The Daniel Bryan/Miz pairing caused a lot of controversy last time around, and it led to a compelling angle that has turned Danielson into an accepted star. Despite what everyone said ahead of time, it was the absolute perfect pairing. Many lobbied similar criticisms against the WWE for the team of Kaval and Lay-Cool, but I again approve. The dynamic between those two being so hyper-active and Kaval being so stoic has created some good comedy, and to his credit he’s dealt remarkably with what I’m sure was meant to be an embarrassing experience. He wears the Property of Lay-Cool shirt and smiles. That can only be smart in the WWE. There are also seeds for a love-triangle angle, as he and Layla have been getting closer and Michelle has made several comments. If a story is needed for Kaval post-NXT, then he’s in prime position to move to Smackdown and be the wedge driven between Lay-Cool. Sure, it might be a bit demeaning to be part of a divas feud, but there’s no reason it couldn’t then lead to a more serious angle.

He’s small and he has the Michael Cole anti-internet burying him week by week. He is OK on the mic. He’s fantastic in the ring, and could really get hot if he’s allowed to continue to execute these wild maneuvers that the fans aren’t used to seeing. He’s got the best rookie/pro dynamic of the three. He too, should be able to carve out a niche in the mid-card for himself. Somewhere between Evan Bourne and Daniel Bryan. Not a bad pair to be a hybrid of.

Michael McGillicutty

Finally we have Joe Hennig Michael McGillicutty. He’s the son of Mr. Perfect, but they’re insisting on trying to brand him as his own man, likely due to the over-exposure of 2nd or 3rd generation talent thanks to Legacy. He’s slightly taller than Alex Riley but lacking his muscle mass. His body is decent, but he’s not as built as he could be, his face is generic, and he’s got those standard-issue Randy Orton and the gang style trunks that everybody is wearing these days. He doesn’t really have any glaring weaknesses.

However, that IS his weakness. There is nothing wrong with Michael McGillicutty, but there’s also nothing overwhelmingly right with him either. He’s so-so in all areas, brilliant in none of them. His look, his in-ring game, his gimmick, they’re all fairly cookie-cutter or middle of the road. His finisher is a swinging neckbreaker, and that’s a perfect embodyment of his greater character. It certainly isn’t a bad move, it looks pretty painful, but it’s just not really that great, and so you have trouble buying it as a finisher. I have trouble buying Michael McGillicutty as a break-out singles star.

His relationship with Kofi Kingston has been fairly useless, as they’re just employing the dull face/face dynamic of being friends who urge each other on, but that’s about it. Kofi plays cheerleader for McGillicutty but does very little to help get him over. Lay-Cool are doing things to generate laughter and sympathy for Kaval. The Miz is increasing Riley’s credibility by letting him tag along to Raw. Kofi and Michael are just buddies. He might as well not have a pro really, as it seems the only reason the two were put together was in the hopes that the crowd take to McGillicutty because he’s being mentored by the top face on the show.

Miz called him mediocre, I call him bland.

So who should win?

Well, this may surprise you given all the criticism I gave him, but I honestly believe that if the WWE are going to fix the vote and just choose a winner, then they need to go with Michael McGillicutty. He needs it the most. Riley and Kaval are essentially TV ready at this point. Husky Harris was TV ready. At a stretch, Percy Watson was pretty much TV ready. Michael McGillicutty isn’t yet. But if he wins NXT, then endless replays of his win can be shown, Michael Cole can wax lyrical about how he won NXT Season 2, he can have his title shot on PPV, and he’ll forever be synonymous with winning something. It will be his identity, because he sure as hell doesn’t have much of one at this point, which is a crying shame given how easy it would be to just have him be the Son of Mr. Perfect.

This show is about MAKING a star. The other competitors have made themselves already. McGillicutty needs to be made by the show, and the only way to do that is for him to win it.

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About Matt Waters
Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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