2017 has been a truly banner year for “NXT”. Since we basically just got a recap show this week, there’s no real reason for a full-on entry here. Let’s just recap the best NXT workers we’ve seen this year, shall we? I won’t do these in any particular order; I’ll let YOU do that. Here we go:
Asuka – She was UNSTOPPABLE. She won the NXT Women’s Title from Bayley at “NXT TakeOver: The End” in an incredible match and kept it for 510 days – never personally being defeated at all along the way. Her offense was always creative and to this day, she maintains a mystique no other performer on any WWE roster has. While she is missing decent mic skills (English is not her first language and she never needed mic skills prior), the producers keep her promos short and sweet so that we get the point and she isn’t too taxed. I dearly love her and hope the main WWE roster continues to do as right by her as NXT did.
Velveteen Dream – In 2017, a star was born…and his name was Velveteen Dream. When Patrick from “Tough Enough” debuted the “Velveteen Dream” gimmick, many of us were quite dubious. Are they really gonna throw this guy away on a sub-Prince gimmick? While that may have been WWE’s intention, it certainly wasn’t the intention of Velveteen Dream. His match with Aleister Black at “NXT TakeOver: War Games” was a match for the ages and it’s only rivaled by the Pete Dunne/Tyler Bate match from late December that we got on the weekly show. I reviewed it here and it was incredible!
Still, from a psychological perspective, I still maintain that the Dream/Black was the better match. They told an absolutely breathtaking story from start to finish and the ring work was absolutely stellar. This is made even more impressive when you consider that Velveteen Dream is only 22 years-old! Black is 10 years his senior and had already wrestled 15 years prior to this match. We already knew he’d be good. Dream has not even been wrestling a full three years and he’s already capable of putting on stellar matches! Just scary when you think about it. He also has the nerve to be pretty darned good on the mic. That he’s a DC boy like me just makes me even prouder.
He’s been missing from TV since that match and my hope is that he returns sooner than later. How he’ll follow a match like that is anyone’s guess, really.
Ember Moon – One of my very favorites, Ember has had an absolutely stellar year. She’s been at it for ten years herself but what a way to celebrate a tenth anniversary! After a couple of great matches with Asuka that resulted in losing efforts, she was in absolutely perfect four way with Kairi Sane, Peyton Royce, and Nikki Cross to win the NXT Women’s Title on a November NXT show broadcast. Few have made the title chase as much fun and gratifying as Ember did.
I’m also big on mystique. My favorites are the workers that don’t show me everything. Ember, like Asuka doesn’t show me everything. We aren’t quite sure how she ticks and that keeps me interested in her. Combine that with her wonderful ring work and she earns a place here for sure. Her mic work is her only real weakness and even that isn’t bad; it can just be better. I have no doubt that it will get better as time goes on. That’s part of what NXT is for, after all.
Adam Cole (Bay Bay!) – You can’t say that every moment doesn’t count – especially when you consider the rise of Adam Cole. He showed up in September with Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly (as the Undisputed Era) and has made a whole lot of noise. He’s also given us incredible matches. Just last night, NXT showed, along with a recap of the whole year, a house show match in Texas between Adam Cole & Drew McIntyre with Shawn Michaels as special guest referee. It was an absolute work of art. If you haven’t seen it, I’d urge you to check it out. Prior to that, he was involved in absolutely epic “War Games” match and matches with Roderick Strong and, with Fish and O’Reilly, SAniTY. Each time, he brings his “A” game and succeeds beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. Even when he’s not involved directly in the match, his presence is still felt. Add to that charisma for days and stellar mic work and we have the makings of the future of WWE within one worker. He was only around for the last quarter of 2017 but he made quite the impact in that short time.
Nikki Cross – Twisted is the name of the game and few pull off twisted better than Nikki has. She burst on to the scene as a member of SAniTY and on one knew quite what to expect from her. She was…bizarre…in the best possible way. At first, she was essentially a (really violent) mascot for SAniTY but then, in a relatively short time, she splintered off a bit and started having her own matches. All she needed was an opportunity and she capitalized on it…big time. The aforementioned four-way match was a thing of beauty. Turns out that not only is she completely twisted, she’s also a REALLY solid worker between the ropes. The “Last Woman Standing” match between Asuka and her in June on NXT television was one heck of a match. Asuka ultimately won but not before they gave us an incredibly solid match with lots of twists and turns. If you can hang with Asuka, there’s little you can’t do and Nikki hung with everything she did and then some. I really like Nikki and am excited to see what she does in 2018.
These are just a few of the workers that I really enjoyed this year and who I felt really raised the bar of what’s expected in NXT. There were others but I’ll let you name those. Debate’s healthy anyway, right? Let me know some of your favorites below and why you like them below!