Eric’s Blog: Ranking the Season 2 WWE NXT Rookies (Week 8)

Percy Watson

OH YEAH!

Once again, WWE has made my job easy for me, not just because they cut one of the remaining seven rookies, but because after last night’s promos and wrestling matches, I found myself scratching my head, wondering exactly where I’d rank the guy who inevitably was cut. Based on their performances, my top four guys shifted, one nose-dove compared to his high NXT ranking, and one has entrenched himself at the bottom. So with one more down, here are my 1-through-6 rankings, with the designated NXT jobber firmly in place.

1) Kaval. I’m not saying this in a markish, “a pro said it so it must be true” sort of way, but the facts that Kaval got Cody Rhodes’ stamp of approval during a pre-taped promo and that WWE was willing to air that commendation by such an arrogant character show WWE’s willingness to portray the indy darling as a legitimate future main-roster member. He again shone in the ring, and his promo this week didn’t suck as bad as last week’s, despite Michael Cole’s protesting.

2) Alex Riley. Yep, Riley was overtaken this week. The shoe-in, the sure thing and the next breakout star… tried jumping on Eli Cottonwood’s back like a little kid at recess. Three times. His mic work was still superb, and he’s pretty much shown us exactly what we need to see in the ring by week 8 to know how well he can wrestle. But he needs to watch out for missteps like diving onto a 7-foot-1 giant who was apparently told to no-sell everyone else. It made Riley look weak, and the show-ending brawl with Michael McGillicutty didn’t help him regain much heat.

3) Percy Watson. Percy’s promo at the start of the show once again proved his talents on the mic and his ability to get the crowd behind him, you know what I’m sayin’? His pre-tape with the pros helped get over how athletic and charismatic he is, OH YEAH! And his match highlighted some of the little things he does well (even just slapping his opponent in the stomach while in a side headlock), even if his finisher is a little sloppy by WWE standards.

4) Husky Harris. Hey, Husky had a singles match where he looked good! His promo at the top of the show was funny and well-delivered, his sneer still gives him a facial expression that makes him stand out (as do the general expressions of the guys above Husky in this list, but definitely not the ones below him), and his T-shirt is bad-ass. Whether or not Husky Harris wins, I’d like to see him on Smackdown or possibly Raw when this competition is over; I may have found my new, albeit a little smaller, Vader!

5) Michael McGillicutty. Another cocky promo at the end of the show from the babyface McGillicutty. Maybe WWE has bigger things planned for McGillicutty after this, like a dastardly heel turn and a scathing promo on the fans. Otherwise, I don’t see how the arrogance of “I’m number one, I’m awesome, etc.” parlays into a successful babyface character at this stage in his young, still-being-exposed career. At least his finisher is cool, he didn’t look terrible against Eli Cottonwood (whose newfound promo ability will be sorely missed by this viewer), and he’s willing to take hard bumps.

6) Lucky Cannon. That promo he cut to kick off the show really zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…….. At least Eli Cottonwood amazingly, surprisingly and miraculously showed me two things that would make me want to tune in to see him again: His funny backstage promo with John “Hippopotamus Ziggles” Morrison, and his “MUSTACHE” T-shirt. Lucky Cannon shows me literally nothing, except what a pre-op looks like.

Eric’s Blog: Ranking the Season 2 WWE NXT Rookies (Week 7)

eli cottonwood

L to R: A skank, Abraham Washington, Eli Cottonwood. This is what an unemployment line should look like.

After last night’s WWE NXT, I guess the question is, would I rather have an episode that focuses more on the Nexus angle than the objective of this series, or an edition capped off with another lame obstacle course? Actually, the answer is obvious: the latter, because it gives Husky Harris the chance to shine (and Eli Cottonwood to f’ up and need to improvise). However, when a few rookies are left out of the ring and kept to the microphone only, opinions and perceptions change, and not necessarily for the better.

1) Alex Riley. God, this guy is amazing. As usual, his wrestling was good, his mic work was excellent, and him yelling at the referees during the obstacle course was classic. By the way, he’s super jacked up for not being a “big guy” by typical WWE standards, so for that reason alone, the 6-foot-1 blond kid is basically guaranteed a job. His god-given abundance of talent is just the icing on the cake.

2) Percy Watson. I cannot get over how great his mic skills are — sure, he’s a little rough around the edges, but only compared to the polished and waxed scripted WWE promo delivery, but he’d have been an amazing territory promo — and the way the crowd reacts to something as simple as, “You know what I’m sayin’?” He showed glimpses of another dimension last week with his bowing up and this week with his sorrow, and that’s good when all we’ve really seen up to this point is Johnny B. Badd Version Two. Watson’s also athletic as heck, even evidenced during the obstacle course; did you see the ease with which he shoved that cart up the ramp?!

3) Kaval. We’ve seen six weeks of his in-ring work, which keeps him high on this list. But last night’s promo? Pee-yew! I’ve never agreed with Michael Cole the way I agreed with him last night when he said of Kaval’s promo: “That was horrible!” Sorry, Kaval, but it was.

4) Michael McGillicutty. His pre-taped promo with jibber jabber from the pros summed up McGillicutty well: He’s a great hand with a hint of a character behind that generic-ass look. His hair is stupid, his tights are trash, and his entrance through the curtain is cheesy. And he’s totally miscast as a babyface, but the good thing about that is that it’s as plain as the nose on my face that McGillicutty will make an amazing cocky heel.

5) Husky Harris. Harris tripped over his first promo a little bit (and laughed it off, which isn’t a good idea on live WWE TV, where everything should be taken 100 percent seriously lest Kevin Dunn chew you out with his big buck teeth), but he wrestled another good tag match (a situation that plays to his strengths) and came across as the bad-ass high school bully we’ve come to love when demolishing the obstacle course. I’m sorry, seeing him get down in the three-point stance and then barreling over that hurdle had me in stitches.

6) Eli Cottonwood. Whoa, did I just do this?? Yes, only because when he flubbed during the obstacle course, it forced him to improvise, and his reaction was memorable and even a little funny (see: John Morrison’s face). I actually want to see him stick around one more week to watch him clutz around just a little longer.

7) Lucky Cannon. The pros in Cannon’s pre-taped segment summed it up well: He’s athletic but super generic. And his pandering promo didn’t do him any favors. Yawn.

Eric’s Blog: Ranking the Season 2 WWE NXT Rookies (Week 6)

garbage can

No, this isn't in reference to an hour-long Nexus infomercial; it took Miz, Mark Henry, Alex Riley and a garbage can just to make Lucky Cannon look passable.

This’ll be a short one, as this week’s edition of WWE NXT was focused way more (way too much?) on Nexus and not as much (not enough?) on the rookies.

1) Alex Riley. The pros on his pre-tape had to reeeeeally stretch to come up with negative things to say about him. They, like I and like most others, realize Riley is destined for stardom.

2) Kaval. Yeah, Kaval shined even in a battle royal. Maybe I still have him ranked this high because he’s Low Ki, or because he’s done such a great job in weeks past, but since this week’s show gave me hardly anything to go by, Kaval stays at No. 2.

3) Percy Watson. How hilarious is this guy? He just makes you feel good! The crowd was in the palm of his hand with the “OH YEAH!” catchphrase, and his interaction with MVP was 95 percent polished and professional. Then when he hinted at a rookie attack on the pro, I kinda got goosebumps. Good work!

4) Michael McGillicutty. Here’s another guy who couldn’t do much this week given the context of the episode, but I believed him when he stood at the front line, begging Nexus to get in the ring.

5) Husky Harris. He did a good job going over the top rope in the battle royal. Moving on…

6) Lucky Cannon. Eh, more indy work from the below-average superstar. He did a fine job bringing Mark Henry’s garbage can into the ring, though.

7) Eli Cottonwood. Yuck.

Eric’s Blog: Ranking the Season 2 WWE NXT Rookies (Week 5)

husky harris

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

No eliminations this week, so I must rank all seven remaining rookies. But at least there was no keg carry challenge or potato sack races or hot wing eating contests, so I can rank the NXTers based on attributes that might help them succeed in WWE and not at a family reunion.

1) Alex Riley. He’ll have to royally screw this up for me not to rank him at No. 1 every week. His promo on “pigeon” was hilarious, his delivery was spot-on WWE-style, and you could tell the Miz was eating it up. He was roundly booed by the Atlanta crowd not because he was bad (see Cannon, Lucky), but because he was great.

2) Kaval. He was only given a couple of small opportunities to shine in his match against the Miz, but when he did, he did well, and the live crowd reacted strongly for him. His promo was, as Matt Striker said, a little pandering (see Morrison, John; “I think it’s so cool that the WWE Universe gets to blah blah blah”), and he doesn’t need to patronize to get himself over. Still has a unique voice that the fans love and a moveset that will excite YOU, the WWE Universe~!, every match.

3) Michael McGillicutty. Yeah, I know, I moved the miscast third-generation heel with the stupid name above Percy Watson, but McGillicutty’s excellent in-ring work has almost completely won me over. But Mikey, man, there’s a reason people booed your promo: You delivered it like a heel. “I’m a this, my grandpa was that, my dad was this, I’ll take your breath away…” You’re bragging, and babyfaces don’t brag, at least not until they’ve gone full circle from hated heel to love-to-hate heel.

4) Percy Watson. Of course his promo at the beginning of the show was great; he’s Percy Watson, baybeh! (TM East Coast Audio) His in-ring work is about a 7 out of 10 right now, though, but he’s athletic (see his effortless leapfrogs as an example) and seems like a moldable piece of clay, like he wants to be there and wants to learn how to be the best. I like his attitude, OH YEAH!

5) Husky Harris. Husky’s video package during which the pros offered their opinions of him reinforced my perception of him as a shit-kicking bully with a bad attitude and a lot of swagger. I still like that about him, and I liked how he leaned on the podium before his promo (Striker must have liked it, too, because it elicited a giggle out of the emcee). His delivery was good with room for improvement, and his in-ring shortcomings were covered by being in a tag team match with someone else to carry the load. I write a lot about this kid each week because I have high hopes for him; here’s hoping he gets more aggressive in the ring and a little more natural on the mic.

6) Eli Cottonwood. Really, I’ve only bumped him ahead of Lucky Cannon because he claimed he didn’t have a mustache, and then 10 seconds later said he had the best mustache of all of the NXT guys. The pros in Eli’s video were right: He’s awkward, and (as I said last week) he needs to learn how to take his 7-foot-1-inch frame and learn how to be intimidating and dominating. Don’t hold your breath, he’ll never learn how.

7) Lucky Cannon. This guy is not a WWE superstar (stay with me here), he’s a future “Former WWE NXT Rookie” on a poster at an independent show near you.

Eric’s Blog: Ranking the Season 2 WWE NXT Rookies (Week 4)

car carrying

A preview of next week's immunity competition...

Ugh, another keg carry? Seriously? Didn’t WWE pay attention to the backlash these stupid contests received last season and even consider learning from it? It’s gonna be my bad, though, when WrestleMania XXX in Madison Square Garden is headlined by Kaval & Ricky Steamboat, Jr. vs. Alberto Del Rio & Michael McGillicutty in beer pong. Anyway, this episode helped me knock my rankings from eight guys to seven, it solidified some of my beliefs, and it blew other opinions of mine out of the water.

1) Alex Riley. Even in losing, and even in losing to Kaval, Riley is still the best prospect for future WWE superstar out of the bunch, for all the reasons I continue to say each week.

2) Kaval. Glad they allowed Kaval to win a match and even gave his double stomp the Five-Star Frogsplash slow-motion treatment. Was that him who let out that banshee-like howl as he executed the Warrior’s Way? It sounded like a dying rabbit. He still brings experience and a uniqueness to the WWE table, which is good.

3) Percy Watson. Who can turn the world on with his smile? Who can take a nothing show and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? This guy is priceless, and I was excited to see his extra-long pre-taped promo. In all honesty, I’d be surprised to ever see a guy like him with glasses like those on a poster for WrestleMania, but if that happened, it would be awesome.

4) Michael McGillicutty. His reaction to losing the keg competition and his sneaky spontaneous neckbreaker won me over this week. I still think he needs to lose the college-freshman-orientation hairdo and eventually turn heel, but he’s growing on me for sure.

5) Lucky Cannon. How he was able to move this far up my rankings is beyond me, too, but it’s more due to the faults of the next two guys, so I won’t spend too much time on this pretty lady with weak-ass forearms and white-trash drinking game experience.

6) Husky Harris. Baby Rotunda slips way down in my rankings after his poor showing in the ring this week. His selling was sad — he barely even flinched for MVP’s Ballin’ elbow, among other mistakes — and a lot of his offense was either tentative — did you see how long it took him to go for some of those nearfalls? — or just sloppy — when you suplex someone, you’re not also supposed to lie there, stiff as a board, for a full second; get your ass up. He spent almost a whole quarter hour picking up MVP by his head, and I think he got winded doing that. Now that I see a full-blown match out of him, I realize he has a lot of work to do.

7) Eli Cottonwood. You know, he has a couple of good big-man moves, and his timing is already improving — he was right on it when chucking Kaval out of the ring — but he needs to wrestle even more like a big man, which in part includes staying on his feet more (see: Diesel’s boot to the throat in the corner and not Eli’s kneeling choke maneuver) and standing up straight more often (if you’re 7-feet-1, don’t hang your head all the time; improve your posture, stand up straight and dominate!). His character is still more shoot-me-in-the-hallway creepy than money-drawing-early-Undertaker creepy, but that can be learned.

Eric’s Blog: Ranking the Season 2 WWE NXT rookies (Week 3)

Varsity Club

Niiiiiiiiice.

A day late (and a few hundred dollars short), I finally finished this week’s WWE NXT, and while my rankings haven’t changed much, I’ve seen new things out of almost everyone.

1) Alex Riley. It’ll take an act of God to knock Riley out of this top spot. He proved again this week that he has the look, the in-ring work, the timing and the personality to be a WWE superstar. Jeremy and I talked about this over IM at one point, but I could see Riley in a faction similar to the old Varsity Club with Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler (and maybe master’s degree holder Michelle McCool). But he can stand on his own, too.

2) Kaval. He took two weird bumps this week — one after going face-first into the turnbuckles, hesitating, then taking a flat-back bump, and the other after absorbing Eli Cottonwood’s finisher on his stomach, selling it with a big facial, then flopping onto his back like a fish, suddenly unconscious enough to be pinned. But he still has more character than most of the rest, and he can go in the ring.

3) Husky Harris. I like this kid. His attack on Matt Striker was short but vicious — great forearm to the back, great senton, great smirk on his way up the ramp, with his vest off his shoulders. He’s a cocky redneck, a unique combination in today’s WWE. It could totally work, as could a tag team with Cody Rhodes when this season ends. Let’s see him on the main roster.

4) Percy Watson. I liked his in-ring work for the most part; his dropkicks are better than Kofi Kingston’s but not quite Randy Orton-level, and his flippity splash had some serious air underneath it. He works the crowd like a champ, and while it’s silly, it works perfectly for him (or should I say, he works it perfectly). Keep Urkel around, guys!

5) Michael McGillicutty. I still stumble over a few things about Mr. Perfect’s kid (a label I hope he sheds, but one that puts a high benchmark on his expectations). I hate his 360-degree turn followed by his arm extension that he calls an entrance; I don’t like how his promos sound sooo scripted, and I don’t like that he looks like a mini-Matt Morgan, kinda like a douchey roommate of the guys whose parties you went to in college. McGillicutty just strikes me as a natural heel. He still bumps like a champ, and his finisher kicks ass. Keep working on it.

6) Lucky Cannon. Lucky still looks like a TNA tag team champion, but his work in the ring is OK. His mic work is generic, and his backstory is weak, but he’s serviceable for now. I know, he’s this season’s Heath Slater, a white-bread babyface in a world where the audience would prefer more flavor.

7) Titus O’Neil. Now that I know his backstory, I like him a little more, but something about the fact that he’s such a natural athlete but such a tentative wrestler bugs me. I know it can happen to lots of guys, but he runs the ropes like a weinie and gives and takes moves like he’s just starting wrestling school. It’s OK to be a little more aggressive when executing a bodyslam, Titus.

8 ) Eli Cottonwood. Yuck.

Eric’s Blog: Ranking the Season 2 NXT Rookies (Week 2)

kaval

"What? Layla took my chair?!"

Just finished up Tuesday night’s WWE NXT and came away with a greater appreciation for a few people, equal appreciation for others, and somehow more disdain for one poor sap.

1) Alex Riley. He’s got it. Riley is a shoe-in for future WWE superstar. Does that mean he’ll win NXT? Not necessarily; WWE might want to call up someone else from this season but feel as though that person needs the prestige of winning this competition as a feather in his hat. But Riley, with his fine wrestling skills, his timing, his ability to sell, his great look and his microphone skills, is the best thing this season has going for it.

2) Kaval. I’m glad a bigger-than-normal audience got a chance to see Kaval work, to see his unique but effective offense, his timing and his pre-taped promo where he not only explained his personal background — and the inspiration for his dedication, which is important in character development — but his professional background as well, including his title reigns overseas. Did Michelle “Vacuum” McCool and Layla “You’re Not Still With William Regal?” El do Kaval many favors on commentary? Not really; they didn’t explain what Kaval brings to the table, nor anything tangible they’ll offer him. But again, those two as his pros keep Kaval in the spotlight for as long as the WWE writers continue to enjoy this perverse humor. (Oh, and how about Cole already ragging on Kaval for his interest in “The Simpsons”? Geez, buzzkill.)

3) Husky Harris. Thirty years ago, Husky Harris would have been a beer-drinking shit-kicker. Twenty years ago he would have been a little bit sloppier hard-nosed brawler. I don’t know what I’d call him today, but I like him. He’s big, his look is unconventional, he’s fairly agile, he’s from good stock, he’s got a nice little story to tell, and he tells his stories well. Let’s keep it coming, Husky.

4) Percy Watson. Once again, Teeth McGeeth steals a scene in which he’s not even all that involved. How can you deny this guy? Even standing in a line with seven other guys of all shapes and sizes, Percy Watson stands out. I would have liked to have heard him talk or seen him wrestle, but we can’t see or hear from everyone every single week.

5) Michael McGillicutty. The third-generation wonder, the son of my hero and the grandson of the biggest teddy bear I’ve ever been afraid of, is missing something. He doesn’t look like a babyface, but he acts like one. He’s not the size of a light heavyweight, but at times he tries to wrestle like one. He’s a little too exuberant in his mannerisms, especially his bush-league walk through the curtain and down the aisle. But his timing is good, his bumps are great (he actually waits until he gets hit to take a fall), and he can kinda sorta talk. I’m glad I got to see him wrestle.

6) Titus O’Neil. Literally because he repeated his “Make it a win” line in that backstage surveillance footage with him and Zack Ryder, O’Neil makes it two notches higher in my rankings this week. I’m sure he’ll slide back down after the next time he wrestles on TV.

7) Lucky Cannon. Eh, still amateur hour as far as I’m concerned. Cody Rhodes was right: Cannon does have a stupid look on his face. His wrestling didn’t wow me; it didn’t even make enough of an impression on me for me to remember whether or not he was any good. His back story, which I thought had to do with him being shot twice while in the line of active police duty, turned into someone clubbing him in the head with a steel pipe and putting him in a coma. Now there’s a hero, folks. Worse things have happened to personal friends of mine in my hometown, and I wouldn’t call them “lucky,” nor would I call them “future WWE superstar.” Bleh.

8 ) Eli Cottonwood. Fuck this dirtball. I couldn’t give two shits about this no-talking, no-wrestling idiot if I were born with a pair of assholes. Get a haircut or go the fuck home. (P.S. John Morrison, learn how not to fumble over your pre-planned insults and your only two lines before pandering to the crowd, you weak-ass fucker.)

Feel free to agree or disagree with me by posting a comment below or joining our forum!

Stunt Granny Audio #102

This is the thing Matt Striker will pull away from you if you talk for more than three seconds.

It’s the nice guys version of Stunt Granny audio, as Dusty and Kevin take you on a magical journey through Stunt Granny Audio #102! What did our heroes think of the original NXT gang angle from Monday Night Raw? What do they think of the new NXT guys that litter “season two” of the show? And why is it called season two when it’s happening directly after season one, with no stoppage whatsoever? They ponder these questions and more in this historic audio. Was this the worst edition of Raw ever? Why does Dusty hate Matt Striker so much? You’re going to have to listen to find out, and we recommend listening, because finding out is a way cool thing to have happen to you!

Stunt Granny Audio #102

Eric’s Blog: Ranking the WWE NXT season 2 rookies (already)

eli cottonwood

"Did we seriously call up Eli Cottonwood for this?"

(PROGRAMMING NOTE: Make sure to check out Stunt Granny Audio #101 below for Jeremy and Eric’s complete thoughts on Monday Night Raw’s NXT invasion angle.)

During last night’s Stunt Granny Audio, Jeremy mentioned that the whole lot of us SG crew turned 180 degrees on WWE NXT season one rookie Michael Tarver, at first meeting him either with displeasure or disinterest, but transitioning to hoping for a major Monday Night Raw role for the much-improved youngster. Now we think he’s a bad-ass with a good promo, good enough in-ring ability and a look that makes Bad News Brown look like Good News McGee.

I thought I would start to keep on record my own personal pros poll (or in my case, an amateur poll) for NXT season two, of who I like and why, and who I don’t like and why. This way, in 12 weeks when the season ends, I can be held accountable for my thoughts. I’ll do my best to keep pre-formed opinions out of the formula and focus more on what WWE is showing us on screen, but I apologize if my desire to see the former Low Ki on free TV every week seeps into my objectivity a smidge.

1) Alex Riley. Jordan and I saw Riley wrestle a dark match before last year’s Labor Day Raw in Chicago, and he performed well there, well enough that I distinctly remember him. His pre-taped promo this week — an abridged version of which was shown last week — was brilliant, his in-ring plan to sneeze and pretend to be allergic to Matt Striker was fantastic and separated him from the pack, and he’s obviously 100 percent invested in his rich-kid/cocky-athlete character. Riley is at once hilarious and hate-able, something I enjoy in my WWE superstars. He’ll win, or at the very least make it a long way in this business.

2) Kaval. We all know him as Low Ki (or Senshi) and love his hard-hitting in-ring tactics. Seeing him go from strong-style bad-ass to Brooklyn thug during his run in Ring of Honor added another dimension to his character. But on NXT we’re seeing Kaval, a smaller but determined athlete who can’t fathom why he’s being sculpted for WWE stardom by two women. His excellent facials show it: He’s not too corny, but he’s definitely acting for the back row, which is key for the large-scale WWE production. His association with the women sets him apart immediately and makes him a focal point of this season, and more eyes on you is a positive thing. He was also able to cut the first of eight promos to end Tuesday’s show, which meant he was able to set the tone and didn’t have to worry about repeating others’ thoughts. Despite not wrestling last night, Kaval is off to a good start.

Charlie Murphy

CHARLIE MURPHY! DARKNESS! AH AH AH!

3) Percy Watson. How hilarious is this guy? From his spirit-fingers intro to his Charlie-Murphy-as-a-pimp tooth-bearing facials to his Little Richard speech inflections to his all-around showmanship, Watson is a sure-fire WWE superstar. His wrestling ability seems OK and his float-over DDT finisher is alright for now, but in the land of character development, Watson, although playing a role that won’t elevate him to WrestleMania main event level, reigns supreme right alongside Alex Riley. And he wrestles in his friggin’ glasses! Everyone will remember and love that about him. WOOO-OOO-OOO!

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