NXT is the home of many young standouts and potential future superstars for WWE. Every single year, we are treated to a new crop of superstars ready to take WWE into the future. Some superstars do not pan out, but others prove to live up to the billing that many said they had. There is often nothing more satisfying in wrestling than seeing somebody objectively live up to the potential many said they have. It would seem that the object of many people’s desire in NXT these days is the one Velveteen Dream.
Velveteen Dream’s journey actually started a while back in Tough Enough. He was Patrick, and while he had personality, nobody would believe that he would ascend to the level that he reached today. His passion for the business was quite evident, and that made his elimination from the reality show a bit controversial. In May of 2017, Velveteen made his official debut in Chicago and neglected his past up until that point. For a while, Velveteen’s style and mannerisms in the ring immediately pointed people to compare him to Goldust. His flamboyant personality, ring presence, and nonverbal communication are mirror images of what Goldust has been doing his entire career. He would begin to sell people on his personality, or rather make them figure it out for themselves what he was, but what put him on the map was arguably the best rivalry in NXT in 2017. That would be his rivalry against Aleister Black.
Aliester Black was booked as an unstoppable enigma from the get-go, and for months, Velveteen tried to get him to say his name, going as far as to stalk him until they had to settle their differences at Takeover: War Games. If Velveteen could get Aliester to say his name, it could put him on the map and ascend his character to new heights. The match was one of the best on NXT in that calendar year, and it worked into what made Velveteen such a special attraction after that match. His mind games, his copying of Aliester’s tendencies, and putting his face on his tights as a throwback to something Rick Rude used to do, he had all the makings of what would prove to be the highlight of his career. What was amazing when I was watching the match was when I realized that feud had a deeper meaning. Velveteen wasn’t fighting against Aliester, but rather, he was fighting his past. Black was merely a vessel chosen to represent what Velveteen was really going up against. He wasn’t going up against a guy he didn’t like. He was going up against the past he was trying to erase. Just hearing someone perceived to be as unstoppable as Aliester was at the time to say his name would give him the validation, or infamy that he craved for so long.
Velveteen didn’t win the match, but he might as well have, because he got what he wanted in the end. He got the recognition of the fans, and even in defeat, he got Black to say his name. That’s all he ever wanted. It was a masterful story to tell and the way both men conducted that story was masterful from start to finish. He would go on to have quests against the likes of Johnny Garganno over the number 1 contendership for the NXT Title. While he didn’t win that match, the point of that feud was to tell Garganno that no matter how their feud ends, Velveteen will be the winner, because it will be he that gets all the recognition. Kassius Ohno was basically fodder for his character and to give him a win on a Takeover event. However, earlier this year, he started to explore new dimensions of his already polarizing character, and it started in his pursuit to become the first NXT North American Champion. While he failed there as well, he was instrumental in making the match a five star classic (at least according to Meltzer). This match would lead to another singles feud, against relative newcomer to the NXT brand, Ricochet.
The entire premise of the feud with Richocet was to show that whatever he could do, Velveteen could do much better. This feud went as far as to break WWE barriers and go into uncharted territory, being their personal lives and pasts. Velveteen once again had to come face to face with his past demons and embrace the Patrick Clark of yesterday, as Ricochet exposed. “The Dream has no memory of that” is an example of acceptance, but denial in the same breath. He accepts that Patrick Clark was something that he had to deal with in the past, but he refuses to move on from it because it still bothered him.
Meanwhile, Velveteen craved the spotlight Ricochet enjoyed and responded in kind by exploiting Ricochet’s past. He went as far as to subtly change his Twitter avatar to Prince Puma, a slight to Richochet’s own past. The two would put on one of the best matches at Takeover: Chicago, as they continued the arc of one-upmanship. Velveteen was once again essentially in a handicap match. He was fighting against Richocet, but he was also fighting against the fans, because he craved not only Ricochet’s personal spotlight, but the adoration of the audience. Neither Ricochet or Vleveteen gained an advantage in the entire match. No one dominated a signifcant portion of the match until someone just straight up won the entire thing. That’s what made it even more special.
Velveteen went as far as to copy Ricochet’s own high-flying tactics, going as far as to repeat his mistakes, but it was all a means to his own end. Everything he did had a purpose behind it, and no moves he made were without reason. For example, towards the end of the match, Ricochet missed a long dive, and Vleveteen may have won the match if he capitalized right then and there. Instead, what did he do? He went up and decided to do an even further dive, which was a gamble gone wrong. It was basically the same psychological warfare he shared with Black, instead, this focused more on the body, instead of the mind. And if you haven’t noticed the trend, note that he lost all the big matches against Black, Garganno and Ricochet. But he still achieved what he sought out from the start. The Dream was over in the match, but in the end, the Dream’s still over.
I find it personally scary how good Velveteen Dream can be. He’s enthusiatic, he reacts uniquely to wins and losses, every single match is another progression in his character and has unique traits about him that stand out amongst the crowd. Best of all? He’s only one year older than I am at 22 years old. It’s not like he is a veteran that came to WWE towards the tail end of his prime like AJ Styles or Shinsuke Nakmaura. He’s practically a kid, and yet he as already mastered so many aspects of wrestling and storytelling to the point where he has been universally praised and has gotten recognition from established names such as John Cena. I’d hate to see a character like him go to waste on the main roster, and it’s equally as scary to see what may become of him under Vince’s eye on the main roster. But if he used correctly, I see great things. I see an asset that can lead WWE into the future, and I see dollar signs. Wrestling doesn’t sell tickets and curate excitement. Characters and personalities do. John Cena couldn’t dream of having the kind of wrestling arsenal that guys like Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, Seth Rollins or Johnny Garganno have, but he doesn’t need to. Why? Because he’s John Cena. Telling your story in the ring is a part of it, but if you haven’t noticed recently, WWE isn’t concerned about which superstars can put on 5 star classics in the main event of WrestleMania. Only names that are big enough, have the look and can make WWE more profitable. If Dream is used to his full potential, I don’t see why he can’t be a huge cork in the WWE machine.