Tuesday, February 27, 2024
EditorialTop 10 NXT Superstars Who Are Killing It With Their Characters

Top 10 NXT Superstars Who Are Killing It With Their Characters

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Hi folks! Today, we’re looking at 10 WWE NXT Superstars who are killing it with their characters. Please know that this is a highly subjective list and everyone has their preferences. I asked our social media followers who they like, but I believe several misunderstood the question.

This isn’t about who has the best wrestling skills, or measuring popularity, but the creativity and execution of characters the superstars bring to television. Fans will naturally despise heels, which makes surveying them difficult because the babyfaces always have the advantage. In my opinion, the best characters in NXT are heels, but there are some exceptions. There are some promising talents coming through the black & gold brand, and I wish them all the best.

Notable Exclusions

Carmelo Hayes & Trick Williams: Many of our followers mentioned them, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some backlash for not including them in my top 10. I admire what they have done, but I am struggling to connect to their act. I can’t put my finger on what they are missing. They are supposed to be heels, but rarely do they make me want to hate them.

Yes, they cheat and typically do what heels do, but none of it makes me want to pay attention. I know Shawn Michaels is high on Carmelo, and he’s a pretty good wrestler with plenty of athleticism, but he’s got a long way to go until I care for what he does. Trick has potential, but being in the shadow of Carmelo hurts his progress.

Nikkita Lyons: Since debuting, I immediately labelled her the next big star, which is rising fast. However, the problem is that they aren’t giving her enough time to develop a character. She has the look, and the athleticism, but there’s no character yet. They seriously need to develop that before a promotion to the main roster.

Toxic Attraction: Much like Nikkita Lyons, Toxic Attraction looks fantastic. What I was hoping was that they would be like a modern day Beautiful People (with a twist), but this never happened. Jacy Jayne has the potential to be the best character because she’s so expressive, but the gimmick has never got past being two-dimensional.

Outside of the hot photoshoots of Mandy Rose, Gigi Dolin, and their attire, there isn’t much else to make them appealing. NXT had the chance to develop their characters more in the brief feud with Wendy Choo, because we got to see their personalities away from the ring. Sadly, this didn’t continue. I remember the video package of Gigi Dolin sitting in a bar drinking, and playing pool, but nothing else came of it.

Sarray: Introducing an alter ego that transforms during her entrance into the “Warrior Of The Sun” was exceptional. There’s so many things they could do with that, but the gimmick became hollow when they stopped using her. This character has a high ceiling, but if there are no plans to expand the meaning behind it… then what’s the point?

Bron Breakker: While I admire his skills, what I hate is heavily falling back on what the Steiner Brothers did before. There’s no originality here, he’s relying on getting over with a nostalgia act. The “Scott Steiner Math” references the infamous TNA Wrestling promo, which… may bring about a cheap pop, but that’s all it is. They could have developed his personality in the feuds with Dolph Ziggler and Joe Gacy, but it didn’t happen.

There are many names I could talk about, but let’s leave them so we can start my top 10. Like I said, this isn’t about wrestling skills, or popularity, it’s purely about the future potential of characters and gimmicks. Confidence and mic skills go a long way in getting the fans to connect. With that said, let’s begin with someone few will know yet.

Also Read: Pro Wrestling in 2022: Major Moments of the Year (3/4)

NXT

#10. Kiana James

She hasn’t done much in NXT, but from what I’ve seen, she gives me major Ivory vibes. For those who don’t know, Ivory was exceptional at playing original characters, and many will remember her time in the Right To Censor. Fans despised her! Ivory understood what she needed to do and played it to perfection.

Kiana James is playing a character who is not only highly intelligent, but is an entrepreneur. She picked faults in the character traits of Nikkita Lyons after doing some in-depth research. Kiana pointed out that she was brought up on a tour bus with her not so inspirational parents living a rock star lifestyle. The lack of clothes Nikkita wears in her photoshoots does not impress her, and she wants to peel back the layers of this troubled individual.

What I admire is that Kiana James wants women to conduct themselves with more class. And this is solid motivation because for years, women were not taken seriously as wrestlers and looked at as sex objects. She wants to change the standard and show that women do not have to degrade themselves to get noticed. Kiana does this with absolute disdain for what Nikkita Lyons represents. You could say she is like the “Karen” of the wrestling world (with high business acumen), and I’m surprised it has taken this long to find someone who fits the bill. Also, I love how deadly serious she is! I hope she never smiles.

#9. Wendy Choo

Wendy Choo’s character is divisive. Many like it because it’s unique, while others hate it so much they see it as one of the worst things in wrestling. From my perspective, I see it as a step up from what she was doing before (Mei Ying). There’s a similarity to Orange Cassidy with how lazy she can be, and he doesn’t get the same levels of hate. I guess some of the hate stems from how unexplained her character is.

Why is she always wearing pajamas? What makes her sleepy all the time? Does she care if she wins or not? And why does NXT try so hard to make her a face? What I know is that Wendy Choo is naturally gifted at playing any role. Much of the flaws of this character stem from her booking and lack of explanation. To those tuning in for the first time, if they see her sleeping at work, it would tell them she is unprofessional. How does she still have a job? And why does nobody wake her up?

I also believe that some fans who typically enjoy seeing “pretty” female wrestlers hate Wendy Choo because wearing pajamas and onesies makes her look unattractive and overweight. She’s not the most athletic in the ring, so this plays into this judgmental assumption that she isn’t an attractive woman. Karen Q, the woman who plays Wendy Choo, cleans up so very well when she’s not in character. With that said, I believe this gimmick is sorely misunderstood, and that’s not her fault, but of NXT’s writing. She’s here because the character is unique and is probably the only person in WWE who can pull it off.

NXT

#8. Ilja Dragunov

As a British fan, I love Tyler Bate. Yet, if I were to choose a dominant babyface champion for my brand new NXT Europe brand, I would pick Ilja Dragunov. Why? Because he is far more confident on the mic and has a level of intensity that Tyler doesn’t. Considering that English is not Dragunov’s native tongue, on top of what is going on with Russia at the moment, it would be too easy for him to be nervous. Ilja never comes across that way. He has confidence in what he says and the fans want to listen to him.

Being a babyface is far harder because getting people to like you is tougher than it is to get them to hate you. Dragunov originally debuted in NXT UK as a heel, but the way he carries himself gives him a distinct and appealing charisma. You can feel what he feels when he talks, and he can tell a story with the look in his eyes. On top of being a phenomenal wrestler, Dragunov is a storyteller, and it’s his subtle way of doing things that makes him one of NXT UK’s best exports. He hasn’t peaked yet, though. Dragunov could go down as the greatest Russian professional wrestler of all time, and it won’t be because of his wrestling skills, but because he has what it takes to make moments people remember.

#7. Cameron Grimes

Grimes has range. I have followed this mans career since he wrestled as Trevor Lee for Impact Wrestling. When he came to NXT, I could never see him getting over as a babyface. He proved me wrong! And I love nothing more than when a wrestler develops their skills enough so that they deliver whatever the promotion needs. Cameron Grimes has been going “to the moon” for a while, which has made the catchphrase become a touch tiresome.

One of the key underlying stories in NXT is his fall from grace. Grimes is being targeted by Joe Gacy, who has done his best to recruit the struggling superstar to his stable. This is a crucial time in Cameron’s development, as it will decide if he reaches a level worthy of the NXT Championship. Like Dragunov, Grimes is an exceptional wrestler, but it’s his mic work that impresses me more. I’d go as far to say he is one of the most professional talents in NXT, and has more skills than at least a quarter of the main roster.

He could do his thing on Raw & SmackDown, but I’m glad that they have not promoted him too soon. Grimes isn’t even thirty yet, so there’s no rush to get him there. I feel that if Bron Breakker wasn’t around, he’d be in the mix for the championship. I hope that whatever is going on with him at the moment is not what leads to his downfall. Cameron Grimes has worked so hard to get here, and I hope one day they push him to the moon for real.

NXT

#6. Joe Gacy

Much like Wendy Choo, Joe Gacy is a character that divides opinion. Originally, he was a guy punching “cancel culture” square in the mouth by being obnoxiously politically correct. He’d point out the inequalities of society, but doing so in such an over the top manner that it didn’t come across as genuine. I loved this because while political correctness can send a positive message, it can also push agendas and punish those who probably don’t deserve backlash for having an opinion. The character had potential because of how bold it was, and his creepy demeanor played into the positive messages he tried to get over.

However, somewhere along the way, WWE lost track of this and moved him into being more of a Bray Wyatt-like cult leader. Much like Wyatt, Gacy became a messiah, saving those straying away from the path. I was disappointed with this, because we’d already seen that before, but I can understand how his original character could rub some fans the wrong way. It was too borderline because heels rarely preach positive messages, so it may have gone over the heads of younger people or those who don’t understand the nuances of political correctness. It has become more obvious to the casual viewer that Joe Gacy is a bad guy who wants to convert others to his way of thinking.

While the storytelling has been questionable, I admire Joe Gacy’s expressions and skills. Rarely do you find somebody who can look as creepy as he does. I would stick his confidence on the mic next to anybody. In fact, I prefer Gacy’s way of delivering promos over Bray Wyatt, because the former is clearer with his words, while the latter is so cryptic that his point often flies over fans’ heads. People will always likely compare him to Wyatt, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps one day he will emerge from the enormous shadow Wyatt casts on this type of gimmick.

#5. Tiffany Stratton

She is my top woman on this list for one simple reason. Tiffany Stratton debuted as a superficial, spoiled daddy’s girl who gets everything that she wants. And guess what? She has played it to perfection ever since. Tiffany has gotten better at being abnormally bitchy and entitled. She truly believes that the world revolves around her, and that nobody else can match her skills. The egotistical behavior is so through the roof that you’d need to send Cameron Grimes to the moon to squash it. Toxic Attraction should be more like she is.

Stratton plays this character with total confidence, and it’s frustrating to me that this flies under the radar. Carmella plays a similar character, but I much prefer Tiffany’s. I don’t think anybody else has ever portrayed this properly, and it disappoints me she doesn’t get the recognition. I hope Tiffany becomes even more obnoxious, more entitled, and her ego becomes so huge we’ll need another universe to contain it. And I’m not saying any of this because she’s attractive, no… I say this because she is very professional. We should all love to hate Tiffany Stratton for the right reasons.

NXT

#4. Andre Chase

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Andre Chase and his university have become my favorite babyface act in NXT. Originally debuting as a heel, Andre Chase would teach his students in an intense and borderline abusive way. He hates when his students ask him dumb questions, and luckily, this has become a staple of his character since transitioning to a fan favorite.

What helps this gimmick is his students’ overly excited behavior and passionate following. They truly see Andre Chase as the greatest teacher ever, one with integrity and, more importantly, love for those under his tree. WWE has given few the extended airtime to develop their characters outside the ring than Andre Chase, Bodhi Hayward, and Thea Hail. They rarely wrestle, but have each become monumental to the weekly entertainment. It makes me want to sign up for a scholarship! Can I get a Chase U?!

#3. Grayson Waller

I hate Grayson Waller. I cannot stand Grayson Waller so much that I couldn’t bring myself to make him #1, but I respect what he does. His character is hideous, insufferable, and putrid. Like Tiffany Stratton, Waller’s ego has gotten past the stratosphere, even more so when he drew the ire of AJ Styles. If The Miz was to retire tomorrow, he could be promoted into that spot right away. It’s difficult for me to explain what he does that makes his character one of the best.

I believe it’s how delusional he is. Grayson Waller, like Tiffany, has a degree of entitlement. Like The Miz, he gained fame on a reality TV show for his outspoken personality, and he has taken that to another level in NXT. It is telling that he was cast as Ric Flair on an episode of Young Rock last year. Not many can step into the role of Ric Flair and pull it off, but I’m sure he did (not yet seen the episode). I’d like to point out that while he is grating, he has proper heat. It’s not go away heat! Too many fans like to claim that someone has go away heat these days, because they don’t like them. Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

NXT

#1 & 2. Pretty Deadly (Kit Wilson & Elton Prince)

YES BOY! Call me biased, but the biggest NXT UK export comes in the form of Pretty Deadly. Some will call them overrated, but what I see are two young guys giving me Shawn Michaels (post-Rockers) vibes. There aren’t many on the NXT brand oozing the magnetism they do. They have the look and charisma to be supremely hated, but for me, it’s all about chemistry.

Pretty Deadly recently teased that their chemistry is so firm that they could be in a relationship. They sleep together in the same hotel bed, feed each other food, and take forever to pick their choice of attire for the day. They also like to mention how soft and luscious their hair is. Everything is pointing to them being gay, but they could just be teasing this to bring intrigue to their characters. Are they actually together? Or are they as annoyingly vain as they are close friends? It’s tough to say, but it wouldn’t change how I feel if they are or aren’t. What matters to me is that they have the confidence and chemistry to be one of the best tag teams WWE has ever had.

You’re meant to hate them, that’s the point. They want you to be jealous, and they want you to groan at how vain and over the top they are. There’s a reason that WWE made them not only the first team to win the NXT and NXT UK tag team titles, but also the one that unified them. The other tag teams in NXT don’t match up as characters… well, not yet anyway. For now, Pretty Deadly are the champions for a reason, and that will continue whether or not you like it.

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As I said earlier, this is a highly subjective list. Instead of chastising me for not including your favorite superstars, please share your top 3 (or more if you like) in the comments below. I know NXT 2.0 had made the show difficult to watch for some, but do you think bringing back the black & gold will get fans back? Can Triple H make it more like it was? Let me know what you think about the next generation of WWE Superstar. Thanks for reading!

You can keep up with all your wrestling news right here on eWrestlingNews.com. Or, you can follow us over on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

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