(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.
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!
4) Husky Harris. I know his name is silly, but it kinda rolls off the tongue, more so than Percy Watson, who I still want to call “Percy Watkins.” A first name wouldn’t hurt him, though, like “James ‘Husky’ Harris” or something like that. Of the four rookies who wrestled last night, Harris was definitely the most sure of himself, an early sign of professionalism WWE might respect in its rookie class. Physically he’s a little doughy, but he kinda looks like a shit-kicker, so the Adrian Adonis-like body is forgivable. Facially (and hair-cut-tily), though — and my apologies to anyone this offends — he looks like a high school kid who’s about to snap. There’s something bush league about his face, and somehow that also translates to his promo delivery. He’s not quite “pet coon” goofy, but he might want to tweak his facials and ask the chick at Cost Cutters for some advice. (Speaking of advice, will his interactions with angry little Cody Rhodes help Harris, help Rhodes, or hurt them both? Time will tell; Rhodes is an OK actor, but what has he ever done to warrant flexing this type of attitude?)
5) Michael McGillicutty. Still the dumbest name of the bunch, especially after McGillicutty’s pre-taped promo spelled out his Hennig wrestling lineage. Why did he change his name if he’s so proud of his dad and grandpa? This question must be answered, and soon. His pre-tape was pretty heavily scripted, or at least scripted-sounding, and his in-ring promo was clunky even before Matt Striker took the microphone away from him. But he’s the 6-foot-3 blond guy WWE loves, and that combined with his actual family name will carry him far in this company. Prediction: At some point he’ll snap and say his robotic promos and poor name choice were someone else’s ideas, and he’s ready to be his own man, Joe Hennig.
6) Lucky Cannon. Cannon has a story to tell, something about being a cop and getting shot twice, so he’s lucky to be alive. Add onto that sappy tale his boy-next-door smile and girl-next-door hairdo, and here’s a guy who fans could grow to not hate. The first time I got a good look at Lucky, though, my first thought was, “Wow, he looks like he belongs in TNA.” He reminds me of a young, not-yet-bloated “Wildcat” Chris Harris/Braden Walker. That’s not a favorable comparison, friends. He was also in the unenviable position of cutting his first promo while standing second in line out of the eight rookies, so he was stuck repeating what Kaval had already said about the Monday Night NXT invasion. Whoops. It was smart of Riley and McGillicutty to plan ahead for that situation, but obviously Cannon did not. How… unlucky.
7) Eli Cottonwood. Ugh. What a turd. How can a pro wrestler stand 7-foot-1 and still only weigh 210 pounds? Cottonwood looks more like a sapling, and wrestles like a plain ol’ sap. When a kick to the gut is your best offensive/transitional move, you have a lot of work to do. And I don’t get his oddball character; are we supposed to be scared of him like we were with Kane? Are we supposed to laugh at him like we did with Festus? Or are we supposed to make fart sounds like we did with Giant Gonzalez? This guy just doesn’t have it, not in the looks department, the character department, definitely not in the realm of promos, and his wrestling sucks. And it really didn’t help that his pro, John Morrison, delivered yet another pre-meditated, wooden promo right after the match: Matt Striker asked Morrison what he thought of Cottonwood, Morrison asked the crowd, and said “everyone has an opinion” when only about 30 percent of the audience even reacted. Blecch. So long, stinktown.
8) Titus O’Neil. I could see it the first time he walked down the aisle: Some people have that deer-in-the-headlights look, but O’Neil has a deer-lying-on-the-highway look. His blank stare throughout the program illuminated his lack of personality, and his mouth breathing made him look even more apathetic. Or just pathetic. His build is OK, but his facials are more of a “duh duh stupid” than anything. At least he barked in the ring when Zack Ryder told him to. His bumps were tentative, and he hardly sold Morrison’s Starship Pain. This stiff should definitely be the first to go.
Agree or disagree? Leave a comment on this post, or head over to our forum to discuss!