WWE.com Editors' Debate: Who's the next WWE NXT breakout star?
From Intercontinental Champion Big E Langston to the dangerous trio known as The Shield, WWE NXT has produced a staggering number of successful Superstars and Divas throughout the past two years.
However, they’re not the only ones ready to shake up the WWE Universe. WWE‘s Developmental System is packed with hungry competitors waiting for the call up to the main roster, ready to make fans around the world chant their name.
A few editors at WWE.com always have a close eye on NXT’s finest Superstars and Divas. But they each have one potential Superstar that they all but guarantee will be the next big thing when they finally leave the WWE Performance Center.
If you’re looking to find out who’s next to break out from WWE NXT, these nine rookies are the closest you’ll get to a sure thing.
Paige has dominated NXT’s Divas division since its inception, becoming the first — and only — NXT Women’s Champion in July 2013 while paving her own, very distinct path along the way. She’s shattered Diva stereotypes with success, which is why she’s ready to skyrocket to the top of WWE’s Divas division.
Paige has made it clear she’s come to fight, and has defeated numerous NXT and WWE Divas, including Emma, Summer Rae, Sasha Banks, Tamina Snuka and Natalya. There’s no doubt her impressive list of victories will continue to grow when she reaches WWE’s main roster.
The anti-Diva from Norwich, England, is anything but typical. With her raven hair, pale complexion and metal-studded black leather gear, Paige’s gothic look is intimidating, yet striking. When she tried out for WWE, Paige refused to fit into the Diva mold, which worked in her favor.
“I wanted to be able to prove that I didn’t need what the other girls had; I could be myself,” she told WWE.com.
The inaugural NXT Women’s Champion is also one of the youngest in the NXT locker room at 21. She has been competing since age 13, growing up in a family of in-ring competitors who have encouraged her along the way from the indie circuit to WWE NXT.
Paige represents a fierce new chapter waiting to be cracked open in the WWE Divas division. It’s only a matter of time before this anti-Diva leaves her NXT-only days behind to set her sights on the Divas Championship. — KARA A. MEDALIS
I dare you to watch “The Artiste” Aiden English and not be entertained.
For wrestling’s drama king, the squared circle isn’t just a combat zone, it’s a theatre in the round, and it may only be a matter of time before NXT fans’ calls of “bravo” reach critical mass. The multifaceted mauler — a classically trained actor — is the quintessential sports entertainer and, thus, NXT’s next big thing. In addition to being a well-rounded athlete capable of lacing together cravats and armbars, the thespian-turned-threat has no qualms about launching into a show tune before, after or even during, a match. Think of a raw-boned, yet golden-voiced Karl Gotch, with every bit of the mean streak and a greater proclivity for borrowing from Gilbert & Sullivan’s songbook.
Obviously, it’s easy (and for his opponents, detrimental) to get the wrong idea about the dapper English, who wears a scarf and beret to the ring. While his appearance suggests sensitive type, his antics in the ring are pure aggro. Take, for example, his signature move, The Director’s Cut. English starts out by locking his foe in a hold resembling the Cobra Clutch before leaping high in the air and swinging his victim into a pulverizing side slam. He’s already cut down several NXT prospects with the maneuver, and more unfortunate souls are likely to feel its wrath.
Although Aiden English is in WWE’s Developmental System, don’t mistake him for an understudy. Whether he’ll ever make it on Broadway remains to be seen, but he undoubtedly has the wrestling ability to take NXT’s best to the limit. “The Artiste” is ready to take center stage, and I’m not talking WCW Saturday Night. All you have to do is watch him once and you’ll be clamoring for an encore. — JOHN CLAPP
It would serve the WWE Universe well to learn the name Alexander Rusev now. They’ll be hearing it for a long, long time.
No one was quite sure what to make of the Bulgarian brute when he stomped to the NXT ring for the first time in August 2013. The crowd hushed as Rusev went through his unique pre-match ritual, stunned as the beast snapped a board over his tree trunk legs.
Sure, Rusev’s sumo-style ring gear makes him look like a “Street Fighter” villain, but stepping in the ring with this monster is no game. With training in sumo and Muay Thai, the monstrous Bulgarian has learned how to make the most of his 6-foot, 300-pound frame. He throws knee strikes with deadly precision and tosses his unlucky opponents around the ring with ease. Most surprisingly, Rusev is unbelievably agile. He has no qualms about launching himself across the ring, crushing the poor sap he’s facing underneath his massive frame.
However, the thing that should worry every WWE Superstar about Alexander Rusev is this — he’s not afraid of anyone. His very first singles match on WWE NXT was against former World Heavyweight Champion Dolph Ziggler. He came incredibly close to winning it. More recently, the Bulgarian brute brazenly challenged and defeated former Intercontinental and United States Champion Kofi Kingston. Forcing The Wildcat to tap out to his devastating Accolade, Rusev proved he is no ordinary rookie.
Alexander Rusev has stated that he wants to leave an unmatched legacy behind, with streets named after him and monuments built in his honor. When he achieves that, there will be a trail of broken bones and crushed dreams behind him.
WWE Superstars, beware, because Alexander Rusev is coming and there’s no stopping him. — BOBBY MELOK
Upon one of his first glances at Enzo Amore, WWE NXT commentator William Regal quipped that he looked like " DDP's lovechild." If you asked Enzo, however, he'd probably tell you that dude was S-A-W-F-T ... SAWFT!
If you haven't witnessed Amore at work in NXT, I can't understate how much you're missing out on. From his affinity for leopard print snakeskin jackets to his compulsion for strutting and dancing — often in the same exact motions — Enzo is a unique breed of budding Superstar. In fact, I'd go as far to say there is no one quite like him on the WWE roster right now. That's all the more reason I believe it's only a matter of time before he's given the bigger spotlight. He looks like he walked straight out of a 1980s Mickey Rourke movie, complete with wild designs carved into his hair, a la former New York Knick Anthony Mason.
At 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, Enzo isn't the biggest buck on the NXT block, but what he lacks in size or squared-circle seasoning, he makes up for it tenfold with his infectious charisma. Even a broken leg couldn't derail him from entertaining the NXT Universe. He's found a way to make an impact with his gift of gab, wheelchair be damned (and yes, the chair is also leopard print).
As Enzo always says, everybody's a G until a G walks in the room. And every WWE Superstar should be on notice: Amore is a certified G. Anyone who tells you different is spouting puuure maaanure! — TOM HERRERA
You’d think professional wrestlers had already exhausted all manners in which to create mayhem with the human body. And, yet, here’s Sami Zayn, the rare competitor who is innovating in a time where imitation is accepted and, worse yet, emulation is celebrated.
If you’ve yet to see the wiry French-Canadian in action, you’re missing out on creation as it happens. More specifically, you’re missing out on a man who is capable of running along the side of the ring, leaping through the space between the bottom and middle turnbuckles, grabbing his opponent around the neck as he exits and spinning around to execute a tornado DDT. Who would think to do that? Who would think it’s even possible to do that?
Of course, as everyone is quick to point out about every Superstar who doesn’t look like a cast member from “American Gladiators,” Zayn doesn’t have the archetypal look of a star. But why is that still even a thing? How many crowds have to chant “Yes!” until buildings literally vibrate before we accept that “looking like a star” doesn’t apply in 2014? If resembling Seth Rogen is a knock against a guy’s chances at being a leading man, then people are missing the obvious fact that Seth Rogen is a leading man.
We are living in a glorious age for entertainment where the best stories on television are about unconventional heroes played by unconventional actors. Sami Zayn could be the next great unconventional hero for WWE if given the opportunity. Actually, forget that. This carrot top from Montreal will be great whether or not he’s given the opportunity, because, like Daniel Bryan and CM Punk before him, he’s just too good to be denied. — RYAN MURPHY
Are you a Bo-liever? You should be. Back in June, WWE NXT Champion Bo Dallas won the title from the imposing Big E Langston. Sure, he had the help of an exposed turnbuckle to score the win, which he may or may not have realized at the time, but so what? Winning championships is all that matters. I would have done the same thing and you would have, too.
Besides being a solid in-ring competitor, Dallas is also entertaining, which, frankly, is more important than having "four star matches" that don't invoke emotion from fans. While being booed out of arenas all over Florida, Dallas acts as if he is being received as a conquering hero and actually Bo-lieves it ... or does he?
I'm not going to sugarcoat this. I've worked with some dullards over my 20-plus years in wrestling (I won't name names) and not even the dullest of dolts was unable to distinguish boos from cheers. Either Dallas is delusional (which also makes him dangerous to his opponents) or he’s just antagonizing NXT fans so they will pay to see Sami Zayn and other truly beloved NXT Superstars stick their boots where the sun doesn’t shine. If the situation is the latter, it means that young Bo Dallas has already figured out how to get people to pay to see him —even if it’s to see him get beat up. And that is the most important skill that a WWE Superstar can master.
Until next month's WWE.com's Editors' Debate, don’t stop Bo-lieving. — JOEY STYLES
Don’t let the ditziness and bubbles fool you. Emma knows her stuff in the squared circle, and all Divas, NXT or otherwise, ought to be ready when she dances down the aisle.
Packed with plenty of quirk and a relatable charm, Emma has been involved in pro wrestling for half of her life. She began training in her native Australia before heading to the wrestling mecca of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. There, she trained under the revered Lance Storm, who has praised Emma’s skill and work ethic.
After navigating the Canadian independent wrestling scene and overcoming a nagging shoulder injury, Emma arrived in NXT where she has developed a reputation as a submission specialist with a wacky personality. She has defeated Aksana, Summer Rae and many others in singles competition en route to leading NXT’s “Emmalution.” It’s only a matter of time before Emma boogies her way to the main roster.
She may dance like no one’s watching, but when Emma hits the ring, the competition better be watching her. – ZACH LINDER
The Ascension (Konnor & Viktor)
Shrouded in mystery and hanging like an ominous dark cloud over NXT, The Ascension has risen through the ranks to capture the NXT Tag Team Titles and the respect — or, more appropriately, fear — of the entire NXT locker room.
Composed of Konnor and Viktor, The Ascension is the most dangerous force in the WWE Developmental System. With a perfect balance of in-ring styles, these ambitious Superstars are just waiting to sink their teeth into the main WWE roster.
At 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, Konnor is The Ascension’s physical powerhouse. Demented, intense and merciless, this dominant competitor has manhandled his competition with his overpowering strength — at one point even delivering a ring-shaking slam to the near 300-pound Big E Langston.
If Konnor is the battle axe of The Ascension, then the 6-foot-2, 219-pound Viktor is the scalpel: sharp, polished and efficient. A veteran of Calgary, Alberta, Canada’s famed Hart Dungeon, he uses refined technique and top-notch grappling to ruthlessly dissect his opponents.
More than complementary in-ring styles, Konnor and Viktor are united by the singular vision of how they plan to redefine NXT and—someday — WWE. It’s that unwavering chemistry and intense determination that will carry The Ascension even further than their substantial physical tools could take them.
With animalistic presence and an unrivaled desire for carnage, Konnor and Viktor are primed to become the next NXT Superstars called up to the main WWE roster. When that fateful day comes, all will fall. And they will ascend. — JAKE GRATE