|Two of my super-faves going at it on NXT|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Nikki Cross - SANitY is an incredible stable. Eric Young is a fine leader because the dude has them crazy eyes. Alexander Wolfe doesn't care about his own health or welfare. Killian Dain is exactly what one might think of if Godzilla took a human form. But the whole thing would just be another group of guys in the white noise if not for Nikki Cross. She brings that entire group together and elevates it. She's so kinetic and vibrant that it feels like if you took her away from not just SANitY, but NXT, the entire operation loses something. Whether it's the way she sensually gazes at Ruby Riotttttttttt, Tazmanian Devils her way down to ringside to fight anyone or anything that gets in the group's way, or the utter lack of fear she has taking down any competitor, whether it be Asuka or Adam Cole or anyone on the roster, she's a genuinely refreshing presence not just in NXT, but in WWE. No one is like her. I'm certain no one will ever be allowed to be like her, and that's for the best, because no one can pull off what she pulls off every week she's on camera.
Fred Yehi - In 2016, the rest of the country found out what I already knew about Fred Yehi, or at least it just watched him turn in match after match of crazy, fun, sublime grappling on WWN Live. Last year is when he finally started getting calls from them companies around the country. All this should have been happening for the last five years, but better late than never. Anyone not booking this man should be in BIG TROUBLE.
Breezango - The Fashion Files were the most delightful thing on the trashhole of Tuesday nights known as Smackdown this year. I'm not sure how it was on the same two hour telecast as Jinder Mahal: The Real Racist and this limp Sami Zayn/Kevin Owens team-up. All of it has to do with Tyler Breeze and Fandango (and yeah, Konor and Viktor too). The material has been hit or miss, but every single vignette was must-see because of those two and their delivery. Sure, they didn't wrestle a whole lot, but in the Vince McMahon "WRESTLING, ERRR, I MEAN ENTERTAINMENT IS A VARIETY SHOW, FUCK YOU" era, you need guys like Breezango providing comic relief in esoteric ways. Because wrestling is the most esoteric of the combat arts, you see.
Otis Dozovic - Why just Dozovic and not both guys from Heavy Machinery? It's complicated. Tucker Knight is good, don't get me wrong, but it feels like he's already reached his ceiling. Plus, he reminds me of Mac's dad from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and I never really liked Mac's dad. He gave me the creeps. Anyway, Dozovic isn't just a big beefy boy who likes to get rowdy, but he's got them frantic faces. He looks like he wants to get out there and bat around his opponents like he's the dog and they're the Kong full of dang peanut butter. I want nothing but good things for Otis Dozovic, my beautiful bowling ball wrestler of a son.
Asuka - People who think Asuka isn't any good really underestimate both her matches with Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, and friends, but also, how satisfying watching someone kick another person's ass with little to no resistance. I mean, have you seen how goddamn gorgeous her roundhouse kick to the head is? No one is ready for Asuka, but I'm always ready to watch her cave some poor schmuck's head in, that's for sure.
Stokely Hathaway - When Big Stoke shows up to an indie show, you know big stuff is gonna go down. He's guaranteed to put a smile on people's faces, even if most of the time that smile comes from whatever local babyface is chasing him around the ring and threatening him with his life. The art of management is not lost as long as Hathaway is around.
Charly Caruso - Contrary to popular belief, this is not totally a thirst placement. Sure, Caruso is perhaps the most traditionally stylish person in wrestling history, but she's actually super good at her job of asking questions backstage without seeming like she was programmed to ask them by some kind of artificial intelligence. I mean have you seen some of the talking ficus plants WWE has hired over the years? Caruso has been Renee Young levels of good at her job since she started.
Braun Strowman - BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.
Tomohiro Ishii - Kazuchika Okada gets all the pub for being the ace, and Kenny Omega is the trendy favorite, and Tetsuya Naito is the main event nerd pick. I like all three of them. But none of them are Tomohiro Ishii, who looks like he was carved out of a pillar of granite just to look angry and headbutt people. Again, it's eminently satisfying to watch someone big and strong and mean just beat the Christ out of people and not look like he or she is a step away from looking at home in a Rankin-Bass Christmas special. Although honestly, if they ever did a live-action Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I would pay good money to watch it several times in the theater if they cast Ishii as the Bumble.
Drew Gulak - I was all sad for my fellow Philadelphian because he got signed to WWE and taken away from the indie circuit just to do enhancement talent shit for TJ Perkins or whatever. Then, they just let him redo his Drew Gulak for a Better Combat Zone on 205 Live, and he became the best thing in WWE by far the entire year. Funny how letting cool dudes do their thing just happens to produce great television, right?
Officer Magnum - WHO'S A GOOD PRO WRESTLER? HUH? GOOD WRESTLER! GOOD DOG!