Wednesday's WWE NXT was largely a confirmation of things we already knew—Nikki Cross compels as a lunatic, Kassius Ohno can go in the ring and Asuka is more than ready to jump to the main roster.
As the developmental brand continued its build toward the April 1 NXT TakeOver: Orlando event, these truths were on display throughout the night. Cross looked in need of a straitjacket as she squashed her foe. Ohno excelled against Bobby Roode in a NXT Championship bout. And an Asuka vignette was the latest proof of her awesomeness.
NXT fans did get a touch of newness during the show as the unproven Ealy Brothers wrestled on TV for the first time.
Where do all those folks fit in the NXT hierarchy? Who is most ready to flourish on Raw or SmackDown? The following is a look at where the brand's prospects stand against each other on that front.
The wrestlers' mic work, ring skills, look, charisma and gimmick determined the rankings.
Note: Only NXT stars who have debuted on TV are considered.
Prospects just outside the top 20: Nick Miller, Buddy Murphy, Akam
The Ealy Brothers Debut
Gabriel and Uriel Ealy stood up to The Authors of Pain after the tag champs blasted them last week. This was the first we've seen of the brothers in the ring.
Their size certainly stood out, as they actually towered over The Authors of Pain a bit.
The short match offered only a glimpse of The Ealy Brothers. They fell to the reigning titleholders in a hurry. The bout, even in its brevity, showed how raw they are. Their movement in the ring wasn't especially smooth.
Daily DDT pointed out what they do have going for them:
It will take some lengthier action against more skilled opponents to get a clear idea of what they're capable of, though. The Authors of Pain don't exactly bring out anyone's best at this point.
Ohno couldn't quite keep Roode down enough to dethrone him. That's to be expected. This was only the former Chris Hero's first match in his second tenure with NXT.
The bout served as a reminder that Ohno is a skilled performer.
He always looks comfortable in the ring. His athleticism belies his physique. And he wields an impressive combo of power and agility.
When Roode was on the attack, Ohno sold extremely well, flailing on his back, his body language dramatic.
It's never been his in-ring work that it's been a concern, though. The big question mark with him has always been if WWE would go for his look.
Chair Shot Reality host Josh Isenberg commented on Ohno's ring gear:
Stars like Dusty Rhodes and John "Bradshaw" Layfield are proof that one doesn't need to be a Greek sculpture come to life to be successful in this business, but Ohno will have to find something better to wear in the ring. His look was decidedly indy on Wednesday.
More Craziness from Cross
The Sanity faction has been the perfect vehicle for Cross. It has allowed her to shine as a performer, to add depth to her character and grab hold of the audience's attention by way of frenetic energy.
During Cross' clash with Macey Estrella on Wednesday, the Scottish bruiser laughed maniacally, kicked the turnbuckle and flung her jacket around the ring a la Nitro-era Ric Flair.
She was convincingly vicious. Glee spread across her face as she dished out punishment. And after nailing Estrella with repeated swinging neckbreakers, it was hard to feel concerned for Cross' victim.
This has been the norm for Cross of late. She turns small moments into bigger ones, insignificant matches into ones worthy of the highlight reel.
NXT really needs to send her back to the women's title picture. A full-on feud with Asuka would be something special.
Aleister Black will alter the energy of NXT.
The man formerly known as Tommy End is on his way to the developmental brand. Another vignette aired announcing his impending arrival.
Black will pound opponents in the ring, display a big-time presence and offer an intriguing character to the NXT mix. He will instantly be a major factor. The Black era can't start soon enough.
Wednesday's NXT also featured a clip of Asuka sitting poolside, discussing her dominance. The footage of her undefeated streak and talk of Ember Moon sure felt like a precursor for a move to the main roster.
Asuka has been a great star for the NXT brand, but she's headed elsewhere soon. Look for her to be among those called up following WrestleMania.
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