A return balanced out a farewell again as WWE NXT's landscape shifted once more.
Hideo Itami stepped back into the spotlight as Tye Dillinger officially departed the developmental brand on Wednesday's NXT. A healthy Itami back in the fold rearranges the championship picture. The Perfect 10's exit leaves a space open for another rising prospect.
Andrade "Cien" Almas is clearly ready to snatch up that spot and likely a higher one soon after. He continues to thrive, be it during defeats or in glorified squash matches.
Liv Morgan can't say the same thing.
The New Jersey native didn't impress in her latest showing at Full Sail University. Her evolution is crawling along.
The following is a look at how Morgan, Almas and others stack up to their peers as WWE prospects. The wrestlers' look, gimmick, charisma, mic skills and ring work determined the rankings.
Prospects just outside the top 20: Nick Miller, Buddy Murphy, Wesley Blake
Almas Does It Again
His match against Danny Burch on Wednesday was no classic, but Almas elevated his stock with his performance nonetheless.
The former La Sombra has been on a tear of late. He has regularly been one of NXT's highlights each week.
Against Burch, Almas was smooth. His offense looked effortless. And he blended in plenty of viciousness.
John Moore of ProWrestling.net wrote after the bout: "Andrade Almas is showing signs that he might be NXT's best in-ring worker."
That's definitely a discussion worth having. Almas is equal parts slugfest artist and technical ace.
And as he showed in a brief backstage altercation with Drew McIntyre, he's found his footing as a character.
He came off too much like a cheap Chippendale's rip-off early on but has since become something more befitting. He's essentially the arrogant, belligerent guy at the bar everyone wants to punch but is too intimidating for anyone to try something.
EY the Storyteller
Eric Young may remain at the NXT level due to his age (37), but Raw and SmackDown will be missing out on a strong all-around performer.
He was excellent when he collided with Dillinger inside a steel cage for The Perfect 10's final NXT match. This was a send-off for Dillinger but a showcase for Young.
Young delivered big, dramatic punches. He flung his foe into the steel. He led the way in a match that elevated Dillinger in a big way.
Emotion shone from his face and body language. Whether he was a laughing sadist enjoying Dillinger's pain or a writhing victim, Young put on a show.
One can't blame WWE for wanting to keep Young at NXT, even so. He demonstrated on Wednesday night how much the brand's up-and-comers can learn from him.
Morgan Moving Along Slowly
Morgan and Aliyah's win was a reminder of just how far both women have to go. Neither prospect had much to celebrate after their performance against Peyton Royce and Billie Kay on Wednesday.
Fight Booth's Shawn Mareane wrote of the tag match: "That was just bad. Aliyah has managed to take another step backward and she's dragging Morgan down with her."
While the bout showed off how flexible and athletic Morgan is, she doesn't look decidedly better than she did in her debut.
She looked wooden too often. Her roll move on Kay was awkward. Her execution overall wasn't crisp.
It's not surprising how silent the crowd was during the action.
She and her tag team partner have major work ahead of them. The women's division is getting deeper; the level of competition is increasing. Morgan isn't keeping up.
Itami made a clear statement just moments into his return from shoulder surgery when he knocked NXT titleholder Bobby Roode out cold. He's charging toward the championship.
After being twice derailed by injury, Itami will have the best stretch of his NXT career.
He's bound to be extra motivated. And his drive will carry him to new heights.
Jack Gallagher vs. Tyler Bate for the United Kingdom Championship is set for next week's show as announced on Wednesday. We're going to see more and more of the UK stars on NXT in the months ahead.
While WWE figures out the logistics of creating a UK show, Full Sail will serve as a temporary home, and the Brits will help make NXT must-watch again.
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