nXt Cool Points Rankings: Pre-Takeover: Phoenix


COOL POINTS: NXT Rankings for Nov 17, 2018-Jan 16, 2019


Welcome to the Cool Points.
After following nXt closely for over three years, I’ve determined that a monthly ranking is not as effective as a periodical ranking. Reason being, often storylines and matches all build towards the next major event. For nXt, that’s TAKEOVER, which happens 5 times a year.
This edition tracks the Men’s, Women’s and Tag Team Divisions from Takeover: WarGames II to January 16, 2019, two weeks’ out from Takeover: Phoenix.

Use the table of contents below to jump to whichever division you want to read first, or keep scrolling and read it all in one sitting!


Men’s Division
Women’s Division
Tag Team Division

Men’s Division

Rank Wrestler
CHAMP Tommaso Ciampa
#1 Aleister Black
#2 Johnny Gargano
#3 Ricochet (NA Champ)
#4 Matt Riddle
#5 Velveteen Dream
#6 Adam Cole
#7 Kassius Ohno
#8 Dominik Dijakovic


8. Dominik Dijakovic (2-0)
There’s been a big push for the guy formerly known as Chris Dijak. Plenty of promo time and, as of last night, two wins. The announce team have lots of love for this guy. He’s got a clear size advantage over most, if not all, of the roster. I feel like he may be a good match for a guy like Kassius Ohno, who is pretty much the gatekeeper right now, when Ohno’s done with Riddle and Lee.

7. Kassius Ohno (1-2)
Ohno was struggling to get much attention during the summer months, and he was given the platform to air his frustrations to nXt General Manager William Regal. Not losing any confidence in his abilities, he positioned himself as a jaded, jealous, overlooked star and targeted the darling Matt Riddle upon his debut.
Ohno may not have beat Riddle, but he did beat Lee last night, and that’s a big step for a guy who was starting to look like a doormat at the gates of relevance in nXt.

6. Adam Cole (1-1)
Cole played more of a manager role for his group, following a losing effort in WarGames II. He has predicted that the Undisputed Era will win all the male titles in 2019. Then, he proceeded to kick EC3 straight out of nXt in last week’s main event. Cole wrestles sporadically, but that’s because he’s a main event calibre guy. I suspect we’ll see him getting into Ciampa or Black’s face pretty soon, since the nXt Championship is the most logical place for him to go next.

5. The Velveteen Dream (0-1)
Dream hasn’t wrestled since Takeover: WarGames, and he lost. But, he lost to the nXt Champion and looked fantastic doing it. Can the man do any wrong? He’s playing a character that has no equal at this point and has been rumoured to hit the main roster for months. 23 years old, nXt promos continue to remind the fans. He’s got no match at TakeOver. Does that mean he’s entering the Rumble? You better you better, you bet!


4. Matt Riddle (3-0)
Great start for Riddle. He’s got a unique look, style and charisma, and the fans are eating it up. A Takeover rematch against Ohno is not a lock at this point, but that feud has received more attention and more time than I expected. A knockout, 10 second victory is noteworthy, and the first main event of nXt TV is, too. Riddle’s star should grow and grow in 2019.

3. Ricochet (2-0, NA Champion)
Such a cool time to be Ricochet. He got the call to be in WarGames II and won, and then defended his North American Championship against former nXt standout Tyler Breeze. More recently, he was goaded into fighting Johnny Gargano at Takeover: Phoenix by Mr. Ciampa. Not one to back down from a fight, Ricochet jumped at the chance to fight Mr. TakeOver after only a few quips from Johnny. Match of the Year possibilities?

2. Johnny Gargano (2-1)
Gargano’s sins were forgiven by Aleister Black at TakeOver: WarGames II in what I feel was the match of the night. A month later, with a little help from his former #DIY brother, he avenged that loss in the steel cage against Black. With one feud done, fans may have been curious to see if he’d challenge for the title again. Ciampa directed him towards Ricochet and now we’ll see a sure-fire amazing match in one week’s time. Johnny’s latest tweet included the hashtag: #AndNew. I wouldn’t be surprised.

1. Aleister Black (1-1)
After what must have been a miserable summer recovering from a surprise attack, Black got redemption at WarGames, nailing Johnny Gargano with Black Mass to win his return match. That gave him the freedom to, once again, pursue what was stolen from him in June, the nXt Championship. Thankfully, we’ll be getting the rematch with Ciampa in 10 days. Would love to see him win there.


nXt Champion: Tommaso Ciampa
Ciampa runs the show. Black called him the puppet master, and Ciampa admitted as much during his promo last night. He helped his former bro, Gargano, get a big win over Black and now, he plans to squash Black’s hopes for a second title reign. Dream was a placeholder feud for Black, and now that Phoenix is here, it’s hard to see where the champ goes from here. Does it all end with Gargano in Brooklyn?


Women’s Division

Rank Wrestler
CHAMP Shayna Baszler
#1 Bianca Belair
#2 Lacey Evans
#3 Mia Yim
#4 Io Shirai
#5 Nikki Cross
#6 Dakota Kai


6. Dakota Kai (1-1)
Even though Kai can’t seem to beat nXt Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler, she aligned herself with Io Shirai to beat up on the Horsewomen in their debut match. That’s got to feel good. That aside, where does Kai go next? There’s a little more breathing room in the division, thanks to recent callups, but I doubt that Kai gets another shot at the title for a while. Tough spot to be in.

5. Nikki Cross (1-1)
Cross gets the main event win over Candice LeRae on the post-Takeover: WarGames II show and then isn’t seen again until last week’s match against Bianca Belair. Finally, Belair gets a win over the erratic Cross, but she loses nothing from it. She was recently spotted backstage, at Smackdown Live, and good on her for getting the call to the main roster. She’s going to be a great fit for that show, putting on competitive matches against ladies like Becky, Naomi, and Charlotte.

4. Io Shirai (1-0)
2018 Mae Young Classic Finalist Io Shirai made her debut on nXt TV, through a few promos where she helped out Kairi Sane and Dakota Kai on their issues with Baszler, Shafir and Duke. Her first victory was in the tag match, on December 19, and I expect we’ll see more of her in the coming weeks. She’s a great talent.

3. Mia Yim (2-1)
I think Mia Yim has been the most featured woman in the division, besides the champ and the now-#1 contender. That goes back to before WarGames II where she was getting in the grill of ladies like Aliyah and Belair. She had a strong showing in the #1 Contender’s Fatal Four Way and would make for a fine title challenger, leading up to Brooklyn V.

2. Lacey Evans (0-1)
Evans must be one of the top rising stars of 2018 in WWE/nXt. It seems all her promo and in-ring work has paid off, too, with her recent appearance on Smackdown Live. Naturally, she got an opportunity to be #1 Contender in the Fatal Four Way match, but a match against Baszler just would not make sense right now. Looking forward to seeing her move her way up the ranks on the main roster though.

1. Bianca Belair (2-0)
The EST of nXt is UN…DE…FEA…TED. What a thrill it would be to see her defeat the champion in Phoenix. She’s been so dominant in most of her matches in 2018 and only had a real challenge when she faced Nikki Cross. I’m quite split on how things will turn out in the championship match, but, regardless of what happens, I think Belair will elevate her game. She may come out of it as the alpha female.


Women’s Champion: Shayna Baszler (2-0)
When Asuka resigned the championship, it was quite unclear who would rise to hold the title. Shayna Baszler has grown from newly-signed MMA star to a confident, even arrogant 2-time Women’s Champion. She talks the talk and walks the walk, and is completely believable as the dominant force of the division. Her promo against Belair last night was gold. Belair hasn’t faced anyone like her before and so, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baszler make the EST tap. Might make for a good reason to keep the feud going though, if Belair passes out. Such a boss.


Tag Team Division

Rank Tag Team/Faction
CHAMPS Undisputed Era
#1 War Raiders
#2 Heavy Machinery
#3 Burch & Lorcan
#4 Aichner & Berthel
#5 Forgotten Sons


5. Forgotten Sons (Blake/Cutler)
Just one tag win over the past two months, but this team has been marketed enough to be noticed and remembered in the current tag team division. Last night’s attack on the Street Profits solidifies their first real feud, and, depending on if they can get some traction, it could lead to more against teams like Burch & Lorcan. Hard to say if the fans will despise them enough to get there though.

4. Fabian Aichner & Marcel Berthel
Surprised to see these guys on the list? So am I. They are a brand new tag team but last week’s match was more enjoyable than it should have been. Typically, new tag teams get those first few squash matches and look kinda boring beating their competition. Aichner & Berthel wrestled with some unique double-team moves and made their debut look kinda fresh. That’s a good sign.

3. Danny Burch & Oney Lorcan
What’s not to love about the all-business, stiff-working, all-energy underdog team? They beat the Mighty twice in 3 weeks before Christmas, and haven’t been seen since. It’s okay. These guys usually come and go, depending on the availability of TV time for the Tag Division. If the tag titles change hands next Saturday, I want to see these guys face Hanson & Rowe on a TV main event. Uppercuts for the win!

2. Heavy Machinery (Knight/Dozovic)
Finally, Knight and Dozovic got the Tag Team Championship title opportunity on the Boxing Day nXt TV special against Undisputed Era. It was a long time coming for this fun-loving, fight-loving duo. They fought hard but, with a recent call to the main roster, a title win was unlikely. Their character work is going to fit right in on WWE TV and I think their gimmick will get over with the kids. Pretty fresh compared to many of the current tag teams, too.

1. War Raiders (Hanson/Rowe)
What may have seemed like an eventuality upon their debut in April 2018 has finally arrived. War Raiders are getting their first Tag Titles shot, in Phoenix. These guys really have something special and can do things that big men simply shouldn’t be able to do. O’Reilly & Strong will be in tough to defend against the onslaught of power and strength these two possess. If 2019 is NOT the year of the Era, then I think the dissolution of that stable starts here with new tag team champions.


Tag Champions: Undisputed Era (Strong/O’Reilly)
Still tag team champions, Strong & O’Reilly had an uncommonly long break between title defenses. Their inclusion in the WarGames match allowed them some time to wait out the lack of healthy contenders in the division. Heavy Machinery proved themselves to be reasonable competition, but a match against War Raiders has been forecast for months. With Fish and Cole at ringside, shenanigans may get them the win, but if their brothers are ejected, the undisputed title reign may soon be over.

COOL IT!

That’s a wrap on the rankings from my perspective. I look forward to reading where you agree and disagree. Here are three questions to help guide your comments.

Should Aleister Black win back the nXt Championship?

What are the chances of Gargano allying with Ciampa more closely in the coming months?

Could Shayna Baszler reach Asuka-like levels of domination in the Women’s Division?

My Takeover predictions will be shared next week in the nXt Results column, and a long form discussion on the Takeover: Phoenix show can be found via “Perfect 10 Wrestling”, available on LOP Radio, Thursday, January 31. Looking forward to talking with The Implications about what we know will be another five star effort from nXt.

Peace!

Past Cool Points Columns include: nXt Results- January 16, 2019
nXt Results- January 9, 2019
nXt Cool Points Rankings: Pre-Takeover Brooklyn IV

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