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Top WWE NXT Prospects for 2017 and Beyond

Although all of the current hype in WWE surrounds Wrestlemania 33, the night following Wrestlemania can arguably have just as big an impact on the WWE landscape as wrestling’s preeminent event. It has grown to become the premiere platform for debuting and returning stars. Among those to debut on RAW the night after Wrestlemania are 2-time United States Champion Rusev, along with wrestling Gods Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, and Mankind (who combined for 11 World Championship title reigns).

The question on the mind of many fans is, in the words of Goldberg, “Who’s next!?”

Since rising form the remains of Florida Championship Wrestling in 2012, NXT has become the central talent pipeline for Raw and Smackdown. Alumni of WWE’s third brand include Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens, and the aforementioned Rusev, among other high-profile acts. With the days and months following Wrestlemania usually giving birth to new stars, here are four NXT entities that will make a fantasy impact within the next year, and one who should but probably won’t get the chance.

Lock- Shinsuke Nakamura

The resume from Nakamura’s 14-year stint in New Japan Pro Wrestling—the second most prominent wrestling company in the world—speaks for itself. For those of you who aren’t familiar, here are a few of the highlights: 3-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, 5-time IWGP Intercontinental Champion, and winner of the prestigious G1 Climax tournament in 2011. Since arriving on the NXT scene at NXT Takeover: Dallas last April, the King of Strong Style has been nearly untouchable. He is one of only two men (along with Samoa Joe) to hold the NXT Championship twice. His stiff and powerful strikes, kicks, and chops have earned him signature wins over Sami Zayn, Samoa Joe, and Finn Bálor. After repeatedly proving himself against world-class competition, the sky is the limit for a man who not only punishes his opponents, but also oozes charisma and has the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.

Lock- The Revival

The imposing team of Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder are arguably the best tag-team to enter all of WWE over the past decade, and they know it. The team once known as The Mechanics re-christened themselves the revival of tag-team wrestling. An unparalleled chemistry and a hard-hitting yet smooth in-ring style vaulted the team into the record books as the only two-time NXT Tag-team Champions. Dash and Dawson have proven themselves in competition against several teams currently on the Raw and Smackdown rosters, including Enzo Amore and Big Cass, The Vaudevillians, and American Alpha.   At NXT Takeover: Orlando, The Revival will look to further cement their place in the record books as they take on #DIY (who you’ll hear more about soon) and The Authors of Pain in a triple-threat match for a shot at a third reign as NXT Tag-team Champions.

Lock- Asuka

NXT is arguably the hottest brand in professional wrestling, and Asuka is unquestionably the hottest wrestler the brand has to offer. Upon her signing, NXT Commissioner and WWE legend William Regal dubbed her “possibly the greatest competitor ever to sign here with NXT.” Given some on the names already mentioned in this article, that says something. Asuka is undefeated since debuting at NXT Takeover: Respect in 2015.   Like Nakamura, she features an array of stinging kicks and strikes. However, her most dangerous weapon is her Asuka Lock—a cross-faced chicken-wing and body scissors). Becky Lynch, Natalya, and Bayley are but a few who have all fallen victim to the devastating submission. After being voted NXT Women’s Competitor of 2016, the women of Raw and Smackdown should enjoy their sports while they have the chance; Asuka is coming.

Good Chance- #DIY

An unknown pair to the mainstream audience, indie wrestling standouts Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa made chicken salad out of chicken shit (s/o to Stone Cold Steve Austin). The duo meandered into the background as a random pairing in the first Dusty Rhodes Tag-team Classic before gelling and taking the NXT tag-team scene by storm as #DIY. Ciampa provides the muscle and thunderous elbows and chops. Gargano makes his living with an impressive combo of technical wrestling and high-flying attacks. The two put their full arsenals on display in match against each other in 2016’s Cruiserweight Classic, but they impressively put the competition behind them and moved full-steam ahead as a team. After putting an end to The Revival’s second title reign in a phenomenal two-out-of-three falls match, #DIY put the WWE tag-team scene on notice.

Outside chance, but should be a lock- Bobby Roode

Among his peers, the Glorious One has a reputation as one of the best and most well-rounded workers in the business. He has the look. He can talk. He has rarely paralleled technical wrestling skills. So, why does the reigning and defending NXT Champion only have an outside chance of making a fantasy impact in the next year? Every castle needs a king, and Roode’s run with the NXT crown has only just begun. Aside from Kevin Owens, WWE has a history of making NXT stars prove their worth for a long run before getting the much-vaunted call to join Raw or Smackdown. Both Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor had to prove their dominance for two years before getting the call, and now Nakamura is in his second year in NXT. Does Roode, a 2-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion and tag-team wrestling legend, have the skill? Obviously. But at this point, time may not be on his side.

The future for these WWE NXT prospects, along with your fantasy team, looks gloriously bright.

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