The WWE draft is just a week away, and being that I am also an avid NFL fan I thought I would go full Mel Kiper Jr and put together a big board. The rules are fairly simple in that tag teams have been kept together – potentially giving them more value than being drafted as individuals, but it also means that a reasonable tag division can still exist. Other that that everyone is fair game, from non-wrestling talent to NXT performers. The only caveat is that retired/semi-retired wrestlers like The Rock, Triple H or Undertaker are not available and managers go with their stars, so no breaking up Miz & Maryse or Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman.
30. Apollo Crews
We start with someone who is all potential and no track record. Crews only made his NXT debut last summer but has already been hotshotted to the main roster. It’s easy to see why, he has a terrific physique, is strong and incredibly fast and agile. However he has failed to develop much of a character so far since joining WWE. On the indy scene as “Uhaa Nation” he had a far easier time connecting with fans and gaining a following, but that hasn’t quite translated to the WWE crowd. I think he can do it, it will just be a matter of tweaking his presentation and perhaps working a little closer with writers and developing a character. It doesn’t hurt that WWE have faced criticism over their lack of diversity and he can help with that too.
29. The Miz
Let’s be honest, no one queues around the block to see The Miz wrestle – but it is also true that he can make a feud meaningful with his terrific character work and mic skills. He is the opposite of Apollo Crews is almost every aspect. Miz is extremely hateable and makes most things work. His hollywood schtick is great and even his run with a stunt double went well (We miss you Sandow!). He is the perfect mid-card heel for Raw or Smackdown and a believable title holder as well.
28. Samoa Joe (NXT – Champion)
You might be surprised to see a man of Joe’s brilliance so low but there are a few things working against Samoa Joe, the first one being his age. Joe is 37, that’s no too old for a wrestler but it does mean his best years are behind him and he doesn’t have that much shelf life left. Joe might be an Indy superstar but one big thing lacking from his resume is IWGP gold. WWE don’t mind pushing that because Brock Lesnar has held it, but even with AJ Styles they haven’t mentioned TNA, which is where Joe spent most of his time. Still, Joe plays the big mean bully particularly well and his run in NXT has been terrific. I don’t think there is any guarantee that he is among the draft class given his age and the way NXT have been using Indy veterans to help build up their home-grown talent either.
The youngest Divas Champion and first NXT Womens Champion has a lot of history at just 23 years old, but she has been overtaken somewhat but the “Four Horsewomen” and damaged by her constantly face-heel flip-flopping while WWE forgot about the Divas division through most of 2014 & 15. However Paige is one of the most trusted hands in the womens division and more than capable of putting on a great match when allowed to. Paige has the talent to be higher but WWE have mishandled her enough that it has really hurt her standing with the crowd.
26. Lucha Dragons
Our first tag team on the big board. The Lucha Dragons are a lot of fun when they are on song, but unfortunately they can also be off their game. Sin Cara is the weak link of the team, often missing timings and slipping on some spots but Kalisto is not flawless. The potential of Kalisto is sky high if WWE ever pull the trigger and unleash him, just google Samuray Del Sol to get a sense of his insane in-ring ability. However his size and awkwardness on the mic will limit him in the short term.
25. The Revival (NXT – Tag Team Champions)
The NXT tag team champions are a wonderful unit and work brilliantly in NXT, but their potential to transition to the main roster or become individual stars is limited. Their “no flips, just fists” moniker works brilliantly as a heel gimmick in the flip-hungry world of NXT and while their ring work is sublime it is also a little boring for the more casual audience of Raw & Smackdown.
24. Enzo Amore & Big Cass
This is more like it! Enzo and Cass have done very well on the main roster since coming up, they are currently getting a nice rub from John Cena and The Club – helping their standing with the fans while Enzo’s mic skills continue to engage newer fans. Still, they are both very green and limited in the ring which caps their value in the draft next week. The belief is that they won’t be together for too long before Vince pushes Big Cass as a singles star, what then happens with Enzo? A manager, even a talented talker like Enzo, is far less valuable than an in-ring talent and can Cass really go a full singles match when he’s only really been doing hot tags for the last 18 months? As fun as they are together there is enough uncertainty in their future to stop them being too high on our Big Board.
23. Becky Lynch
I’m a huge fan of Becky Lynch. Her feud with Sasha Banks in NXT was incredible and their match at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable was one of my favourites of last year and won her my fandom. Still, she has suffered a little on the main roster, becoming the female Sting as friend after friend turn on her. Her ring work can be very crisp – her suplexes in particular make her a unique attraction in the womens division – but she still has inconsistencies that need to be ironed out and she is far from polished on the mic. However she is one of the most natural babyfaces WWE have and that is a very valuable commodity.
The Bulgarian Brute is such an enjoyable wrestler. He can go from goofy humour to deadly serious in the blink of an eye and for someone with as little experience as he has he is very good in the ring. His time in WWE has been spent as the “foreign heel”, which is a very safe spot to be in but not one with a lot of upward mobility. While Rusev’s physique is imposing his character remains that of a bully which means he gets put down by the face eventually. A slight gimmick change would go a long way to pushing Rusev up the card but for now he is a nicely positioned mid-card heel – a useful hand to have but not one you can see being backed to the hilt to carry your main event.
21. Asuka (NXT – Womens Champion)
The NXT Womens champ kicks her way to #21. Asuka is very new in NXT and very, very awesome. She is a charismatic kicking machine that can own the division if given the chance. The ceiling of her talent comes crashing down due to the language and culture barrier that might prevent her getting the full support of the audience but Asuka has made a big impact since arriving in NXT and I think she is the most likely on this list to make a fool out of her ranking.
That does it for Part One of our WWE Draft Big Board! Check out Part Two here, and stay tuned for Part Three with the final Top 10 on Tuesday before the WWE Draft!