Last weekend, WWE presented one of its biggest shows of the year with Survivor Series. Your interest in the show may vary, but there is no denying how big of an event the show is. For me though, I’m rather sick of talking about the thing so instead we’re going to go down a level in the hierarchy but up a good bit in quality with a look at the best show of the weekend, and one of the best shows of the entire year, with a closer look at NXT Takeover: WarGames II.

The show wasn’t exactly huge on the surface with only four advertised matches (though we did get a bonus match) but there were some people who stood out to me on the card and are worthy of some extra attention. I’ve done something like this before but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve more appreciation as the talent on the show really is that good. Today we’re going to look at three people, who are kind of in a past, present and future lineup. That’s a bit of a stretch but it sounds a little bit better than “you’re awesome and you’re awesome and you’re awesome.”

We’ll start with the future name in the form of someone who was added to the show as a surprise with Matt Riddle. Originally scheduled for this week’s NXT TV, Riddle defeated Kassius Ohno in a match that lasted a grand total of six seconds, consisting of a bell, a jumping knee to the head, and another bell. Ohno had been talking trash to the newcomer Riddle for a few weeks now, telling him to make an impact of some kind by challenging people and defeating them. The win was a nice tie in to the story as Riddle beat Ohno at his own game while doing exactly what Ohno challenged him to do.

Matt Riddle calls out Kassius Ohno: NXT Takeover: WarGames II (WWE Network Exclusive)

The key thing here is the absolute star power from Riddle. He comes off like the most awesome guy on the NXT roster but at the same time he can wreck you with whatever kind of offense he wants. In his two matches we’ve seen a hard strike to the face and a submission for the win. You don’t get a well rounded offense like that from most people and the UFC background does him a ton of favors in that area. Riddle knows how to look like a fighter but also how to come off like a star at the same time, which is a heck of a dangerous combination.

Finally, you have to remember that Riddle hasn’t even been wrestling for four years yet, which includes the start of his training. Riddle really is the kind of prodigy that you almost never see and his potential is through the roof. If he’s this good after a few years with the training he’s received, imagine how good he can be with the WWE’s training and resources behind him.

Matt Riddle on getting the quickest victory in NXT history: WWE Exclusive, Nov. 17, 2018

So how far can he go? I’m not sure how much staying power the King of Bros gimmick has, but then again I’m not sure how long it needs to last. Riddle is the kind of person who can go from goofy to deadly serious at the drop of a hat and if he does that at the right time against the right opponent, the fans are going to catch on in a hurry and cheer him for a very long time to come.

Moving on to the present (though also kind of the future), we have Velveteen Dream. My goodness where in the world did this guy come from? After being cut from Tough Enough, he was eventually signed anyway and given the Dream character, which is something like a Prince tribute while also being something completely all his own. The major perk here would seem to be the in-ring performances with Dream turning in one show stealing performance after another, but there’s something more important than the matches he’s been having.

Velveteen Dream makes a Hollywood entrance: NXT Takeover: WarGames II (WWE Network Exclusive)

The important part of Dream is his ability to take what should be little more than a comedy character and actually get the thing over. When you look at Dream, you see some combination of Rico and Adrian Adonis. Instead, he’s his own thing with the old school tributes and the high flying that are put together into the incredible matches. It’s Dream’s outstanding charisma that carries him and he’s become the must see performer at every Takeover. That’s a very hard spot to reach on a series of shows when everyone is trying to steal the show every time but Dream has pulled it off and done so very well.

To take something as over the top and pretty ridiculous as the Dream and turn it into a character that the fans want to see and who can have very serious matches and stories is remarkable. Keeping in mind that he’s only twenty three years old, there is so much potential in this guy that he could be a star for a long time to come. You know, assuming he’s never allowed anywhere near the main roster where Vince McMahon would turn him into a huge joke that gets to put over whichever lunkhead they can find next for him. Stay in NXT man, where things make more sense for you.

A tenacious Velveteen Dream brings the fight to the NXT Champion: NXT Takeover: WarGames II

So how far can he go? Dream is the kind of guy whose entire run is going to depend on how serious people take him on the main roster. There’s a very real chance that everything he’s done and managed to get over will be sacrificed for the sake of “comedy” because that’s how his character could easily be perceived. If that’s avoided, Dream could get a long way just on natural talent alone.

Finally, we have someone who might not be long for NXT in Aleister Black. Much like Dream, the visuals, in this case being covered with tattoos and the awesome, supernatural style entrance, play a major role in his success. In a word, Black just looks cool and is the kind of person you can’t take your eyes off, just for the sake of knowing how dangerous he could really be if given the chance. You just know that you’re not supposed to mess with him whenever you look at him and a ticked off version is capable of doing some very violent things to anyone in his way.

Relive Aleister Black and Johnny Gargano's tumultuous history: WWE NXT, Nov. 14, 2018

As far as in the ring goes, Black has managed to take what should be (and often still is) a one dimensional offense and turn it into something incredibly entertaining. He knows how to use those kicks and strikes to make himself look like a killer. Black Mass is one of the best looking finishers in wrestling because it’s the kind of thing that looks like it could knock out anyone and everyone. There’s more to him than just kicking people in the head and Black has learned how to turn that into a story. Just watch his matches with Dream and Johnny Gargano and it’s very clear that he knows more than just how to throw a few kicks.

Black has a unique look and is the kind of guy you can put against anyone. He’s fought monsters like Lars Sullivan and smaller guys like Gargano, mainly because you can kick anyone almost the same as you can anyone else. That’s the kind of versatile offense that when combined with the character, which Black has, that can make you a force anywhere you go, which Black has done so far.

Black and Gargano engage in a hard-hitting, relentless battle: NXT Takeover: WarGames II

So how far can he go? Of these three, Black has the most potential. He’s wrestled around the world with a lot of success and has everything going for him that could make him a big star on the main roster. When you have a home run finisher like Black Mass that could get you a quick victory over anyone, there’s always a puncher’s (er, kicker’s) chance to pull off an upset. If you build up a finisher as the big ace in the hole then you always have a chance, which is exactly what would be the case for Black.

I know anyone can look a the NXT roster and see a bunch of talent, but when you look even closer, it’s kind of amazing how much talent there really is there. These are just three names and I could have gone on with probably ten times as many. NXT isn’t your normal kind of roster and there hasn’t been a group of wrestlers with this much talent in a very long time. There are some huge talents around there but possibly more importantly, there are talents up and down the roster, meaning we could be in for a lot of fun and great wrestling from Full Sail for a very long time.

Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at, or check out his Amazon author page with 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the the Complete 1997 Monday Night Raw Reviews.

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