Before We Begin
Here is a field guide to your NXT season 2 rookies and pros.
Pro: The Miz
Rookie: Alex Riley
After an entire season dealing with a popular rookie who surpassed him in every aspect of the game, The Miz returned to NXT to Pro for an unpopular guy who can’t do anything. Meet Alex Riley, the “Varsity Villain,” NXT season 2’s David Otunga. He’s garbage in the ring, but he’s sort of charismatic, we guess! He’s the prototypical “late 2000s WWE Superstar,” that hairless, muscular, tallish white guy who gets covered in baby oil, gets a bad DDT finish and becomes ARROGANT YOUNG MAN, 2005-2010’s only gimmick. Sylvain Grenier and Chris Nowinski crammed into one guy.
Riley’s WWE career was just The Miz’s Rookie until he briefly broke away from Miz, faded into obscurity and became a pre-show analyst who wistfully talks about things he used to do with The Miz.
Pro: John Morrison
Rookie: Eli Cottonwood
For anyone who doesn’t remember him, John Morrison was a game show winner who returned to coach somebody else on a game show. Because, uh, WCW had been dead for years and WWE kinda lost its marbles when Benoit died, so without competition or a decent understanding of the independent circuit “constant game shows” was their only developmental idea. Morrison was popular, but had the mic skills of a fourth grader. He was great at parkour and could climb up and down a skyscraper with nothing but hops and spins, but couldn’t accurately hit a f*cking moonsault in 2 out of 100 tries.
Eli Cottonwood was very tall (over seven feet!) but kinda looked like a giant, melted Matt Hardy. He wandered through WWE developmental for years and was the original Luke Harper in the Wyatt Family, but then WWE signed actual Luke Harper and realized, “shit, we should hire people who can actually wrestle.”
Pro: Cody Rhodes
Rookie: Husky Harris
Cody Rhodes is the son of the American Dream Dusty Rhodes and the brother of Goldust. You can see him on most Raws, and in the background or pre-show of important events he should be the focus of. Husky Harris is the son of Mike Rotunda, aka IRS, and brother of former NXT Champion Bo Dallas. He showed up on Raw to join the New Nexus, but was punted in the head by Randy Orton and disappeared. At some point after that he wandered into a Louisiana swamp and was overtaken by a roaming, Frailty-style Bayou demon named Bray Wyatt. Bray Wyatt currently commands a squad of lamb mask-wearing cultist hillbillies and is amazing.
The story here is that Cody hates Husky because he’s fat. Yep, that’s what they’re going with.
This is the “make people on the Internet mad” pairing of season 2.
Kaval is Low Ki, a guy who has wrestled around the world for years and held everything from the PWG and ROH World Championships to the TNA X-Division and IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championships. He’s a “founding father” of Ring Of Honor and wrestled Christopher Daniels and the guy who’d eventually become Daniel Bryan their first main-event. His “Miz” is LayCool, a team of narcissistic Diva bullies who once literally split the Women’s Championship in half so they could be co-champions. They are one of my favorite things that has ever happened in the Divas division (“Piggie James” aside) and about 50% of the humor in revisiting NXT season 2 is watching hard-ass ninja Kaval march down to the ring to ♫ You’re not enough for me!/Just another man in love with me! ♫
Pro: Mark Henry
Rookie: Lucky Cannon
I did not know Lucky Cannon had a “real” first name until I took that screencap.
Anyway, Mark Henry is the World’s Strongest Man and had just started ruling when ECW left SyFy and was replaced in its timeslot by NXT. He was saddled with one of the very worst rookies in NXT history, Lucky Cannon, and spoiling Lucky’s SECRET ORIGIN story here would be doing you a disservice. We’ll get to that when he gets a hype video. He’s a “former sheriff’s deputy from right here in Florida,” though, if you need a reason to immediately hate him. Besides “his name is LUCKY CANNON.”
Note: I believe Lucky Cannon is a thing you can get in Final Fantasy VII.
Pro: Kofi Kingston
Rookie: Michael McGillicutty
If 50% of NXT season 2 humor is watching Low Ki enter to sassy Divas music, the other 50% is this guy. Before he was Curtis Axel he was MICHAEL MCGILLICUTTY, a third generation star with a super famous WWE dad who was absolutely not named “McGillicutty.” His incompetence and hilarity in this season is the stuff of epic legend, and the entire reason I chose to recap NXT past season 1. His first ever ring entrance involves him irrationally turning around as he walks down the ramp, like he’s trying to Tornado Punch nobody. <3 <3 <3
McGoobersnatch is accompanied to the ring by his pro Kofi Kingston, who will teach him how to never, ever advance in his career.
Sorry, that’s Showtime Percy Watson. He’s doing a Norbit gimmick. When Alex Riley looked up NXT in the dictionary he saw a picture of Eddie Murphy. But next to that was a picture of Percy Watson doing a Norbit gimmick on WWE TV. His pro is MVP, Montel Vontavious Porter, the “highest paid signee in the history of Smackdown.” He was brought in with a Terrell Owens gimmick, which is more or less Norbit but for football. MVP started out as one of those next big thing types (like Mr. Kennedy), but eventually lost his way, mired in nothingness for a while and ended up beating poor homegrown talent at the Impact Zone. Uh, like Mr. Kennedy. At least MVP had a stint in Japan between WWE and TNA. The only place Kennedy went was a Buffalo Wild Wings.
I’m sure we’ll talk about it a lot, but Percy Watson is one of those guys who seemed absolutely made to be a WWE Superstar, and then just nothing. Let us learn a lesson before we even begin, children: the one thing you can’t come back from is a Norbit gimmick.
Pro: Zack Ryder
Rookie: Titus O’Neil
Nowadays, Titus O’Neil is known as a charismatic guy who is secretly great on the microphone and a competent tag team wrestler. When he started on NXT he was brutally awful and couldn’t wrestle a lick or speak into a microphone without embarrassing himself. Zack Ryder is everything I just typed but in reverse.
And now, NXT season 2. LIVE THROUGH THIS.