Up until now, rumors have been swirling about who the next batch of NXT hopefuls would be. A partnership with Evolve, a season of Tough Enough, and some less than secret tryouts certainly didn’t do much to stem those rumors. Now, WWE has officially released the names of their newest signees, and I’m not gonna lie, some of them are pretty amazing. Here are the three we’re most excited to see:
1. Adrienne Reese
Better known as Athena on the independent circuit, she’s been one of the best performers going (male or female) for a very long time. She’s so good, I’m almost jealous of people who have never gotten to see her work, because damn, she’s something special. Seeing her for the first time is going to be an incredible experience for a whole lotta wrestling fans. Athena’s also a clear signal that WWE did a complete 180 on the creative direction they were headed in, and can see the value in baller matches by talented women. Word is since getting to NXT, she had a tear-the-house-down match with Eva Marie, so if you don’t think the up and coming female talent will be able to pick up where the Four Horsewomen left off, oops sorry you’re gonna be hella wrong sucks to be you. Play catch up with her matches in all-female promotion Shimmer, or in Austin’s Inspire Pro Wrestling, because Athena’s never better than when she’s in Texas.
2. Chris Gerard
Biff Busick has come a long way from getting his ass beat on SmackDown by the Great Khali five years ago. A staple of the East Coast wrestling scene, Busick just seemed to get better and better every time you saw him. Whether it was teaming with Drew Gulak, going back and forth with Timothy Thatcher, or throwing down with brand new AAA signee Mike ‘Speedball’ Bailey in a feud that I can safely refer to as ‘my heart’s song.’ It’s really hard for me to be like, yes, here is this totally unbiased introduction to this independent wrestler when, realistically, I’ve seen him wrestle in person a million times, and loved every single one. Even the dumb stuff in Maine, where the joy of pro wrestling goes to die. I could write thousands of words about why you should love Biff Busick, but a) I need to write about other people, I guess, and b) you need to go check out his independent work out, if only as a nice thing to do for yourself. Play catch-up with his PWG matches, the best episode of Best Friends to date, or over in Beyond Wrestling, where there might never be another wrestler in that company as beloved as he was there.
3. Rich Swann
I’ve seen a lot of people say that Swann is all charm and flips and little technical skill. Those people are nuts, and should probably feel bad about themselves. Seeing Swann work a more grounded, technically-influenced style recently against Chris Hero was practically a revelation. Swann is incredibly charismatic, and it’s nearly impossible to dislike him. His entrance to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” is iconic at this point, and it’s going to be incredibly weird to see him come out to anything else. Playing catch up on his matches is a thing you owe to yourself, either his solo work, like in Dragon Gate USA, or as one-half of the Inner City Machine Guns with the ab-riddled Ricochet.
The class also features no less than seven Tough Enough contestants, adding nothing but prestige to the competition winners. It makes some sense, though. They already know them, they probably cost a lot less, and you don’t have to break them of any sh*tty indie habits that come along with more veteran wrestlers.