The second season of NXT begins on 8 June. The first episode will be taped in Tampa, FL, which is where most of the FCW developmental wrestlers are already based. This may slightly increase the chances of people in the live crowd having already seen them on the FCW shows. Although the original concept of the show was that no next-generation wrestlers would participate in it, this doctrine has been dropped and two third-generation rookies are involved.
Here is a rundown of the new batch of NXT rookies:
Husky Harris (Windham Lawrence-Rotunda, 23) – A second-team all-state defensive linesman in high school in Florida in 2004 and 2005. He won the state high school heavyweight championship and wen to the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA, for two years. In 2006 he was second-team All-American offensive guard. He went to Troy University and was redshirted in 2007, then back-up centre in 2008 before quitting school to become a wrestler. He worked with his younger brother as the tag team of Duke (Windham) & Bo (Taylor) Rotundo, with Windham as the aggressive big guy and Taylor as the babyface-in-peril. As a singles guy he has a lot of handicaps, in particular his look and his name. Taylor is said to be the better of the two brothers and has a better look. Windham had long blonde hair, like Barry Windham, and a Bam Bam Bigelow styled ring outfit. Now he has cut his hair and wears regular trunks, which makes him look both generic and unfit (he is about 295 pounds). The Rotundos are very close to the Rhodes family and his father is still an agent for WWE.
Pro – Cody Rhodes
Eli Cottonwood (Kip Christianson, 35) – A legitimate 7-foot tall former college and European professional basketball player. He played at St John’s University in Minnesota from 1993-97 as a starting centre and was a two-time All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player. He played pro for various European teams and then twice signed NBA contracts, first being cut in camp by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1998 and then playing summer league with the Dallas Mavericks in 2002. He was also a star golf player in high school. As a wrestler he is clumsy and lacks charisma. His age is also going to count against him. His FCW gimmick was of a crazed man who had escaped from a lunatic asylum.
Pro – John Morrison
Percy Watson (Chris McNeil) – Former tag team partner of Darren Young as the South Beach Boys in FCW. He has a ladies man gimmick, although in FCW he was more effeminate. The dancing gimmick might make him stand out but there is not much substance behind it.
Pro – MVP
Titus O’Neil (Thaddeus Bullard, 31) – A former defensive lineman from 2003-07 for Arena Football teams in Carolina, Las Vegas, Tampa Bay and Utah. He is 6-4, 270 pounds and played college football at the University of Florida from 1997-2000. He played four seasons with the Gators, playing in almost every game but only starting three times. He played in the 1998 and 2000 Citrus Bowls and in the 1999 Orange Bowl. He was one of the most recruited defensive ends coming out of college, a 1995 Parade Magazine High School All-American at Live Oak High School and a second-team All-USA Today. He has great size but is very inexperienced in the ring, even more so than David Otunga.
Pro – Zack Ryder
Kaval (Brandon Silvestry, 30) – This season’s way for WWE to make fun of hardcore fans. The former Low Ki was signed two years ago at the request of Rey Mysterio, a big fan of his work, with the idea being that the two would have a major feud. At the time of the deal being made he was IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion. He has been wrestling since 1998 and was trained by Homicide. He is just 5-7 and 170 pounds, which is tiny by WWE standards and even smaller than Evan Bourne or Daniel Bryan. He wrestled in TNA from 2002-04 and 2006-08, first as Low Ki and then as Senshi. He was also the first-ever ROH champion back in 2002. He appeared in a number of dark matches at Smackdown tapings in late 2009 after returning from a leg injury. He defeated Bryan Danielson in Danielson’s FCW debut on 7 February 2010.
Pros – Michelle McCool & Layla
Lucky Cannon (Jon Emminger, 26) – He is billed as 6-6 but is a little shorter than that. He has spent three years in developmental under the name Johnny Prime, yet is nothing more than acceptable in the ring. He has a good physique but no real stand-out charisma behind it. His new name plays on him being a former sheriff who had a few near death experiences.
Pro – Mark Henry
Michael McGillicutty (Joe Hennig, 30) – He is the grandson of Larry ‘The Axe’ Hennig and the son of ‘Mr Perfect’ Curt Hennig. He is about 6-2 and 240 pounds and has natural wrestling skills. He first considered getting into WWE in 2007, when his father was inducted into the Hall of Fame, yet Shane McMahon suggested that he spend some time at Harley Race’s wrestling school instead of heading straight to FCW. Race was good friends with Larry Hennig, having been AWA tag team champions together in the 1960s. Race trained him and then Joe did head to FCW in 2008, getting a push as a top star there from the beginning. He held both the singles and the tag titles and is a solid worker, albeit lacking his father’s charisma, voted PWI’s Rookie of the Year in 2008. Despite the likes of David Otunga and Ted Dibiase being able to keep their real names, WWE still felt the need to change Joe Hennig’s to something they could own outright. Up until a few weeks ago Hennig was to be brought up under his own name and join a new stable called Fortunate Sons, which would have been led by Dibiase. Hennig and Brett Dibiase won the FCW tag team titles from the Dudebusters whilst being billed as the Fortunate Sons. Hennig had been told in FCW to work just like his father, including the same high spots and the Perfectplex finisher, yet now all of that is being scrapped.
Pro – Kofi Kingston
Alex Riley (Kevin Kiley) – His FCW character is an arrogant college quarterback jock who wears a letterman’s jacket. Riley was going to be brought up to the main roster several months ago and put on the road, with Beverly Mullins as his valet. Mullins was then replaced by Courtney Taylor, former backstage interviewer on ECW, yet she was later released. His last appearance on the main roster was defeating Jamie Noble in a Raw dark match on 7 September 2009. Riley is about 6-4, around 250 pounds, with a good physique and a strong personality, all of which is exactly what WWE looks for in a future star. He is by far the best promo of the new NXT crew, although at this stage is nothing special in the ring. At this stage he is considered the favourite to win the second season. He is the current FCW champion.
Pro – The Miz
Credit: Wrestling Observer Newsletter, 7 June 2010 (subscribe here)
Tags: Alex Riley, eli cottonwood, FCW, husky harris, Joe Hennig, kaval, Low Ki, lucky cannon, michael mcgillicutty, miz, NXT, percy watson, titus o'neil, WWE