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WWE NXT: Updated Prospect Rankings and Analysis, Predictions for Week of Sept. 8

Published by Bleacher Report on Thu, 08 Sep 2016

Even with all the space left on WWE NXT's center stage after Raw and SmackDown's raid of the developmental brand in July, separating from all the talented prospects on the roster is a difficult task.Don't tell that toEmber Moon, though.In no time at all, she has announced herself as one of the most complete wrestlers in the women's division. Wednesday's NXT featured her latest victory and her already strong bond with fans.Steve Cutler, Shane Thorne and Andrade "Cien" Almas are still working on making that kind of mark. Each of those wrestlers has shown glimpses of excellence, but their climb to NXT's top tier is still in progress.The following is a look at where Cutler, Moon and others stand in the continuing struggle to be among NXT's best.A combination of ring work, mic skills, look, gimmick, charisma and crowd connection determined the rankings.Male WrestlersProspects just outside the top 20: Wesley Blake, Sawyer Fulton, AkamThe Star of TM-61Two things were clear when Thorne and Nick Miller took on Cruiserweight Classic competitors Tony Nese and Ariya Daivari in Wednesday's opening bout.First, Nese would make a valuable addition to Raw's soon-to-arrive cruiserweight division. Second, Thorne is the standout member of TM-61.Thorne looks more like a star, for one. It's easy to imagine him on magazine covers and as one of the faces on promotional material. And on the mat, he overshadows his tag team partner.He boasts ample swagger. He's butter-smooth in the ring and makes his high-flying offense look effortless.Thorne was also engaging as he played the never-say-die babyface. He did oversell some of his foes' moves by stumbling a bit too much, but he's comfortable with adding drama and emotion to a match.Miller has been nondescript by comparison thus far. Before long, NXT officials are likely to have Thorne venture out on his own. Gimmick Tweaks and a Cold Crowd for AlmasAs he walked to the ring to face Austin Aries, Almas'fedora and suspenders were nowhere to be seen. The switch to a simple T-shirt instantly made it easier to take Cien seriously.During the bout, Almas was fluid and focused. He whipped out his usual lucha libre moves and impressively darted around the ring.Indy wrestler Gran Akuma joked that he might have looked better thanks to the change in ring gear:The crowd continues to be slow to buy into him, though. It's telling that when Aries grounded him with a rear chinlock, fans were chanting either "Austin Aries!" or adding "sucks" to that phrase.Almas' name wasn't on the audience's lips at all.In both his bout with Aries and his TakeOver: Brooklyn clash withBobby Roode, his opponent overshadowed him.His presence and energy failed to match what his foes produced.Almas' transition to NXT is still underway. Hopefully, he can follow Hideo Itami's lead and soon unleash his best self between the ropes in his new home. Cutler's Place on the Food ChainFor Cutler to be more than a low-card wrestler, he has some uphill work ahead.The former Marine has shown flashes of his potential, but as it stands, he's ordinary. Guys like Roode, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura (his opponent on Wednesday night)are miles ahead of him in terms of crowd connection.Cutler was solid in a backstage promo where he growled into the mic and promised to defeat the NXT champ.Once in the ring, his job was mostly to make Nakamura look good, so it was hard to tell just how much he can do. When on the attack, though, he was crisp and effective.Scowling and snarling, he delivered big, dramatic strikes to Nakamura. Daily DDT's Bryan Heaton wrote of the moment, "His quick barrage of offense in the corner looked impressive."In the past two weeks, he has received more airtime than he has in the past. NXT seems to be trying to figure out if it has an alpha male in the making or just another animal for bigger beasts to prey on.Cutler has the physical tools to move up the NXT ladder in time. Whether he has ample charisma inside him will determine how much of an impact he'll make on the brand. Female WrestlersMoon Poised for Rapid RiseAsuka told Tom Phillips on Wednesday's NXT that no one was ready to face her. Moments later, she dominated the visiting Leah Von and had the crowd buzzing in the process.It doesn't take a clairvoyant to see that Moon will eventually make her way to the No. 1 contender's spot for the NXT Women's Championship and collide with Asuka. While most of the NXT women's division is filled with raw prospects and inexperienced newcomers, Moon looks ready for prime time right now.She showed off bothtechnical skill and ferocity in her quick defeat of Von.Moon smirked as she beat down her opponent. She flew from the top rope with impressive agility. And she landed a kick to the gut that sounded like a hammer hitting a wall.She's already won over the Full Sail University crowd. Her ring work is at a high level already. During her time in developmental, she should focus on exploring her gimmick and looking for ways to deepen her character.The rest of her game is top-notch. PredictionsBefore Moon tangles with Asuka, look for her to have a brief feud with Mandy Rose.Rose needs to take on an experienced opponent to progress. Moon needs more warm-up foes en route to her expected title shot.And the two women are already bickering on Twitter to lay the foundation for a rivalry:No Way Jose, meanwhile, is in line for a major push.As announced on Wednesday's NXT, Jose will take on Roode next week. That promises to be one of many high-profile meetings for Jose against the brand's biggest names.NXT is clearly high on Jose, offering him plenty of TV and first-rate opponents. The top of the card is within reach if he makes the most of his chances against them.
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