As 2020 starts to come to an end I think it is time that we look back on this year and reminisce on the parts of wrestling that were awesome! Welcome to Robby's end of the year awards! This week we will be going over some of my favorite gimmicks and characters from this year. Good character choices can take a wrestler who might already be technically sound and turn them into the biggest star we have ever seen, and those successes are certainly something to celebrate.
Sure, NXT is known for its more grounded and sports-focused presentation, but that doesn't mean that there isn't some incredible character work going on too. In fact, some of my favorite gimmicks in wrestling right now have a home on Wednesday nights on both AEW and NXT (AEW list coming later today).
This list is pretty loose and there is no clear winner, but I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorites. So here we go, in no particular order are the best gimmicks and characters that NXT had to offer in 2020!
Timothy Thatcher started off his run on NXT this year as the replacement partner for Matt Riddle while Pete Dunne was stuck in the UK at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. After losing the titles and moving into a short-lived feud with Riddle resulting in the excellent fight pit match, Thatcher took a week or so off of TV before transitioning into his current role as the lead coach off the Thatch-as-thatch-can wrestling academy. Thatcher has really taken the time to let this role evolve naturally and has helped to cement him as a heel with the real-life skill to back up his actions.
NXT has begun to introduce specific students of Thatcher's into his storyline which has only helped to build up the character, and honestly, I can't wait to see what is next for Thatcher (hopefully some wins...)!
Out of all of the wrestlers on this list, Dexter Lumis is the most gimmicky of the bunch. Lumis is a serial killer, or a tortured artist, or something like that. Honestly, he's a lot of fun to watch and he does a newer twist on the silent wrestler trope that actually feels like it could go somewhere. I think the key was avoiding locking Lumis into a scary heel role for too long. I know there are some people out there who are not fans of the serial killer being the babyface but come on it is so much more interesting than watching Lumis have to be a silent heel.
My biggest issue with the gimmick is that it has a high potential to become stale rather quickly. So far, NXT has been avoiding that by adding in more elements of his artistic side rather than going all-in on the creepy serial killer aspect. This strategy could prove to work, or it could blow up and completely ruin the character. But all of that is in the future, and Dexter Lumis has killed it in 2020 and that's all that matters for this list.
Santos Escobar and Legado Del Fantasma
When El Hijo Del Fantasma entered the NXT Cruiserweight Championship tournament, it really seemed like WWE had wound up with another generic luchador on their hands. Someone who could work great in the ring, but gave no reasons to really appreciate him outside of the squared circle. I was proven wrong when he won the title and turned heel revealing himself to be Santos Escobar the leader of the new faction Legado Del Fantasma.
I've gushed about how great the packaging for Escobar, Wilde, and Mendoza but honestly, this gimmick took three guys I could have cared less about and turned them into some of the top guys to watch this year. I have even on occasion considered watching 205 Live regularly to keep up with their work, but I already watch too much wrestling each week.
Cameron Grimes has been killing it this year, and it is a shame that I don't hear his name getting brought up more often when discussing wrestlers that have really stepped up during this unprecedented time. Grimes has been on NXT week in and week out and has found the sweet spot for his character. Whether he is working in serious feuds with Finn Balor and Damian Priest or comedy matches against the likes of Dexter Lumis, Grimes has portrayed his cocky obnoxious heel character consistently turning in fantastic performances.
Cameron Grimes's character is a classic love to hate character and Grimes seems to be having the time of his life in NXT right now. If I had to make a prediction I would say that Cameron Grimes is going TO THE MOON!
Johnny Gargano/Candice LeRae
Like a lot of people, I was skeptical when Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae turned heel following the conclusion of the cinematic "One Final Beat" match. I wasn't sure if a heel turn would keep either Gargano (but especially Johnny) relevant in NXT. But I was so glad to be wrong. Candice and Johnny have embraced their new roles and have become a force to be reckoned with on the NXT roster. Sure, they can be obnoxious and cheesy at times but that is all part of the bit.
So kudos to Johnny and Candice for taking a risk and going all-in on it. This move took what could've been the end of a long career in NXT and added life and longevity to it, the Gargano way is here to stay and the power couple will be on top forever. Also, they have some dope power couple merch that I wish I could pull off with my fiance.
So there we have it, five of the best NXT gimmicks and characters of 2020. Did I leave anyone off my list? Who are your favorite characters in NXT? Let me know by tweeting at me @robbydeshazer!
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