We are living in a post-TakeOver: XXX world, and that means not only do we have a new NXT Champion in Karrion Kross, but also a new NXT North American Champion. Damian Priest beat out four other competitors in an exciting ladder match that could easily be considered the highlight of the night. Now, NXT's "Archer of Infamy" has a target on his back and some of NXT's biggest names will likely be coming after him. If Priest really does want his name to live on forever, he'll have to face at least one of these guys.
A few things to note before we get into this ranking. I have excluded all other competitors from the ladder match at TakeOver, I think it is very likely that someone like Bronson Reed or Cameron Grimes will come after the title, but I wanted to focus on some guys in the mid to upper-mid card on NXT rather than just retread my previous article ranking the competitors in that match.
Number 5: Roderick Strong
Throughout the Summer there has been a lot of talk about who will become the first two time North American Champion, and while most of that talk has revolved around Johhny Gargano and The Velveteen Dream another wrestler could easily fit that bill and that is Roderick Strong. Most recently Strong was in a feud with Dexter Lumis after Lumis kidnapped him during TakeOver: In Your House. This feud gave us some pretty fun matches this Summer, including NXT's first strap match, the angle was a borderline comedy story.
Pair Strong's recent booking with the near-constant talk of a main roster call up for Undisputed Era, and I think the chances of Strong going for the North American Title are slim. The biggest factor, however, is the possibility that Adam Cole could win the now vacant NXT Championship leading to an extension of UE's time on the black and gold brand, and open up a pathway to Strong retaking the title.
Number 4: Oney Lorcan
Oney Lorcan sits at an interesting place on the NXT roster. He has a lot of utility as both a singles competitor and as a tag-team guy. Lorcan had closed in on the title scene as he was pinned by Damian Priest in the qualifier match for the ladder match at TakeOver.
Lorcan also presents an interesting situation that if he were to challenge for the North American title and win he could in theory take the title with him to 205 live and potentially bring more eyeballs to the cruiserweight show. I don't think that WWE is quite ready to pull the trigger on the title crossing shows yet, nor are they ready to pull the trigger on a full out singles run for Lorcan who can still be a dependable tag guy with Danny Burch.
Lorcan might have a match with the title on the line, but I don't see a long term program or a title run in the near future for this guy.
Number 3: Dexter Lumis
Who's to say if Lumis' great run during the "empty arena era" was planned or if this guy just stepped up and made the best of the opportunity presented to him? The point is that Dexter Lumis got a huge push in the last few months, and would've competed in the TakeOver ladder match had it not been for an ankle injury sidelining the disturbingly silent superstar.
I could see Dexter Lumis wanting to challenge for the title as soon as he is back in the ring, after all, he lost his shot due to no fault of his own. Doing this would make a lot of sense and would excite a lot of fans for the title match between Priest and Lumis, but the injury is also what worries me about the likelihood of Lumis taking a run at the belt. There is no doubt in my mind that Dexter Lumis will be a champion in NXT one day, but with no firm return-date announced, it seems that Lumis might be waiting for his turn to go for the NXT North American Championship.
Lumis sits in the middle of this list because it really feels like it could go either way.
Number 2: Isaiah "Swerve" Scott
There is no denying that Swerve is a superstar in every sense of the word. This guy's work in the ring is so good. His performance against Johnny Gargano on Night Two of NXT's Great American Bash practically stole the show, and commentary will not let you forget that he is the only person to have pinned interim NXT Cruiserweight Champion, Santos Escobar. Scott could get a huge push sometime soon and that would be one of the best moves that NXT could make when booking the future of the North American Championship Title picture.
I'm sure that I will get a lot of "but isn't he currently feuding with Santos Escobar and Legado Del Fantasma?" responses, but here is the thing that title is not coming off of Escobar any time soon and that shouldn't hinder Swerve from being able to move onto the North American Championship title scene. NXT has backed themselves into a corner in trying to push Swerve but also keep the title on Escobar. Letting Swerve challenge for the North American title is the perfect way to fix that problem.
I'd also like to note that similar to Oney Lorcan, Swerve could take the title over to 205 live and bring that show some more viewer, but unlike Lorcan I think that Scott has the kind of star power potential that might make WWE willing to let that happen.
Number 1: Timothy Thatcher
Is there anyone on NXT this year who has had as great of a debut in terms of quality as Timothy Thatcher? Sure, Karrion Kross is undefeated and NXT Champion, but his handful of matches have not been much more than squash matches. Thatcher on the other hand, really hasn't had a bad match since his debut in April, sure he hasn't won all of them but in his short amount of time on the roster, he has made quite the impact. His Thatch-as-Thatch-can wrestling school lesson video segments have been a lot of fun and have built up his character quite a bit, and his matches against Matt Riddle, Finn Balor, and Oney Lorcan have all been a lot of fun to watch.
On this week's NXT Thatcher even stepped up to Damian Priest essentially marking his territory as the first challenger for the belt.
I think that Thatcher has already established himself as a very credible worker on NXT and that a run with a mid-card title like the North American Championship would do a ton to cement him as the future of the brand. I think not only will Thatcher be challenging Damian Priest for the North American Championship very soon, I think that Thatcher is very likely to be the man to take the belt off of Priest.
So what do you think? Will one of these wrestlers challenge Damian Priest for the North American title? Will someone not on this list go after him instead? Let me know what you think by tweeting at me @robbydeshazer!
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