The current edition of NXT is the best thing World Wrestling Entertainment has produced in, at least, the past decade. NXT is a tremendous throwback to professional wrestling companies from years ago. It features simple and uncomplicated booking. Every NXT Takeover show feels like it is a big event and each one contains memorable matches. As good as NXT is today, the hope is that the brand will continue to evolve over time. The WWE signing great independent wrestlers is only a positive for the company, of course, but it is vital that the WWE not forget that NXT was originally meant to be a developmental product utilized to churn out hoped-to-be future WWE talents. NXT is now both a developmental brand and also its own touring product.
It is because of this that we dream of what could be the greatest team of trainers in wrestling history that could potentially turn NXT into a game-changer as it pertains to the future of the industry. Such a team of trainers would naturally have to include some of the greatest overall workers still with us today. We would need ring technicians, beloved babyfaces, hated heels and wrestlers who worked as tag team specialists. While not everybody who worked with our dream team of trainers would become a Superstar for one reason or another, the hope is that this imaginary version of NXT would produce the greatest roster of wrestling talent every seen in North America or anywhere else in the world.
15 Shawn Michaels
We begin with "The Heartbreak Kid” if only because it has been widely reported that Shawn Michaels has already spent time in Florida working in the WWE Performance Center. Michaels is also arguably the greatest overall wrestler in the history of the WWE. He worked a variety of styles depending on the situation. Michaels proved throughout his career that he could make the switch from babyface to heel seemingly at the flip of a switch. Michaels can be funny and serious and even a degenerate. We also know Michaels can be a great trainer. He had a hand in training Daniel Bryan and that worked out pretty well.
HBK was the showstopper, the headliner, the main event and “Mr. WrestleMania.” Any young wrestler who is able to break into NXT would be lucky to work with Michaels before being called up to the main roster, and the WWE would be lucky to hire Michaels for a dream team of NXT trainers.
14 Ric Flair
Odds are that you took a wrong turn somewhere on the Internet if you don’t understand why we would want “Nature Boy” Ric Flair to be on our dream team of trainers for NXT. Flair saw it all and did it all during his legendary career. Flair won championships and carried promotions. He was loved and also hated. He worked with smaller wrestlers and against bigger opponents. He cut some of the most memorable promos that are still played on WWE Network specials. Flair was also a tremendous storyteller inside of the ring. Flair captivated the attention of a fan unlike anybody else. He drew you into a match and he then had you in the palm of his hand.
The word great gets thrown around a lot nowadays, but Flair was the epitome of the word. For that reason, it's a no brainier to include him into such an illustrious class of top caliber trainers.
13 Jushin Thunder Liger
Watching Jushin Thunder Liger work at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn in August 2015 was a lot of fun, particularly for those of us lucky enough to be there in attendance. Liger is no longer the worker of old. He is, after all, in his 50s. Liger would be great for our dream team of NXT trainers for multiple reasons. He has traveled all around the world and he got over among different audiences throughout his career. Liger wrestled against and worked with true legends of the industry.
He could still go and teach lessons inside of the ring, even if he is not the high-flyer he was decades ago. Those tutorials alone would make hiring Liger worth the price and it doesn’t even account for the stories that Liger could tell to younger wrestlers who have not yet drawn any money as active workers. In reality, the WWE would do well to scoop Liger up in the fall of 2016.
12 Ken Shamrock
We know that the WWE scouts legitimate sports for talent. WWE personnel made the trek to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics to see who may have the goods to become future Superstars. It makes sense. Those who are experienced in amateur wrestling and rolling around on a mat should, in theory, be easier to train than somebody who never competed in such a sport.
Ken Shamrock is an example of somebody who worked for legitimate fighting organizations and also wrestling promotions. The former Ultimate Fighting Championship competitor could teach young wrestlers about the importance of selling moves and making those moves look believable. Shamrock could also stretch out those who have never dabbled in mixed martial arts or amateur wrestling. Sure, it is an “old school” mentality as it pertains to training, but such methods have been successful in the past. Shamrock could also speak about his experiences working around the world.
11 Lance Storm
Lance Storm has stated, during podcasts made available on multiple wrestling websites, that the WWE has contacted him about working in the company as a trainer. Storm has declined such requests and instead runs his own training academy, and that academy has been successful in producing talents signed by the WWE. Emma, Dolph Ziggler and Tyler Breeze are just three of the WWE wrestlers trained by Storm.
Storm’s technical brilliance inside of the ring speaks for itself. He had memorable and entertaining matches while working in Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling and the WWE. Storm is an accomplished wrestler and an accomplished trainer who could teach wrestlers how to work, how to train and how to prepare for life on the road and in the business. He is a must for our dream team of NXT trainers. In our simulation, we make him an offer he can’t refuse to move down to Florida.
Christian would make for a fascinating trainer for all kinds of reasons. For starters, Christian was always a good worker. He made his name as part of one of the greatest tag teams in the history of the WWE. Christian then chose to make the switch from the WWE to Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, even though doing so was not necessarily the best move to make. Christian won championships in multiple organizations, but he also suffered serious heartbreak in the closing days of his in-ring career.
We now know that Christian was forced to retire because of health concerns stemming from the amount of concussions he suffered. Christian could have a lot to pass down to younger wrestlers if he were to become a trainer for an NXT class. Making him a trainer could also result in entertaining segments for The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness. We’re adding Christian to the team.
9 Trish Stratus
We need to have somebody in our dream team of trainers to work with the women’s division of NXT. Trish Stratus is the first name that comes to mind. Stratus is admittedly not the greatest female worker in the history of the company. She would, however, have more to offer than teaching in-ring technical skills. Stratus could train younger wrestlers in the art of acting like a star.
Throughout her run on the active WWE roster, Stratus carried herself as something special. She did so both as a heel and as a babyface. Stratus was also talented on the microphone. Male trainers obviously work with female trainees all the time, but we want an accomplished woman to offer her particular expertise to the NXT class. Stratus could also lead yoga classes before and after training sessions. No offense meant to Diamond Dallas Page, but we’d rather have Stratus.
8 Dean Malenko
Younger wrestling fans who have never done so should take some time and watch matches put on by Dean Malenko during his runs in ECW and WCW. The argument could be made that Dean Malenko is the greatest in-ring technician of the entire “Attitude Era” and one of the most under-appreciated wrestlers to work in North America over the past 25 years.
Malenko did more than just perform moves well during matches. He was a smooth worker who completed transitions with ease, almost as if he choreographed each and every contest. With that said, it never looked fake when Malenko was wrestling an opponent. Malenko added an element of realism, so much so that one believed a match could end at any moment. He worked as an overpowering heel when wrestling undersized cruiserweights and he also performed as a smaller babyface against certain performers. He will be one of the leaders of our team of trainers.
7 Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio is perhaps the greatest babyface in peril to ever work in the WWE. It is easy to understand why the Mysterio gimmick got over with fans of all ages. Mysterio masks flew off of shelves, as younger fans wanted to portray their hero. Older viewers, meanwhile, watched the ultimate underdog take on the likes of Batista, Kurt Angle, Matt Hardy and so many others.
There is, however, a certain art to making such an act a success. Mysterio could do much more than teach wrestlers how to fly or how to sell. He could also work with larger athletes to demonstrate how to wrestle against a smaller athlete. The WWE brought cruiserweight wrestling back in a big way in 2016 with the Cruiserweight Classic and the cruiserweight division on Raw. We need a trainer for such acts. Mysterio is the obvious choice for all he could contribute to greener wrestlers. He can also make great use of the groundbreaking high flyer ring in the Performance Center.
6 Dave Finlay
Fans who grew up watching wrestling in the 1990s and 2000s may not have fully appreciated Dave Finlay during his runs in WCW and the WWE. Go back and watch Finlay’s work if you fall into such a category. The best part about Finlay’s matches is that they felt like real fights. You never saw Finlay perform unnecessary flips. Finlay was not a cartoon character, outside of his time with Hornswoggle.
Think of the current NXT tag team The Revival, but imagine both of those men are better workers. That is a good summary of Finlay’s skills. Yes, there is a place for high-spots and aerial maneuvers in wrestling, but fans often like to believe they are watching two people who don’t like each other all that much fight it out inside of the ring. Finlay could pass his set of skills down to groups of wrestlers learning in NXT.
5 William Regal
The WWE already has William Regal working on the NXT brand. Why not turn him into one of our lead trainers? Remember that it was not all that long ago when it was teased that Regal could be the man to stop Kevin Owens in NXT. That speaks to the greatness of the Regal character. You probably already know how talented a wrestler Regal was throughout his career. Regal legitimately could have been a World Champion had he been given a better character and pushed seriously during his runs in WCW or the WWE.
Along with improving the technical skills of younger wrestlers, Regal could also teach workers how to be better heels. Everybody, even the most babyface of babyface wrestlers, needs to learn heel tactics during his early days in the business. Regal is a natural heel to the point that one would hope some of his talents would naturally spread to a classroom of students. We are aware that he does contribute with the training of Superstars, but in this dream team we expand his role as one of the lead trainers.
4 Bubba Ray / Bully Ray
Bubba Ray already has experience working as a trainer underneath his belt. That’s impressive, but it is not the main reason we want him as part of our trainers for NXT. Bubba Ray was part of one of the greatest tag teams in the history of the business. He is also an example of what can be if one refuses to give up. The WWE never pushed Bubba Ray as a serious singles act. He never would have become the WWE Champion before his days in TNA Wrestling.
In TNA, however, Bubba Ray found the Bully Ray character. Bully Ray was arguably Bubba at his absolute best. His work on the microphone was incredible and he had several great matches. We have, over the years, seen many wrestlers give half-hearted efforts during runs in TNA. That was not the case with Bubba. It’s a shame that the WWE did not give the Bully Ray character a try at any point during the team’s latest stint in the company.
3 CM Punk
We know what you’re thinking. There is no chance that CM Punk would ever make a return to wrestling, let alone the WWE. We are not so sure. For starters, we do not have high hopes for Punk’s UFC career past September 2016. It is also worth noting that Punk once truly loved pro wrestling. Such a love that is lost is often reclaimed.
Punk was already a great wrestler when he chose to leave the WWE and ultimately enter the world of mixed martial arts. He may be an even better work after training in MMA. It happened with Brock Lesnar and it could happen with Punk. Punk could have a lot to offer to young wrestlers both inside and outside of the ring. Who better to talk about the highest of highs and lowest of lows in the pro wrestling industry than Punk, a man who walked away from what was once his dream because he became fed up with it all?
2 Shinsuke Nakamura
We understand that Shinsuke Nakamura is rather busy these days. Nakamura is currently serving as the NXT Champion and as the face of that touring brand. NXT is not always on the road, though, and thus we would absolutely utilize Nakamura’s skills on our team of trainers when he is in Florida.
Nakamura is far and away the most charismatic wrestler working underneath the WWE umbrella in 2016. He also might be the company’s best wrestler. We are adding Nakamura to our team of trainers knowing that it is only a matter of time before we lose him to the main WWE roster. Nakamura is so great that having him work with a class even once could improve each and every wrestler in a NXT class. Once Nakamura does retire, however, the WWE would be smart to sign him as a trainer the day he calls time on his wrestling career.
1 Daniel Bryan
The WWE roster lost a great worker earlier this year when Daniel Bryan had to retire because of heath problems caused by concussions. Bryan has proven to be a spectacular announcer while calling matches for the Cruiserweight Classic. He is also serving as the storyline general manager of SmackDown.
We believe Bryan could do more for the WWE so long as he is interested in working in the company in such a role. Bryan would still be a great wrestler if he was able to compete in the ring. He has traveled the world and worked in different countries. His knowledge could be invaluable to younger talent. Bryan also knows what it means to learn the “WWE style” of wrestling on major pay-per-view events and of cutting promos. Bryan is still young enough to be able to relate to those who haven’t yet made it in the WWE or in any organization. That's a trait that shouldn't be overlooked. We would hope Bryan would work on our dream team of NXT trainers for decades to come.