The subject of this edition is the Man That Gravity Forgot, Neville. The high-flier has been making waves since his debut on the main roster on the night after WrestleMania, following his exceptional exploits in NXT. A former NXT Champion and NXT Tag Team Champion, many predict big things in the future of the British grappler. But, the main roster is a dangerous game as numerous other promoted NXT combatants have learned. So, will Neville soar to the summit of WWE, or should he be bracing for a fatal crash landing?
Born Benjamin Satterley in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Neville would adopt the name Pac for the majority of his time in the independent scene. Pac began in the Independent Wrestling Federation and 3 Count Wrestling, learning his craft in the physical British and European promotions. His ability was quickly recognized, as he won tournaments and championships throughout the continent before moving to new competition in America and Japan.
Pac would make his name in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Dragon Gate, and began to receive a lot of his attention for his amazing acrobatics. He would develop his skills alongside many he would later encounter in NXT (El Generico, Kevin Steen, Matt Sydal) alongside many TNA and ROH stars. Pac was clearly a special entity for his capability to perform phenomenal moves that few could hope to match, leading to championship success in Dragon Gate in particular. However, Pac often became employed in factions and tag teams, rather than shining individually.
2014 was an extraordinary year in the career of Neville. After initially being a tag team competitor and mid-card talent in NXT, the Brit shot into the main event scene on the strength of his performances. As early as February, Neville would become the top guy on the developmental roster, capturing the NXT Championship from Bo Dallas at NXT Arrival. For the majority of the year, he held that title with aplomb, eventually relinquishing it to Sami Zayn in December’s Takeover: R Evolution.
His run with the championship was very successful, as despite his mediocre mic skills, his in-ring skills shone against the very best NXT had to offer. Neville would battle the likes of Brodus Clay, Tyson Kidd and Tyler Breeze over the belt, and very rarely were these contests met with criticism. The feud with Kidd especially was significant due to their technical mastery, and played a crucial role in Kidd’s reinvigoration on the main roster. The Brit’s 287-day reign is the longest in the title’s history, and demonstrated that the company had a great deal of faith in him going forward.
Impact of Debut
Neville, having accomplished everything he could in developmental, made his main roster debut the night after WrestleMania 31, an ideal time to get the attention of the audience. He arrived with a few tweaks to his character in NXT, with a cape and a fabulous entrance video. But what remained the same was his performance, which was evident from the immediate springboard moonsault on opponent Curtis Axel.
The post-WrestleMania crowd were on fire the entire night, and welcoming of the new addition to the roster thanks to the success of Neville’s NXT run. Those familiar with his previous work were loudly supportive, whilst those who were unaware became fans quickly due to the sight of his acrobatic signature moves. His contest with Axel certainly wasn’t his greatest performance, but it provided a taste of what he would bring to RAW and SmackDown.
Win-Loss Record (RAW, SmackDown, Main Event, NXT from 1/1/2015)
NXT Takeover/PPV Results
NXT Arrival – Defeated Bo Dallas for the NXT Championship (Ladder Match) 3.25*
NXT Takeover – Defeated Tyson Kidd to retain NXT Championship 3.5*
NXT Fatal 4-Way – Defeated Tyson Kidd, Sami Zayn & Tyler Breeze to retain NXT Championship 4.5*
NXT R Evolution – Lost to Sami Zayn for the NXT Championship 4.75*
NXT Rival – Lost to Finn Balor 4.25*
Extreme Rules – Defeated Bad News Barrett (Kickoff Show) 3.25*
Payback – Defeated King Barrett via Count Out 1.5*
Elimination Chamber – Defeated Bo Dallas 2.75*
Money In The Bank – Lost to Sheamus (Money in the Bank Ladder Match) 3.5*
Gimmick Potential & Look
Neville has been given the monikers ‘The Man That Gravity Forgot’ and ‘The New Sensation’, which is significant billing for someone early in their main roster stint. But, he lives up to the gimmick of being a superstar that can perform aerial maneuvers that could never be achieved by any other. There is very little else that needs to happen that his ringwork cannot back up. His entrance is great and his costume, even with a cape, suits him well.
There was a risk that Neville would be handed a ‘Mighty Mouse’ or superhero gimmick for his strength despite his diminutive size. It has to be said that the Brit’s look is phenomenal – his abs are so pronounced you could grate cheese on them. He might not be the most classically attractive male in the face, but that gives his rivals ammunition to use for insults in mic battles. The biggest issue Neville has to contend with is his size. Whilst it is obviously not the hindrance of the past in wrestling, it might be an obstacle to overcome in pushing him from the mid-card and into the main event.
Signature Moves & Ringwork
This is the area where Neville excels, as his masterful blend of high-flying acrobatics and technical chain wrestling is a spectacular combination. His compendium of fabulous matches with Sami Zayn, Tyson Kidd and Finn Balor are a testament to the fact that when it comes to work between the ropes (and occasionally soaring out of it), Neville is supreme. His incredible core strength means that he can add nuances to traditional moves, such as his flips out of the corner and basic grapples that make his matches unique.
As for soaring through the air with incredible ease, Neville is in a class of his own. His ability to twist in the air with the speed that he attains is startling, and means that he can produce insane flying moves that nobody else consider. Who else on the WWE roster can hit a 450 Splash from the second rope, or perform the tricky Spaceman Plancha? It is this that makes the Geordie a unique entity in the company, and ensures that he will be called upon to perform in excellent bouts with the top stars in the company. It gives him the power to make a star for himself and his opponents.
Mic Skills & Charisma
This is the area of the overall spectacle of professional wrestling where Neville falls down on. He has a strong Geordie accent from his upbringing in Newcastle, which makes him difficult to understand at times. It is different, but especially within a US audience it could be detrimental. Neville strikes me as similar to Bret Hart, in that he has taken part in some entertaining verbal exchanges in feuds with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Yet overall he often seems uncomfortable on the microphone, and this nervousness gives him a generic tone.
Neville can improve on this, but has not been given ample opportunity to practice his promos since joining the main roster. He has largely been kept away from the microphone, leaving him as something of an enigma for the casual fan, as he is yet to partake in a breakout rivalry with any superstar. Realistically, should he hope to make any headway into the upper echelons of the main roster, this is the biggest area he needs to work on. Without it, there is only so high he can reach, even if gravity doesn’t hold him down.
Neville currently is yet to taste gold in WWE, but his golden stint in NXT does seem to indicate that this will be remedied in time. As a former NXT Champion, he will be buoyed by the success of some of the others in that select group. Seth Rollins reaching the heights of WWE World Heavyweight Champion is the ultimate goal, whilst Big E is a former Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion, whilst Kevin Owens could be adding the United States title to his list of accomplishments at Battleground. And there are few reasons to believe Neville wouldn’t add some gold to his waist one day soon.
The question is not will Neville be a champion, but how high he can set the bar. Undoubtedly a mid-card belt is not beyond the realms of possibility. He is an ideal Intercontinental Champion, as that role requires greater focus on in-ring talent than the world titles. One could also easily envisage him wearing tag team gold at some point, as an alliance with Sami Zayn would suit both athletes very well. Nevertheless, if I were to be asked at this point whether he has the potential to be WWE Champion, I would say no, but my mind is more than willing to be changed on that matter.
NXT: R Evolution (12/11/2014) – Neville vs Zayn Steals The Show
Neville has had many prevalent high points since signing with WWE, from his developmental dominance to his exciting entrance to the main roster. But, his greatest showings were reserved for his feud with Sami Zayn. It was a story that hinged on respect and winning ‘the right way’, as Neville’s willingness to take any advantage to retain his coveted NXT Championship irked both his friendship with Zayn and the fans. They were ready to see the underdog ascend to the top of the mountain, and the Brit stood directly in the path of that.
This was the first time since joining WWE that Neville took the role of heel, more out of necessity than design. The crowd was ready for a change, but instead of making it easy, the intense and close battles the pair would engage in leading to this final encounter invested viewers. It produced Neville’s best work, both in the ring and on the microphone. Even though this moment was designed for Sami Zayn to reach the pinnacle, it was a brilliant display by Neville attempting to defend the gold. It displayed forthrightly how deserving he was of being the standard bearer of the roster for so long.
Elimination Chamber (5/31/2015) – You Boys Miss NXT?
Sometimes, the grass is not always greener on the other side, and that was potentially the thought running through the minds of Neville and Bo Dallas as they clashed at Elimination Chamber. At NXT Arrival the previous year, the pair had competed in an excellent Ladder Match over the NXT Championship, cementing them as the top two stars on the roster at the time. However, this contest at NXT was rushed, ill-thought out and bland, and unsurprisingly led to an extremely forgettable showing from both performers.
Neville’s WWE career hasn’t been littered with many negatives, but these last couple of months, which include this match with Dallas, have ominous implications attached to them. Neville has been unfortunately underutilized, and is yet to be placed in a rivalry of significance. Of course, two-thirds of the roster likely feel like their enduring similar treatment, but this lack of creative influence has the potential to deflate the impact he has made within the WWE Universe.
• Fantastic look and body
• Unbelievable aerial acrobatics
• Incredible speed and athleticism
• Ideal gimmick
• Able to market to the British audience
• Impeccable body of matches
• Average mic skills
• Lacking charisma/confidence when speaking
• Short in stature
• Missing creative direction and backing
• Danger of becoming a ‘spot monkey’
Neville has a long career to look forward to in WWE, as his talent between the ropes means he will always be called upon to participate in big matches to make his rivals look good. It is a role that Dolph Ziggler and Kofi Kingston have filled in the past, and is a cushy spot to inhabit, with the potential for numerous championship accolades. His ability in the ring ensures that Neville will remain popular among the WWE Universe, and fans are always looking to cheer for the underdog.
However, whilst a role like this is important in the grand structure of WWE, it does have an upper limit that isn’t apparent for more charismatic, bigger superstars. Neville will likely never become WWE Champion simply because he doesn’t have the character to match his immense ring skills. His one saving grace in that regard is that he is British, and as they have never produced a world champion before, it is a feat they could accomplish with Neville should they seek to explore that avenue.
But this doesn’t mean that Neville should be discouraged or devalued, as he has both age and the crowd on his side, and with those assets anything can happen. Clearly Triple H and the NXT creative team saw enough in him to place their most prized title around his waist for 10 months. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but even if it never happens, the Man That Gravity Forgot shows little sign of descending out of WWE anytime soon.
Stock Advisement: Future Intercontinental Champion and Mid-Card Stalwart; Projected Lifespan of Over a Decade; Outside Chance of Becoming WWE Champion in Future