WWE has seen some positive changes since the retirement of Vince McMahon and with Triple H taking over creative and talent relations duties.
The general consensus, and one I would agree with, is that both RAW and Smackdown have gotten better.
While those shows have gotten better, WWE’s developmental brand NXT has been consistently great for a very long time.
After the so-called “Wednesday Night War” and the gutting of the Black and Gold version, NXT 2.0 has been stellar under the leadership of Shawn Michaels.
NXT 2.0, and NXT Level Up, are both my favorite shows of the week. And the great thing about NXT/Level Up is that it is once more a developmental brand.
It’s not just people that had years of experience on the independent scene, Impact Wrestling or Japan. WWE is building new stars, many that never wrestled before.
With Triple H in charge, there’s a good chance these people will actually succeed on the main roster. Which is the entire point of a developmental brand; to build your future superstars.
In this new column series, we’re going to shine the spotlight on some of these men and women. For the first edition, I have to start with my favorite up-and-comer in NXT, the Iron Princess herself, Arianna Grace.
Bianca Carelli, known as Arianna Grace in WWE, is a second-generation wrestler.
Her father is Anthony Carelli, former WWE Intercontinental, United States and Tag Team champion under the ring name Santino Marella.
Santino was of course a good in-ring worker but is better known for his charisma and comedic character. And of course, his “Cobra.”
The former beauty pageant queen began training in 2018 under the tutelage of her father at his Battle Arts Academy.
Bianca wrestled for Battle Arts Pro Wrestling, where she was the women’s champion, and had a WWE try-out back in 2019. Unfortunately, she wasn’t signed.
She didn’t let not getting signed to WWE back then get her down though. Bianca continued to grind at Battle Arts and other independent promotions like Coastal Championship Wrestling.
Her dedication and growth paid off when she signed with WWE in February 2022 and was given the ring name Arianna Grace.
Leveling Up on NXT
Arianna wouldn’t have to wait long after her signing to make her NXT debut. Her first WWE match came on the April 29th episode of NXT Level Up where she defeated Amari Miller.
She made her first appearance on NXT 2.0 shortly after that on May 10th, losing to Nikkita Lyons in the NXT Women’s Breakout tournament.
Arianna has been a mainstay on NXT Level Up since her debut, competing on seven episodes (with a 2-5 record). Her first NXT 2.0 win came against Thea Hail on August 9th.
For those that don’t watch NXT Level Up, you really should. It’s a 30-minute show featuring three matches, airs on Peacock on Friday night after Smackdown.
It’s a fun, quick half-hour of solid wrestling and is even more of a developmental show than NXT 2.0 is.
I watch it every week, and always enjoy Arianna’s matches the most. You can see her desire/passion and growth as a performer. She’s putting in the work, week in and week out.
The Iron Princess
As a straight man, yes Arianna is absolutely gorgeous and of course you’re going to be drawn to her when you first see her.
But in the ring, she gets better every single outing. The in-ring work, facial expressions, and the selling… it’s all coming together in a nice package and the sky is the limit for her.
She has quickly become my favorite amongst the “new generation” of NXT performers.
When you watch Arianna, you can tell she’s a woman who is busting her ass to get better and making the most of every opportunity she’s given on TV.
You know she’s taking her training, and all that goes on at the WWE Performance Center, seriously. She’s working hard to climb the ladder.
And while Arianna the character is certainly a heel, Bianca the person seems like (I’ve never met her) a genuine sweetheart.
Some really good wrestlers just seem like they’re a douche in real life. Arianna seems like a good hearted, down to earth person that would be fun to hang out with. As such, it’s hard not to root for her even as a heel; she’s just too likeable.
I think Arianna Grace will one day wear the NXT Women’s Championship. It won’t be this year, but by the end of 2023 I do believe she will have ascended up the ranks of the NXT Women’s division.
In the short term, as someone who loves tag team wrestling, I would love to see a team formed between Arianna and Amari Miller.
That’s a division that needs help, and you need teams to accomplish that. Neither Arianna nor Amari (who is also great and has a bright future) is really doing anything on air at the moment.
Now the future for both women is as singles competitors, but teams have traditionally been good springboards.
If you’re going to have tag team titles, you need tag teams to have an actual division.
Long term, I would be shocked if Arianna Grace wasn’t a big star on the main roster. If she continues to improve at the rate that she has been this year alone, just since April, then the sky’s the limit.
She’s beautiful (and let’s be honest, that’s a big asset in a TV based industry) and the in-ring talent potential is through the roof. The few promos she’s gotten to do shows the charisma is there too.
In short, literally all the tools are there for her to be the total package. As a fan, I look forward to her continued improvement. And I’m rooting for her and wishing her all the success in the world.
Arianna Grace is the NXT generation of a WWE superstar.