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The ShieldGrantland.com writer The Masked Man, David Shoemaker, is the author of the new book The Squared Circle: Life, Death, and Pro Wrestling.  In this article he ranks the top prospects in WWE.

On Monday night’s episode of Raw, WWE showed highlights of a press conference held by Triple H (in his real-life role as a corporate executive, rather than his onscreen role as an evil corporate executive) to promote an event called Takeover. It’s a showcase for WWE’s developmental roster, NXT, which will air May 29 on the WWE Network. “NXT is taking over the WWE,” Triple H said. And it wasn’t just promotional bluster. Since Triple H took over personnel development responsibilities for WWE, he has consolidated the program at a performance center in Florida, expanded its ranks, and built the NXT brand into a beloved farm league that launches wrestlers into the WWE spotlight with preestablished characters.

On Raw, Triple H, with Batista and Randy Orton, confronted the Shield, three upstarts who made the jump from NXT to WWE’s main roster two years ago, threatening them as only an evil exec could: “I brought you into this world, and you are looking at the three guys who are gonna take you out of it.” Earlier in the show, while arguing with an audience that has become increasingly enamored with his rival Bray Wyatt, John Cena insisted he loved the current crop of young stars: “I see greatness in the WWE superstars of today — names like Roman Reigns, names like Cesaro, names like Seth Rollins, names like our current champion Daniel Bryan.” He even mentioned current NXT favorites Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn to prove his bona fides. Then, when coming out to close the show, Ric Flair spurned his old Evolution running mates (Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista) in favor of casting his lot with the Shield.

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