Alex Riley might not have won season two of NXT but he proved that he is one of the next brightest stars in the WWE. Even though Riley only finished third in the competition, behind Michael McGuillicutty and Kaval, he is likely to have a bigger future then those two combined. Riley was at a disadvantage when there was three wrestlers left in the competition, due to Michael McGuillicutty being the son of Mr. Perfect, and Kaval being the crowd favorite. Riley, on the other hand did not pander to the crowd, instead criticizing them for voting for Kaval, a guy who does not have the size of an average main eventer. This might have been the reason why Riley was eliminated in 3rd place, since the WWE Universe had 50% of the voting power (with the NXT pros having the other 50%).
One of the reasons why Riley’s gimmick works so well is because he knows how to play his heel character very well, as his nickname, the Varsity Villain suggests. Riley is one of the few wrestlers today who are young (Riley is only 29) and have the total package (mic skills, look and size, wrestling ability). Riley proved that he was one of the best speakers in the competition with his farewell address, after his elimination. He also showed that he can wrestle with the best of them, showing great in-ring skills, as well as a great finisher (TKO, move made famous by Marc Mero). He will be one of the stars who will take over in the WWE in the years to follow after the old guards (HHH, Edge, Taker, Kane, Jericho, Mysterio, etc.) retire for good.
While the seven other NXT rookies had their noticeable flaws, there wasn’t a single one apparent with Riley. For instance, the two finalists had more than a single flaw. McGuillicutty has been criticized by most for being boring and not having any star power, unlike his dad. Many do not see any similarities between himself and his “perfect” father. He also cuts really bad promos, one of the worst in that category on the show, and lacks in-ring ability and a good finisher. The only things that he has going for him is his size, name, and recognition. Kaval, the winner of season two, has a guaranteed title shot at a pay-per-view of his choice, but he has his flaws, as well. Kaval was the shortest wrestlers on NXT this season, standing only 5 feet 8 inches, but he made the size work for him due to his unique offense. His size might limit how far he is pushed in the WWE, as might his speaking abilities with his deep voice.
Riley was paired with one of the highest rising stars currently in the WWE, The Miz. The reason why The Miz was his NXT pro was because both have very similar attributes. They look, talk, and act almost exactly alike, and could easily pass off as brothers. Riley and Miz got along great and never had an argument, a vast difference of when Miz was paired with Daniel Bryan in season one. The Miz and Riley share that arrogant attitude, and think that they are better than everyone else. That’s one of the reasons that made them a great team.
The WWE has a number of options on what to do with the season two rookies. They could go the path of the season one rookies, and form a stable, attacking a brand, most likely to be SmackDown. If that is the case, then Riley will likely be the mouthpiece of the group, cutting the promos and competing in the matches. He can even be the leader of the stable, or one of the co-leaders. They could also try to make the rookies into singles stars, getting them drafted to either RAW or SmackDown. We might not know the answer yet on WWE future plans, but you can bet that Riley will be a huge part of whatever will happen.