I have loved NXT for a very long time now, and that is not likely to change at any time in the future. For years now, it has felt like my wrestling show, as it has been the show I have looked forward to seeing more than any other in a given week. That is still true from time to time, but it is clear that the show is going to be shaken up in a pretty big way in the near future. The more I think about that, the more of a good idea it seems, though only if certain issues are addressed.
NXT became special to me on January 2, 2013. In that particular show’s main event, NXT Champion Seth Rollins was defending the title against Corey Graves (dang that makes it seem even longer) when the rest of the newly formed Shield ran in for the DQ. A huge beatdown followed and General Manager Dusty Rhodes sent out the rest of the locker room to deal with the Shield. That didn’t work either, and all hope seemed to be lost.
As I was watching at home, I said out loud “in a good promotion, this is where the monster would come out for the showdown.” On cue, here came Big E. Langston, the unstoppable force who was going to be able to do something about this. The Shield ran from the fight, Rhodes announced Langston vs. Rollins for the title the following week, and suddenly, NXT was off to the races, not looking back for years on end.
Obviously, those days are now long gone and while NXT has become a prime time wrestling show and WWE’s third brand (whether the company has acknowledged it or not), but the spark is gone. In a word, NXT no longer feels special, and that is the kind of thing that you really can’t fix. There is one problem that seems to be at the root though and that is what we are going to look at today.
As I was watching this week’s edition of NXT, the main thing that occurred to me was that I had no idea what the top story is supposed to be. There is currently no challenger to the NXT Title, there is no major feud, there is no hot angle and there is just a grand total of nothing that stands out about the rest. None of the stories being presented really feel like must see TV and that is a problem.
This isn’t a recent problem either. Takeover 36 took place less than two weeks ago and even that did not have a true top match or story. The show had five matches and three of them (the United Kingdom Title, the Undisputed Finale and the NXT Title) all could have headlined the event. None of them stood out above the rest, and that made the show feel uneven.
What makes this even more annoying is the fact that none of the matches or stories are bad. Takeover 36 was an instant classic and I wanted to see who won all five of the matches on the show. That is not a situation any promotion finds itself in very often, but it comes off as a bunch of good stuff rather than some great things with good filling out the rest of the card.
So how do you fix that situation? Well usually the best idea would be to beef up the NXT Title picture. However, there is only so much that can be done in that area when Karrion Kross, who was not exactly the most inspiring champion in the first place, debuted on Monday Night Raw and promptly lost two of his first four matches on the show after being undefeated for months. Sidenote: the fact that neither of the two people who beat him, Jeff Hardy and Keith Lee, made any mention of wanting the NXT Title showed you what it meant at the moment anyway.
This is where the problem really lies in NXT: the wrestlers, the titles and the stories taking place on the show have all been leveled off, leaving no one to stand out about the rest. Does Samoa Joe really feel like he is that far above the rest of the roster? Or is it just because he is an NXT legend and has held the NXT Title before? That will work for awhile, as was proven when Finn Balor held the title for seven months in his second reign. It worked once, but twice in a year is asking a bit too much.
That is where we start getting tied into the solutions to the problem. WWE could do more than a few things to help NXT out, but the biggest solution is to bring in some fresh talent. One of the root problems in NXT is how old the roster feels. Not necessarily in age mind you, but in just how long these people have been around NXT. That is going to cause some issues, and it already has.
Consider some of the better known names in NXT and when they made their debuts there:
Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Samoa Joe, Danny Burch, Oney Lorcan (all in 2015), Ember Moon (2016), Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong, Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai, (2017). Those are ten names who have been there at least four years, with some more reaching all the way up to six. Also keep in mind that these people are all still in NXT and there is nothing to suggest that most of them are moving up to the main roster anytime soon.
For comparison, you have NXT legends who did not spend as much time around the place:
Bayley (three and a half years), Asuka and Sami Zayn (less than three years), Sasha Banks (two and a half years), Shayna Baszler and Aleister Black (just over two years), Paige and Drew McIntyre (less than two years), Shinsuke Nakamura (one year and a few days) and Kevin Owens (less than a year). Here you have ten of the biggest names NXT has ever seen and they are all done with the bulk of their NXT careers in less than four years.
In a word, NXT feels stale. Not only is nothing stand out from a storyline or character perspective, but it’s a continuous shuffling of the same tired deck that we’ve seen for years on end. The wrestlers are still talented and I want to see what happens to them, but the patented NXT formula for bringing people in and moving them up to the main roster has been completely shattered. You can only get so far with the same core of wrestlers and we have firmly reached the limit for what NXT can do.
The good thing is that the situation is starting to turn around ever so slightly. Some fresh names like MSK, Carmelo Hayes, Cameron Grimes, Hit Row, LA Knight, Raquel Gonzalez, Frankie Monet, Kay Lee Ray and Zoey Stark (among others) are going to offer some fresh blood to the show, but NXT needs more than that. Without being allowed to shake things up in a big way and try something fresh, the wrestlers themselves are not going to make much of a difference.
I’ve been a fan of NXT since the modern era began but it is time to shake things up a bit. That being said, forgive me for not having the most confidence in WWE to pull that off at the moment. Maybe this is what NXT has been needing for the last few years, but I’m curious to see how many people are going to want to see a bunch of newcomers on USA at 8pm on a Tuesday night. The show can be great again, but they need to figure out what is…NXT.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.
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