Things have been changing a lot in wrestling over the last few months and that is likely to be the case for the next few weeks and months. Whether it’s the rise and major steps forward for AEW or the rapid fire changes in WWE’s schedule, there are very few things that are staying the same. Whether you like that or not is something you can decide for yourself, but this time around we’re going to look back a little bit, which tends to be what I like to do.

One of the biggest moves of the summer was the announcement of NXT moving to the USA Network for a two hour live broadcast starting at 8pm on October 2 (because announcing the move for September 18 and then splitting the show onto two platforms for two weeks was their best idea). This marks the end of a major era of NXT and a lot of fans are going to be upset by the way things are going. That would include me, which is where we’re going this week.

This week, we’re going to look back at the moment that made me an NXT fan and set the stage for what we would be getting out of the show for years to come. It might not have been the most important moment in NXT history and it has been surpassed in quality many times over, but it was one of those moments that made me look at a show in a different way and that hasn’t changed since.

NXT as we know it (as in not the competitions or the eternally long Season 5) started on June 20, 2012 as the show moved into Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, where it has been for the seven years plus ever since. The show was getting a fresh start after a year long mess called Season 5, which felt like a dumping ground for the lower level talent who had no business on Monday Night Raw or SmackDown Live. It was clear that things were changing, but it was going to take some time to really get going.

As it turned out, that time was about six and a half months as not only did we have an NXT Champion just over two months later, but we also had a big change of pace as NXT wrestlers Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns joined Dean Ambrose (who had never appeared on NXT to date) formed the Shield at Survivor Series 2012. Since Rollins was still NXT Champion and main roster bound, it was time to change things up and that was the moment where NXT became something special.

On January 2, 2013, Rollins was defending the NXT Title against Corey Graves. The rest of the Shield came in after less than five minutes and the destruction was on. Commissioner Dusty Rhodes (it was a different time) sent out various wrestlers to fight the Shield with the results being exactly what you would expect. The Shield stood tall and owned NXT with no one being able to do anything. As I was watching this air, I said out loud, “In a good wrestling promotion, this is where the unstoppable monster would come out for the showdown.”

They needed some help:

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And here comes Big E. Langston, the unstoppable monster of NXT who no one has been able to lay a hand on. Langston came out, he clapped, he shouted, and the Shield ran. Rhodes named Langston #1 contender and gave him a title shot the next week, with Langston winning the title to banish the Shield to the main roster for good and showing that NXT was something different.

That was the moment that changed everything for me about NXT and made me a fan for life. It was something so different from what you would see on WWE TV, where you would sit around for months until the right challenger showed up or after several segments where everything was explained to you because you’re too slow to get what is going on in a hurry. This was a change of pace and that was exactly what WWE was needing at the moment.

There was no waiting around for an authority figure to give a ten minute speech about how this is what we do around here. There was no month long build to a token pay per view title match that had no chance of seeing a title change and no one bought it as a possibility. There was no treating the fans like morons with commentary beating you over the head with how awesome Shield is and how the very soul of NXT was in danger or whatever line they had this time.

Here are the five best guys, winner gets to be #1 contender:

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What we were seeing was NXT cutting through the red tape and going with the logical move that we needed to be seeing. Langston was the only person in NXT who had been protected enough to fight the Shield and that is exactly what we saw. I can’t remember the last time we saw something like that and it was a great feeling to have as a fan. For once, we were getting a show that treated us like adults who could understand something beyond whatever nonsense WWE tried to pedal to us on Monday nights.

That was the moment (among a few others) that set the stage for what NXT was going to be for the rest of its life. NXT was going to be the meat and potatoes show that gave you a simple presentation. You were being given the characters, the situations and the titles or issues they were fighting over and being presented with a wrestling show built entirely around them. No frills, no nonsense and nothing that would make you want to see what else was on that night. You were getting a wrestling show, which just happened to have the best developmental talent that WWE had to offer.

Over the years, that core idea and concept would always be the centerpiece of NXT and it has made everything work so well. The fact that it featured some of the best wrestling in the world with an all star team of independent wrestlers who WWE had signed up took the concept and cranked it up like the burgers at Mondo Burger in Good Burger (albeit legally this time around). With that much value going on, there was a lot to love about NXT and a lot of fans have done that for years now. Above all that though, it boils down to one simple concept.

It makes this stuff work:

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What it all came down to was NXT didn’t treat you like an idiot for watching their shows. You were being treated with respect and what you were seeing was important. It could be anything from the NXT Title being defended to the debut of an international star and former World Champion to a match for the #1 contendership to the Women’s Title (because the Women’s Title meant a lot down in NXT from the beginning). Whatever you were seeing was what the announcers would be talking about then and there, because the fans mattered to them and they wanted you to stick around.

That sounds like such a simple principle yet you’ll see so few wrestling shows actually follow the concept. This was a different kind of wrestling under the WWE banner and there should be no surprise as to why it took off like it did. Yes it’s quite a niche product and not something that everyone is going to like, but it is the kind of wrestling show that is going to work up and down the card. I’m scared of what is going to be happening in NXT in the years to come, but their history offers a lot to be proud of. If they can keep that core idea strong though, NXT is going to work because it’s an idea that will never fail: take care of the fans.

Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. His latest book is KB’s Complete 2004 Monday Night Raw Reviews.

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