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You ready to get into the pros and cons, the what ifs and what nots, and the pluses and minuses of the best show on the WWE Network? We decided to assess the state of WWE’s NXT and came away with a list that some of you will agree with, while others would simply object.
But before we get into details, how about we brush up on our history? It was 2012 when the WWE decided to get rid of Florida Championship Wrestling, a developmental promotion out of Tampa Bay and transform it into NXT. The name, NXT, came from a program involving rookies from FCW trying to compete for a spot on the main roster of WWE. The success of the name stuck and the WWE decided to make its home at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida.
With the addition of WWE’s Performance Center, NXT truly became the place for a wrestler to hone their craft, build a reputation, and potentially get their name out there on a global level. It’s 2016 and NXT has been nothing short but successful. They’ve captivated audiences, revolutionized wrestling, and have broken a lot of rules on how to be successful in the industry. NXT is only getting stronger and is more popular than many of the other wrestling programs you see around the world and in the WWE.
Enjoy 8 amazing things to keep around the promotion and another 8 things that need improving.
16. Keep: Smaller Venues
Full Sail University can hold up to 500 people for an NXT event and we wouldn’t want it any other way. With smaller venues comes a more intimate experience between the performers and their fans. For nostalgic reasons of keeping the venue small, it reminds us of the old ECW Arena in the 90s and when WWE’s RAW first started at the Grand Ballroom at the Manhattan Center Studios in New York. Watching NXT episodes on the WWE Network, you can sense the electricity with hundreds of fans crowding over the ring. Don’t get us wrong, we love when our favorite NXT stars come out to thousands of fans, but let us not forget that this program is for developing talent.
15. Improve: Origin Stories
We know, it’s a development brand and character development might not be as important as in-ring work ability but for crying out loud, give us something. Have we been given a reason to why No Way Jose smiles so much? What’s Johnny Gargano’s story and why does he enjoy working with Tommaso Ciampa? You can’t just say, well they’re indie guys, so they were put in a tag team together. With only an hour of programming a week, we know NXT can’t fit everything in, however, WWE has their own network and can easily post vignettes or short promos explaining the roots of their characters.
14. Keep: Free Agent Signings
From amateur backgrounds to the best free agents on the planet, NXT has been a melting pot of all types of backgrounds, styles, and experiences. They’ll sign a novice such as Demitrius Bronson, a former NFL running back for the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks, and then go out and get Austin Aries, who was a flag bearer at WWE’s opposition, TNA. Not only does it build depth for the brand, but it also gives them opportunities to have fresh matches for the fans. Whether it’s bringing in Japanese legend, Jushin Thunder Liger, for one match, signing a plethora of indie talent, or acquiring the biggest names from the competition, NXT is where you want to be if you’re not already on the main roster.
13. Improve: Salaries
Check out TheSportster’s’, “Too Much and Too Little: 8 Overpaid And 7 Underpaid Superstars On The WWE Roster,” and you’ll find out how little some wrestlers make on a NXT salary. It’s pretty disappointing to find out Superstars like Sami Zayn and Bayley made so little but did so much for the NXT brand. Granted, a pay increase comes with a call up, however, when NXT is being sold as the third brand under WWE’s umbrella, we would expect a little more money to come their way. Better salaries equal happier wrestlers, happier wrestlers means a better product, which is what’s best for NXT.
12. Keep: Creative Freedom
If you ever watch shoot videos about The Attitude Era, one thing is for sure, Vince McMahon would give his wrestlers a chance to do whatever they want on television. That creative freedom brought out the best in The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, D-Generation X, and Mick Foley. Fast track twenty years later and you don’t get that same feeling on the prime time shows. Every story, every sentence, every mannerism seems to be unnatural and forced. However, that organic character development that has been lacking at the top seems to be doing fine at NXT.
11. Improve: Tag Team Division
NXT has taken a hit recently with call ups from Enzo and Cass and The Vaudevillians, while the break up between Blake and Murphy hasn’t helped stabilize the division. As of now, you only have America Alpha (Jason Jordan and Chad Gable) and The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson) holding down the top spots in the division. Thankfully the WWE signed Australian standouts Michael Nicholls and Shane Veryzer, formerly known as The Mighty Don’t Kneel. The signings are still not enough to say the tag division has great depth and story lines also seemed to be non-existent unless it involves the Tag Team Championship.
10. Keep: Novices Not Seen On WWE Network Shows
The bookmakers of NXT do a great job keeping the most inexperienced wrestlers off television. Developmental projects like Babatunde Aiyegbusi, a 6-foot-9 former American football player from Poland, and Terrance Jean-Jacques, an All-American wrestler out of the University of Rhode Island, shouldn’t be seen on a show unless they’re absolutely ready for the spot light. Another example is WWE’s Tough Enough winner Josh Bredl (Bronson Mathews), who only has appeared at house shows so far. Until they’re ready, they’ve no place on the one hour show or specials. It’s all about the quality and not the quantity for the NXT brand.
9. Improve: Unique Roster
With the brand split and unique rosters happening at the big leagues, NXT shouldn’t be different. The three brands should have their own roster and wrestlers should stay within that brand until it’s time to move on. This means Kevin Owens wouldn’t appear on both RAW and NXT. A wrestler like Zack Ryder wouldn’t be seen on NXT for a few episodes and then on a random SmackDown match. Granted, some of these wrestlers need to get the ring rust off if they’re coming back from an injury, but that’s why you have live events and programs such as Main Event and Superstars.
8. Keep: Unpredictable Outcomes
It was just like any other night in April, an NXT live event was going on in in Lowell, Massachusetts and you assumed that the results would play out the same. Even though the NXT Championship was on the line between Finn Balor and Samoa Joe, you just knew the title wouldn’t change hands because it was a non-televised live event. Wrong. NXT shocked the world when Joe defeated Balor who happened to have a 292-day reign. The WWE Universe went into a frenzy on the internet once Tweets and videos started coming out. It was a beautifully mastered stunt to get people talking about the brand. More swerving and less predictability is always good for business.
7. Improve: More Airtime
An hour might be enough time for you to enjoy the show, but I’m sure there are other fans that would love to see 30 minutes or one more hour added to the program. WWE can do it, they have their own network and aren’t regulated to television schedules and such. A longer program can give more wrestlers a time to shine and practice their craft. The same case can be said for the amount of matches on NXT TakeOver events. Recently, whether by kayfabe or a real shoot, wrestler Tye Dillinger expressed his disappointment about not being on the next TakeOver event. Several days later, NXT’s General Manager, William Regal, announced he would be on the card. More matches and more time is what the fans want.
6. Keep: Design
The aesthetics of the show might be the best thing going for the NXT brand. Fans were used to the red and blue on the RAW and SmackDown programs, so when the black and yellow splashed into their vision, it was love at first sight. From the dark setting that gives the ring an intimate feeling, to the logo of the NXT brand itself, the edgy interior design gives the whole arena the feeling of something different than the big leagues. Even the belts have their own uniqueness going for them. Not too long ago, the NXT Women’s Championship was by far the better looking belt when compared to the Divas Championship (now titled Women’s Championship) at WWE. Somebody should get a raise for their great judgement in style at NXT.
5. Improve: Full Sail Crowd
We apologize if you’re constantly at NXT’s tapings, but you have to admit, the crowds can start chanting bogus things that take away from the match. We understand the crowd wants to be a part of the experience and what better way than to chant for your favorite Superstar, however, we’ve heard many chants that made no sense. Trying to hijack the match is rude and disrespectful to everyone involved and also for the fans that have to put up with the mindless chants. Maybe NXT can’t help improve chants but they can bring these vacuous cries to everyone’s attention.
4. Keep: Women’s Wrestling
For a long time in the WWE, women’s wrestling was at an all-time low. It’s because there was too many titillating gimmick matches, too many models acting like athletes, and too many mediocre feuds that went nowhere fast. Then something happened down in the depths of WWE’s Performance Center. Female athletes with a passion to actually wrestle started to blossom before our very eyes. The first, Paige, finished her NXT Women’s Championship run and was called up, immediately winning the Divas Championship. Then you had The Four Horsewomen (Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch) put on unbelievable performances. We hope NXT continues the trend of real wrestling in the women’s division which seems to be the case with the Women’s Champion Asuka.
3. Improve: Secondary Title
Some of you may not like this but we’re going with a theme of more is best for business. Maybe it’s just us, but every promotion has had the main title and a secondary for the other tiers of talent. Why can’t NXT have one also? It could be a Cruiserweight Belt, a Hardcore Title, or something totally out of left field, but as long as it’s a valid championship, it can be a success in NXT. It only makes sense for a successful program with an expanding roster to have a secondary title.
2. Keep: NXT TakeOver
As fans, we love to get pumped up for the big events of the year because the storylines are built around these shows. NXT TakeOver specials have only been around since 2014 and are rare with only four or five events a year, but each show has been stellar in their own way. Not only do the NXT TakeOver events end feuds or begin new ones, they also are a part of special tournaments, such as the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and most likely WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic tournament this summer. Also, the timing of these events couldn’t be better as they usually coincide with a WWE pay-per-view, giving fans a double dose of action on a weekend.
1. Improve: More Match Stipulations
We don’t need to see a ladder match every week, but it would be nice to see fresh stipulation matches with all of the wrestlers. NXT TakeOver events are usually where these matches happen and it only involves the Main Event. For instance, NXT Champion Samoa Joe and Finn Balor will be battling it out in a steel cage match at NXT TakeOver: The End. That’s great, but how about a submission match between Austin Aries and Shinsuke Nakamura? Or maybe we can see a few triple threat matches during the one hour program. A little more variety can go a long way.
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