With their collection of young homemade stars, the best independent wrestlers in the world over the last five years and an attitude different than the roster they’re striving to get on, WWE’s developmental league NXT has got the most attention as an alternative to mainstream WWE programming since WCW and ECW folded almost 15 years ago. Mixing great storytelling with a tough-as-nails style, the wrestlers (not superstars) of NXT, especially the women (not Divas) are helping to redefine professional wrestling to a new generation of fans.
Here’s the thing though… good things come to an end. WCW came to an end. ECW came to an end. The territory system came to an end. The only thing that triumphs is WWE and once it does, Vince McMahon returns to his tired storytelling tropes. NXT is burning white-hot now and since McMahon is the one who owns it, he has every vested interest in seeing it succeed.
Is NXT going to be able to rise and be an alternative to the WWE product being forced down our throats on Monday nights? Some people think it’s on its way to be the No. 2 promotion in the country while others worry that the attention NXT has been getting in the last year can do nothing but hurt it in the long run.
We all want NXT to grow and succeed, but this is the real world and we don’t know if NXT is a viable commodity or if it’s a flash-in-the-pan fad. Here are 15 reasons we’d rather not admit that NXT is going to fail in 2016.
15. Vince Takes Over Final Control
On a recent conference call hyping one of the Takeover specials, Triple H said that he, and not Vince McMahon, has final control of NXT, but let’s be honest. Vince McMahon owns the WWE and NXT is just a product of WWE. Regardless of the fact Triple H is Vince’s son-in-law, he needs to recognize he doesn’t have final control – he is being allowed to be the final word until a point which Vince McMahon decides otherwise. We know what happens when Vince programs what he wants to watch. It results in the lowest TV ratings in years. If a 70-year-old man decides to take control of a “young” product, it is doomed.
14. Watering Down of the Product
While nowhere near as cutting edge as Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling, NXT is probably the edgiest thing in mainstream wrestling these days. Fans will tell you it’s because the organization constantly delivers high-quality wrestling and stories that make logical sense. When ECW tried to attract a large audience with a national TV show on TNN, it spelled the end for the company since they had to present a “safe” product following constraints placed upon them by the television station. ECW had to change its product for a chance at national exposure and that exposure ended up forcing the death of the company. Could this happen with NXT?
13. Thin Roster Gets Thinner By Call-ups
NXT is kind of like minor league baseball. You can watch it and support the team, but you know that the players all want to get to the next level and the next level is hoping the players get there sooner than later. Despite what NXT wrestlers say publicly, the chance to work for the WWE is something they have always dreamed of and the bump in pay from NXT to WWE is huge. That’s not to mention that if the WWE tells a talent they are moving to the main roster, they don’t have a choice. NXT, with only one hour of weekly TV compared to WWE’s seven hours, helps hide the fact beyond the top four women, beyond the top four men and beyond the top four tag teams, the roster is always pretty thin. Imagine if Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and Tyler Breeze were all called up at the same time. You’re left with almost nothing.
12. Injuries, Injuries, Injuries
Remember Sami Zayn? When’s he coming back? What about Hideo Itami? When’s he coming back? Rumors have Carmella being on the shelf as well. With the high-flying, hard-hitting style the fans have come to love at NXT, wrestlers are going to get injured. What happens if they can’t come back? Would fans continue to support a product that eats up and spits out its entertainers? Probably, but how many people need to be injured until it forces changes within NXT and what would those changes do to the organization as a whole? WWE has cut blood, chairshots to the head and most sexual overtones. Is that a good thing? Perhaps, but again, the ratings are worse now than they have been in years. If injuries force NXT to change its style, could it survive?
11. Vince Decides to Compete with Himself…And Win
One of the greatest missed opportunities in wrestling over the last 20 years was the botched invasion storyline when wrestlers from WCW and ECW were pitted against the WWE guys. Of course, they were all under contract to Vince. He owned everybody at that point, but he had too much pride to let anything labeled ECW and WCW appear to get the upper hand against the WWE. What if Vince decided to try and pop ratings by having an NXT invasion on Monday Night Raw? NXT fans are loud in pushing their opinion that it is superior to WWE, much like fans were loud about ECW and WCW at their peaks. An NXT invasion could work if NXT were to look strong, but Vince would see it as not being the WWE product he created and he would crush it. If history shows anything, it’s that there is no coming back once Vince crushes you.
10. Something Bad Happens to Triple H
Twenty-five years ago, Paul Levesque was an indy wrestler under the moniker of Terra Ryzin trying to make a name for himself on the northeast independent scene. Those territories that were left were breathing their final breath. As a young guy in WCW and WWE, he was surrounded by wrestlers – including his trainer, Killer Kowalski – who came up through the territory system and likely heard plenty of stories of what that life was like. Fast-forward 25 years and NXT (and perhaps Ring of Honor) is the only non-WWE product that operates much like the territories did in the 1960s and 1970s. Triple H has carefully created the culture of NXT and there is nothing else like it. He said that NXT would be changed forever when Dusty Rhodes died. Imagine what would happen if Triple H wasn’t able to fulfill his duties.
9. The Fans Get Over It
It’s undeniable that NXT is the hottest wrestling property in the country right now. Maybe it’s not as widely seen as WWE and doesn’t generate the revenue of its older brother, but it’s the thing everybody is talking about. It’s “now” and it’s hip to like it. What happens when it’s no longer new in so many people’s eyes. What happens when the edginess of it becomes commonplace and it’s no longer the hip thing? Fair-weather wrestling fans are everywhere. How can you explain people cheering Big Show one day, booing him the next and cheering the next? Wrestling fans are more fickle than 15-year-old pop music fans. If the regulars at Full Sail who attend every NXT taping decide it’s over and other wrestling fans follow, it’s over and that can happen fast.
8. Something Happens to the WWE Network
Remember when Seth Rollins won the NXT title? Did you know Summer Rae is actually a pretty decent wrestler? What was it like the first time Husky Harris disappeared and Bray Wyatt was born? You don’t remember or know these things because they all happened in NXT before the WWE Network was born. Unless you were patient enough to watch it online or had Hulu, there was no other way to watch NXT. It has become the surprise hit of the network and has exploded as die-hard fans are exposed to the product for the first time. What happens if the WWE Network disappears? Who knows how, but something could cause the company to shut the network down. Are all of the fans who enjoy NXT now, but didn’t watch it before the network started, going to find alternative ways to watch? It’s doubtful. NXT is synonymous with the WWE Network and would fail without it.
7. The Indy Scene Has Only A Certain Number of Great Wrestlers Left
Have you noticed since Rhyno showed up in early 2015, it’s been a steady stream of indy talent coming in? From Samoa Joe to Tomasso Ciampa to James Storm, NXT keeps bringing in the best indy talent available. But once that talent is all signed, the indies are empty and NXT did to the indies what WWF did to the territories. Why hasn’t this issue been raised? Once TNA goes out of business, NXT will surely scoop up their best as well. It’s exciting to see these indy legends going against homegrown talent, but it can’t sustain itself very long.
6. The Mainstream Fans Reject It
There have been far more misses than hits when WWE brings an NXT wrestler up to the main roster. The Divas Revolution has largely been a flop, Adam Rose is still trying to find a character the fans respond to and Emma’s pairing with Santino Marella was the kiss of death for her. Yes, you can point to a few successes, but the ratio is just not good enough and the reason for that is simple. The fans haven’t liked what they’ve seen in the call-ups. Yes, they were able to pack the house the day before SummerSlam, but any WWE B-level show could have packed that house and were those really the mainstream fans or were they NXT diehards? For everyone one NXT diehard, there are 10 mainstream fans and in the end, they’ll have the say on if NXT survives.
5. Developmental Trainees Progressing Too Slow
An interesting thing about this indy wrestler parade we’ve seen of late is that it makes you wonder just how good the current crop of trainees at the Performance Center really is. Along with the indy wrestlers, you have people like Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, Kevin Owens and Askua who spent almost no time training before making their debut on the weekly show. Where is the new talent that is supposed to be coming out of the Performance Center? Even looking at house show results, there are very few names that aren’t already known. How weak are the trainees?
4. Vince McMahon Pulls the Plug
NXT is a money loser, it’s no secret. They don’t run enough shows, nor sell enough NXT merchandise to pay for not only the wrestlers, but the Performance Center itself. It’s obviously a loss leader, with the hope that you lose a little money on someone like Kevin Owens today and once on the main roster, they’ll make you far more than you ever lost. If Vince ever gets antsy about the bottom line, he could save a lot of money by shutting things down and going back to the old way of doing things. Think about it. All it’s going to take is one word from Vince and NXT is done.
3. Somebody Creates A Better Alternative
We’re still talking about ECW all of these years later because Paul Heyman created something new and diehard fans – the kind that enjoy NXT – flocked to it. While it’s a longshot, what if an eccentric billionaire decided he wanted to compete with NXT? What if the content of that promotion was actually better than NXT? As we mentioned before, wrestling fans are fickle. They weren’t loyal to WWE once the nWo appeared and there’s no reason to believe if a better product came along that they would be loyal to NXT.
2. A Huge, Unrecoverable Scandal
The Chris Benoit tragedy was a huge black mark on wrestling. Hulk Hogan says racist things and gets headlines. Jimmy Snuka is also getting headlines because of an alleged murder. What would happen if there was a scandal of this magnitude and it involved four or five top wrestlers in NXT? What if Triple H had no choice but to fire them? You lose top guys and the product will suffer greatly. Will the fans stick around to see what happens? A fair amount of the wrestling in NXT isn’t picture perfect. What happens when the people who get it right are all suddenly gone and bring more bad press to wrestling? Would it be easier for Vince to keep the Performance Center but shut down NXT? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.
1. The Bar Stops Being Raised
One of the great things about ECW was for years the bar kept being raised, but it reached ludicrous, dangerous proportions. The high flyers were doing crazier spots and the brawlers were finding new ways to up the violence in their matches. It got to a point that they couldn’t go any further. Once they landed their TV deal, the content got sanitized, but by that point, the excitement had subsided. It’s hard to believe this will happen to NXT in the next year, but WWE’s “other” brands such as their version of ECW and even the Raw/SmackDown split were not successful. When fantastic women’s matches become the norm and the guys have reached a point they can’t go further, will fans tire of the product? Everything comes to an end. When will NXT?
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