Forgive me for being bold, but NXT is arguably one of the most popular shows the WWE have put on. Triple H and others have made something that both entertains a chosen audience whilst furthering a wrestler’s development. It is simply… fantastic (I was going to say another word but that has been taken by Mr. Roode.)
It’s a far cry from the “reality show” format it began with. Redemption points and Get Your Own Back gunge style games aside, and the whole landscape of WWE has been changed for the better. Whether it be its more wrestling-focused storylines, the longer, more well developed matches or its general openness to the sport of wrestling, it’s hard to find anyone who isn’t a fan of NXT.
But with any great television serial or product, there are flaws to it, not many, but a few. When you compare the NXT of today to what it was two years ago, it is a notably different product. That is the nature of NXT after all; wrestlers move on to the main roster, then more talent can rise up through NXT and gain recognition on the brand, become the main stars – and the cycle begins anew. But it’s been this year, particularly with the brand split, that certain drawbacks are becoming ever clearer.
The brand split, safe to say, took a lot out of NXT. Some were ready to be called up to the main roster such as Finn Balor and American Alpha, however, there are some like Carmella and Mojo Rawley who maybe could’ve benefited from a couple of months more down in Full Sail. This is on top of some call-ups before the split, names like Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin and Kalisto.
There was a surge of call-ups from the black and yellow brand, and there had to be, both Raw and SmackDown needed full rosters and now names like Alexa Bliss and Samoa Joe are killing it on the main shows. However, that inevitably showed how thin the NXT roster actually was. Obviously, this gave room for them to sign big names like Bobby Roode, Roderick Strong and Sanity, but for a time there was a lack of built up names on NXT, or at least, names people were drawn to.
But even then, this has led to wrestlers finally getting some spotlight, and building a name for themselves.
These include NXT mainstays like Tye Dillinger. Where NXT have signed international superstars that wrestling fans immediately recognise, the Perfect Ten has been fighting away week after week. It has only been now, since the mass exodus from NXT, that Tye has been given his due and has become one of the big faces of the brand. A long time coming, it has come at a time where new stars are needing to made somewhat hastily. The turn for Dillinger from obnoxious egotist to determined fighter came quite rapidly, I for one am glad it happened, but it didn’t feel as natural as it could have.
Aside from Tye and Shinsuke, who is bound for the main roster sooner or later, there are not too many heroes to take on the smorgasbord of detestable fighters. These include a returning Kassius Ohno, currently inactive Hideo Itami, the lovable but not as serious No Way Jose, the clean slate Roderick Strong, and the morally flip-flopping fighter Oney Lorcan.
The same can be said for the tag team division, with Hashtag or #, DIY being pitted against the bullies of the division, with TM-61 currently inactive, and Heavy Machinery still need to get on the right track (See what I did there? Because they’re like trains? Never mind). While the scales of good guys and bad guys may be imbalanced, it is an issue that can be fixed – so long as it’s done quickly. Once Mr. Nakamura goes there will be a vacuum where once the charismatic and personality filled former NXT champion once was, which leads on to the next point.
NXT is home to very talented wrestlers who put on spectacular matches, that cannot be denied. However, as we have discovered on the main roster, you could be the most talented guy in the world, but if you don’t have that much of a personality, you’ll go nowhere.
It is a sad truth in the wrestling business but one that still echoes today. Take Apollo Crews, the man is fantastic and should be one of the top-tier talents on the roster. The problem? We don’t really know him. Which is what NXT should’ve been for, but apart from being friends with Kalisto and not like receiving chair shots, we know little about him. I’m not saying that he should be stuck with a gimmick that doesn’t suit him (“The Bartender” Apollo Booze anyone?) but part of the charm of NXT was having offbeat and alternative characters on their roster.
From supermodels, to 1920 throwbacks to demony-illumanti-ragey-shouty people, there was a diversity and depth to the roster, and each member had a unique personality to them. Not to say there isn’t some personality in the brand tonight, but there seems to be a pattern of the archetype of wrestler in NXT, which is that they’re a really, really, really good wrestler. NXT is a good place for experimental gimmicks and out their concepts to get noticed, so maybe a resurgence in these ideas will help get the black and yellow brand back some momentum.
I love NXT. Odds are I always will. From catching up with it on dodgy websites to seeing the Arrival on the Network for the first time, it helped me and others find a newfound love of professional wrestling. Whenever you watch something for an extended period, or if there is a standard you’re used to, you are always going to nitpick, criticise, complain and have a good ol’ moan about it. But all of these problems are good in that they will help NXT get even better, and further cement it as the best thing going in WWE today.