NXT: NXT Generation or NXT Victim?
NXT is the jewel in the crown of the WWE, but it seems certain people in the corporate machine don't see it that way. Paul gives his two cents worth on the situation.
We all love NXT, right?
I think it’s fair to say that since its arrival (pun very much intended) in June of 2012, NXT revolutionised the way we, as fans, consume our dose of wrestling television. New characters, fresh match ups and an excitement to see the “stars of tomorrow, today!”.
In those early days we were treated to some great match ups and talents, and with the legendary Dusty Rhodes (long live the dream) running the brand, it seemed like a sure bet that these guys and girls absolutely killing it in “developmental”, would one day grace our screens on Raw or Smackdown.
And they did. Seth Rollins, Big E, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Bayley, Finn Balor, even Drew McIntyre, all made names for themselves within the WWE machine by having rich success on the black and gold brand. In fact, aside from one match, Wrestlemania 31 in 2015 included at least one NXT graduate in every match on the card, with the exception of Triple H v Sting. That said, it can be argued that since Hunter is the founder and mastermind behind NXT, that match counts towards that incredible stat also.
So why is it then, that Vince McMahon seems to not give two squirts of piss about NXT?
Think about it. Over the last few weeks, it has become more and more obvious that Vince doesn’t care how over you are in NXT, Raw and Smackdown is his playground.
Let’s look at some facts;
- Shayna Baszler hasn’t won a singles match in at least six months. This is the same Shayna Baszler who absolutely dominated NXT in her 416-day reign as Champion.
- Keith Lee has been demoted to “glorified jobber” it seems over the last couple of weeks, when he should arguably be one of the top stars they have.
- Charlotte’s two reigns as NXT Women’s Champion seemingly do not count towards her overall tally of Championships as she edges closer to matching her Daddy’s record of 16 World Titles (calm down P-Nut...) as she is billed as an “11-time Women’s Champion”, instead of 13.
- Karrion Kross, the undefeated NXT Champion, who has taken on and beaten all challengers in his 114+ day reign so far, was jobbed out to Jeff Hardy, a guy who had not won on TV for quite some time. And to make matters worse, he was beaten in less than five minutes!
- Aleister Black.
And that, is just the most recent issues! If we go back down the line, there are countless guys and girls who have come up from NXT, full of potential, who have been absolutely wasted as soon as they start earning that “main roster money”.
The attitude from the top brass at WWE towards their own “SuperIndy” is abysmal. For whatever reason, they seem to trash the product being put out by NXT, which most fans would likely agree is far and away better than anything Raw or Smackdown puts out on a consistent basis, even though NXT is literally full of super talented wrestlers such as Johnny Gargano, Adam Cole, Io Shirai, Dakota Kai, and dozens more.
When you watch an NXT show, more often than not you leave that show feeling satisfied that you have watched some quality in ring action, without convoluted or ridiculous storylines making you want to take a dip in a bathful of acid.
But if you watch Raw and Smackdown consistently, well, to quote Scott Steiner, your chances of avoiding that acid bath “drastic go down.”
Whether it’s the 24/7 Title shenanigans, Reginald costing Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler another match, or one of an endless number of rematches that you have probably seen over 9,000 times, there is something on each showing that makes you sit there and think:
“Why the fuck am I watching this?”.
And yet, despite falling, or at best, fluctuating ratings, and the constant threat of All Elite Wrestling breathing down their necks (whether Vince sees it or not, they ARE competition), Not only do WWE continually put out an at best average product, but they seem to make insane decisions about talent too.
Case in point: Aleister Black.
Image credit: Rocksins
This is a man who came out of NXT with his name massively increased in value. His NXT Title reign, seemingly coming out of nowhere, was a perfect example of booking a talent effectively. Black was understated, almost to the point of surprise when he got his shot at the NXT Championship. But as soon as he stepped in that ring, you couldn’t imagine him fighting for anything but the prestigious NXT Title.
Just three years on from that, having been called up to the main roster, Black was criminally underutilised before being released due to “BudGeT cUTs”.
How is it even remotely possible, that a talent like Aleister Black is allowed to leave, yet someone with all the grace and skill of a dead wombat like Eva Marie is not only rehired, but put in a position of prominence alongside possibly one of the best call ups to come out of NXT in Alexa Bliss? The logic is both astounding and beyond perplexing.
Looking at the list of NXT Champions, while Seth Rollins, Big E, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura and Drew McIntyre have all gone on to be fairly big stars on the main roster, other supremely talented people have been left to waste away in catering like Bo Dallas, stuck into a tag team like Bobby Roode, or even more criminally, allowed to leave and go to AEW where they are now thriving like PAC, Andrade and of course, Malakai “don’t-call-me-aleister" Black.
Granted, things look much better on the Women’s Championship side of NXT, as only two of the former champions no longer wrestle for WWE. Paige, who as we all know retired due to injury, and Kairi Sane, who reportedly went back home to Japan to start a family.
But that’s not to say mistakes weren’t made with these women once they moved up to the main roster. Asuka was almost instantly jobbed out to Charlotte following her impressively long undefeated streak, spanning her entire time with NXT, Ember Moon was never truly given the right opportunities to show what we all know she is capable of, and as for how Rhea Ripley is currently being treated, you would struggle to find anything positive to say about it.
But it’s not just the former champions that get poorly treated. Look at the case of Rusev.
Image credit: WWE
Built to be a big monster heel, after a decent initial run, he was moved away from World Championship contention. He would win the United States Championship from Sheamus on November 3rd, 2014 and lose it a few months later to John Cena at Wrestlemania. Granted, he would win the US Title twice more, but for a talent such as Rusev to not be utilised in the main event scene is beyond belief. Tyler Breeze is another man who was supremely over in NXT, and yet as soon as he was moved to the main roster, all his momentum fizzled out as he was paired with Summer Rae against Dolph Ziggler and Lana in a storyline that made virtually no sense. Then he teamed up with Fandango, and the two got themselves over organically as the Fashion Police. Despite being over with the fans, they eventually wound up back in NXT, and briefly held the NXT Tag Team Championships before being released earlier this year.
On the women’s side of things, Emma, now going by her real name of Tenille Dashwood, was one of the brightest sparks of the women’s division. Funny, beautiful, and talented, not to mention she could wrestle with the best of them, Emma was the complete package. And yet, she was teamed with Santino Marella, then massively underused until she was released just one week after she had an absolutely stellar match with Asuka on Raw.
And she’s not alone. Dana Brooke came up from NXT with a growing reputation, and yet nowadays, you would be hard pressed to remember she is even there most weeks. The Iiconics of Peyton Royce and Billie Kay were criminally wasted on the main roster, despite winning the Women’s Tag Team Titles, and how Ruby Riott never became a Champion in WWE I’ll never understand.
But possibly the two biggest wastes of potential to come up from NXT, and I say two because until just a couple of days ago it was only one, is Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt.
Image credit: Mandatory.com
How on Earth was Samoa Joe not thrust into the main event? How he was not a major player on the main roster is a constant point of contention among the majority of fans, and then to be released and instantly re-signed by NXT, where he is now set to face Karrion Kross for the NXT Title? At least in the bubble of NXT he is treated like the star that he is.
And as for Bray Wyatt? Words cannot even begin to comprehend how that particular release came about.
Wyatt has been one of the best aspects of Raw in recent years. From his humble beginnings as Husky Harris, to his reinventing of himself as the leader of the Wyatt Family, and later becoming the incredibly popular Fiend character, along with his Firefly Fun House, the move by WWE to release him from his contract, again allegedly due to “budget cuts”, took everyone by surprise.
It seemed as though no one knew how to book him, as he would often lose the big matches. Even his three World Title reigns seemed completely uninspired and devoid of any real direction. Yet he continued to give it his all, constantly reinventing his character to show a different side and peel back the layers, only for them to essentially shift the character over to Alexa Bliss so they can keep making money off of it while they released him. In my opinion, Mickie James was absolutely right in what she said.
I have to say here though, there is absolutely no blame on Alexa Bliss for this, and if you are one of the people giving her abuse over it, then you are a trash human at best. Alexa is doing her job, just like any of us would, and seems just as upset about Bray’s release as anyone else. That anyone would be so callous and downright nasty to her for any perceived part in this is reprehensible.
So, after looking at all of this, just why does it seem that Vince and WWE creative hate NXT so much? This is a revolutionary facility they have built, churning out literally dozens of top stars over the last 8-9 years, and aside from a handful it seems, the majority of them have been put through the wringer before being tossed aside like a kid’s toy at Christmas.
Granted, there are a few who have gone on to make big names for themselves. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Big E, Becky Lynch, Bayley, and a few others have all gone on to become huge main roster stars, but the majority of NXT call ups seem to get lost in the shuffle, before being ultimately released.
Vince and the rest of WWE creative should be embracing these talents as they come out of NXT, with their names already solidly built, and should be using their star power to propel Raw and Smackdown forward. Instead, we get them placed in comedy skits, or into the 24/7 Title picture, rather than them being built credibly into the next big stars of WWE. Shinsuke Nakamura should be a consistent main event player, yet he is stuck in the midcard fighting for a crown. Ricochet is not used on TV nearly enough, and the fact that Finn Balor has only just come back to the main roster having chosen to go back to NXT to reinvent himself, is a travesty. This is the first Universal Champion for goodness's sake!
It almost feels like Vince does not like the fact that these guys and girls have made their name without him being there to guide them. He seems to almost see NXT as the competition, and therefore any stars that Hunter makes for him in NXT, are cast aside as not good enough when they reach Raw or Smackdown. At Wrestlemania last year, Charlotte took her title opportunity earned at the Royal Rumble and used it to win the NXT Women’s Championship, and yet the NXT Titles are not considered to be World Titles by WWE! By the very definition of it, a Championship becomes a World Title once it has been defended and or changed hands outside of its home country. The NXT Titles have done so several times and therefore are worthy of World Title status, especially since a precedent has now been set where the Royal Rumble winner can cash in their opportunity for an NXT Title. Yet, they are treated like nothing, barely mentioned on main roster TV, and in the case of Charlotte, not even mentioned as part of her Championship accolades!
In my opinion, Vince needs to realise what he has with NXT. He has possibly the hottest thing in Pro Wrestling, aside from AEW, to create and cultivate his own stars. He has a product that fans want to see, that they are invested in and care about, to the point where NXT is considered to be the third brand. The fact that "NXT Evolve" was something that was talked about a little while back adds credibility to that "third brand" claim.
Bringing those talents up and either doing nothing with them or jobbing/burying them on Raw/Smackdown to someone who maybe has had their time and should now be putting younger talent over instead of picking up wins against them, does nothing to fill the void of stars such as John Cena who maybe aren't around as much as they once were.
It seems to me, that the powers that be need to realise that you can build more than one big star at a time, instead of relying on just one name to carry the brand forward.
As much as I would love to think that Vince and his band of merry men are suddenly going to realise what they have at their disposal, sadly it seems far more likely that they will continue to underutilise and undervalue NXT for some time to come.
And unfortunately, that is the sad reality of it.