The Heavy Opinion - What Was the Point of NXT?
In Hev's 30th published piece for Real Rasslin he gives his opinion on the Black and Gold NXT/WWE Main Roster issue and asks a very important question... What Was The Point?
Hey there, Wrestling Fans, welcome to another edition of the Heavy Opinion, with your friendly bloke from the Land Down Under, Hev. Today I want to discuss the differences between the WWE Main Roster and the Black and Gold NXT and ask the question, What Was the Point? So please sit down, get comfy and get ready for another Heavy Dose of Opinion!
Recently WWE Superstar Toni Storm conducted an interview with WWE Deutschland where she spoke about the differences of working in NXT and working on the main roster of World Wrestling Entertainment. Storm made some comments that have really provided some light as to why some NXT wrestlers seems to struggle and fall way down the card, to the position of Cannon Fodder, while others succeed.
Toni Storm, who is a newcomer to the Smackdown Roster, stated in her interview that "everything is different", when comparing working in the old Black and Gold brand of NXT and working on the Main Roster. When asked by her interviewers to give some examples of the similarities between working in NXT and the Main Roster, she could not provide any insight about them. Storm followed up by explaining "The whole thing” is so different that she's currently going through a major adjustment period. Storm did state that the WWE Women’s Locker Room on the main roster has been very welcoming, something that she has been grateful for but for her to not be able to come up with one similarity between both experiences under the WWE really is a telling story about how the WWE system is in fact flawed.
It is quite clear from these comments that WWE do not run NXT and the main roster brands the same way. Surely it is counterproductive for the world’s premier wrestling promotion Sports Entertainment Company to run their product in such a way? Considering that NXT is essentially WWE’s Developmental Brand, which for those who are not in the know, is supposed to be used to hone new wrestlers superstars’ skills, characters and marketability to prepare them for promotion to the main roster. Surely, I am not the only one who thinks that a developmental brand or promotion should mirror what the main roster is doing, or more specifically, how they do it so the talent that moves through the system can hit the ground running. NXT, for all intents and purposes, should be mirroring the way things are done on the big stage because if they are not, then what exactly was the point of NXT if it's no use to the wrestlers superstars moving through the system?
So, one must ask themselves, where did it all go wrong with NXT? More importantly did it go wrong, or did NXT evolve into its own entity over time and moved ahead of the main roster products provided by both RAW and Smackdown? I think when you look at the purpose and then trajectory of NXT it is abundantly clear that NXT evolved into something more than a developmental brand when Triple H was given the job of running it. In my opinion, Triple H saw NXT as an opportunity to tap into something new, into something that WWE was failing to recognise, and that was the immense talent the Independent Promotions were creating throughout the American Professional Wrestling scene. Triple H took NXT and turned it into an edgier product filling the roster with notable wrestlers from the independent scene, and to be honest it was a success. NXT grew in popularity and became a well sought-after option over what many saw as a lacklustre main roster. I remember there was a time when NXT Takeover was more well received than Wrestlemania and that was due to the product that NXT was producing. You know you are doing something great when your product puts on a Pay Per View of such quality that it eclipses the biggest main roster Pay Per View of the year!
From there NXT continued to be the rogue element in WWE’s arsenal, it continued to pump out fantastic stars who put on some magnificent matches. Then talent got called up to the main roster and there was a lot of success, but for every Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks there is a Shinsuke Nakamura, Keith Lee, Karrion Kross, Shotzi Blackheart and Toni Storm. Then there is the likes of Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Kyle O’Reilly, and Bobby Fish who had no real interest in moving up to the main roster… some of which ended up deciding to not renew their WWE Contracts and went elsewhere instead of embracing the Main Roster experience. The fact that WWE’s development territory had talent who did not have any desire to move to the main roster speaks volumes about the main roster product in my opinion. It tells a story that the NXT talent valued the time they put into crafting their characters and moulding their careers and instead opted to remain under the guidance of Triple H and Shawn Michaels as they felt that NXT was providing them with the one thing that the main rosters were not providing… Freedom. That’s right kiddies, NXT gave their talent the freedom to experiment, the freedom to develop and the freedom to go out there and give the fans something that was a complete alternative to what Raw and Smackdown were providing. So, after thinking about this I stopped asking myself, where did it all go wrong with NXT and instead asked myself, why couldn’t WWE see the writing on the wall and evolve from the main roster level? Instead, NXT ended up becoming the land of wasted opportunities and got repackaged into a cheap rip-off of the children’s show Art Attack and early AEW Dynamite hybrid.
If you ask any long term, die hard wrestling fan why, you will more than likely get the same answer… Vince McMahon! The man who revolutionised wrestling and turned it into the juggernaut that is now known as Sports Entertainment… well from his point of view that is. Now I must give Vinnie Mac credit, all those years ago he had a vision and he worked hard to make that vision a reality. He created a HUGE boom period for wrestling in the 80’s, we saw the birth of Hulk-A-Mania, the birth of Wrestlemania and we even saw mainstream celebrities and the world of wrestling interact. Then things turned sour in the 90’s and Vince nearly lost it all, but then he created the Attitude Era off the ideas that were being represented by other people and other promotions and he saved his company from the brink of destruction, destroying his enemies, thus becoming the only mainstream option for fans to get their regular fix of wrestling Sports Entertainment. He essentially created a power vacuum that saw a lot of talent lose paid employment… but from that vacuum came the Independent Wrestling Scene where promotions like Ring of Honor were cultivating the stars that would become the future of the entire industry. Maybe that was Vinnie Mac’s problem, that the independent wrestling scene was created as the counterculture to WWE, it was created as an alternative, one that was very popular amongst die hard fans and now that counterculture has become extremely popular, he does not like that at all. So, if he doesn’t like it then why should he embrace it as the template for his development territory?
When it comes to the revamping of NXT, I don’t think we as fans should be worried or concerned about why or how did the original NXT fail, but more so about how or why the WWE failed the original NXT? What was the point in a developmental territory that did not prepare the talent for what was lying ahead for them in the big leagues of RAW and Smackdown? Some could argue that Triple H and Shawn Michaels were setting up the NXT talent for failure as they went against the grain, whereas some might say that Triple H and Shawn Michaels looked at current trends and saw what was popular and what was going to become popular in the future and decided to give the fans WWE’s version of just that, but with better production values. Why couldn’t RAW and Smackdown change the way they do things? Because they have a group of older men, led by a muscly, elderly man with a hard on for the past and jacked up wrestlers, sorry Superstars! That statement speaks volumes about the core issue here, that Vince McMahon for the genius he once was, is still stuck in the past with outdated thinking when it comes to booking top quality wrestling, sorry Sports Entertainment television. There is a reason why RAW and Smackdown became less popular over the years and NXT’s popularity rose and that is because NXT were providing a mainstream alternative of a company that they operated under. They were evolving with the times; they were looking at the future and were building towards it. The WWE will never go out of business, they will never be in a place where they will skirt the edge like they did in the mid 90’s, so for them to not take a risk and evolve with the times is completely mindboggling. This is a company ran by a man who bucked the trend in the 80’s and literally destroyed the old territories because he saw this industry going in a completely different direction and HE cannot evolve with the times so his company can continue to be the most popular product in the industry moving forward.
The fans are looking at alternatives, whether it be in the form of staple independent promotions like MLW, ROH, PWG, GCW or promotions like AEW or Impact who provide an alternative to the mainstream style of product, then there are the foreign markets that have gained extreme traction over the years like Japan with NJPW and Mexico with AAA and CMLL. The industry is no longer dominated by one powerhouse anymore, there are a lot of alternatives for fans to tune into now and for talent to find employment. The WWE has released a tragic amount of talent in the last two years, once upon a time that would have been career ending for a lot of those released talents, now it opens so many more doors to opportunities for employment and visibility, but it also provides opportunities for much needed freedom in how they move forward through their careers. No longer is being released from the WWE a death sentence, in fact in the latest round of releases several wrestlers (and I can now call them that) actually asked for their release a long time ago because they were not happy with the direction their career was headed in under the WWE umbrella. If your talent, no matter their position on the card, is happy with not taking a steady, and in some cases very handsome, paycheck to do the stupid nonsense you want them to do, then your company has failed. Your company is no longer the alternative that bucked the trend and evolved the business like it did all those years ago, it has indeed become the very thing it sought to break away from, an outdated template for how to present wrestling to the masses. WWE had an opportunity to evolve and thus connect NXT to the main rosters of RAW and Smackdown in such a cohesive way that if someone got called up, they had every opportunity to succeed instead of get branded with ridiculous gimmicks and constant burials until their stock was worthless. For Christ sake, WWE took Ricochet, one of the worlds most popular and talented wrestlers and just destroyed not only everything he had built in NXT but everything he built for himself Pre-NXT.
So, taking in all this information I ask myself What was the point of NXT? Was it a test for Triple H to see if he could hang after his “business” started failing? Was it truly WWE trying to create a proper development territory? Or was it WWE wanting a light version of the same old same old, but they got something completely refreshing and different, so they shut it down as it did not meet their desired expectations?
Please feel free to comment and share your theories below and until next time, this is Hev signing off on another Heavy Opinion… say Hi to your Folks for me!