The NXT that we all knew and loved is gone – but will the new version be better or worse?
NXT was one of WWE’s greatest creations. Not the game show version but the revolutionary alternative to RAW and SmackDown. NXT created a groundswell of support and evolved into a movement. Even though it was under the WWE umbrella it seemingly stayed off Vince McMahon’s radar, until now.
While we now have a new logo and theme for the brand, the rumours and reports of drastic changes and a complete overhaul coming to the brand were all but confirmed by Nick Khan.
Khan sat down with Ariel Helwani and spoke about NXT’s upcoming shift:
“We are doing a complete revamp on NXT, led by Triple H, who is really one of the architects of the original NXT. What we found, what we want to make sure is easy for folks who want to be WWE Superstars is figuring out how to become WWE Superstars.”
“In terms of an NXT re-brand, look for it in the next couple of weeks. It’s going to have a whole new look, it’s going to have a whole new feel, and we believe, because of a lot of the indie wrestlers, if you will, have come through our system and are in our system with SmackDown and Raw now. We don’t want to just keep doing that same thing, we want to look elsewhere for great, young talent.”
Following the new logo reveal and theme by Wale, here are three changes we want in NXT and two we don’t.
5. Changes We Want – Go back to an hour-long show
Over the last year or so the NXT product was greatly altered as it went from a one-hour pre-recorded format to a two-hour live show.
The move was made as the promotion went head-to-head with AEW on a Wednesday night. Unfortunately, the change was not for the best and the reactionary booking resulted in the product suffering because of it.
As a one-hour NXT was a fun and fast-paced show chock full of fantastic action. The superstars, matches and storylines rotated fluently keeping the show fresh and unrepetitive. The move to two hours stopped that as NXT attempted to move away from the developmental side and establish itself as its own brand.
The result of such a transition? NXT lost its purpose and therefore its identity as a true alternative to WWE’s main roster shows. Pretty much from the start, bad booking habits from the main roster seeped into NXT. Storylines were crammed together and no longer allowed to grow organically or have time to flourish.
No longer were stars “called up”. Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa and Adam Cole were now the top guys and they weren’t going anywhere. This, in turn, created a bottleneck at the top of the card and halted the growth within the undercard. The roster, the storytelling and the product became stagnant.
A return to the one-hour format would allow the programme to find its feet once again, grow storylines, and characters before hopefully thriving one again.
4. Changes We Don’t Want – More releases
Never before in the promotion’s history has WWE released so much talent. The most recent slew was received as a huge cleansing of NXT wrestlers. What was very surprising was the inclusion of former champions, regularly used and talent in the involved in current storylines.
Surprise gave way to shock as it was clear that those making the cuts had no idea or (even worse) no regard as to where the talent lay in NXT’s future plans.
Apart from WWE cutting those they don’t see fitting their new agenda, a callous precedent is now set and a feeling of unease now surrounds the brand.
3. Changes We Want – Cut down on the number of titles
NXT is suffering from the same thing RAW and SmackDown are, which is too many titles. The men’s division has three singles championships and the tag titles. The women’s division has the women’s championship and tag titles.
The NXT Women’s Champions are (and not through the fault of the holders) worthless and realistically should have never been introduced. Since their inception, the titles were mishandled. For example, the women’s Dusty Classic winners received an opportunity for the WWE Women’s Championships, which they lost. The NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships were created almost as a booby prize, which the winners then lost on their first night in their first-ever defence! In the short month history, the titles have changed hands four times. Add the to the fact that NXT only has one or two female tag teams and the problem becomes obvious.
The North American Championship on the other hand was created as a mid-card title during a time when the roster was bursting with talent and has seen some great champions. The title has an incredibly high legacy but recently waned to the point that holders in the last few months are no longer with the company.
After thriving and then languishing on 205 Live the Cruiserweight Championship was brought to NXT to liven up in title and give the show a new element. However, despite several exciting champions, the title has lost its power and relevance quickly and has, unfortunately, become another unnecessary championship on the show.
The multiple titles muddied the NXT waters and brought forth a lack of focus within their respective divisions. Therefore, freeing up the brand from these unnecessary championships would allow it to get back to basics. One championship, one goal.
2. Changes We Don’t Want – Random “call-ups”
Arguably one of the things that may have soured NXT in the eyes of WWE’s higher-ups is the number of unsuccessful call ups. Numerous acts were plucked from NXT before they were ready for the “big time”. Names like Andrade, EC3, Lars Sullivan, Ricochet, Bobby Roode, Apollo Crews, Ember Moon, Ruby Riott, The Viking Raiders and Aleister Black to name but a few have either floundered on the main roster or been released.
One could argue that Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, and even Finn Balor have struggled to find their groove on RAW and SmackDown.
The recent NXT call ups of former champions Keith Lee and Karrion Kross, two wrestlers one would expect McMahon to love, have been handled poorly from their respective debuts.
This regular failure of NXT stars being unable to fit into the main roster system has put a dark cloud over the yellow brand and is seemingly one of the main reasons for these scheduled changes.
1. Changes We Want – Get out of the CWC
One of the most jarring aspects of the Wednesday Night Wars in the throes of the pandemic was the aesthetics of both NXT and AEW. AEW used Daily’s Place, which was much more visually pleasing to the eye. Add that to the fact that they used wrestlers as the fans made for a much better and familiar viewing experience.
NXT on the other hand were in the adapted Performance Center. However, they did change things up with the introduction of the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC). The CWC brought a new edgy look with wire fencing around the crowd and screens to enhance the wrestler’s entrances and promos.
But the visual began to wain and fans experienced fatigue from seeing the same thing every week. Even with fans back it still feels little league compared to the rest of the wrestling shows out there.
It was the same problem they had with Full Sail. The university campus was home for NXT since the beginning. The intimate venue was a part of the show with their ravenous support of the product. However, the small 400 capacity building grew tiresome and made NXT somewhat stale.
New venues each week would bring back a rejuvenated aura to the show while fresh fans bring passion and excitement.