Who is winning the Wednesday Night Wars? Part Three: NXT
When NXT Wrestling first aired from 2010 to 2012, its format was akin to reality television, where rookies taken from WWE’s development promotion FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling) would compete in a series of challenges to earn a spot on the main roster.
in August 2012, WWE closed the doors on its Tampa, Florida development promotion. Moving to Full Sail University, a training facility in Winter Park, Florida, WWE re-branded the development promotion under the NXT banner. After that, the show did away with the reality show theme altogether, and became a Raw or Smackdown-like showcase for the developmental talent.
Although a number of current WWE superstars cut their teeth in NXT (most notably Seth Rollins, the first NXT grad to win the World Heavyweight Championship), it wasn’t until 2014 that NXT really started to get serious attention from audiences and industry analysts.
With three big live events under their belt, a touring schedule, and their current champion Kevin Owens making waves on the main roster, NXT is becoming a major force to be reckoned with.
exclusively on WWE Network
commentary team: Rich Brennan, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton
running time: 52 minutes
first aired: February, 2010
- Enzo Amore, Colin Cassidy & Carmella vs Blake, Murphy & Alexa Bliss. Amore gets pin after spike splash from top rope.
- Samoa Joe cuts promo on Kevin Owens.
- Finn Balor video package: his childhood, early days of wrestling, his relationship with Becky Lynch.
- Charlotte vs KC Cassidy. Figure eight leg-lock secures submission victory for Charlotte.
- Dana Brooke cuts promo on Charlotte.
- Kevin Owens (c) vs Samoa Joe – non-title match. Goes to no contest, the two brawl post-match.
What the show does well:
- Authority figure. William Regal has been the acting general manager on the program for the last couple of years and plays the role beautifully. Occasionally, the role of authority figure can become inflated, the character invading too much on the spotlight normally reserved for wrestlers. Regal is unobtrusive in his role as boss, interjecting only when it is called for, issuing whatever statement as concisely as possible, and removing himself once again to allow the stars take over. He also seems without bias, concerned only with the welfare of his roster, the rules, and the enjoyment of the fans.
- Public relations. Being a development brand at heart – even if the trend is edging more and more towards being a stand alone indie-style promotion – the company works hard to put a human face on its roster. The back story of every wrestler is given illumination, underlining their strengths, goals, and inspiration. With NXT expanding in popularity and taking the show on tour, more time now is spent chronicling the talent’s interaction with its enthusiastic fan base. Unlike other promotions, the performers are kept off pedestals, their characters designed to be accessible. The effect is a stronger crowd connection and the common spectator’s increased emotional investment in the company and its stars.
What the show does not do well:
- Consistency in working ability. Being essentially a training ground for young, inexperienced wrestlers has the drawback of not exhibiting the most exciting, interesting or innovative matches on a nightly basis. The show did not start garnering legitimate acclaim until the roster became stacked with talent like Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn, and more recently Kevin Owens, Hideo Itami and Finn Balor – independently and internationally renowned wrestlers with careers spanning over a decade. This amalgamation of experienced, skilled wrestlers with rookie performers makes for a drop-off in match quality.
- Consistency in promotion. Much like the variances in talent and ability, there is a stark inequality in the efforts to get over characters. For some performers whom the company decides to back, like newcomer Dana Brooke, much time and energy is put towards developing her persona. Conversely, if a wrestler holds the position of “jobber”, they are denied even the honour of a proper introduction, often times leaving the viewers at home unaware of the performer’s name. Most likely, the reason for doing this is to prevent the audience from developing an association with that wrestler, so that when (if) their time comes for a push, the company can create a new persona for that performer without having to contend with any that came before. Although it makes sense from the promoter’s point of view, it prevents the audience from developing a connection and caring about the outcome of the match.
- Legitimacy. Although the performers possess undoubted talent and determination, and although the company is putting forward increased efforts to establish themselves as an entity, the promotion still lives with the stigma of being a place for amateurs. The knowledge that the entire show is comprised of development talent in the process of auditioning, in essence, makes more difficult the suspension of disbelief needed to invest in the narrative.
NXT is going through a transitional phase. A company who began by showcasing homegrown talent is more and more recruiting established talent like Rhyno and Samoa Joe to legitimize their roster. Whether this helps to bring up new talent faster, or whether it only succeeds in widening the divide between superstars and jobbers remains to be seen.
With a touring schedule pulling many of its top stars from television appearances, the company’s weekly programming has dropped in quality, often lacking a substantial main event match. With the increasing prevalence of their NXT: Takeover cards, they are showing signs of booking towards the live events instead of towards television, which also decreases viewer enjoyment.
If NXT wants to expand as a company and gain more exposure for its roster, it is making some good moves. Unfortunately, those moves are detracting from their weekly television program, which in turn hurts the company.
Is the promotion growing too quickly for its own good? Will it eventually decide what type of company it wants to be? When it does, what will that company look like? Will it eventually move beyond being a “development league”, and will a new development league be instituted to replace it?