WWE NXT exists in somewhat of a paradoxical state. The in-ring product and storytelling is excellent and their Takeover specials regularly outclass any PPV that main roster can provide (Takeover: Brooklyn is one of the best major shows that WWE have run since Money in the Bank 2011).
Ironically, NXT has become the closest thing main roster WWE has had as competition since the Monday Night Wars of the late-90s, early-00s (TNA does not count). It has been hailed as the hardcore alternative to the more casual Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live, as well as being what WWE’s revival of ECW should have been.
However, that does not change the fact that NXT is WWE’s developmental territory, where future stars hone their craft in preparation for Monday Night Raw and SmackDown.
Unfortunately, in its current form, NXT is failing as a place where performers learn the WWE-style, rather being an independent promotion under the WWE umbrella.
There are many reasons for this disconnect between what NXT should be and what it actually is, but these four stand out as to why NXT isn’t doing its job.
1 Full Sail University
The problem with Full Sail University being the home of NXT is two-fold:
First of all, the atmospheric differences between the venue and the arenas that main roster shows take place in reflects the polarizing attitudes that the audiences have towards the talent.
The Full Sail crowd is far more hardcore than the standard main roster audiences. The fans often embrace unconventional gimmicks and characters out of respect for the performer's work. An example of that being American Alpha, who were one of the most popular acts in NXT just because of how good they were, while audience reaction to them when they were called up to the main roster was mild at best.
Secondly, due to Full Sail being the permanent home of NXT when it comes to TV, the crowd and the atmosphere remains the same, meaning the performers are less likely to learn how to adapt to alternative atmospheres in a televised environment.
2 Indie Darlings vs Homegrown Talent
As I have mentioned, NXT features excellent in-ring work and some of the best wrestlers in the world. What this means is that fans have been able to witness such mouth-watering contests as Finn Balor vs Kevin Owens, Finn Balor vs Samoa Joe, Samoa Joe vs Shinsuke Nakamura, Nakamura vs Bobby Roode and Bobby Roode vs Roderick Strong ALL in NXT.
However, the prominence of these names causes a problem with it being a place for homegrown talent to learn.
Each of the above names could have slotted directly onto the main roster as soon as they were signed if it wasn't for the WWE wanting to teach each man 'the WWE-style'. Bobby Roode, in particular, is tailor-made for the WWE and should be on Raw or SmackDown right now.
Unfortunately, the presence of such world-class talent as those that I mentioned means that the inexperience of the homegrown talent shines through even more. Talents such as CJ Parker, Bull Dempsey, Billie Kay, and The Authors of Pain have been exposed by the emergence of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Asuka, and #DIY.
As well as that, due to the high quality of matches and performances being put on in NXT regularly, the more inexperienced talent are expected to be able to live up to that quality straight away rather than having time to learn at their own pace.
3 The Creative Disconnect
It does not take a genius to recognize the disconnect in storytelling standard between NXT and main roster WWE.
On NXT, long-term stories such as Sami Zayn and Bayley's much-lauded arcs, and the rise and fall of #DIY are utilized due to the time gap between TakeOver shows. On top of that, character motivations are simple, logical and easy to understand without descending into the realm of soap opera.
On the other hand, main roster storytelling abandons reasonable character motivations and nuanced gimmicks for soap-opera tat in the name of sports entertainment. It is far more catered towards a casual audience rather than the hardcore fanbase that NXT superstars are used to. The storytelling is also far more short-term as a result of the PPV frequency.
As a result of this, talents such as the Ascension, Bo Dallas and, especially, Bayley have seen their previous stories and backstory reset to factory conditions.
While NXT storytelling is definitely better more often than not, the fact that it is a different style than that employed on the main roster means that talents that are over with the Full Sail crowd may not get as over with the more casual audiences.
4 Development in front of the camera...and behind?
In 2015, following the critically-panned Survivor Series and the record-low ratings for the following night's Monday Night RAW, former NXT Creative Assistant Rob Naylor went on Twitter to call for an overhaul within WWE Creative. His series of tweets raised an interesting question regarding just what sort of developmental NXT is.
While the talent in front of the camera are taught how to work in front of a WWE crowd, the question remains as to whether those behind the camera, such as writers, producers, agents, camera crew and others, are receiving training as to how to write in a similar WWE-style, and whether members of the creative team and backroom staff within NXT may also be promoted to main roster positions such as Ryan Ward, former NXT lead writer, was when he was promoted to SmackDown.
NXT is a terrific third brand and offers some of the best professional wrestling in the world. However, the fact remains that it is a developmental territory and, both in front of and behind the camera, NXT hasn't fulfilled its purpose as a place for talent to learn.
What do you think? Is NXT succeeding as a developmental wing of WWE? Sound off in the comments below!
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