On the latest tapings for NXT which will run throughout March and early April, it was announced that at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, a ladder match will crown the first-ever North American champion.
Reading that news gave me a mixture of excitement and anxiety, as there are definitely positives and negatives that come about when adding a new title into the mix.
It’s always fun to see a big, sweeping change happen, but there’s always the risk that alterations can make things worse instead of better. You can never judge any of its merits until a while down the road when you can look back and really gauge how things were handled, but when things are first announced, you can at least start speculating on what this is all going to mean.
As such, here are my current thoughts of some of the pros and cons I can see potentially popping up with the addition of the NXT North American Championship.
Pro: NXT has a mid-card goal
Assuming this is going to act like the Intercontinental Championship and United States Championship operate, this would effectively be the true midcard title for the NXT brand.
This isn’t a necessity in my mind, but it’s something that could definitely be beneficial, as there are always talented individuals in NXT who aren’t able to reach that singular top spot.
Think back to previous rosters and the superstars who could have held this title: Tyler Breeze, Hideo Itami, Apollo, Tye Dillinger, etc.
Now look at the current crop of people who aren’t likely going to be prioritized in the next few months as the sole champion, but still have something to offer and could do well fighting for a midcard belt, like No Way Jose, Kassius Ohno, Fabian Aichner and Cezar Bononi.
Instead of NXT mostly revolving around the main title feud, the women’s title feud, the tag team title situation and a usual breakdown of one true extra program along with a random pairing (example, Black vs Dream and Kassius Ohno vs. Lars Sullivan, or Aleister Black/Adam Cole and The Velveteen Dream/Kassius Ohno), there could be something on the line with one of those two other matches.
Con: What if it’s just another United Kingdom Championship?
Instead of this being a true mid-card title, there’s a chance it’s just the second in a long line of location-specific championships that started with the United Kingdom Championship.
In that scenario, this isn’t something I can have a whole lot of faith in, as the UK title has been around for over a year and hasn’t made any real progress whatsoever.
Tyler Bate won it in the inaugural tournament, then faded into nothingness, only making rare appearances on NXT and house shows before dropping it to Pete Dunne in admittedly some of the best matches of the year, but Dunne has followed a similar path.
There’s no U.K. show revolving around this belt and if the North American Championship is just going to be something defended on a “once in a while” basis with no foundation to give it credibility, it will quickly mean nothing.
Pro: The first champion
Already, we can tell that the first person to hold this title is going to be bringing some kind of value to it, as the six competitors in the running to be the inaugural champion all have something to give.
Adam Cole was everyone’s guarantee for the person to dethrone Drew McIntyre the very night he made his debut, and it surprisingly didn’t happen at all, with Andrade “Cien” Almas taking the spot, instead. Since then, Adam Cole has been a featured player, but hasn’t been given the ball, and this was even alluded to with Pete Dunne saying Adam Cole hasn’t accomplished anything since coming to NXT. This could right that wrong and make all three members of The Undisputed Era champions (assuming Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly are still champions by the end of the night)
EC3 is an all-around super talented guy who could have been given the NXT Championship or even brought up to the main roster immediately and it wouldn’t have felt too strange. If he’s the one carrying this belt, it’s in good hands.
Killian Dain and Lars Sullivan are monsters. While Almas and Black are more finesse wrestlers, it would be interesting to see a powerhouse as the other champion on the brand to offset seeing the same style match for both titles. Since Killian Dain and Lars Sullivan both have great track records of being tough to beat, it would be fun to watch people step up to that challenge, whether they succeed or fail.
Ricochet comes into NXT with a ton of buzz about him being one of the most phenomenal athletes on the indie scene. While I don’t personally know too much about him, all that I’ve heard has been good, so I’m at least intrigued to see if he lives up to the hype.
Lastly, The Velveteen Dream has proven himself to be the best investment to come out of Tough Enough in years. He’s absolutely killing it in terms of his in-ring work, his character and his steady progress. This guy is a future star and any accolade that comes his way is certainly going to be well-earned.
Con: The name
While I’m sure some people will disagree, I’m also sure I’m not in a total vast minority by myself when I say that I’m not fond of the name North American Championship.
It’s flat and boring, and runs the problem of the territory-based idea that I’ve always had a problem with. If you’re the champion of North America, theoretically, only North American wrestlers should be able to fight you for it, you should only be able to defend it on North American soil, and so forth.
I’ve always preferred the style where if it’s a legitimate sport like MMA, you have weight classes, but if it’s professional wrestling and you want to bleed over different weights, you have a figurehead main event title (WWE Championship, not “World Heavyweight”) along with an ambiguous midcard title, a tag team title, and a women’s title. As such, I’ve never liked the United States Championship or the European Championship, but I love the Impact Grand Championship—minus the rules, of course.
When this story broke, I saw suggestions for alternative names which I found anywhere from better to much, much worse. The NXT Television Championship is okay in my book, but we can do better. The NXT Future Shock Championship is just a mouthful and too busy and 1990s for my tastes. NXT Prestige Championship is interesting, as was the idea of flat out calling the obvious and making it a silver medal with some kind of name that delineated that without actively calling it the NXT Silver Medal Championship. I’m not on board with the NXT Internet Championship or the X-Generation Championship (yeesh), so hey, it could be worse, right?
Unknown: Title Design
Without seeing any pictures of the belt, this isn’t a pro or a con yet, but I’d have to lean more toward the optimistic point of view right now.
While I don’t like the Raw or SmackDown LIVE tag titles in the slightest bit and I wish WWE tweaked the designs for the Universal Championship and some other belts, I do think NXT has amazing titles.
These revamped belts, along with the United Kingdom Championship, if you include that, are some of my favorite looking designs the company has put out in a long, long time, so if the people responsible for making those judgment calls are the ones crafting this title, it should look pretty awesome.
However, that’s an unknown right now, and it’s certainly a possibility that it ends up being something hideous and gaudy.
When push comes to shove, I can nitpick about the title name or worry about the potential that this might become obscure and meaningless, but I’m more inclined to see a bright future for the belt than anything else.
If WWE continues to keep NXT at the same level it’s been, where young talent can develop while outsiders can reestablish themselves as assets for the biggest pro wrestling company in the world, this will end up having a lot of great matches and superstars attached to it when we look back in a few years.
I’m excited to see who wins this title at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans and where WWE takes the concept following that, so now, the hard part is waiting to find that out.