We’ve had the pleasure of NXT for a few years now, and there’s no doubt it has helped WWE considerably with talent development. When the company used FCW and OVW as development territories, they focused more on creating new stars instead of poaching big names from other promotions. They weren’t interested in guys like AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe, and even Daniel Bryan, as WWE seemed content in pushing John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, and Brock Lesnar to prove they didn’t need anyone to make future Hall of Famers.
This helped companies like Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, New Japan (and others), because they got to keep their big draws as talent didn’t expect much interest. On occasion, wrestlers like AJ & Samoa Joe would poke the bear and talk down WWE’s product on live episodes of Impact. They wanted to prove they were the present & future, and many fans will agree WWE took too long in signing them to a deal. Vince was stubborn, at least til Triple H took over NXT and signed future stars like Seth Rollins, Corey Graves, Adrian Neville, and Sami Zayn. We all know it didn’t end there; since 2014 it’s felt like a never-ending revolving door of surprise appearances.
I’d like to stay neutral on the subject of NXT’s rise today. On one hand it’s absolutely amazing for WWE and it’s fans, but if you’re an outside promotion or someone who only supports said promotions, you might feel mild discomfort for its appeal. My aim is to bring you arguments for and against’, so it will be like I’m debating with myself on this topic. I feel like the pros are more obvious, so I’ll start with them and end with the cons. I’d like to stress I am a big fan of NXT, but I also support other promotions (with varying degree) so please don’t see my cons as burying NXT to seem controversial.
1. Important Stage of Development – Likely the most important impact NXT has had is the way they develop talent. Young aspiring people can make a name for themselves and get advice from some of the biggest legends to ever grace a ring. The Performance Center is a place many want to get to, and when they do make it .. they’ll either sink or swim. I feel like NXT is easily the best development territory WWE has ever made, and the investment has paid off. They get the chance to work hard and get in ring shape, while also getting educated on the WWE style, which has a lot to do with cameras and using them to express yourself to a global fanbase.
However, the most important part of this development is finding the person’s character. Having appeal and being able to provoke reactions (good or bad) are highly sought after. You could be the best wrestler in the world, but if you can’t pick up a microphone and sound convincing .. you ain’t getting far in NXT. It’s a lot more than making good wrestlers, they train you to be a long-time WWE superstar. Characters have a lot more freedom in NXT, they’re able to experiment and see what does and doesn’t work. Only through experience and experimentation can a character become polished enough to work in a main roster setting. Vince does not like to be put in a position where it’s risky to have someone out there who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
Sometimes it’s not about having to develop a character, as it is to take a character which got over elsewhere and teach them how to adapt it to a WWE environment. NXT has managed to teach guys & girls who worked in wrestling promotions, how to cut back to basics and make it more about telling a story, instead of going gung-ho every night for the sake of a 5-star rating. It’s painful to see some of these amazing wrestlers have to limit themselves in a wrestling capacity, but at least they manage to get a job and show the world who they are.
2. Opportunities Galore – Because NXT has to book cards to accommodate to those being promoted to the main roster, and those who have recently signed, the roster is constantly changing. Inevitably it leads to more opportunities to succeed. Stick around long enough, and you might find you’re a Bayley or a Tyler Breeze, long-time NXT superstars who simply must be given something. You could be someone who was on the main roster in mid-card hell, left WWE, made a name for yourself elsewhere, then decided to join NXT to prove you can be the number one guy. That’s Drew McIntyre by the way, if I didn’t make it obvious enough.
Whether you’re a young kid, or someone who’s done it all before, you could be an undefeated Women’s champion like Asuka. You could be a couple of young guys from the UK who get chances to fight for the WWE UK title at NXT Takeover specials. Even if you don’t go on to succeed, just appearing in matches on NXT gives you a selling point. You can go to ROH and say “I worked in NXT for a few years”, and they’ll probably take you. Just being associated with NXT gives you opportunities, even if you don’t do well and have to return to the independent scene. So whether you sink or swim, signing a contract with NXT will give you opportunities down the road.
3. We! Are! N! X! T! – The way NXT is able to get the fans behind the product is leagues ahead of Raw or SmackDown LIVE. You get fans who are proud to say they are NXT. You won’t hear many fans say they would cry in happiness to be at Raw or SmackDown LIVE. The atmosphere generated by Triple H and NXT is something which really, really helps the talent. Just look at 205 Live .. those crowds are dead. It’s not just about the talent, it’s the way the show is presented. It’s a mindset which you have to stick to, you have to keep reminding the fans how great they are, and how great the product is because of them.
It has to be like a family, you have to treat the fans like they are brothers & sisters, and the talent flourish in this environment. They are genuinely happy to be in front of the NXT fans, and there’s no better example of this than when Asuka said goodbye to NXT. Like I said at the start, there’s no media in this piece, but if you really want to see an example I suggest finding her NXT farewell speech so you can begin to feel what NXT means to the fans and to her.