Reports have confirmed that Vince K. McMahon isn’t best pleased with how NXT has been performing in the ratings war as of late. Viewership numbers have been consistently lower than AEW: Dynamite on a weekly basis, despite NXT’s best efforts to put together marquee matches for their top talent and even bringing in some spanking-new stipulations to tantalise our taste-buds. Something just isn’t clicking for NXT at the moment, and now that Vince’s ire has been drawn, something needs to drastically change.
In my humble opinion, TV ratings are a thing of the past. I’d wager that a vast majority of NXT fans tune in via the WWE Network instead of watching it live. AEW relies entirely on television broadcasters, therefore will only lose out a smaller portion to streamers and DVRs. If WWE were to consider the amount of viewers they receive through their on-demand service, then chances are things will look a little less bleak for the black and gold brand.
Regardless, perhaps there is something that’s in need of an overhaul, so let’s consider a few different ways that NXT can change things up to respond to these trying times and attempt to net a few more wins in the Wednesday Night Wars.
For a start, Vince McMahon’s usual response to poor ratings is to up the star power, whether that be through nostalgia acts, new signees or by shoe-horning himself into various storylines. This is something that NXT can easily achieve with their incredible alumni of talent that are either hitting their stride or looking for creative ideas on the main roster. Bringing back former NXT champions and headlining talent could go a long way in bringing back some intrigue. It did wonders for the likes of Tyler Breeze and Finn Balor, so what about guys like Aleister Black, Sasha Banks or even the current Universal Champ, Drew McIntyre.
Seeing former NXT stars dip their toes back into the fray would help satisfy those fans that are disappointed with how their favourites have been treated on RAW and SmackDown Live. It could also go a long way in bringing back some honour to their careers; Bo Dallas, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, all former NXT champions that have been left to sink in the choppy depths of the main roster.
If NXT truly is considered a third brand of WWE, then there should be no qualms with relinquishing some main roster talent to help bolster the ranks of their divisions. Some superstars are obviously better suited to the more mature, hard-hitting environment, so let them return to that and allow them to become the shining megastars that they’re destined to be.
Even looking elsewhere for new talent could help increase ratings for the foreseeable future. NXT has had a successful history in recruiting global talent to either put over a burgeoning performer or to create an extra layer of blockbuster attraction for an upcoming TakeOver special. Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger brought his services for a one-night-only appearance for NXT back in 2015. He fought Tyler Breeze in the opening contest of TakeOver: Brooklyn and the wrestling world was buzzing. It made NXT look like the place to be, something that they sorely need to be seen as once again.
I’m not saying Liger should be yanked out of retirement this soon after his emotional farewell in January, but worldwide attractions like Blue Demon Jr, The Great Muta and Doug Williams could help bring a new level of unique experience to an NXT card, while bringing new eyes to the product from all corners of the world. This could help build new relationships between NXT and other independent brands, allowing for more newcomers to carve out a path of their own into the mainstream and help make WWE seem more indie-friendly.
As I mentioned earlier, one of Vince’s greatest tactics when in the weeds is using his own character to help revitalise TV content. ‘The Chairman’ is undoubtedly one of wrestling’s greatest gimmicks and still holds a very special place in the hearts and minds of wrestling fans. Seeing Vince show up one week on NXT TV to announce that he’s taking over in his own way, or even shutting the brand down, would send shockwaves through the WWE Universe, giving plenty of fans reason to tune in live to see what the heck is going to go down with Vince in charge.
Using that tongue-in-cheek humour that is slowly infesting WWE programming, Vince could run things in the way that every ‘smart’ fan expects him to, bringing in his own adonis-looking superstars to run roughshod over our favourite indie darlings and re-shaping NXT under his own image. A band of rebels led by none other than Triple H himself could lead an uprising against Vince and his cronies, making for a civil war between the stars of NXT.
I can’t imagine a more exciting storyline to take NXT into a new era. Without trying to make it sound too corny, this could go a long way in giving NXT that edge they need over AEW. Once again, Vince himself could turn the tides of the ratings war and give AEW a run for their money.
Although in the meantime, NXT need to start working on their variety, using the full range of their roster to the best of their abilities to keep NXT fans invested in the product and making it the most exciting TV to watch in an age where there is too much wrestling to watch. One way to achieve said variety is to continue exploiting and experimenting with the many different match stipulations available.
NXT as a brand have never shyed away from adapting an older concept to appeal to the modern masses. Not only has the WarGames spectacle undergone a massively successful revival but we recently saw an innovation of the MMA cage-fight brought to life during the conclusion of the Matt Riddle/Timothy Thatcher mini-feud. NXT have done a great job at building hype around these special match types and could easily do the same with some other tried and tested stipulations used over the years.
Need us start pitching potential matches to be used for Triangle TLC matches, Death matches or another twist on the classic Steel Cage. NXT have a fantastic roster with plenty of creativity between them to create something special in one of these matches. Any of the aforementioned stipulations could easily sell a TakeOver or episode of NXT TV, just watch how the ratings poor in if they were to confirm a modern-day version of one of our favourite match types.
NXT have plenty on offer to help rejuvenate their viewership, it’s just a matter of when rather than if. Vince McMahon may have the highest of expectations for the former developmental brand, but surely if any team of wrestlers and backstage producers are going to be able to pull things back in their favour, it’s the guys and girls behind NXT.
What would you do to help boost ratings? Would you bring in any new or old faces? Let us know in the comments below.
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