2016 seemed like it was pretty big for NXT, Samoa Joe won the NXT title, then Shinsuke Nakamura came in from New Japan and then HE won the title. A bunch of NXT guys came in which was big news, and a bunch of NXT guys finally made their way to the main roster. It was glorious, and not just Bobby Roode; it looked as though times were good for NXT. But then things went, to quote Doctor Venture, down the drain faster than an unwanted pregnancy on prom night.
But it’s a new year, yes it is, and it’s time they stepped up their game. “But how!?”, I hear you cry. Well stop crying, because we’re going to take a look at what NXT need to do to improve themselves in 2017.
The women’s division
Not too long ago, NXT had a great women’s division. Bayley and Sasha Banks had the match of the year back in 2015 when they stole the show at TakeOver: Brooklyn. 2016 saw Asuka winning the NXT Women’s title from Bayley at TakeOver: Dallas. It was a big shock and made for a great feud – can Bayley get the belt back from Asuka? Will she end Asuka’s undefeated streak or will Asuka remain dominant? If you didn’t already know, it was the latter.
But now there is nothing really going in NXT’s women’s division; it’s now RAW and Smackdown’s women’s divisions. Becky Lynch, Carmella, Eva Marie and Alexa Bliss all went to Smackdown while Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Dana Brooke and Nia Jax are on RAW. Sure, most of them deserve to be on the main roster and they’ve paid their dues in NXT, apart from Alexa, Carmella, Nia and Dana.
Now they’re all great, but they were never as big as the likes of the Four Horsewomen, three of whom became Women’s Champions in NXT. Alexa and Carmella were great, and I thought they were going to replace the Horsewomen as the top female stars in NXT, but no, they went straight to the main roster not having won any title belts. Nia was booked as this unstoppable monster but couldn’t even win the belt from smaller athletes, and Dana Brooke was called up before she could even get good enough to be considered for a title shot.
What NXT are left with now are mostly former jobbers like Liv Morgan and Aliyah, both of whom continue to act as jobbers to Billie Kay and Peyton Royce so who cares about them? And developmental workers like Daria Berenato and Mandy Rose who have to improve a lot before they can be considered championship contenders. Then there’s Billie Kay and Peyton Royce who seem to be doing well in NXT, but quite frankly they’re very boring in the ring – they’re nowhere close to the likes of Women’s Champion Asuka. The closest to the title is Ember Moon; she’s by far the most entertaining and talented out of the lot of them, and, if she’s booked well, next in line for a Women’s title shot. Which brings us to Asuka.
Asuka is a great wrestler, she can work great matches with pretty much anyone and comes across as a legitimate badass who will kick your ass for real. The only problem is she’s too good, and no one comes close to her level. This is why NXT had to bring back Mickie James for one more match, and to be fair it was a pretty damn good match.
So with the way things are with the women’s division, what’s the next logical step? Well, I mentioned before in a previous post that what they need to do is build up the new women’s division, but that won’t be a quick process, it’ll probably be next year before the likes of Billie Kay and Peyton Royce are ready for title shots, and as much as I love Liv Morgan’s wrestling, the way she’s been booked to lose to these two boring workers, it’ll be 2019 before she’s ready for a title shot. The same goes for Aliyah, and then there’s the new women that I previously mentioned, which also includes Nikki Cross – they’ve yet to get over. The thing is it’s hard to get new stars over when you only have one hour worth of wrestling to do it, and most of that has to be dedicated to building up the TakeOver specials.
What NXT need to do is bring in some new but already established women. And guess what, they are! Indy favourites and Chikara regulars Kimber Lee and Heidi Lovelace have been signed to developmental. Kimber Lee, who is the only woman to win a World title in a major wrestling company (Chikara) has already debuted on NXT TV, while Lovelace has yet to appear. In my opinion, and I am biased, both are ready for NXT already, they don’t need to go to the Performance Center, but in saying that I understand that WWE likes to train wrestlers how to work their style of slow matches (which is why the Cruiserweight division sucks), but hopefully we see them debut soon. Not only will it be a breath of fresh air but they’ll bring with them more fans (hopefully).
Stop pre-taping events
Have you ever noticed how hot the crowd are for shows early on and then they stop caring shortly before TakeOver events? It’s because that same crowd have just sat through months worth of shows and they’re all tired and bored, that’s why.
NXT pre-tape their shows, which really hurts them for several reasons. Firstly, the aforementioned reason of the crowd just not being into it hurts it. They have to sit through such long shows that, by the end of it all, they just want to get home. And it’s not like sitting through a long show, because you’re not, you’re sitting through loads of little shows. Shinsuke Nakamura is injured only to make his big return…30 minutes later. The fact that most of the crowd are almost silent throughout shows, with only a vocal minority actually reacting to matches while the rest of the crowd just post spoilers, really effects the show. Silence in wrestling is death – imagine if the crowd were just silent during the last WrestleMania.
But they aren’t entirely to blame, like I mentioned earlier, someone will be injured and then make their triumphant return later on in the night. If you watch the shows each week, it’s a surprise, but if you’re at the show, or you read the spoilers, it’s not. Remember how WCW used to read out WWE spoilers during Nitro, the most famous instance being when viewers changed channel to see Mankind win the WWE Title? That’s because RAW was recorded months in advance. And on top of all that, you can only see the same match several times a night and still care.
What NXT really need to do is to stop taping months worth of shows in one go. They can still pre-tape shows sure, but don’t pre-tape them months in advance, do it a night or two before the show is due to air. I’m sure the way they do it now is cheaper, but it’s hard to care if the people who are watching the show LIVE don’t even care. Then compare that to the reaction from the crowd during live events, like the ones we saw during the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
Also, on the subject of spoilers, WWE.com need to stop posting NXT spoilers. I assume it’s to combat random fans or sites posting spoilers themselves, but it really does ruin the surprises. Chris Hero has returned and it looks as though he’s going to be feuding with Shinsuke Nakamura, I know this not because I was there, but because WWE.com went and spoiled it. They did the same when Mickie James was announced as Asuka’s mystery opponent, only it wasn’t a mystery because WWE.com announced it themselves a few weeks before.
Stop changing titles so often
Remember when Samoa Joe won the belt from Finn Balor? Yeah, would have been nice to have seen that match instead of just highlights of it. Why just highlights? Because it was taped at an NXT house show instead of at a weekly show or a TakeOver show. At first I thought this was a last minute decision to get the belt off of Finn so he could move up to the main roster, but that just didn’t happen. So if they had planned to give the belt to Joe why didn’t they do it at TakeOver when more people would see and remember it? Maybe it was to boost interest in NXT house shows, but still, this is the NXT Championship and it was a match a lot of people didn’t see.
Joe successfully defended his title only once however as it was hot shotted to Shinsuke Nakamura. This made sense, Shinsuke is the hot new star in NXT, the new kid on the block, so why not give him the belt? But he proved to be the worst NXT Champion thus far by losing the belt back to Joe on his first ever title defence, something which happened to no other NXT Champion ever.
What was the point in that? Shinsuke ended up looking like shit after having beat the crap out of almost everyone on the NXT roster beforehand. But wait, it gets worse, Joe lost the belt back to Shinsuke only fourteen days laters in Japan. What was the fucking point in that?! Was it just so Shinsuke can win the belt in Japan? Why not just have him defend the belt in Japan? Imagine if they took the Women’s Belt off Asuka, ending her title reign and undefeated streak, just so she could win it in Japan? I mean, TM61 didn’t win the Tag Titles when they were in Australia!
What all this does is devalue the belt, and I’ll admit, it’s not as bad as the Intercontinental Title is right now, but if this continues, it’ll get there. The thing to do to make a title valuable is to give it to one guy and keep it on him, because that doesn’t just make the belt more valuable, but it makes whoever’s got it more of a star. Shinsuke needs to keep the belt for a long time, upping the belt’s value as well as his worth, making him a big star and making the fans eager to see in move onto the main roster when he finally loses the belt, and imagine how much of a star the guy who beats him will be after having done so.
more homegrown NXT stars
NXT is supposed to be WWE’s developmental brand, but in recent years it’s seemed to be more about bringing in indy guys. Today NXT’s roster is made up of mostly former indy guys, and it’s always been that way.
Talents like Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Xavier Woods, Neville, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch are all doing well on the main roster, and that’s not to mention that Sami Zayn and Apollo Crews and other people aren’t doing as well. Sure, there are talents like American Alpha, Enzo & Cass, Charlotte and Big E who are both doing well and homegrown NXT talent, but if you look at the current NXT roster, and ergo tomorrow’s RAW and Smackdown rosters, you’ve got Andrade Almas, Asuka, Hideo Itami, TM 61, #DIY, Shinsuke Nakamura and all of those former TNA World Champions.
Notice anything? That’s right, all these guys are already established in other companies, most of them being indy companies. It’s true to say that NXT has sort of become the place where you can see all your favourite indy wrestlers in one place week after week. It’s like some guy’s downloaded 2K17 roster. In fact, out of all the former NXT Champions, only two of them have been homegrown NXT talent (Big E and Bo Dallas).
I understand that WWE want people to wrestle their own slower style, but all of these guys don’t need developmental. They’re already great wrestlers and they are more than capable of going straight to the main roster and bypassing NXT altogether. Meanwhile, there are people like Liv Morgan, Blake & Murphy, and Elias Samson who are all homegrown talent but haven’t been properly pushed. Liv has been used as a jobber even when she should have be the future of NXT’s women’s division, Blake & Murphy have always been boring and need work, and as for Elias Samson? Well he could do with a gimmick change (like Becky Lynch did when she first came in) and he still needs some work.
There are homegrown NXT talent who have gone over, like The Revival and Tye Dillinger. There’s also Authors of Pain who are looking to be the next Ascension, and No Way Jose, who is very entertaining. What NXT need to do is to focus on these guys more than they do and give them the time and effort they need to get over. Just look at the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. We saw guys like Riddick Moss, Tino Sabbatelli, Otis Dozovic and Tucker Knight, guys who already look promising and have the ability to get over. All they need is a little work, same goes for Patrick Clark and his new Prince gimmick.