NXT’s Massive Problem Is Harming Its Future

Bayley and Sasha Banks
Image Source: cagesideseats.com

On August 22nd 2015 at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, we witnessed a monumental match between NXT Women’s Champion, Sasha Banks, and challenger, Bayley. It was an incredible spectacle with an emotional climax which saw fan-favourite, Bayley, crowned champion for the first time. The fans went crazy for her. It was a truly satisfying moment for every fan who had followed Bayley’s career since her NXT debut 3 years earlier.

When we were first introduced to Bayley, she was a childlike, puppy-eyed fangirl who was just excited to be in the ring with the other women she respected and looked up to. She seemed awed by her position and was more likely to try and hug her opponent than to try and beat them. She lacked any kind of killer-instinct.

What followed was three long years of character development. Bayley was beaten up. She was betrayed by her friends. In a sense, she grew-up right in front of us, and at Takeover: Brooklyn she showed it. 3 years of overcoming obstacles. 3 years of getting knocked down and coming back stronger and smarter until it all paid off.

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But NXT, despite now being a fairly major brand in its own right, is still the developmental territory for WWE. It was only a matter of time before Bayley was ‘promoted’ to the main roster and anyone who has been paying attention since that happened can see that something just doesn’t seem right. She has had her moments on Raw but, despite currently holding the Raw Women’s Title, her character isn’t anywhere near as over as it was in NXT.

The problem, as I see it, is this:

Most WWE fans don’t watch NXT. This means that, when a character moves from NXT to the main roster, the writers have to re-introduce them to a new, bigger audience. This causes a problem, because for some wrestlers (like Bayley) a major part of what made their character popular was the journey they took to make it to where they are now. So when a wrestler like that debuts on the main roster, they are suddenly thrown in-front of an audience who knows nothing about their journey. All they have is a big reputation and a character that often seems underwhelming to the majority who don’t know how that character was formed.

American Alpha
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Another example of this is American Alpha. They just don’t seem to be as popular with the mainstream crowd as they were in NXT. That’s because the majority didn’t watch Jason Jordan flounder in purgatory since 2012. A guy who clearly had something but couldn’t quite figure out what it was, he was a jobber for a while, then he worked with all manner of different tag-partners and for years it just wasn’t working. Then he teamed with Chad Gable and everything clicked into place. The two of them tore the tag division to shreds and when they finally won the NXT tag-titles Jason Jordan openly wept with joy because his years of hard work had finally paid off – that is why the journey is important!

Fortunately for some wrestlers, the journey is less important to their character. Kevin Owens, for instance, landed in NXT with minimal backstory and got over immediately. He did the same thing again on the main roster thanks to some good booking and his incredible performance skills.

Kevin owens entrance
Source: Bleacher Report

But just because it doesn’t affect everyone, does that mean it’s not a problem? It doesn’t mean that some fans still aren’t being robbed of an integral part of the wrestling-fan experience.

Imagine for a second Stone Cold Steve Austin debuted in 1991, his character fully formed and ready to go, but you didn’t know about his journey.

You didn’t know about King of the Ring ’96. You never heard the ‘Austin 3:16’ promo. You never saw the match with Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13. Do you think for one second that, having missed all of those moments that were so crucial to making Stone Cold’s character what it would eventually become, you would have cared half as much about him? Do you think he would have made it to the dizzying heights he reached?

I’m not so sure.

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