NXT has had to call an audible for their upcoming TakeOver special in Tampa. Instead of building to a huge, star-studded card for WrestleMania weekend, NXT have scheduled a TakeOver card to be featured across the next few weeks of NXT TV.
This is an admirable response to the growing pressures of the global pandemic; instead of outright postponing the show and losing momentum with certain programmes, NXT are using the hyped matches as the main-event draws for their weekly broadcast on Fox Sports and WWE Network. It’s time for NXT to start clawing back some of those ratings in the weekly battle with AEW’s Dynamite, what better way to achieve that than with some must-see TV?
Personally, I’ve really enjoyed a renewed investment in NXT TV. For a while, there was rarely a reason to tune in to NXT each week; most matches were used to enhance certain talent as they progressed towards the next TakeOver event, which at times could be months apart from one another. Granted, occasionally there’d be a match or two worth checking out, but ultimately you could get the same experience by just checking out the condensed video-packages during the TakeOver pre-shows.
Rather than putting all of their eggs in the TakeOver special basket, NXT should learn from their surge in popularity and feature blockbuster matches more regularly. This week’s episode saw the first of the scheduled TakeOver matches given ample time and a brighter spotlight than they would have potentially be given if they were sharing a card with the likes of Ciampa/Gargano and Adam Cole/Velveteen Dream.
The North American Championship triple threat between Keith Lee, Damien Priest and Dominik Dijakovic was an absolute barn-burner; a showcase of the high-spots these big lads have become best known for. The North American title scene has been on absolute fire since Keith Lee defeated Roderick Strong in January. His previous TakeOver title fight with Dijakovic stood out as one of the show’s highlights, giving this fantastic triple threat with Damien Priest enough of a big fight feel to become a viable main event.
Arguably, every match on a TakeOver card can serve as a satisfying main event, that’s the beauty of the TakeOver specials. But now that they’re being forced to be separated, it allows for fans to appreciate the superstars’ efforts a lot more than they would have when their matches are followed up by other matches that meet the same standard. At least now, NXT fans won’t get burned out on top-quality wrestling and each division can be equally as important as the next.
It’s giving me similar vibes to that of Lucha Underground. More often than not, LU’s weekly episodes were headlined by different wrestlers competing in different storylines, keeping the show feeling fresh and adding an almost infinite depth to their roster. It was the closest a wrestling promotion has ever come to making every performer seem like an individual superstar; akin to the WWF’s roster during the late-90’s/early 00’s.
Allowing even the undercard performers to gain some main-event experience can bring out the very best from your roster. It also gives a more natural feel to the card, if fans are getting behind a certain performer, then let them run with it, don’t relegate them to a certain place in the show. LU’s ability to put the spotlight on wrestlers that weren’t exactly the most assuming on main event characters, was a huge key to their success. Wrestlers like Son of Havoc, The Mack and the dynamic lucha trio of Fenix, Drago and Aerostar all found themselves at the top of the card on several episodes of LU, despite not being champions or involved in the top storylines.
NXT could easily start building bigger feuds and bigger superstars by not relying so much on these blockbuster TakeOver events. Of course, even LU had the odd ‘special episode’, Ultima Lucha became a four-part special that acted as a season finale, they also occasionally built towards a certain ‘event’ like Aztec Warfare. These are necessary to maintain interest in weekly TV, but it shouldn’t be the focal point of every episode for weeks prior, that’s when you lose my attention. NXT could have similar ‘event cards’ that feature one, or maybe two, special gimmick matches – a Royal Rumble or multi-person ladder match, for example – but the current model of one big match per card is a fantastic way of building the whole roster and fan interest.
I’ll be keeping a keen eye on NXT going forward, hoping that we’ll be seeing similar TakeOver-style main events on Fox Sports more often. Next week’s ‘One Last Beat’ between Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa should be an absolute classic, a sure-fire ratings swinger in NXT’s favour. As the Wednesday Night Wars rage on, NXT needs to start adapting to the times and keep their weekly show more attractive than that of TNT’s Dynamite.
What are your thoughts on NXT dropping TakeOver specials in favour of bigger NXT TV episodes? Let us know in the comments below.
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