By: Anton Ware
It is the brand that has been a game-changer for modern day professional wrestling. It’s become the place to be for young, rising talents and veterans alike looking to prove they can make it on the big stage. It’s also become a favorite for diehard wrestling fans looking for action-packed excitement and epic battles. That place is NXT, WWE’s developmental brand that showcases recently signed talent in attempts to prepare them for mainstream television.
Run by WWE Vice President of Talent and Creative Triple H, it once started out as a glorified reality show with little fanfare and has now transformed into a worldwide phenomenon. The characters, production, commentary, and big-fight atmosphere are just some of the factors that play into the success of the six-year-old promotion.
Originally, NXT was a competition-based reality show where several developmental talents would take part in not only matches, but challenges to test their physical and mental abilities. Keg carrying, an assault course, and a friendly game of "Rock em, Sock em," were some of the obstacles the wrestlers had to endure along with weekly eliminations. This would go on for multiple seasons as Wade Barrett, Kaval, Kaitlyn, and Johnny “Fandango” Curtis would end up being winners of their respective seasons.
On May 17, 2012, NXT shifted gears and became a weekly, episodic television show and replaced Florida Championship Wrestling as the sole developmental territory for WWE. From there, they would crown their first world, tag team, and women’s champion which laid the foundation for their first live special, NXT: Arrival on the WWE Network in February 2014. The event and specials that followed would become smash hits with critics and fans alike because there was an emphasis on match quality and its less-is-more approach within the show’s structure.
NXT also has the knack of not only making stars, but signing the hottest free agents in independent wrestling. Whether it's taking an unknown and making them an overnight sensation (Sasha Banks, Tyler Breeze, Enzo Amore and Big Cass) or bringing in a star with a massive cult following (Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, and Hideo Itami), the promotion has an eye for talent. However, one has to wonder if their streak of making and maintaining stars has come to an end?
Recently, NXT has gone through a number of changes within its roster. All three divisions have lost former champions due to call ups for the RAW and Smackdown Live! brands. Not only has former champions departed, but contenders have as well. Just in the women’s division alone, NXT has lost Carmella, Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax. Bayley, the biggest star of the NXT women’s division and former champion, became the newest member of the RAW roster last week to begin a program with current RAW Women’s Champion Charlotte. In a month’s time, NXT has lost four mainstays from the women’s division while current champ Asuka awaits her next challenger.
The tag team division also faced losses this year as crowd pleasers Enzo Amore and Big Cass received their call up the night after WrestleMania 32. American Alpha and The Hype Bros were added to the "Smackdown Live!" roster to deepen its new tag team division under the management of Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon. That leaves current NXT Tag Team Champions The Revival searching for contenders to challenge for their titles even though Johnny Gargano and Tommasa Ciampa gave them a great fight at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn two weeks ago.
Furthermore, the world title scene suffered as the face of NXT, Finn Balor was the fifth pick of WWE’s 2016 Draft and young upstarts Apollo Crews and Baron Corbin received call ups the RAW after WrestleMania 32.
So that again begs the question, can NXT maintain the star power that has been responsible for their success or will all the recent acquisitions for the red and blue brands be a step backward?
While the roster has taken some hits in 2016, they’ve added some notable talent to balance out the mass exodus of NXT Alumni. The biggest acquisition for the brand was the addition former New Japan IWGP champion Shinsuke Nakamura. Along with current Smackdown Live! star AJ Styles, this was seen as one of the major signings in WWE history as Nakamura brings in an extensive list of accomplishments such as prestigious tournament victories and an induction into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2015.
NXT also saw additions from rival promotion TNA Wrestling as former world champions Austin Aries and Bobby Roode aim to make their mark and add name value to the roster.
The brand has also made pickups from the independent wrestling scene as well. Standouts such as Rich Swann, TM-61 (the former TMDK), Johnny Gargano, Tommasso Ciampa and Ember Moon (the former Athena) are all looking to climb the ranks and become champions.
HHH, William Regal, and Gerald Brisco are always scouting for talent who have the potential to become big stars down the road. One of the most exciting things about NXT is that you never know who will come through the curtain during an event and when it comes to big time signings, the developmental brand doesn’t disappoint.
So what's your take Geektified family? How are you feeling about the current roster on NXT? Do they have the star power to keep things interesting or do they need to add more talent to keep the brand alive for years to come? If so, who would you add to the NXT Roster? Let us know in the comment section.
Thanks for reading!