I’ve been covering NXT on the Wrestling Headlines YouTube channel for a few months now, but this week it really hit me…
Incredibly Inconsequential In Comparison
One year in to the Wednesday Night Fun Times and we’re now reaching a point of AEW’s longer term, consistent character storytelling really starting to pay off. Over time we’ve become more and more invested in these characters, their relationships, their ups and downs. Just look at the Hangman Page and Kenny Omega arcs. But the wrestlers aren’t characters in WWE, they’re brands… and when compared to their competition, that really aids in making them feel hollow as hell.
NXT was always that in between ground from WWE to the rest of wrestling, a stronger indie style paired with the longer gaps between quarterly TakeOvers. Meaning they automatically told longer stories, hitting an absolute high point in the Johnny Gargano & Tomasso Ciampa feud as the arc spanned their entire career in the yellow brand to that point.
A place where brands were established, but you still got long term narratives with incredible blow off angles.
Since moving from the WWE Network things have gradually changed however, for me the TV era of NXT has seen so many of its previously praised qualities fade away. To a point where I can now honestly say I couldn’t give less of a crap about TakeOver: War Games.
A show that has fully fallen into the main roster gimmick PPV trap of: it’s that time of year. We’re not talking main roster bad, at least NXT were aware of the show’s presence and planned arcs in advance (*cough cough* Survivor Series outta nowhere). But it’s all just been so formulaic this year, we’re not entering War Games because it’s the only way to settle an out of control rivalry, but because it’s November.
What may not have helped is the increased number of special episodes like The Great American Bash and Halloween Havoc, WCW names of old carted out in the spirit of competition. Delivering exciting episodes of television, but in doing so the longer form builds NXT were praised for have somewhat been thrown out the window.
We’re closer to single month builds, or creating that main roster feeling of seeing the same matches repeated as feuds continue to flow between TakeOvers. Like with the North American Championship, instead of two Gargano & Priest matches over three months, we’re now at three in three AKA we’ve seen it every month! And you can bloody guess what the Royal Rumble TakeOver match will be.
The fatigue of repetition creeping in, one my biggest pet peeves with the main roster as we watch a world where the same few wrestlers face each other over and over, and over for months on end. It’s not that horrific in NXT, but we have just seen three bleedin’ ladder matches in the space of a month. After this week I never want to see one again!
I jest, but come on mate, could you calm it down with ladders a tad?
However, all of this is in comparison. NXT has its problems, its Cameron Grimes vs Dexter Lumis arc that feels like it’ll never end – as we hit a match every month with that one as well. But those negatives particularly stick out to me when directly opposite competition that simply doesn’t book repeat match-ups on its telly show. There hasn’t been one repeat title match, nor a single occasion where we got the same match on back to back weeks.
And you know what? That works wonders to keep the show fresh, you never fatigue of a rivalry as they constantly interact with other people. NXT used to feel alive to me, but in this TV era I feel it shifting more and more towards ‘that’s how wrestling telly is done’ when in reality that’s just how WWE do it. These aren’t wrestling telly’s tropes, they’re WWE’s and AEW is proving it.
I’m done with Grimes & Lumis, I’m done with Gargano & Priest and I’m done with feckin’ ladder matches.
The one absolute stand out is NXT’s women’s division. Week in and week out some of the best wrestling on television comes from those women. As long as we’re doing comparisons, they smash AEW’s out of the water. It’s not even close. Yeah they signed up a lot of the talent, but more importantly they’ve used them so damn well. The only match I’m even a smidge invested in for TakeOver is the Women’s War Games match, an absolutely stacked bout in an incredibly diverse division.
So many different styles gelling together incredibly well: be it Raquel Gonzalez and her Big Mamma strength, Io Shirai’s strikes and athleticism, Dakota Kai’s sneaky baddy-ness or Rhea Ripley’s hoss of a megastar in the making. NXT filled out their 8 competitors for War Games with leftovers to spare, every one of them feeling on a title contender level and that deserves real praise.
All that said, Winter Is Coming really brought the feeling home for me, particularly when compared to Halloween Havoc rather than NXT’s serving of nothing in defeat from this week. One showcasing the benefits of true long term writing, the other the entertainment you can have on a night of fun pops.
Winter Is Coming will stay with me, rewarded my investment and promised something more in the process. Halloween Havoc was just a fun night, not going to remember it but I enjoyed myself enough to give the thing a thumbs up. Can you see why NXT is starting to feel hollow?
The yellow brand moving to TV hasn’t been the ultimate doom prophesised, the show isn’t just another RAW or SmackDown, but the influence is certainly present. They deserved to get slaughtered in the ratings this week, going in to War Games with zero buzz is a bad sign and AEW is already reinventing whilst NXT feels like the same old hat.
This isn’t my: why I’m stopping watching NXT piece. But more from a fan who tunes in every week, who wants to see the show I’m there for improve. There are multiple factors at play, but maybe the most blatant one of all is why the show will only continue to feel inconsequential in comparison: I’m comparing AEW’s main roster to WWE’s developmental.
The difference is with time consistency grows, trust in the storytellers and investment in the characters. Because of that NXT has that massive issue of being a feeder system, a place to learn, grow and ultimately leave for the real deal. It feels wrong when talent doesn’t move on, eventually reaching a Johnny Gargano point of fatigue when an awesome talent has done everything there is to do.
AEW can take as long as they like, hell they even waited over a year for Kenny Omega to ‘actually arrive’ for the promotion. NXT doesn’t have that luxury and as time progresses, I fear they’ll continue to get hit with that problem. As more and more viewers become invested in Dynamite’s arcs, NXT increasingly feels just as short term buzz as the main roster did to them.
Outside circumstances are obviously a massive factor, but NXT’s starting to feel old hat. AEW’s driving forward with change, it’s up to them to adapt or get left behind… and currently it’s the latter.
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