Triple Z explains how NXT has dropped off since its incredible rise in November to now being on the decline in the pandemic era of wrestling.
NXT was once WWE's hottest brand. It was their best show. It had an underground feel, the best feuds, and stellar matches. Back in November, when the world was normal. NXT won WWE's Survivor Series event. Keith Lee became a megastar, Rhea Ripley was on the rise, Undisputed Era was still strong, and it seemed like the brand was legitimized as a true threat to the main roster.
Now let's fast forward to now. Things aren't so normal for NXT. A lot of NXT talent have overstayed their welcome and are now left with zero creative plans. NXT was built on cycling guys in and out. Once someone got over in NXT or had a title run their next step was the main roster but the "NXT on USA" era has complicated that. Both Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have been ready to move to the main roster even if they don't want too. Having Gargano and Ciampa fight for the millionth time in NXT left a stain on their incredible rivalry. The final fight was underwhelming and it has resulted in a heel Gargano that doesn't work at all and Ciampa with zero creative plans after jobbing out to NXT's only rising star Karrion Kross.
That was just one of the many reasons NXT has started to lose its luster. NXT wants to compete with AEW but they no longer follow the formula that made it the exciting brand in the first place. Cycling in and out talent makes NXT what it is. Yes, currently the indies don't have any big free agents but NXT is deep enough to continue creating new stars. I mean a prime example of not knowing when to move someone up is Velveteen Dream. He wasn't going to win the big one in NXT yet they kept him down there when in all reality he was main roster ready. Now Velveteen Dream is riddled with accusations and even if he is cleared his career trajectory will never be the same.
NXT's bright spot is its women's division. The women have the ability to carry the show, and it may be the deepest division in all of WWE. That is one thing NXT doesn't have to change. Its tag team division is non-existent. It's clear NXT just doesn't care about tag team wrestling anymore. Maybe they've given up on it entirely after having some NXT teams turn out to be duds. Outside of Karrion Kross and Scarlett. they haven't attempted to make anyone else into that next big NXT star. I believe this is due to the amount of NXT talent that is hanging around too long. You have Finn Balor who wanted to rejoin NXT but his run hasn't made a lot of sense. I don't think his run has benefited him or NXT in general. The only good thing Balor's return has done was making him a cool heel. Johnny Gargano is still there but he isn't the same Johnny Gargano that the fans fell in love with.
I feel like eventually NXT will embrace the cycling in and out again. They did it with Matt Riddle. They knew he was ready and there was nothing left for him so they moved him up. Yes, there is also a downside to the cycling as it sometimes creates issues for the talent who move up too fast. Prime example is EC3 being called up too fast and never doing anything. The NXT to main roster transition is crucial for talent and if it isn't planned out well the results can be disastrous. It may also be a reason why Triple H is holding onto his prospects so tightly.
NXT has some talent that in a normal world, this era of NXT would be headlined by the likes of Dominik Dijakovic (not in the shadow of Keith Lee), Cameron Grimes, Dexter Lumis, Bronson Reed, Damian Priest, Isaiah "Swerve" Scott, and Kushida. These guys all appear on NXT but they don't appear as the NXT stars like the past generations of NXT. They haven't had the time to really shine yet because there is just too many guys. All of these guys have been underutilized but that's not their fault. It's because NXT stopped their cycling which makes things feel stale after awhile.
Like it's cool to think of NXT as a show with a ton of talent and things should stay fresh right? But that just isn't the case and after awhile that excitement dwindles and people want to see new wrestlers and some of their favorites move on to new things on the main roster.
There is still time for the pivot. NXT could finally move Ciampa, Gargano, and the Undisputed Era up. Have Keith Lee have a swan song against Karrion Kross, and move him up too. I think right now the main roster could always use the talent. NXT just doesn't work as a long term brand for talent. It's a stop in the road. That's what makes NXT different from RAW, SmackDown, and AEW. NXT already has a couple disadvantages when it comes to competing with AEW, and it may get to a point where they are just happy to be stealing eyeballs away from the competition.
Not to mention, not even a heated feud between Pat McAfee and Adam Cole would make NXT better right now. I don't think that would move the needle. Even though Cole's blowup on McAfee was super good. At the end of the day like most wrestling shows during the pandemic I think NXT struggles without the crowd at Full Sail. When you take out the crowd it's just a blank arena. Their competitor on Wednesday nights has the better set-up by far.
I still love NXT so don't get me wrong. I'm also excited to see how the road to NXT TakeOver XXX goes. I just hope we see NXT of old shine through again. It's just sad to watch WWE's once hottest brand fall so flat in order to compete against another wrestling company. It doesn't even matter if NXT wins in the ratings war. I care about the overall show. Keith Lee vs Adam Cole was one of their biggest matches in history but in the end that didn't make us tune in next week or the week after. I still believe in the fact that the only competition NXT should have is WWE itself. This may be the thought of NXT of old but I go by the old adage of "if it ain't broke don't fix it."
Creator of ZWrestleTalk. This page I give you my thoughts on the current state of the WWE product. I look back at the history of WWE. Sometimes even predict the future. If your lucky you get comedic articles too.