Last week we looked at the things that NXT is doing wrong, but even in that article, I said that Wednesday nights are my favorite night for wrestling for a reason. This week is all about what NXT and AEW are doing right. There are a lot of reasons to tune in to either AEW or NXT each week, and we're going to be looking at the top five for both promotions.
Starting with NXT. The black and gold brand over on the USA is consistently giving fans something different from the rest of the WWE product. Edge made this clear in his appearance on NXT last week when he said that Raw and SmackDown are all about the "E" while NXT focuses on the second "W." While this has been true for quite some time, NXT has begun to come into its own and find its niche among Raw and SmackDown. Sure it's still "sports entertainment," but it brings something different while still having the production value of the mainstream. So all of that being said, let's look at what exactly NXT is doing right.
5. The Capitol Wrestling Center
Since being unveiled at TakeOver 31, the Capitol Wrestling Center has been the primary home for NXT. While it doesn't have the grand scale of the Thunderdome, the CWC doesn't feel like how the old performance center did back in the Spring and Summer of 2020.
The Capitol Wrestling Center feels authentic to NXT. The space is intimate like Full Sail Live, but lively like NXT fans are known to be. Also, the CWC has one thing that the Thunderdome doesn't, and that is a live in-person audience. Honestly, the CWC has the perfect set up for wrestling during the pandemic era. This is a massive asset that combines the necessity for social distancing with the feel of a much larger crowd than they can currently accommodate.
4. Men's Title Scenes
Not just the NXT Championship, but the North American and Cruiserweight Championships as well. These title scenes are the healthiest that they have been in a long time. The cruiserweight title scene has built up names like Jake Atlas and Isiah Scott without the title even having to change hands. Guys like Damian Preist, Johnny Gargano, and Kushida have been making the North American title one of the most sought-after belts in NXT, even during the short absence of Finn Balor and the NXT Championship.
Up and down the card, there are solid challengers for each prize in NXT, and while that could sometimes lead to a crowded roster, NXT has struck a balance and really made each level of competition feel competitive. When the top prize of your brand has at least three very legitimate challengers, you are in a good spot.
3. The Champions
Whether it is Io Shirai, Johnny Gargano, Santos Escobar, or Finn Balor, every single NXT single's champion is a top star for the brand (not to mention the massive champions over on NXT UK). Regardless of promotion or brand, these champions are at the top of their games and represent some of the best wrestlers in the world. NXT has a knack for picking out the stars of the future and giving them momentum right out the gate, and this current batch is no exception.
Last week I discussed how the Women's title scene needs a little bit of work, but with some work in that area and the already mentioned stellar title scenes for the men, NXT has the next generation of massive stars prepped and ready to go.
2. New Talent
If you remember last week's article, you know that I mentioned that the perception of NXT as a developmental brand is something that is holding them back. Well, the developmental aspects of NXT work as a bit of a double-edged sword. NXT typically gets newer talents before either Raw or SmackDown, and while that can mean some matches aren't at the highest level, it also means that some of the hottest talents of the independent scene, as well as stars from smaller promotions, are able to boost the overall talent level on NXT.
Talent like MSK (FKA Impact Wrestling's "The Rascalz"), Gigi Dolin (FKA Priscilla Kelly) have recently been able to give boosts to their divisions while still being technically "in developmental," the same goes for major breakout stars of the last year or so like Shotzi Blackheart. The revolving door of NXT helps to send stars off to greatness while allowing new stars to cut their teeth in a mainstream setting.
Last week I also proposed that WWE use the EVOLVE brand to help develop new recruits who aren't quite ready for the stage that NXT could provide, and I still stand by that. I just think that it is important to acknowledge that NXT's unique position can be a blessing and a curse depending on how you view it.
NXT's TakeOvers (and to a lesser extent special event episodes) are almost always guaranteed to give us incredible matches and major story moments that remind us why it is we watch wrestling. Even during the not so stellar pandemic era, TakeOvers have been something to look forward to. This year alone, fans got to watch Kyle O'Reilly take on Finn Balor, a triple threat for the NXT Women's Championship and two fantastic WarGames matches. TakeOvers give wrestling fans the kind of matches that we talk about for years after.
Even during years where the NXT roster felt less than stellar, TakeOver provided must-watch matches. If NXT was forced to survive on only one of their strengths, there is no doubt that TakeOver would be the force that keeps this brand relevant for years to come.
So there is my list of 5 things that NXT is doing right. If you think I'm being too positive this week, feel free to go back and check out last week's article. If you want to tell me about your favorite thing about NXT that I missed, tweet at me @robbydeshazer!
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