As WWE celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Triple H‘s time in the company, it may be time to question his greatest contribution to the business — NXT. The brand that has for much of the past five years been the most popular in the United States has hit a crossroads they have not really seen before. Besides getting smacked by All Elite Wrestling in the ratings, the show has been somewhat dragging along in the past couple of months. There is a number of reasons as to why this is happening and thankfully for their case, NXT has solutions in its own brand. We explore the struggles of NXT and how they can take a step back in the right direction and kick off an R-Evolution once again on their own show.
When you say there are problems with any wrestling show, you tend to look at the bookers rather than the talent. In NXT’s case, it’s a combination of both. Not that they are in need of talent. That’s not the case at all. It’s not utilizing certain talent while overutilizing others to the max that the show becomes insufferable at times. Thankfully for NXT, the brand has plenty in place to fix their problems. But first, you must recognize what those problems are.
Problem: From Network To Television
The two-hour format for NXT was something that excited but scared people all at the same time. What made the show so unique was the one hour format. That one hour format did what the main roster shows couldn’t, which had their stars feel special. Gone are the days that Aleister Black appeared one time a month, as the same five continuously appear week after week with the specialness quickly going away. On that end, it’s no one’s fault but the WWE’s. But that doesn’t mean NXT automatically can’t be better because it is two hours. Cultivating stories and the right usage of the boatloads of talent they have contracted can lead to success once again. A lot of these problems seem to have an easy answer but will take the following two problems to be solved first.
Problem: Repetitive Main Event Scene
“Four years in the making.” This is the phrase that is listed on a WWE T-Shirt for the “final” match between Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano. Four years. Few people have been on NXT television for four years, forget being the center point for that amount of time. Ciampa was in the last two main events of TakeOver, with Johnny Gargano being in the three prior to that. The last time neither of these two was involved in the main event of an NXT TakeOver event was November 17, 2018, where the WarGames match took place instead of Ciampa’s NXT Championship defense. Before that, it was these same two going to war for months prior.
There is such thing as too much and then there is overkill. There is a plausible way to keep these two on NXT television and out of the main event without feuding with each other. NXT has plenty of talented wrestlers that these two can entangle with. It seems that could be the path they are on this time around, but realizing its been over a year since these two were not in the TakeOver main event is ludicrous. And if you want to keep WarGames events out of this, the last time the main event didn’t include either man was NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III on August 19. 2017. The same night our next culprits debuted and Drew McIntyre won the NXT Championship. They’re not the only main event problem either, but this problem can very well be the reason this brand is flat as can be right now.
A problem that was once the solution to the brand’s struggles.
Problem: The Undisputed Era
The Undisputed Era is neck and neck with the likes of Asuka and the two men named above as the greatest acts in the history of NXT. That is an undisputed fact. But what also is an undisputed fact is the fact that these four men have done everything that can possibly be done in the brand and has finally become a tired act in the standards of NXT. After a peak occurs, drop off follows. All four men became champions at the same time in 2019. Incredible really. That “Golden Prophecy” was fulfilled and NXT was firing on all cylinders heading into Survivor Series. Once that even ended and the titles began to fall off of three of the four men, it was time.
Yet, we sit here with Adam Cole as the longest NXT Champion of all-time and no end in sight with no guarantee of the next NXT TakeOver coming any time soon.
For most of 2019, The Undisputed Era carried the brand of NXT on their back to new heights, solidifying them as a third brand in the meantime. But there comes a time in everyone’s career that change is needed. When it comes to The Undisputed Era, it’s bringing themselves to a new brand and away from NXT. It’s that or break up, and most would agree that it is not at all the right solution for these four men. Shaking it up can help them, and more importantly, NXT. They have held all the gold, broke numerous records. It’s time for them to move on.
There isn’t one person or act that can save NXT from its flat feeling right now. However, there is a number of ways to change the platform that makes NXT worth watching week in and week out once again. People are going to blame the booking of NXT and rightfully so, as the main event scene is the key reason and those wrestlers don’t get there otherwise. That’s the reality of wrestling. So, let’s dig into solutions to save the plummeting NXT. A show that is almost on par with Monday Night Raw right now.
Solution: More Cruiserweight Inclusion
This plan seems to already be in motion. It still is a solution. Cruiserweights are what help some companies stand out by having bangers to open eyes and get the crowd going early on. Before NXT became what it is now, the Cruiserweight division was the perfect start in the early days of two hours. Giving the likes of Lio Rush and Drew Gulak 15-to-20 minutes to show the world why they belong. Right now, they have the interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship round-robin tournament going on and it’s the most cultivating part of their TV show. Looking at the separate story of Drake Maverick, the incredible in-ring abilities of newbies Jake Atlas and El Hijo Del Fantasma, and giving the likes of Akira Tozawa and Jack Gallagher a chance to awake themselves is what makes this great.
What can follow that is allowing these Cruiserweights like Isaiah “Swerve” Scott to enter into the mid-card picture as well. WWE has always had this problem of keeping the Cruiserweights at a lesser class from the rest of their roster while not explaining why others like Finn Balor can compete there but not someone like Buddy Murphy who is by all accounts bigger in size. A few cases of where this has worked is when Mustafa Ali originally appeared on SmackDown to face Daniel Bryan. He instantly was recognized and showed the world he can go with anyone. More of this in NXT can help the division itself and bolster their oftentimes weak mid-card.
Solution: Welcome New Main Event Players In The Form Of Karrion Kross, Keith Lee, KUSHIDA, And More
A lot of the problems in NXT right now come from the main event spot. It is the same people every single month, every single TakeOver. That needs to change and fans are letting them know. While Velveteen Dream is beginning to step into that spotlight, his throwing partner still remains one of the three men who have taken the spot for the past three years. New blood is a good way of saying whats needed in the main event. Karrion Kross and Scarlett Bordeaux seemingly are the perfect beginning point for this. Their combination is an instant top of the line act that can bring the fresh, new blood NXT needs. Kross’ over the top seriousness and riveting character next to Scarlett’s sultry yet powerful prowess make them the perfect leader to lead this new era of hope. “Tick Tock.”
After Kross comes a number of guys who have already shown their faces on NXT for months now. Keith Lee and KUSHIDA are instant thoughts. First, Lee was the hottest act in the WWE and really all of the wrestling world a few months ago. He won the NXT North American Championship because of his run but a step up to the main event should be in his immediate future. KUSHIDA was a king in NJPW before he took the chance to travel to the states and bet on himself. And as a shock to no one, when he is used, he’s among the best NXT has to offer. Letting him ride in the main event of NXT is something fans could absolutely get behind and it’d bolster the show while Ciampa and Gargano take on the mid-card and leave the main event to the new guys.
Other names to consider: Cameron Grimes, Dexter Lumis, Timothy Thatcher, Matt Riddle
Solution: Put Women Back Into The Main Event
You want NXT to be better? Let the ladies take the lead. If you have followed LWOPW for long enough and myself even, you know that we belive the women have been what makes NXT so good in the past six months to a year. But they have not been in the main event of a TakeOver since NXT TakeOver: Respect on Oct. 7, 2015. It shouldn’t take five years for this wave of women to be held back from the main event. This is the strongest it has ever been and that’s with the loss of Bianca Belair. That’s how much talent remains in the division. And to sweeten the deal, even more, the current NXT Women’s Champion is Charlotte Flair. While the talent that usually lies on the roster is more than enough to be in the main spot, “The Queen” can get them there if the others don’t believe it.
It was a number of weeks ago that they had a spectacular No. 1 Contenders ladder and it kicked off the show and played second fiddle to the long, drawn-out match between Ciampa and Gargano. If there is a spot to be had for anyone to change the shift in NXT’s funk, it’s for the women to take over the main event. Io Shirai, Tegan Nox, Dakota Kai, Rhea Ripley, Mia Yim, Candice LeRae, and so many more talented women are a part of the NXT roster and have the ability to take the reigns and be the best on the show. Add in Charlotte Flair to that equation and there shouldn’t even be someone asking the question if they can handle it.
If you want to be different from the rest, let the women shine for the first time in years. And not just with multiple women’s matches, but with the main event of the show.
It all sounds easy when it comes to “fixing” an incomplete NXT right now. There are a lot of moving parts that need fixing, but in time this show can be among the best again. NXT has gone through its times of flatness before which was followed by the best run they have possibly ever seen. Every brand, show, company gets it eventually. If they want to get back in the fight against AEW, it’s time to switch it up and use the solutions we have given here among others that people can still think of. Everyone wants NXT to be entertaining again. This is the way.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.