It’s a question that seems to be in the whispers of the internet wrestling community: What happened to the NXT product?
After spending a few years as the premier place to see pure wrestling, NXT looks like they’ve lost a little steam. WWE‘s third brand has seemingly gone from groundbreaking to merely treading water. This is an odd perception, considering all the assets that the NXT product currently possesses.
There are a lot of positives for NXT right now. Since moving to Tuesdays on the USA Network, they’ve seen a boost in their average, weekly ratings. They have an intriguing champion in the multi-talented Karrion Kross. They’ve also got several talented veterans who have pledged their allegiance to the yellow brand. Stars like Johnny Gargano, Tomasso Ciampa, and Adam Cole have been stalwarts of the promotion.
Overall, it’s been a successful run for the NXT experiment. Over the past decade, they’ve provided the fans with a mix of magical matches and memories.
But today, the NXT product feels like it’s not what it once was. What used to be appointment television has become a ‘DVR and watch later’ situation. The level of competition is still there, but it doesn’t seem to have the same pop that it did in the past.
It’s almost as if NXT has lost a bit of its identity. And there are a few reasons for that.
NXT set the bar too high for itself.
At its highest point, NXT was stacked with signees that came from the top shelf. The biggest stars on the indy and international stage were signed one by one. Names like Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Samoa Joe put on instant classics.
While NXT quickly re-loaded with names like Ciampa, Gargano, and The Undisputed Era, they just haven’t been the same since their glory days. And that doesn’t even count the women’s division. While it has been good, it’s not nearly as spectacular as the era of the Four Horsewomen.
It’s like the NXT product is chasing the ghost of its former self. As their talent roster has been diluted over the past couple of years, so has the overall product.
The NXT product has now been overexposed.
When it was tucked away on the WWE Network, NXT seemed like a diamond within the sands of the desert. It was a treasure that you had to seek out, even when it felt like you were the only one watching.
Then word got around and NXT caught fire. It became the WWE’s most popular brand, and NXT stars who debuted on the main roster got mega pops when they arrived. Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Bayley, and the team of Enzo Amore & Big Cass are just a few names that come to mind. These stars would now be on the main stage, and they came in with a built-in background story. The WWE Universe was already familiar with them.
Unfortunately, that also meant that they had been seen a lot. And it’s gotten worse in recent years, as NXT continues to add more ‘special events’. So their prospects almost seem burned out by the time they make the jump to either Friday Night SmackDown or Monday Night Raw.
Case in point: NXT TakeOver used to feel like a must-see event. However, this weekend’s In Your House show drew a lukewarm response. Despite having a couple of premier matches, it just came off as more exposure for an already overexposed product.
When NXT unofficially became WWE’s third brand, they lost their luster.
Sometimes, it’s better off to just stay in the minor leagues.
When NXT was the Little Brand That Could, they filled a beloved role under the WWE umbrella. They were the underdog, the young guys who were putting out maximum effort. NXT represented the opposite of everything we disliked about WWE. While the main roster seemed to never shift forward, the kids on the NXT roster were always in fifth gear.
When WWE began crossing NXT talent over to Smackdown and RAW, it was to be expected. After all, the third brand was supposed to be there as a feeder system.
But when WWE talent started going “down” to perform on NXT, it suddenly didn’t feel like the black and yellow were in the basement anymore. NXT was now on even par with the blue and red brands, and above its UK counterpart.
This has turned out to be a bit of a double-edged sword. Unfortunately, while these moves put the division on a pedestal, they also made them ‘just like RAW and Smackdown’. Their styles started to blend with those two original brands, and some of what set NXT apart has faded away. Or, at least it’s been smudged.
That’s a shame because the chemistry that Triple H and company had there was once the best brand in all of pro wrestling. And even with their recent slippage, they’re still one of the gems of the wrestling world. They just don’t feel like that diamond in the rough anymore.
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