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Posted in: My Two Centsss
My Two Centsss - The NXT Brand has Peaked, but the Quality is Still There
By Super Chrisss
Mar 13, 2017 - 11:58:38 AM

Tom Jenner rocks!

With it being WrestleMania season and all, I figured it would be an appropriate time to talk a bit about the brand that stole all the thunder from last year’s ‘Mania: NXT. Although both WWE and NXT are owned by the same people, many viewers felt like they were watching two different wrestling companies last year in Dallas. While the WM32 card was overly long and didn’t feature a single match out of nearly a dozen that was four stars or higher, TakeOver: Dallas featured three Match of the Year contenders which were accompanied by two other compelling contests. It was almost universally agreed upon by WWE fans that TakeOver: Dallas not only put WrestleMania to shame last year, but was also the best Pay-Per-View of 2016 from top to bottom.

However, TakeOver: Dallas was the peak for the NXT brand. Shortly after that amazing show, WWE began to raid the NXT roster’s talent pool, as NXT staples like Enzo & Cass, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, and 85% of their women’s division found themselves as Raw or SmackDown superstars by August 2016. Thus, NXT had to rebuild. New stars were pushed in every division. No Way Jose, Tye Dillinger and Bobby Roode all found themselves in the main-event or in the cusp of it; DIY and The Revival became the new anchors of the tag division; meanwhile, Asuka remained the top (and only) draw of the women’s division while newer faces like Ember Moon, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce were slowly built up to prominence. Despite boasting a ‘thinner’ roster, TakeOver: San Antonio delivered yet another amazing show.

Unfortunately, with WrestleMania three weeks away, NXT fans are worrying that their beloved brand will once again be reshuffled as many of their favourites get the call-up to either Raw or SmackDown next month. Many people (myself included) will be shocked if we don’t see the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, The Revival and/or Asuka on the main roster in April. Any and all of these losses would have a significant impact on NXT as every one of those wrestlers have produced numerous MOTY candidates since their respective debuts. NXT has sadly never hosted a show in my hometown of Montreal and a card without the above wrestlers would feel empty, quite honestly.

The good news is, I’m here to tell you that when – not if – NXT loses their top players in the not-so-distant future, NXT will still be enjoyable. Hell, it’s still a great product. I’ve seen many people complain that the brand lacks depth and quality. I counter those claims by asking if they were watching NXT pre-Dallas. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that NXT (and their TakeOvers) were featuring guys like Mojo Rawley, CJ Parker (remember him?) and Bull Dempsey. Hell, Bo Dallas was so hated as NXT Champion that half the arena would literally turn their backs on him during his matches as a sign of protest. That’s right, the top champion of the brand was so despised that people wouldn’t watch him wrestle, regardless of his opponent. Fast-forward to 2017 and we have Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura and Kassius Ohno in the world title picture. What’s not to like?

I know a lot of people still aren’t sold on the new tag team champions, The Authors of Pain, but once again, it wasn’t that long ago the NXT tag team picture consisted of The Lucha Dragons, The Vaudevillains and Blake & Murphy (remember them? They’re actually still employed!). I’ll take the current tag team division consisting of The AOP, DIY, The Revival and Sanity every day of the week, thank you very much! What’s not to like about those teams and their resume of matches so far?

As for the NXT Women’s Division – I’ll give you that one. But to be fair, the NXT Four Horsewomen are a ‘once in a generation’ pool of talent. NXT had a goldmine with those four around and WWE was wise to extract them for a bigger stage as quickly as they did. That being said, the current crop of NXT women wrestlers has plenty of potential. Ember Moon will undoubtedly carry the brand once Asuka leaves for the big leagues, but her supporting cast are far from terrible. I’m a huge fan of The Iconic Duo, but especially Peyton Royce. I haven’t been as insanely attracted to a WWE performer since Maria Kanellis was around. I also think wrestlers like Liv Morgan and Aaliyah can get over with more TV time as well. It will be damn near impossible for NXT to emulate the era of the Four Horsewomen, but as long as the women are still putting on good matches alongside their defined personas, what’s not to like?

If there is one complaint I have with the current era of NXT, it’s that they no longer have main roster members return to work a few sets of tapings and TakeOvers. Sure, the now medically-cleared Finn Balor made a dark segment appearance a few weeks ago and got physical with Bobby Roode, but I miss the days when lower card stars who were ‘lost in the shuffle’ on the main roster temporarily relocated to NXT. Look how Tyson Kidd revitalized his career and got himself over by spending some time in NXT. Even guys like Cesaro and Zack Ryder were working both NXT and WWE full-time to much success. I want to see more main roster stars follow that successful formula. We got a taste of that last week when TJ Perkins wrestled a one-off against Nakamura in the main-event, but it appears that was simply a one-off. I’m sure many fans would rejoice if Roman Reigns went back to NXT, but that’s obviously not going to happen. It would be interesting to see someone like Dolph Ziggler join the brand to ‘stop’ the new era from even making the main roster. That would make for both an interesting storyline AND give NXT some star/drawing power.

I admit, NXT may not be in the amazing shape it was exactly one year ago, but it’s far, FAR from broken (no Matt Hardy). Once you see the final TakeOver: Orlando card, you will be very excited to see that show, trust me. Triple H himself may have publicly stated that he’s not happy with the current state of NXT, but that’s because the roster lost too many key players all at once. Even the people they were grooming to become the replacement stars for the brand (Apollo Crews, Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, etc.) got called up as well. When you lose both your starting line-up and your benched players, it’s hard to keep a smile on your face. I think NXT both is and will be just fine; people need to stop over-reacting. Like I said earlier, even the ‘golden days’ of NXT advertised someone like Bull Dempsey for a match at TakeOver. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather watch an Authors of Pain match over one that features “Bull-Fit”.

With all the apathy from hardcore fans heading into WrestleMania 33, can NXT steal the weekend from the main roster for the second year in a row? They sure as hell can. I’m excited to see Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose vs. Baron Corbin and Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton in three weeks, but I’m also eager to watch Ember vs. Asuka, DIY vs. AOP vs. The Revival, and whoever competes for the NXT Championship at TakeOver. Let’s stop comparing TakeOver: Dallas to the current NXT for a moment and just appreciate the talent that is still there. I know I will.


YOUR Two Centsss: Are you still invested in NXT? Why or why not?

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