WWE is set to undergo a huge change in the coming weeks as it prepares to re-enter a brand split era.
Raw and SmackDown are set to go up against one another with distinct rosters and live TV slots, which will drastically change the face of WWE as we know it.
However, whilst it’s clear that Raw and SmackDown will be two separate brands come July 19th, what about the show that has been dubbed WWE’s “third brand” for months now, NXT?
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What began as a reality-style TV show, has erupted into a weekly TV show with some of WWE’s most popular stars, and the ability to attract high-profile talent from around the world. NXT has become one of the most popular and highly-rated wrestling shows in the world, revitalising WWE and providing an entirely new generation of top talent for Raw and SmackDown.
NXT has had a unique roster, setting and championships since its inception, so, in essence, it has been a brand all along. However, it has always carried the label of “developmental system” and so has never really been treated as a brand on the same level as Raw and SmackDown, more of a feeder system.
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However, following the latest NXT Takeover special, WWE COO and one of the founders of NXT, Triple H, gave an interview in which he addressed the future of NXT.
He said that the title of the show, 'The End', referred not only to the feud between Samoa Joe and Finn Balor, but also the end of NXT as a developmental system. Instead, he said that NXT would be focusing instead on being treated as a complete brand, something that is particular interesting considering the direction in which WWE is currently moving.
With Raw and SmackDown set to become distinct brands, the question arises as to whether NXT will continue as a developmental system, or be treated as a third, distinct brand.
Whilst on the surface it seems like a brilliant idea to make the incredibly popular NXT a brand, there are a couple of issues that WWE would have to address before they made anything concrete.
Firstly, the titles on NXT would have to be considered. The current format on the main roster seems to indicate that the WWE World Heavyweight Championship would be the top title, defended across both Raw and SmackDown. If this is true, then what happens to the NXT Championship? Would it remain the top championship exclusively in NXT? Would it be considered a world title in the same league as the WWE Championship? Would it be abolished all together, with the WWE title being defended on NXT too?
All these questions apply to the other NXT titles and all need to be answered before WWE can even think about making NXT a proper brand.
Keeping the belts active would present numerous issues; would the NXT Championship be considered as prestigious as the WWE title? Highly unlikely. If the title did survive, it’s likely that it wouldn’t be considered as highly as the current world title, which would make NXT itself feel less prestigious, negating the point of making it a brand in the first place.
Keeping the NXT title but changing NXT to a brand would essentially be reverting back to the years when ECW was a brand in WWE. It was, essentially, a brand, but it was never taken as seriously as the other two, eventually leading to its titles becoming meaningless. Since NXT is so beloved by much of the WWE universe, this would be something everyone would be keen to avoid.
Location of NXT
Also, location would be an issue should NXT be elevated to a position of a third brand. NXT is currently recorded at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida, a venue that holds roughly 400 people. When you consider that the average Raw crowd has several thousand fans in attendance, this is extremely worrying.
One of NXT’s defining traits is Full Sail University and the love that the local fans have for the show. Removing this and making NXT go on tour would make NXT feel less special. Seeing the superstars of NXT compete in the same arenas as Raw and SmackDown would make the show feel awfully homogenised, something that would rob NXT of a lot of what makes it so popular.
Whether WWE do make NXT an explicit third brand remains unknown, but if they did, they’d have to do it very carefully.
NXT at the moment seems to be a winning formula, and while it might seem like the most natural thing to advance it from developmental to a third brand, maybe WWE should look at how good NXT is now and seriously think about whether they want to risk ruining it for the sake of having a third brand.
Should WWE make NXT a third brand alongside Raw and SmackDown? Or should they keep it as a development program? Have YOUR say in the comment section below!