NXT is growing exponentially as the most exciting content in WWE today. It is supposed to be the developmental brand for new superstars to grow, before promotion to Raw and Smackdown.
However, in the past year or so, ever since the release of the WWE Network, the NXT brand has become more and more popular. Furthermore, the signings of some of the hottest talents from the independent circuit has bolstered the technical and storyline aspect of the show.
So why exactly is the popularity of NXT soaring, whilst the main shows continue to get scrutinised by a lot of fans. We explore a few reasons why.
High-profile Indie signings
In recent years, NXT has been acquiring several major stars from the independent wrestling circuit. Wrestlers with fantastic in-ring ability, raw personality and the capability to improve and become big stars on the main roster. The names include: El Generico (now Sami Zayn), Kevin Steen (now Kevin Owens), Kenta (now Hideo Itami), Prince Devitt (now Finn Balor) and now the acquisition of Samoa Joe.
These new additions are proving very popular, in evidence with the reactions of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens with their debuts on Raw, as well as Kevin Owens' big win over John Cena at Elimination Chamber.
The in-ring quality has stepped up massively with matches involving these guys, and also Tyler Breeze, Baron Corbin, Enzo Amore, Colin Cassady, Rhyno. The list could go on and on.
Comparatively, the majority of matches on Raw and Smackdown seem routine and repetitive, with the odd match which sparks the interest of the fans in attendance. Especially with the same superstars facing off too often - examples being John Cena v Randy Orton, Roman Reigns v Big Show. Also, the Authority storyline now feels too played out and overdone.
Having a one-hour show with less special events
A massive problem with Raw and Smackdown is that the shows are too long. With too much TV time to fill, the content becomes lazy and difficult to write, and characters get over exposed.
Raw is a three-hour show, with another two hours for Smackdown every week. It is simply too much. It worked more during the brand extension as they were two completely different shows with not much cross-over. Nowadays, Smackdown is the B show with the same people appearing on it as appear on Raw.
Add to this the insane amount of WWE Pay-Per-Views and Network events - 12 major shows per year not to mention the added King of the Ring and Elimination Chamber specials already this year - and the content is too saturated, with wrestling fans struggling to keep up with it all. It takes away from the big-fight feel of major clashes, as they happen too often.
On the other hand, NXT is a one-hour show each week, with a two-hour special (NXT Takeover) every couple of months. The show is always a much more chaotic and fast-paced programme, with quick-fire and intense promos and high-quality matches.
The main shows should learn from this and produce fresh content, set at a quicker tempo, and reduce the amount of programming to make it bearable and more fun to watch.
The NXT women's division
This is probably the biggest difference between NXT and the main roster. The difference in attention paid to the female wrestlers is astounding. The 'divas' on the main roster struggle to get significant TV time, but moreover the lack of interesting characters or intriguing feuds is limiting their output.
Contrary to this, the NXT women's division is flourishing now. With performers such as Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch, the women have been getting better storylines, more match time, and better positions on the card.
Furthermore, in recent NXT Takeover specials, it has been the consensus that the women's championship matches have stolen the show, and have actually been better than the men's matches, when it comes to both technicality and entertainment value.
In particular the Fatal 4 Way match between the four aforementioned women at NXT Takeover: Rival was an instant classic.
The NXT Women's Championship has meaning and prestige as several competitors are fighting and clawing to become champion. And the matches are always top-notch, with major crowd heat and spectacular moves.
The Divas division, on the other hand, struggles for any meaningful storylines, and there is a serious lack of an impact being made by the division as a whole.
Divas Championship matches tend to be put in the death spots on Pay-Per-Views, and are used as toilet breaks by fans, not because fans don't want to watch women's matches, but because the WWE has not take the division seriously since Trish Stratus and Lita retired.
The few exceptions include AJ Lee, Natalya and Beth Phoenix, who gave a sense of credibility to the division and the championship. Hopefully when the main women from NXT get called up to the main roster, women's wrestling may become interesting and relevant again.
Triple H running NXT
Triple H is one of the most recognisable names in the history of the WWE. A 13-time World Champion, and a future Hall of Famer, he knows the business inside-out, from performing, to behind-the-scenes work. The most important thing to note is that he has an eye for talent, especially in terms of talented in-ring performers.
He demonstrates his passion and knowledge with the signings that have been made as head of NXT, such as Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and more recently, Samoa Joe. All fantastic performers who could be big in the WWE some day.
He works tirelessly with the talent to improve other aspects of their character, from ring entrances to promo skills. He has managed to rejuvenate an aspect of WWE television and deserves a lot of credit for the growing success that is NXT.
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