These special events for NXT seem like a good time to evaluate where the brand is, and make for great points of reference to use. So the plan is to do an article like this every three months or so to see where we are at in terms of the NXT brand. Because this is the first one it will be a little more general in nature, but as we move along they will be based on what happened since the last one.
A good place to start is who the most valuable player to this roster is. The easy answer would be the NXT Champion, and Adrian Neville is not a bad choice. He’s just not the choice we’re making though. Tyler Breeze has certainly been on the rise and growing at a rapid rate. Charlotte Flair is certainly worthy of consideration. I can tell you our pick by just saying “Ole” and everyone knows the answer.
NXT MVP: Sami Zayn
Zayn is just an amazing talent and has had some spectacular matches in NXT including several lights out battles with Cesaro. When the day comes and he gets his rightful spot on the main roster, it will leave a big hole in this NXT brand. The things that made him shine under a mask have not been lost by taking it off. Zayn was ready to be on the WWE roster seven months ago after his re-match with Cesaro on “NXT Arrival.” At least he has his long time friend and tag-team partner Kevin Steen around to make the frustration about still being in developmental somewhat easier to handle. The crowd on Raw on Monday knew who Sami was and knew what to chant when they saw him. That speaks volumes to how ready people are to see him.
Back To the Drawing Board
So we have our standout player who is a person heading in that other direction. The number one answer to me is Mojo Rawley. The WWE was high on him, but fans have not (even in the happy-go-lucky NXT crowd) taken to him. He has a terrible look, a worse move set and just fails to connect as a babyface. Perhaps this same character could transition into being a heel but it’s not working. Rawley is an ex-football player, and you can compare him to what ROH has done with “Moose” who is also a former NFL player like Mojo. It seems Ring of Honor, after a very rocky start, has gotten their Ex-NFL player in a better place as part of a tag-team with a veteran.
I like the performer, but I would suggest Bull Dempsey’s gimmick is also one that is limiting going forward. The comedy tag-team of the Vaudevillians might be in a similar boat.
Women of NXT
As for the women, Charlotte Flair has tried to carry on from her incredible match at the last special event with Natalya. She, despite having a very baby face moment in winning the title, has remained a heel. The faction she was a part of, “The BFF’s- Beautiful Fierce Females,” has ended. In the aftermath of Charlotte’s winning the title the group dissolved. Summer Rae also has been phased out of NXT now with her position on the main roster and being part of “Total Divas.” Banks has been left on her own, no longer with Charlotte, but still a heel. Bayley has moved away from her star-struck child like character to being a tad more serious, building to a title match with Charlotte she earned beating Banks.
Two new females have entered the mix to replace Paige and Emma. Alexa Bliss the blond little fairy. We haven’t seen much of her but so far, I like what she brings to the table in her small 5 ft 1 frame. The best things come in small packages right? We also have seen Becky Lynch who is more or less the female version of Sheamus. The gimmick is as bad as you could imagine but this girl seems to be a capable performer if they would just get this gimmick out of her way. Having her doing the river dance in between moves is not a plus for anyone.
Odds and Ends
William Regal being named the new G.M of the show is a move in the right direction, but is a major loss for commentary. He was by far the most entertaining person they have, and his chemistry when paired with Renee Young and Tom Phillips made for the best three-person crew WWE has. Renee being on commentary has led to a few different backstage interviewers, none of whom are in her league. Devin Taylor seems the one most often used and she is being cast as Maria Kanellis 2.0. It’s not working and if she isn’t trying to act that way, it really isn’t working. Jo Jo — who you might remember from season one of “Total Divas” — has been used in this role and ring announcing at times. They still have not found something she is good at to this point.
The NXT 3
Triple H who is running the show down there behind the scenes shed some light to what will deem as the NXT three in Kenta, Steen and Devitt. He assured everyone that big plans are in place for all three. Kenta is officially going to be introduced on the special event tonight while Triple H gave no indication on when we would see Steen and Devitt. He did seem to hint it might be sooner than later but that might have been just me.
In any case, these three gentlemen should have a major impact on the show and soon. Triple H almost said as much when addressing their future. In terms of the names, Triple H said at some point as he put it they will “WWE-IZE” their names, but WWE was not going to ignore their history in the business. Duke Devitt and Kevin Wyatt come on down, you’re the next contestants on NXT. Maybe not those names, but it appears the WWE will be doing a change. Triple H stressed that they will have input in what those names will be and have a comfort level with what is ultimately decided.
In any case, any talking about the future for NXT will have to involve these three in some form or fashion. Triple H said a guy could be in developmental for 2 weeks or 2 years, but it is a matter of having a spot for them and it working when they do get to the main roster.
The Future of NXT
He also talked about NXT being its own unique brand and not unlike in the role an ECW played in the Monday Night Wars providing talent for both WWE and WCW. Paul Heyman likely loved hearing that line coming from Triple H. Still, I understand the point Triple H was making and he said while the goal still is development it was made pretty clear on Raw that guys are ready to be on the big stage. He talked about being open to any ideas in expending the NXT brand from future things like those that we saw on Raw, more special events, touring more with the NXT brand and even using it as a selling point for the WWE Network.
What is always clear is Triple H is the biggest advocate for NXT and sees it very much (and rightful so) as his own creation.
Some Final Thoughts
Considering all the talent that has been through the NXT system, they continue to insert in new people to replace who leaves. This all done while still making a good one-hour program each week that more often than not, is compelling and easy to watch. Triple H made an analogy of NXT being like college football is to the NFL. While it is professional wrestling, it is still different from WWE. Triple H means it in the sense of the speed of the action and the size of the crowd. Here is something he did not imply but is true for a growing number of people: they like NXT more and consider it a better show to watch on a weekly basis.
If it were 3 hours like Raw and had all the other shows tied to the main roster, would it still be special? Probably not, but NXT remains something special and brings a little feeling of the spirit of the independent scene under the WWE umbrella. It just looks a lot nice and has more cameras.
If you want to find things wrong, you certainly can, like the lack of any real consistent tag-team division. It’s not always perfect, but the expectation isn’t as high as people all come in (or should) with the understanding that this is a place for guys and gals to learn and grow and get to try things out. That in itself is something that makes NXT exciting, fresh and new on a weekly basis.
This upcoming special event tonight “Takeover 2-Fatal Four Way” has a lot to live up to from the first two events. I shared my thoughts on this particular event as well with a card run down and predictions. So check it out if you like and enjoy the show tonight. See you all again with our next report on NXT in three months. What is your thoughts on the NXT brand and what would you like to see going forward? Leave a comment or tweet @BetweentheRopes or go straight to the source with me @Condoonthemoon