As soon as Adam Cole’s dress shoe hit the chin of the new NXT Champion, Drew Mcintyre, I knew that NXT was about to enter into possibly its greatest era yet.
“This is a seismic shift in the landscape of NXT”- Mauro Ranallo
I couldn’t have said it any better myself. With Adam Cole and ReDragon joining the already legendary WWE and NXT rosters, it is near impossible for NXT to fail now. WWE is where the best talent in the world comes to perform, and over the last five years, AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, and countless other individuals have proved this to be true. Despite the fact that NXT had this wealth of talent, some fans claimed the product was in a slump. “Stale”, many would refer to it. From the crowning of the first ever NXT Champion, Seth Rollins, to the dethroning of Finn Balor, NXT was red-hot. Arguably better than the main roster, NXT was selling out arenas all over the world, wowing the WWE Universe with death defying stunts, and shattering our expectations with their pro wrestling IQ’s. For a developmental territory, these men and women knew what they were doing. They blew away people’s expectations, consistently put on unbelievably good shows, and revolutionized the business. Smaller guys were getting opportunities. Indy guys were getting opportunities. Vince McMahon wasn’t in charge. The promos were less scripted. This NXT was for a lot of fans, what they would call a “wrestling utopia.”
I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but just a few short months later, NXT suddenly wasn’t the same anymore. They still put on solid matches, and sold out arenas. I still attended the NXT events in my hometown of Chicago, and watched every Wednesday night on the WWE Network religiously. Despite this, something was off. Fans were beginning to find problems with the product. Storylines were getting stale, and the NXT creative team was finding out the hard way that even though Samoa Joe and Finn Balor are two of the best workers on earth, they can’t wrestle each other five PPV’s in a row.
Think of NXT like a line graph or the stock markets. The value of the product began to decrease. Trust me, the brand was still hot, it just wasn’t what it used to be. Every single NXT Champion from the company’s stunning beginning was on the main roster. NXT needed a new batch of world class talent. Gargano, Ciampa, Nakamura, Roode, and Asuka began the hard task of rebuilding NXT.
Finally, a glimmer of hope as Roderick Strong made his debut, then Chris Hero, Eric Young, and Andre Almas boarded ship. “They’re doing it again!”, thought many fans. Some believed that this would dig NXT out of it’s mild slump, but the product only got a bit better.
Hideo Itami returned to NXT with a bang and challenged Roode for the NXT Title in Chicago. Tommy End, now known as Aliester Black, was on the card. Drew Mcintyre was on the card as well. Jim Ross announced at the event. And WWE introduced it’s mainstream fans to the craft of British wrestling in its finest form. Sitting in the audience, I felt something special that night. I realized that the WWE, and NXT especially, was the place to be. World Class performers were just piling on top of each other. It seemed like every day NXT had signed someone new.
And now, Adam Cole and ReDragon have joined forces. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back, or in this case, the BAYBAY that’s gonna make NXT its money.
NXT can’t lose. WWE has the greatest roster in the world. It’s better than NJPW, it’s better than ROH, and it’s 10 times better than GFW. LU, PWG, CZW… you name it, they don’t match up to the depth of this locker room. And now, the fans are behind the NXT Takeover. What a difference a hot crowd can make as it shows us viewers on TV that what we’re seeing is worth cheering or sitting on the edge of our seats for.
NXT Takeover Brooklyn: III showed me one thing: NXT, in all of its aspects, is on fire. The women put on what is arguably the match of the night, every male singles match was good, and the creative team brought their A-game with the regrouping of ROH’s top stars. This ROH invasion per-se could be the biggest thing that’s ever happened to NXT. The ROH invasion is the whole reason I know NXT is about to enter a ratings boom!
With the signing of these ROH guys, WWE is spotlighting not only another company, but Indy stars- Guys who have made names for themselves in other promotions! This is huge because WWE, up until the debut of AJ Styles, pretended they were the only promotion in the world. Now just two years later, WWE openly mentions TNA/GFW, NJPW, and ROH. This is just the beginning. WWE is taking steps in the right direction to include other Indy companies and stars in their broadcasts.
Why is this such a big deal? It’s simple: Fans these days appreciate in-ring work more than any other aspect of the sport. In-ring work (closely followed by promos) is what fans appreciate most, and what most stars work on the most. Even if you disagree with that statement, you can agree that the guys WWE have been signing lately are all in-ring specialists.
Due to this shift in perspective, the in-ring product in the WWE has never been better and is somehow continuing to one-up itself. Stars are taking more risks and soaring to new heights just to get their name out there. And NXT superstars are notorious for doing that. The NXT locker room is a team, and they all take bumps for the benefit of the company, the entertainment of the fans, and the advancement of Pro Wrestling. That’s why Adam Cole’s debut shook me to a core. In that moment it all clicked: Wrestling has so many layers and connections, but after this debut, there is no possible way NXT won’t be on the up and up soon. I believe NXT can reach the same height it originally attained, if not blow it away.