Welcome. Today, we’re discussing the positives & negatives of WWE NXT extending to two hours with its move to the USA Network. Serving as a ammunition against All Elite Wrestling’s new show on TNT, much can be said about the upcoming Wednesday Night War. Let’s begin with the possible negatives for the NXT brand, before we touch on the positives surrounding this historic decision.
#1 – Content Overload
If there’s one thing we can say about this era, it’s that we’re inundated with content. Oversaturation is a word some use when discussing the ever-increasing schedule. In the early 2000’s, we’d get four hours a week minus Heat, Velocity and PPVs. Estimating PPV lengths and excluding throwaways (Main Event/Smackville etc.), we can figure out how many hours we’ll catch on the busiest week of 2020.
- TakeOver’s last for roughly three hours on average.
- WrestleMania 35 was 6-7 hours? So let’s round it to an even six.
- Raw, SmackDown & 205 Live contribute another six.
- And for those who enjoy the rising NXT UK? Plus one hour.
- Finally we get to NXT, extending to two hours on the USA Network.
In the case we were to watch every show on airing, that would be 18 hours of programming across five days. Add AEW? Bump it to 20 hours. The scheduling won’t bother diehard fans, as they’ll find the time. But what about those who can’t? They’re gonna need to make some tough decisions. We’re completely spoiled for choice. It’s great to have choice, but it’s hard to produce the same level of joy or anticipation when we’re overloaded. Keeping up with it all may prove difficult for some, and impossible for others.
#2 – Promotion
One thing we could underestimate, is that this decision goes against the meaning of NXT being marketed as a “developmental territory”. We know at least 90% of the talent going through the Performance Center are veterans of the independent scene. They’re not being taught how to wrestle; they’re learning how to adapt to the way WWE operates. Much of the current roster spent at least a few months picking up the tricks of the trade before being promoted. So having it compete with All Elite Wrestling on live TV goes against this philosophy. Over the years, it’s done an excellent job of providing a platform for experimentation. And they could get away with trying things, as most episodes were pre-taped and could be edited.
Moving to prime time television with a live format, I can see how some freedoms will be discouraged. There’s more pressure on the unknown talents to deliver, knowing they only get one take. Not only that, but for those who earn regular airtime .. why would they actively seek promotion? When they can stay and make names for themselves competing against AEW? Tommaso Ciampa said he doesn’t want to leave. Others like Tyler Breeze & Fandango look happy with their demotions. The idea of promotion doesn’t sound overly appealing anymore. Why get lost in the shuffle, when you can be a major player in the Wednesday Night War? NXT was already the place to be, and the prospect of making history makes it even more so.
#3 – Quality
Do you ever watch Raw or SmackDown and wish death on a story or feud? NXT could find itself experiencing something similar. Overexposing talents, and prolonging programs could lead to the brand losing some of its appeal. At the moment, having an hour a week (with a PPV every 3-4 months) gives us just enough to keep wanting more. I’m of the philosophy that less is more. We don’t need to see everyone on the card, and some programs won’t benefit from overtime. That doesn’t mean I don’t want talents to get opportunities .. but they shouldn’t be used to fill a meaningless spots in the overall picture.
Technically, we’re not getting a full hour due to USA placing commercials. What I think Triple H & the team will do, is write the show as normal and add more talking segments to enhance character development. For years now, their strong point has been creating intimate and well-produced video packages. If they are capable of emulating the same magic on USA? The rewards will be plentiful. Otherwise, NXT could face issues similar to the main roster, struggling to fill in gaps with anything memorable. Having a more stable creative process, it’s never gonna be as difficult as Raw’s 3 hours .. but is surely something to watch out for.
#4 – Third Brand Curse
While NXT isn’t known for being too edgy, the main thing is it doesn’t insult its audience’s intelligence. This could change however, when the USA Network executives take a look. Having a third brand is not a new concept, do we remember what happened when they tried to revive ECW? It never got anywhere because its whole identity was stripped away for a bland, soulless “C Show”. You could slap a Raw or SmackDown logo on top of the ECW one .. and it’d work the same. I think that’s what some fans are afraid of, they don’t want to see anyone getting their hands on it, changing it into something it isn’t.
When it comes to the live TV debut, it would be unwise to treat it like any other show. Even more so when AEW is promising an edgier product. The possibility of NXT becoming more “family friendly” (it already is, but more so), is probably high on the list of what fans don’t want to see. If WWE decides to go down that road, they’ll quickly alienate the loyal fans. It would really suck to see WWE go that way, but it’s likely considering the big money is coming from their sponsors, and families with young children getting their first glimpse at NXT action. Will they face the same curse that plagued the revived ECW?
#5 – “We are NXT!” & “We Are Not Your Kind!”
NXT is akin to an underground club. It’s there, but it’s kept neatly packaged behind the paywall of the WWE Network. Many casual viewers either don’t know about it, or don’t care enough look for it (commentators rarely mention it). So when NXT fans come across other NXT fans? It’s almost like being part of an underground movement. That’s how it works, they’ve always encouraged the “WE are NXT!” mentality. It makes you feel apart of it. Even when talents move on to new horizons, they admit to taking a small piece of it with them. They are so good at showing appreciation to the fans, and when the action gets hot, chanting “NXT!” reminds us of how unique the platform is.
Wait, how exactly is this a negative point? Well, it boils down to NXT becoming more readily available to the world. The chance of retaining its underground feel looks slim, and there’s no putting the lid back on. We could lose heavier bands (Slipknot) sharing their anthems. Shows could quickly transform, becoming brighter, more polished .. til they blend in nicely with the rest. The tagline “We Are NXT”, only works if they continue plugging the mentality of togetherness. Luckily, at least in the short-term, they’re doing the smart thing by taping episodes at Full Sail. Anyone tuning in for the first time might be surprised at how loud the crowd can get. In the coming months, all we can do is wonder if the mentality of NXT will become infectious to the rest of the world, or if it will slowly whittle away in to nothing.
#1 – Growing Exposure
Flipping the coin upside down, let’s get some positive spin going. The cool thing about NXT going to the USA Network? Is it proves it has some of the best wrestling the company has to offer. NXT TakeOver’s are always held in high regard (they’ve never produced a bad one!), and in the event nothing changes product wise? So many new fans will be exposed to what WWE can do when allowed to blossom, under the watchful eye of someone not named McMahon. All of this is validation for years of hard work by everyone involved with the brand.
Let me get something straight though, before I continue. Vince McMahon has always been there for NXT. He approves every show before it airs, so it’s not like Triple H’s team books anything they want. Vince has always, and will continue to be aware of what NXT is doing. Knowing this, it’s not impossible to believe he has faith in Triple H & his team to keep doing the same. The most important thing here? Is we’re getting more quality wrestling each week. And to some it might be too much, but to others who live & breath it? Seeing two hours of NXT each week is definitely a thumbs up. How could it not be? How dare anyone say otherwise.
#2 – Breakthrough
Going in to the latter part of the year against All Elite Wrestling, the talents are bound to receive a great deal of exposure compared to before. Johnny Gargano. Tommaso Ciampa. The Undisputed Era. Matt Riddle. The Velveteen Dream. Shayna Baszler. Just a few names WWE are relying on to show up AEW. The spotlight is on them to deliver, and it could make some of them mega stars. While I stated earlier that some talents may not want to leave NXT, others may have bigger ambitions. WrestleMania is where the serious money is, so it’s probable for some to use the Wednesday Night War as a stepping stone to greatness.
It’s more difficult than ever to make the transition to the main roster, as we’ve seen how easy it can be to become afterthoughts; listing wasted call ups could be an article in itself. Getting ‘promoted’ too is often detrimental, but I also believe the upcoming head-to-head will help the cream rise to the top. After a while, Raw & SD will be practically begging for some of NXT’s finest to consider the switch. Talent breakthroughs might get easier, as WWE will have a better gauge of who’s over and who’s not. And with NXT being on the USA Network? It’s even more enticing to independent stars wanting to get a big break on television. They shouldn’t have any trouble replacing those they lose to the main roster.
#3 – Characters Welcome
To hold a mirror up to the point from earlier, a positive of having more time is there’s more opportunities to get characters and stories over. With only an hour of NXT each week, some programs may get minimal development, while other’s suffer from a lack of build. Look at the Johnny Gargano vs. Tommaso Ciampa rivalry for example, and how NXT built it month after month because they found time to do so. And unlike the main roster, where they often squander the extra time .. I think NXT won’t be so wasteful. They rarely do, look at how great TakeOver’s are.
There’s faith in NXT to turn this in to a positive; although it’s still possible some programs might drag. I love having the bonus of more quality wrestling, but characters are the major selling point. NXT has this magical ability to take relative unknowns and mold them in to superstars, and how they’re able to do this while Raw & SD struggles? Remains a mystery to me, and anyone else looking in from the outside. Taking note of USA Network’s slogan .. characters are essentially welcome. That’s what’s missing these days, not enough entertaining characters .. and that’s the bottom line.
#4 – It’s Our Time Now!
Going live on the USA Network puts NXT on an evenl playing field to Raw & Smackdown. Fans love to see the next generation because it’s unpredictable, and we’re never completely sure what’s in store. Look at Io Shirai for example? Who would’ve thought she’d go through such an awesome transformation? This is what makes NXT unique. Speaking of which, the teams running the main roster brands may have no choice but to counter with “must-see” weekly programming very soon. With a Wednesday Night War on the horizon, it forces Raw & SmackDown to improve, or face the daunting prospect of declining ticket sales and viewership.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some fans think watching two hours of NXT is more value than three hours of Raw. Essentially, what this move does is create a surge of competition from within. It’s totally possible WWE can support and grow all its brands simultaneously .. but something tells me they are spreading too thin. Something has to give eventually, and when the dust settles? NXT won’t want to go the way of the show it replaced. Comparable to a younger Triple H, NXT needs to tell the world “It’s our time now!”. No brand can afford to sit back on their laurels and expect to survive the era of content overload. How long will it be til WWE has to decide to execute one of its brands?
#5 – Having Faith In War
Now now, when we talk about the Wednesday Night War, it’s not like we have to decide which one to watch. DVR’s make it so we don’t have to pick which show we’re going to watch; unlike in the Attitude Era when many had to choose. But the last point I’m touching on today, is that the idea of a war is enticing. People want to see what NXT & AEW will do to one up each other. WWE is showing faith in NXT to provide fans another option, as they step in to unknown territory. What this war does, is it makes fans question which brands they want to commit to.
Say for example, someone is limited to 6-7 hours of wrestling a week? Would they decide to drop Raw or SmackDown? Both? What about ROH? Impact? MLW? New Japan? We’re more spoiled for choice than any other time in history. And who’s going to pass up on a war? The first of its kind for almost two decades? It’s not like AEW needed anymore motivation. Handing them a yellow & black measuring stick only encourages them further. They want to stamp their mark on the industry, and the only way they’ll ever seriously take it to WWE is to embarrass and destroy NXT. Their endgame is to win the war, and move on to bigger, better things. It sounds impossible, but at least they have something to strive for.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is that we are the winners. The decision to bring NXT to the forefront is telling. Will Raw & SmackDown adopt some of NXT’s practices, or vice versa? What I believe is crucial in making this move successful, hangs on how NXT is influenced. Ideally, it should be left to its own devices, giving it the freedom to produce quality shows without any change to its look, sound, or booking. They should steer away from bringing in main roster talents; unless used rarely to put over the next star.
The NXT we know and love will flourish like a butterfly, but it cannot afford to give AEW more momentum. As has been discussed since it was announced, the role of Vince McMahon is the deciding factor. We’re keeping our fingers crossed, praying he’ll just let it be. All the while trying not to hope too much .. because we know he can’t help himself. It’s possibly short sighed to believe he will sit back and let Triple H take all the credit/responsibility. The only thing we can do? Is sit and wait patiently in anticipation of what’s waiting for us.
And that’s all folks. Do you have any other positives & negatives you’d like to share? Or if you wanna expand on what’s been said, please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below. Cheers guys! 2020 is gonna be a helluva year. Thank you for joining me.