In this edition of The Mouthpiece, I’m finalizing my petition for 3 original WWE Network shows to have a reboot in 2020 and into 2021. Today, I lay the groundwork for an NXT breakthrough production.
Before I begin
If you haven’t read them yet, in part 1, the argument was for Bring it to the Table, a 6 episode hot topic discussion forum with host Peter Rosenberg which also stared JBL and Corey Graves. Part 2 examined the one season reality hit, Legends’ House. For both shows, season two may not have been given its proper due. Hindsight, I believe Legends’ House was on the fast track toward a season two due to its popular success.
However, almost 6 years later, the WWE Network might be having issues in identifying its niche. The rumor of a PPV sell-off begs the question as to what lies ahead for the streaming service. One thing is for certain, the network released a show in the fall of 2015 that arguably put NXT talent at the forefront of the future.
Part 3: WWE Breaking Ground
July 11th, 2013, the first WWE Performance Center facility was officially opened. It was the first official pro wrestling school developed by WWE and exclusively for WWE talent. Over 26,000 square feet of space, seven wrestling rings, a strength and conditioning room and, full edit and production facilities, the WWE Performance Center was and still is, the destination for talent to enter the WWE system.
To promote the facility and gain traction with its homegrown talent, the series was to showcase the hard road in becoming a WWE Superstar. WWE Network released 10 episodes of Breaking Ground and was narrated by William Shatner. The show followed 2015 Tough Enough winner Josh Bredl and surprising runner-up, Zamariah “ZZ” Loupe, among a group of hungry hopefuls trying to make it big as a WWE Superstar.
Some of the talents were already in the system for years with FCW, OVW or through various independent scenes. While others were just attending tryouts for the very first time. It was a unique endeavor for WWE, which began to market talent before having a ring name or character. But this was unlike MTV’s and USA Network’s Tough Enough. Breaking Ground exhibited the journey from tryout to main roster debut. This was obviously much different than putting on a reality competition wrestling show with hopes to get a tryout contract.
The promotional journey
Episodes were designed to highlight various talents in unique ways. For some, like in the instance of Baron Corbin, Tyler Breeze, Sasha Banks, and Bayley, it was clear the path for their success was first to promote their likeability with the audience from the show. For other talents such as Tino Sabbatelli, Nhooph Al-Areebi (Aliyah), and ZZ, it was grounds to be a long road ahead for their quest to become a successful WWE Superstar.
WWE Breaking Ground was a grassroots promotion of talent with a production style closely mimicking a documentary rather than a reality TV show. This is why Breaking Ground became widely successful for the network. The reality of hard work storytelling provided the perfect narration of a young hopeful’s journey. It was something most fans could buy into. Speaking of narration, Shatner’s voiceover for the series made the production feel real and the suspense impactful, something I believe was most important to the growth of the show.
In the end, WWE Network aired 10 episodes and an 11th as a special in 2016, but that was it. Rumors developed over the next year about the return of the show. In 2018 during a media call, Triple H made comments about a series return:
I would love to get [breaking ground] back. there was a great interest in it. somewhere down the line … you could see something like that and a series like that again.
Since the show’s inception, NXT has become a staple in WWE programming. The energy and performance that NXT delivers is a testament of the commitment toward the future of professional wrestling. WWE Breaking Ground delivered on the promise of originality and the commitment toward showcasing one’s ultimate journey. Even in 2020, fans can relive the paths taken from their first day to eventual main event roster champion.
Having a season two helps the development of NXT in the new decade. It also pushes the limits for a new generation of talent we need to start seeing today. The 5-year journey of Bayley, Alexa Bliss, and others has been great to watch. It’s 2020, and time to see the likes of Jake Atlas, Anthony Francis, MJ Jenkins, and Emily Andzulis. It’s time for them to power through their journey in the revival of WWE Breaking Ground on the WWE Network.