I used to be an avid follower of NXT. In fact, I actually used to write Fight Booth‘s NXT review, that’s how into it I was. Even after Wrestlemania 31, when I became too overwhelmed by my personal life to dedicate three hours a week to RAW or writing reviews, I was still tuning in to the WWE Network on Wednesday nights to watch NXT. So, why am I suddenly not watching anymore?
I don’t even know why I tuned in to watch the main event of last night’s episode, which was a match between Tommaso Ciampa (who I really enjoy) and Samoa Joe. I thoroughly enjoyed this tight match up, but realized when it was over I had no idea why they were even in the ring together. So this morning, I read my friend Sean’s review of the episode, and it occurred to me that I really have no idea what is going on at this point.
So what happened? Did I really get so sucked in by the mayhem of the main roster that I just gave up on NXT? No, of course not. The NXT Takeover: Brooklyn PPV made me cry multiple times, and I’ll never not feel attached to that program. But now I am feeling a disconnect. A lot of my favorite parts about NXT aren’t there anymore. One of the first matches I ever saw on NXT was between Sami Zayn and Cesaro (*sobs* injuries!) and I just have yet to become as invested in the new people.
And there are a lot of new people. I almost feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of talent on the program. I don’t deny that they are (almost) all deserving and bring something unique to the show. There’s a great deal a variety to it and that keeps it from being boring.
My question is this – what is NXT? When I started watching it was almost like a separate indie company from WWE – a weird mash-up of the indies and the old territories while still behaving like a finishing school for eventual main roster talent. But now it feels more like it’s own pinnacle – bringing together some of the best of the indies, some of whom will probably never flourish on the main roster but will develop a more mainstream audience while on NXT TV.
Seeing individuals appearing on NXT while not even actually signed to a developmental deal is not something that should be happening. As much as I enjoy Blue Pants, Leva Bates has spent too much time on TV for someone who doesn’t seem to have any interest in furthering her character or WWE career. I suppose the counter-argument to that is that every time she takes the pin in an NXT match, she makes someone else look strong, with no real detriment to herself, because her character has no future. And that’s fine. That’s basically the definition of a jobber. But NXT is about the future and we should absolutely be moving away from a booking style where there are components that have no stakes or no meaning.
When I was regularly watching NXT, I was emotionally attached to the characters – The Vaudevillians, Sami Zayn, Bayley – but now there are people I’m seeing whose names I don’t know, and whose affiliations I’m not aware of. Are they a heel? Should I boo them? Are they putting someone else over as a heel? I’m not sure what NXT wants from me as an audience member anymore. Of course, the Full Sail audience is distracting and I don’t like watching shows taped in their studio. But, as someone who was so loyal to the product mere months ago, why have I become so alienated as an audience member?
I will be traveling home for the holidays when the NXT Takeover: London special happens, so I will have to catch that after the fact. And perhaps I can start fresh with that and see if it gives me any insight to what NXT is all about now.