NXT made the move to the USA Network in September, officially beginning a new era. Gone were the days of pre-taped shows that would be one hour per week and it was the time where the show would be on almost equal footing with RAW and SmackDown. To start off, there have, in fact, been benefits of the move.
While the one hour format certainly kept the novelty of certain superstars by not exposing them too much, the two-hour format has given rise to many other superstars to step up and take the opportunity and make a name for themselves. It’s even resulted in some old names returning and adding a lot of excitement to the programming.
Since there’s the head-to-head competition with AEW, there’s even been a lot more attention on both products (which is a great thing for wrestling). However, there has been one drawback which is something that has been observed over the last few weeks, particularly with regards to the build to Survivor Series – the risk of NXT losing its identity.
NXT started off as the “developmental” brand and wasn’t viewed as the “third brand” as it is today. It had simple roots and when it kicked off at Full Sail University, things were exciting. There was a lot of new talent coming up and the programming was exciting. Over the months and years, it evolved into something that was very special – a product that was niche and appealed to the hardcore audiences. Not only did it have great wrestling, but the simple, straightforward nature of the storytelling made it easy for fans to get hooked onto it.
Slowly but surely as the 2010s reached its midway point, NXT began to become a wrestling revolution of its own. For fans who were getting tired and burned out from RAW and SmackDown’s monotonous television, this was an alternative. This was an escape where fans could not only see great wrestling but great storylines and genuinely great character development. The rise of the women in NXT only accelerated this rise and with each passing year, NXT only grew more.
It was undoubtedly the perfect time to make the switch and 2 hours for a wrestling show isn’t bad by any means. However, one of the big issues that came with the Survivor Series build and the inclusion of NXT was the distortion and inconsistency in the storyline as well as the possible scare of NXT losing its identity.
In hindsight, it’s probably going to be a lesson learned for WWE that having WarGames a night before Survivor Series wasn’t the best call. For example, why would superstars be fighting against each other inside the steel structure, only to be teammates one night later for the sake of the Interbrand war? There’s no denying that NXT’s inclusion added a new element to Survivor Series that hasn’t been seen before, but War Games should probably have been held off for another time.
Secondly, the go-home episode of NXT to WarGames and Survivor Series proved doubly problematic because it felt like just another WWE show. There were no clean finishes, it was a complete cluster and it looked to be headed in the direction of RAW and SmackDown. Now, we understand that this could only be the case for the build to Survivor Series because of the crossover, but if NXT consistently does this, it risks losing its identity and becoming just another show – which is far away from what made it special in the first place.
While it’s great that WWE has stopped treating NXT as the developmental brand, it’s important to keep the identity of the yellow brand intact. Ultimately, it’s all up to who is in charge of NXT going forward, but it’s key that WWE doesn’t lose sight of what made it special in the first place. With AEW’s popularity only increasing, it poses a big risk of tarnishing the brand’s legacy.