wrestling / Columns

Cook: Why NXT Is Still NXT

September 22, 2019 | Posted by Steve Cook
NXT Undisputed Era 9-18-19

The first emotion most NXT fans had upon the news that the brand would be moving to Wednesday nights on USA wasn’t joy.

It was fear.

People were convinced that once the show got onto national cable television & was positioned against All Elite Wrestling’s eventual TNT debut, things would change. Vince McMahon would put his fingerprints all over it and it would become just another WWE show that wrestling fans slog through every week because they have nothing better to do. The idea of Triple H actually getting to run his show the way he wanted it was pure lunacy. Surely things would have to change once NXT got on USA.

If the first week is any indication, all of these people were dead wrong. Wednesday night’s show was the most NXT show that ever NXTed. If you were one of those people that haven’t really been paying attention over the first five & a half years, you saw a lot of what the brand’s been about since Triple H started running the show.

A focus on the women Superstars

NXT is where the Women’s Evolution began, so it only made sense to have them open the first USA show.

Candice LeRae getting the win was a nice feel-good story to start the show out with, and wouldn’t it be great if she was the one to knock off Shayna Baszler? She probably won’t be, but then again it’s probably time they did something with that championship. People out here complaining about Kofi being WWE Champion for a few months & saying nothing about Shayna holding the NXT Women’s Championship hostage for nearly twice as long. It feels like time to move along from that. Especially considering that heels hold all the other NXT titles these days.

Experienced heels carrying the fed

Watching NXT these days almost feels like watching Ring of Honor a few years ago when you look at who’s on top. Roderick Strong won the North American Championship from Velveteen Dream to give the Undisputed Era all the men’s championships. Adam Cole as NXT Champion, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish as tag team champs…sounds familiar, right?

NXT’s been criticized in certain circles for taking on the super indy feel and foresaking the original goal of being a developmental territory. Featuring older guys on NXT television seems fine to me, as long as they’re working with the younger guys and helping them develop. Velveteen Dream is still only twenty-four years old. People love his personality & gimmick, and he’s had some great Takeover matches, but he’s still got a ways to go before becoming a true top star. Working with Undisputed Era in matches is a great learning experience for him, and for other youngsters that will get the chance.

Non-Generic Announcing

One of the first things people wondered about upon the announcement that NXT was going to USA was the status of lead announcer Mauro Ranallo. After all, if Vince was taking the show over like everybody assumed, he (being Vince) would want somebody else in that announce chair for sure. Nope, Mauro was in all his glory on Wednesday night, yelling & screaming at every move as he’s wont to do.

A lot of people hate it, which I find amusing. See, I’ve heard nothing but complaining about WWE’s announcers for years & years at this point, which is understandable because it’s been pretty brutal listening for the most part. Michael Cole has spawned plenty of clones for generic play by play duty, with none really standing out from the pack. Let’s be honest, is there that much of a difference between Tom Phillips & Todd Grisham?

Mauro’s not like those guys. He’s been doing this announcing stuff for years & has a style all his own. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really like him when I first heard him in PRIDE Fighting Championships. He grew on me though, kind of like a fungus. His excitable nature added to most fights, even though he doesn’t seem to have a volume control.

People say he’s too excitable, but WWE needs a little bit of that. And not the forced excitement that Cole brings to the table more often than not. You know Mauro’s freaking out over this stuff, and it’s a lot easier for fans to care when they know the people calling the stuff care. Mauro cares. Maybe he cares too much, but I’d still rather hear him than whichever Cole clone is the flavor of the month. He helps give NXT a different feel from Raw & SmackDown, which is a good thing.

Guest Stars

With an extra hour to fill, talk was rife that NXT would need some fill-in talent. Boys & girls from Raw & SmackDown would surely come to Full Sail University & lend some starpower for the black & yellow brand. Another wild card rule, perhaps. That may come to pass sooner or later, but at least for Week 1, our special guest stars came from the worlds of NXT UK & 205 Live.

The emergence of Imperium onto the shores of North America could make things very interesting for everybody in NXT. WALTER vs. anybody should be a solid usage of television. The return of Lio Rush to the cruiserweight division makes sense. The placement of 205 Live wrestlers on this show may not mean good things for that show itself, but the wrestlers themselves will see their matches get better reactions on NXT than they do on SmackDown tapings.

The announcement of Worlds Collide taking the place of TakeOver on major PPV weekends was the foreshadowing of the combination of these various universes. The immense number of people under contract should be able to keep things somewhat fresh, but NXT will have to be careful to keep from going to the same well over & over.

All in all, people worried about NXT moving to the darkside should feel at ease. NXT retained its usual feel while adding some of the other things that their fans tend to like. Will this trend keep going? The real answer will come after a couple of months of ratings results.

Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I think it’ll work out. I’m excited about AEW too, but NXT being successful would mean big things for WWE going forward into the days when Vince McMahon won’t be the man that makes all the decisions. NXT fans shouldn’t have to worry about more people getting a chance to watch & enjoy their favorite show.

article topics :

NXT, Steve Cook