WWE NXT is the apple of many an internet fan’s eye, but there’s more than one reason why. Abe has a look at the reasons!
Most of us know some of the obvious reasons why NXT consistently cranks out a great product. It’s a shorter weekly program so we’re not overexposed to talent. Only five pay-per-views per year means each feud has time to flourish. Those are the big ones. I’ve tried to dive deeper recently to find more. Let’s see if we can make sense of why NXT stands out from the rest.
It’s TV-PG Programming For Adults
If you’re a wrestling fan, you’ve probably heard at least one other wrestling fan say that they wish things went back to the way they were in the Attitude Era. You might have even said this yourself. I’m here to say that isn’t necessary. Although I can still find things to enjoy about Monday Night Raw, I understand why some fans have stopped tuning in. Raw may be stale to some fans but NXT is already producing the show you’re looking for. And it’s doing it without the blood or lingerie pillow fights of the past. Not promoting such things also means you can still enjoy it with your children.
NXT truly has its own personality. Even though I’m not familiar with the artists, the #NXTLoud soundtracks for TakeOver events aid in storytelling just as much as everything else. The live band performances at TakeOvers and NXT live events at music festivals form the identity of the brand more than I previously realized. It’s during the tapings at Full Sail as well. Those fans watch every aspiring wrestler grow into a star and you call tell they care. It’s a family. The more intimate setting also creates a different energy for each match. The events at Full Sail studios are essentially indy wrestling shows with world-class production crews.
It’s all of the little things that go into creating the show. If you ask me, I think Raw is a tad overproduced. That probably sounds weird. It’s the flagship for wrestling programming so it should look like it, right? Well, I’ve always been a fan of the NXT setup. As soon as the match starts, the crowd lights are turned down and all spotlights are on the ring. That’s what the fans paid to see, after all: the wrestlers. Maybe that’s just a me thing but I don’t think any of us were a fan of those big, colorful letters that used to appear on screen during promos. Those are just a couple examples. Sometimes less is more.
During every episode of NXT, the writers make sure we care about each story. No segment is wasted and everything has a purpose. There are no “This is Your Life” skits or endless segments of Sami Zayn going through Bobby Lashley’s Instagram page. The hour restriction of material helps cut to the chase but I can’t even remember a time where social media bashed an NXT segment because it was dumb or boring. It’s not just the segments but NXT is billed as the future of the company for a reason.
We’ve seen numerous talents from NXT thrown to the wayside on the main roster but we’ve also seen Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt and Kevin Owens become world champions. And that’s just the men’s side. Pretty much the entire women’s roster on both Raw and Smackdown are NXT grads. Any person that walks through the curtain at Full Sail could be a future star. Dakota Kai actually debuted as Evie back in 2015 when she was the opponent in Nia Jax’s first match. Jason Jordan was being presented as just another great athlete until he struck gold with American Alpha. Roman Reigns wrestled his first NXT match under the name Leakee. Becky Lynch, Bayley, and Sasha Banks originally came off as average wrestlers before we watched them find their stride. We’ve seen the visible results of the formula working. This is why I’m equally concerned for 205 Live and NXT UK.
Before 205 Live, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio were cruiserweight standouts that rose all the way to the main event picture. Paul London and Brian Kendrick were among WWE’s longest reigning tag team champions ever. However, it’s been over two years since the revival of the cruiserweight division and we haven’t seen a single 205 Live superstar make the jump to the main roster. Fans wanted to see Mustafa Ali answer Seth Rollins’ open challenge. I know I’d want to see Buddy Murphy rub elbows with the main roster. So I really don’t understand the strict separation. Guys like AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan are one missed meal away from being cruiserweights. In fact, Finn Balor is already under 205 pounds. I understand that they’re bigger stars but why can’t the 205 Live guys get a chance to expand their audience? Imagine if 205 Live resembled the prestige of NJPW’s junior heavyweight division. Finn Balor, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Ricochet, Marty Scurll, Jyushin Thunder Liger, and many others were products of that very division.
Regarding the UK division, Pete Dunne is one of the company’s longest-reigning champions of all time. Fans want him to fight Brock Lesnar but the only time we’ve seen him with the main roster was when he was losing to Enzo Amore. So this is why I’m worried about NXT UK. I don’t want it to turn into another sideshow act where the talent never get to appear on television. Zack Gibson draws nuclear heat any time he even breathes on the microphone. Rhea Ripley and Toni Storm are the future of women’s wrestling. Don’t get me wrong. These shows are great opportunities to be presented in front of bigger audiences. But if they’re stuck there forever, then what’s the end goal?
We Have Other Wrestling To Watch
If you think about it, NXT needs Raw and Smackdown. Would you feel that one hour of NXT a week is enough if we didn’t have five hours of wrestling to watch every Monday and Tuesday? I know that many fans watch wrestling from other promotions there may be even more that are strictly WWE. Think about NXT as the dessert to your main roster meal. It’s sweeter, smaller, and easier to consume. By the time we’ve watched Raw, Smackdown, and NXT, we’ve found things we like from each show and are satisfied as a result. That’s what also allows NXT to have fewer TakeOver events. We may actually lose track of wrestling if there were only five NXT pay-per-views a year with nothing else in between.
I know Raw is an easy target. I get that their booking decisions are mind-boggling sometimes but writing three hours of television every week is an insane thought to me. The writers have to think about future feuds and shows while the entire locker room are performing in live events during the second half of the week. I write fantasy booking articles for this website where I try to book certain stories and events. It’s pretty challenging. Every booking article is its own puzzle. I can’t imagine what the WWE writer’s room is like. NXT, on the other hand, has the luxury of a little more breathing room.
The main roster and NXT are not the only beneficially mutual relationship in wrestling. Every promotion has their own style. Where Lucha Underground lacks in technical wrestling, it makes up for in violence and cinematic storytelling. New Japan Pro Wrestling doesn’t have the giant LED ramps of WWE but is basically a Match of the Year factory. If I’m watching other promotions for an extended period, I start to miss WWE. When Raw and Smackdown finish, I look forward to the change of pace that NXT brings. The promotions not only compete and work with each other but the wrestlers continue to learn and grow by wrestling all of over the world. I guess what I’m trying to say is that all wrestling is good wrestling.
WWE TV Ratings Still Matter
For the average WWE internet fan, TV ratings often support or refute claims about the product. But do TV ratings still matter?
In today’s TV landscape, the value of TV ratings has lost most of its importance because of the appearance of YouTube and torrent sites. WWE has used this excuse and the birth of the WWE network in a way of explaining why the ratings are down, and in a way, they are right, but WWE can’t use this excuse forever, at some point they have to see that their product they show to the fans weekly is the problem.
In the last couple of weeks RAW have been unwatchable and some of the worst WWE has to offer while ‘’the B show’’ SmackDown has been doing great and NXT is still on fire in terms of booking.
RAW and SmackDown have a symbiotic relationship, and this is so clear nowadays looking at the ratings. RAW’s terrible numbers affect SmackDown because of the stigma of being the B show and the fact that a lot of people use the logic of ‘’if the A show is bad, the B show will be bad as well’’ but this logic is wrong and SmackDown is paying the price for RAW’s mediocre performances which is a shame because SmackDown is killing it in almost all of its creative.
How Should Ratings Be Used?
The TV ratings in the most cases are used by TV shows in a way to measure what things are doing well and bad for a show while also listening to the audience, two things that WWE is oblivious of. WWE pretends to listen but its not true and the ratings reflect that.
The big amounts of money WWE will receive in 2019 from FOX and USA will only make things worse since WWE will not improve in terms of creative and things may actually get worse, which is a shame looking at the roster WWE has right now,and the ratings will still go down.
The only way that WWE will ever change is if the ratings of RAW fall under 2 million spectators and the WWE stock falls big time but both cases are very improbable to happen any time soon specially with The WWE stock having great numbers almost every day in Wall Street.
Could A Change Be Coming?
The XFL could be of tremendous help for WWE’s TV ratings in a weird way. In 2020 with the launch of the XFL, Vince could actually leave the control of WWE creative to Triple H, in a way to focus full time on the XFL, Triple H’s booking could be the fresh start the main roster of WWE needs and could potentially improve the viewership of the two biggest shows WWE produces weekly.
Currently the ratings are a reflection of WWE’s poor booking decisions and change may actually never happen and at some point fans will either quit wrestling or will change their loyalty to another promotion that can actually deliver the wrestling the fans want to see and only time will tell if WWE will ever be affected by this terrible viewership numbers they are drawing weekly.
Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
ROH In 2019: Top 5 Things To Watch For
Greg DeMarco explores the potential for a company-altering 2019 on the horizon for ROH.
As Ring Of Honor heads into Final Battle 2018, the company finds itself at a crossroads of sorts. Things might look quite different at the 2019 edition of the company’s annual capstone, and the year of 2019 could be quite a journey to get there.
Or not. That’s the really interesting part.
Here are my Top 5 things you need to watch for in 2019 for ROH.
(I am publishing this before Final Battle because the event itself, and subsequent tapings, will likely go a long way towards shaping 2019, and might answer some of the questions posed below.)
5. Continued Production Upgrades
This one seems like a “no brainer,” as the company has continually upgraded production equipment and production values over the past few year. Last year’s Final Battle was no different, with a new lighting rig that was almost too big for the Hammerstein Ballroom.
But this is on the list for a bigger reason: people are too hard on ROH for this subject.
I think people watch Ring Of Honor and expect WWE quality, or even IMPACT Wrestling quality. Yes, they are owned by a television broadcast company, but that company does more distribution than production. And the production they do is local news, mostly from affiliates they purchased.
They don’t do live sports, which is what ROH is. I’ve never really understood the thinking of fans when slamming ROH for this. But I do see it continuing to get better.
4. The Elite Departs…? (Big Shoes To Fill)
Talent turnover could be its own category, but let’s be honest here: The Elite has made themselves the most valuable talents in Ring Of Honor.
Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks, specifically, have had a hand in building the ROH of today, the one that partnered with New Japan to sell out Madison Square Garden for WrestleMania Weekend in 2019.
If Cody and The Bucks, along with “Hangman” Adam Page and ROH part-timer Kenny Omega do indeed leave, the void will be massive. “Next man up” is a great idea in theory, but this isn’t football. The “next man” doesn’t have the following to make an impact like The Elite did.
And because he was “spoiled in talent,” Delirious hasn’t spent the time and broadcast resources to build their replacements.
But here’s the biggest what if: What if they don’t actually leave?
Final Battle is supposed to be the last night for Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks (among others), but what if it isn’t? The trio already put on ALL IN, a “non-ROH” event that drew 10,000 fans in Chicago while under a Ring Of Honor contract.
Yes, they’ve filed trademarks for All Elite Wrestling, Double Or Nothing, and All Out, with those filings coming from Jacksonville. They are linked to the Jaguars owner. But does that mean they have to leave ROH?
Not hardly. No one has said that All Elite Wrestling is going to be a weekly or even monthly product. Nothing of the sort, actually. It’s entirely plausible that Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks could stay with Ring Of Honor and be given the freedom to put on the All Elite events that offer them more fulfillment.
In fact, having a “working relationship” with All Elite Wrestling can only benefit ROH. If talent has the chance to work 2-4 All Elite “mega-indy” events per year, while working a full ROH schedule, plus New Japan and international bookings, than said talent actually has an option outside of WWE to make a great living. No one company can provide that to many, but the combination of ROH, All Elite, and NJPW can. That’s a point many are overlooking.
3. A Departure For Christopher Daniels
Yes, losing The Elite is big. Bigger than any other talent loss the company could endure during this time of transition. But that doesn’t speak to the potential loss of Christopher Daniels.
All three members of SoCal Uncensored (Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) are rumored to be leaving ROH at the end of the year. Daniels and Kazarian are under contract, and if Sky is contracted it’s not likely a full deal as he has been working independent dates throughout the year.
Daniels, Kazarian, and Sky have a good relationship with The Bucks and Cody, and Kazarian is actually in business with Rhodes outside of wrestling. So their involvement in whatever All Elite Wrestling does is an easy assumption.
But if Daniels does go, they are losing more than an in-ring talent. He is one of the most influential backstage personalities the company has. Seemingly ageless, at 48-years old and with over 25-years of wrestling experience, he has helped craft some of the best in-ring showdowns ROH has seen over the past few years.
The Ladder War that took place at All Star Extravaganza (The Addiction vs. The Motor City Machine Guns vs. The Young Bucks) was one of the best inc company history, and saw the first reports of Daniels’ work backstage in an agent-like capacity. He has since gone on to hold the ROH World Championship, and his partners Kazarian and Sky are the current ROH World Tag Team Champions.
Daniels, along with Kazarian, have a heavy influence over the talent in ROH, especially the younger talent. There is no one better to learn from than “The Fallen Angel,” and if he goes an irreplaceable amount of knowledge and impact will follow him out the door.
And in writing this section I cannot neglect Frankie Kazarian, himself closing in 20-years in the business and an amazing talent in front of and behind the camera, and Scorpio Sky, himself 35-years young, is just not getting the recognition he deserves as a performer. All three are tremendous losses for the company if they do indeed depart.
2. New Talent Coming In
With talent (potentially) leaving the company, opportunities are created for new talent to enter. One is already there, and two more have been recently announced.
Jeff Cobb: Cobb, recently killed off of Lucha Underground seemingly to end his role as Matanza Cueto, was long considered one of the best talents not signed to any major company. His signing is a major coup for ROH, and he’s already the World TV Champion. If the company plays their cards right, he could have a Samoa Joe like run through 2019 and beyond, and be a star they can catapult to main event status with ease.
PCO: The former Quebecer (not a Mountie) had a career resurgence in 2018, becoming one of the fanbase’s favorite stars at the young age of 50. Faced with losing The Elite, ROH was smart to sign the man who is arguably the most sought after talent not named Cody Rhodes, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, and/or Kenny Omega.
Brody King: With 3.5 years of experience, Southern California’s King has fast become one of the most reliable talents in independent wrestling, providing stellar match after stellar match. His signing proves that ROH is looking beyond the New England area for talent–and they’d be smart to look into other Santino Bros Academy grads while they’re at it.
Personally, I am surprised we haven’t seen more talent announcements. As I’ve hinted above, I am not 100% certain The Elite and/or SCU end up leaving, as recent comments by Cody, The Bucks, and ROH COO Joe Koff could be more posturing than anything.
If so, then look for more talent to be signed by ROH–and that’s a good thing. Otherwise it’s “more of the same,” and as much as I love Jay Lethal and The Briscoes, they need fresh talent to work with in order to keep the product interesting and relevant.
1. The New Japan Relationship
It might not be the most fun to admit, but ROH might not be in in the “Number 2” position in the United States without the New Japan relationship. In fact, it’s really easy to argue that ROH needs NJPW more than New Japan needs Ring Of Honor.
That’s why the company gets by not putting ROH talent over, regardless on which side of the ocean the match takes place. And if The Elite leaves, Harold Meij and company have even influence over ROH.
G1 Supercard is already a huge success, despite nothing being announced outside of a few talents. The event at Madison Square Garden is going to be nothing short of amazing, and anyone in attendance is sure to leave happy regardless of The Elite’s presence.
But what happens after? What I want to see happen is simple: the ROH World Champion after Jay Lethal (let’s just use Jeff Cobb as an example) needs to be put over by a big name from New Japan. A Tetsuya Naito level name.
Basically, ROH needs to stand up for themselves, and be treated as an equal to NJPW in their booking, not as a little brother. Otherwise the relationship remains one-sided, and hurts ROH despite helping them draw.
2019 is set to be a very telling year for ROH, and I personally plan to devote more time and energy to covering their product. Many of you know that I worked for Ring For Honor in 2010 as I was their local contact for the Phoenix events that happened during WrestleMania 26 weekend. Nearly everyone I worked with on that weekend is gone, but my love for the company and my desire to see them succeed hasn’t left at all.
Hopefully 2019 will be a year that ROH transitions into a strong #2 option, a true alternative to the WWE product.