Going to the mat is an opinion column for the Unofficial WWE Podcast, where I, Cody Churchill, roll out one of my many hot takes regarding the world of wrestling, and attempt to convince you of it. Whether you agree or disagree, I’m going to the mat for this:
NXT is the best programming that the WWE has to offer.
When the “Black and Gold Brand” first appeared as a reality show in 2010, I was a little bit skeptical about it. Nevertheless, I found myself entertained by the product and its reality TV elements. When it began appearing as a legitimate brand of its own, I was even more skeptical. Why would I want to see the developmental talents who aren’t stars yet? They don’t have the experience necessary to be consistently entertaining in matches or promos. They don’t have fully developed characters. They won’t impress.
Or so I thought. Over the past few years, NXT has taken over as the product-to-watch for me. I am okay skipping through Raw if a boring segment comes up, or scrubbing to the end of a match on Smackdown that simply isn’t doing it for me. But I watch every second of NXT, every single week. Here’s why:
1). The talent in NXT is simply hungrier.
You don’t have many established stars on the roster, which means that the goal of most wrestlers on NXT is to get called up to the “main roster.” How do they do that? By developing their character, delivering quality promos, and most importantly, putting on 5 star matches. The matches here seem more creative and less overbooked, as if it is more up to the wrestlers themselves how things go down. You can tell when an up-and-coming talent is treating every appearance like an audition for the main roster, and it makes you root for them in a new way. Additionally, because many of the stars are newer, you don’t go into their segments with a preconceived notion about their character. When I see an established star in the main event, I remember their character throughout their career, and it is easier to see when someone is not acting in line with their character’s history. Eventually you get people like Drew Mcintyre, who the company can’t decide is a respectful face, or a psychopathic heel. Because of that, it makes everything “nice” that he does less believable.
2). The NXT storylines are more realistic and therefore believable.
I hinted at this in the previous paragraph, but there are some ridiculous storylines going on in Smackdown and Raw at the moment. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the wrestling primarily serves the storylines, rather than the storylines serving the wrestling. The formula used to be to tell stories so that the audience is more emotionally invested in the match. Now, the stories told serve nothing except the stories themselves. That’s why so many of the stories lack depth, and are rife with inconsistency. They are often not grounded by in-ring action. In NXT, however, the story rarely supercedes the in-ring action. We saw a little bit of this with the recent Adam Cole/Pat McAfee, and I dearly hope the trend doesn’t continue.
3). NXT TakeOvers have become something to behold.
These are the moments where the young talent knows the world is watching, and they rarely disappoint. This is where we saw Sasha Banks vs. Bayley in the match that changed the women’s division forever. This is where we saw Finn Balor and Kevin Owens in a ladder match for the title. And,this is where we saw Gargano vs. Ciampa. You don’t always get quality PPVs with WWE. In fact, the last few have seemed a bit lackluster. However, there is rarely a bad TakeOver.
4). Finally, NXT seems to have a much deeper women’s division than the other brands do.
On Smackdown and Raw, the female superstars outside of the main event scene lack good character work and good programs. Outside of Bayley, Sasha, Asuka, and Shayna, I really don’t care about what’s going on with the main roster women’s division. The stories are half-cooked, the characters change motivations and alignments on a monthly basis, and the actual wrestling is sub-par. However, a female character or match in NXT that bores me is the exception, not the rule. From Io Shirai, to Tegan Nox, to Dakota Kai, to the Robert Stone Brand, to Shotzi Blackheart, and even Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter, everyone is entertaining. That’s not to say that the division is perfect, but if I could only watch one of the three women’s divisions, I would watch NXT.
In fact, if someone told me I could only watch one wrestling promotion for the rest of my life, that’s the one I pick. Assuming of course, that NXT is around for the rest of my life in its current form. I hope that it is, because for the past couple of years, it has mopped the floor with the other WWE brands. And I’m going to the mat for that.