I’ve recently been catching a lot of episodes on Sky Sports and I’m pretty sure I’m up to date with what’s going on now. If not, this post is going to be one absolute train-wreck. Either way, what I’ve been seeing has been very positive. I’ve been really impressed. It seems WWE has been able to resurrect a would-be brand that was so deflated and meaningless by the end that I don’t recall watching the last three seasons. Now going away from the lame, talent show format and embracing the more traditional platform of a developmental territory, the show actually has credibility and in my mind is actually challenging the company’s second show Smackdown, in terms of quality.
There is a real emphasis on wrestling. The roster is stacked with great athletes who are either seasoned professionals making the transition from the indie circuit into the big time, or young exciting prospects trying to make a name for themselves. The ring is occupied by men and women (yes, even women) with technical ability and a good understanding of how to create a good wrestling match. NXT gives these performers time and license to express themselves and impress people, before they are noticed and put onto the main roster (e.g. Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Antonio Cesaro)
There is an abundance of interesting characters. The talent on the roster is interesting, fresh and unique. From the strange, redneck serial killer types The Wyatt Family, to the utterly impressive high-flyer Adrian Neville from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, there are characters you can get your teeth into. I had to mention the British guy, sorry.The excellent ‘Anti-Diva’ Paige lights up the Divas Division (which is actually a good one) alongside a host of talented young female athletes. I first saw her in the Channel 4 Documentary ‘The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family’ which aired shortly after she signed with WWE. I’m so happy to see how far she has gone. She is so over with the Floridians it’s untrue!
There is a flourishing new Tag-Team Division which is actually pushed and taken seriously by fans. A big storyline involving Neville and Bo Dallas, and the Wyatt’s is a focal point of the show and was the main event of the last episode I saw. As for the actual NXT Champion, it’s non other than Big E. Langston! Is it just me or is he a huge babyface who is beyond over with the crowd? It’s great to see him on the mic and in the ring being given freedom to work, and boy does he work! You may be thinking, well isn’t he in WWE? Yes, he is indeed Dolph Ziggler’s lackee on Raw and Smackdown every week.
On NXT however, he is the top dog, and in my opinion, it won’t be long before he is above Ziggler on the Raw card every week. I’m not saying that’s a good or bad thing. I’m just saying. He isn’t the only one to cross over. Fandango’s dance partner Summer Rae is a part of the top Divas feud with Paige, and Damien Sandow is challenging Langston for the NXT title on the next episode. There is usually at least one bonafide WWE superstar on each show. I also recall Chris Jericho main eventing against one of the Wyatts recently. The roster is stacked well, that’s for sure.
Then there is everything else that goes with it. The set, the costumes and the title belts are pretty standard. It’s not an over the top kind of place. It’s like a mini RAW kind of feel, but in a really good, back to basics kind of way. As for the on air personalities. The Commisioner is none other then ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes. William Regal joins a very competent Tony Dawson on commentary. He comes off as a far less annoying Micheal Cole, and Regal is just superb at providing colour. It’s professional, insightful but extremely comedic stuff at times.
One of the most important factors in the success or failure of any live entertainment event (particularly pro wrestling) is the crowd. In this same small arena in Florida, they manage to draw a well engaged crowd, that is enthusiastic and fun! They like to participate and be involved in the show. They are loyal to their wrestlers and they help build careers and give people the chance they need in the big time. The place has a really nice atmosphere, and if you go over well there, it can certainly put you into the attention span of the decision makers on the big shows.
To sum up, a lot of these things I’ve mentioned in this post are missing from Smackdown. I can’t go as far as comparing it with Raw. But this is a show that provides an hour of real entertainment in terms of characters, wrestling and action. Smackdown could learn a lot from NXT. Check it out on Sky Sports!