Here in the UK we still get NXT on TV. I now look forward to it every week more than any other WWE show. I loved the first season, with Daniel Bryan and the rest of the rookies being mentored and eventually turning into the Nexus but quickly lost interest in the ‘reality’ format after that.
But since repackaging FCW as NXT and making it the ‘second division’ of WWE, it’s become the most consistently entertaining show they’ve got. With more of NXT’s graduates making an impact on Raw and talk of it getting a slot on US TV again, here are some reasons every WWE fan should be watching each week.
10. The crowd
"NXT! NXT! NXT!" From the start of the show the crowd looks and feels more like an indie wrestling crowd - it’s big enough that it’s impressive but small enough that you can hear and see individual people, and so can the wrestlers. There’s more of a to-and-fro between the crowd and performers, and you can see elements of characters being picked up organically by the crowd and fed back much more clearly than you can on the bigger shows. This is a smart crowd with fewer kids than the main shows, and they’re here to enjoy themselves.
9. A Divas division you can care about
There are actually girls wrestling here who I can differentiate between, instead of just a bunch of interchangeable Barbies - there’s the Aussie with the goofy dance and bubbles (Emma), the gothic anti-diva (Paige), the star-struck youngster who’s excited just to be in the ring (Bayley), Fandango’s big-headed dance partner (Summer Rae)… And they can all wrestle, and put together feuds and matches I actually care about and want to watch - which is a lot more than I can say for the main roster Divas. I’ll fast-forward through a whole lot less Raw once this lot are on it.
Brad Maddox doing his schtick of not really knowing what he’s talking about is always entertaining. And then there’s William freaking Regal quietly bigging everybody up in the most brilliant way. You believe what he’s saying. There’s no screaming, no Jerry Lawler crappy jokes, just entertaining, calm chatter that adds to the experience of watching the match. Though the guy who says "That’s it - it’s all over!" every time someone goes for a pin is kind of annoying.
7. The show’s intro music
6. Awesome appearances from WWE stars
When someone pops down to NXT for a while, it’s not like they’ve been demoted - they’re given a taste of being the biggest star in town with a hero’s welcome, and are given a chance to put on longer headline matches against up-and-coming opponents they’re expected to make look good. It’s a real test of their skills and a great chance for us to see them get more screen time. Antonio Cesaro putting over his old pal Sami Zayn for his debut feud was - and still is - particularly awesome (watch their amazing 2 out of 3 falls match from last week!) and The Shield recently returned as the biggest, baddest guys in town.
5. Better promos
The first 20 minutes of Raw is someone standing in the ring talking until somebody else comes to the ring and talks to them, then there’s another 40 minutes of jibba-jabba before you reach the end. In NXT it’s simpler and more old-skool - someone’s interviewed backstage and says something bad about someone. Those two people fight. Somebody comes to the ring acting like they’re the best thing in the world. Somebody else comes out and insults them. Then they fight. Pure and simple.
4. Seeing wrestlers develop
Watching the NXT roster put on great matches and a great show every week is not only great fun, you also get to decide who’s progressing to main roster standard faster than the others, and fantasy booking how you’d introduce them to Raw. And when they finally arrive there, you get to know where they came from and feel a sense of pride for them. And you can complain there are still so many great wrestlers who haven’t moved up yet.
3. Interesting characters
A tattooed rockabilly punk, a big game hunter, some sort of superhuman barbarian tag-team, an annoying model who takes photos of himself, an 80s party boy, a dreadlocked Woodstock hippy, a truck driver who drinks BBQ sauce… it feels like NXT is a testing ground for more colourful, distinct characters like in the olden days - hopefully a sign of the direction WWE as a whole is heading. And the way Bo Dallas is booked as a super-face, complete with cheesy smile and cocky promos, but doesn’t realise he’s actually the most booed heel on the roster, is awesome.
2. Sami Zayn
It’s El Generico, only with Seth Rogen’s head instead of a lucha mask!
1. So much less crap
It’s an hour of fast-paced wrestling and fun. No ads for apps, no drawn-out skits, no filler matches - and that’s really refreshing when you’re used to battling your way through three drawn-out hours of Raw, looking for the action.
What have I missed? What do you like - or not like - about NXT?
All photos via www.wwe.com