Today's WWE is like a modern day tale of two cities for hardcore fans. There is despair at the narrative dissonance of WWE's cable programming and Vince McMahon being out of touch with what online fans want from wrestling, which has led to arguably the weakest WrestleMania build in company history. But there are also seeds of hope, as Triple H has carved out a cult following for his NXT brand on the WWE Network by showcasing the athleticism of the best young workers WWE has under developmental contract without stifling their creativity by avoiding the illogical storylines and tight scripting often seen on the main roster.
The rising popularity of NXT was overwhelmingly proven last weekend when they quickly sold out their first two house shows outside the state of Florida and both events were very well received by the fans in attendance. After that success, unsurprisingly there are now rumours that Triple H is making preparations to start taking NXT on the road more often, eventually leading to regular touring, especially in independent wrestling hotbeds like the Northeast and California.
Signs pointing in that direction include:
- Aggressively pursuing the top workers left out there on the indy scene. For example, Dragon Gate's Uhaa Nation is believed to be heading to NXT soon after having his last match with the Japanese promotion, whilst there are rumours that Ring Of Honor's Samoa Joe and The Briscoes will soon be NXT bound too.
- Bringing in well respected veterans like Brian Kendrick and Rhyno to recent NXT tapings, who could be used to fill out cards when they start touring regularly.
- Increasingly building the brand around former Japanese and ROH wrestling stars like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Bálor and Hideo Itami.
- Sending out a WWE Fan Council survey today to members of their mailing list about NXT, which asked questions about ticket pricing for house shows, whether they would travel to such events, how much NXT merchandise they would be willing to buy, which independent wrestling promotions they follow, and which non-WWE wrestlers would they like to see in NXT. Clearly, the purpose of this survey was to gauge fan demand for NXT live events outside of their homebase of Florida.
"I was told the company has holds on potential venues for as soon as May, but they haven't decided 100% when to launch touring. It should be very interesting to see how the touring, when it takes place, changes the landscape for the larger independent companies as they'll be in the same market and in some cases, the same venues and could potentially cannibalize the independents' fan base by taking a piece of their pie away the same way WWF changed the territories when they expanded nationally in the 1980s. Nothing is out of the question in this scenario until we see how the touring plans shake out and whether it changes how independents in those markets draw in the wake of the NXT live events being added to the markets."