This post is in some sense a response to a fan post by Blinkocracy entitled: "The Decline of NXT." I really enjoyed the post and think you should all check it out, and because of my love of NXT, I had a lot of reactions to the article and in general the state of NXT right now. This isn't necessarily a piece to disagree with Blinkocracy's, but rather to add a different perspective and some more thoughts to the discussion, because that's mostly all I have, thoughts and opinions.
The early 2015 NXT has been pretty bad. Slow, non-existant storytelling mixed in with little to no great in ring action in the ring. I still enjoy NXT far more than anything TNA, ROH or WWE put out in a weekly format, but it isn't as good as it was last year. Now, when it comes to the live specials, I still do believe NXT produces the best wrestling on the planet right now if you look at it from a whole package perspective. Here's my argument about developmental vs brand: we have seen six of NXT's finest called up to the Main Roster over the last 6 months and that has made the show much less worth watching than it was with those talents. In return? It's made Raw better for sure, but it still hasn't made it something worth watching each and every week in my honest opinion. Therefore, I don't see any reason why it should be developmental when the show is consistently better than the show it's preparing the talents from.
At the very least, the WWE should consider restructuring their call ups until the talent that is being introduced is being introduced in the right way. For example, the Ascension, Lucha Dragons, Emma and Paige. All four of these people were introduced either before they were ready or before the division was ready for them. We have had a golden age of Women's Wrestling in NXT over the last 12 months, and now those Women are starting to change things on the Main Roster, albeit very, very slowly. If we still had the Lucha Dragons in NXT along with the other tag teams that are starting to establish themselves then we would perhaps be in the midst of a tag team revolution of sorts right now. People would start getting buzzed about the duos division and maybe we wouldn't see the disgraceful decision to axe one of your championships off the main card happen again at Wrestlemania next year.
NXT is the place to try ideas and concepts, perhaps the last 6 months was an attempt to test the idea of an underground brand based on the back of a single person: Kevin Owens. The failure of NXT to produce consistently compelling content over the last few months might well stem from the same problem that plagues the big leagues: short sightedness and the over-reliance on your main protagonist (or antagonist in this case). Kevin Owens was able to bring tons of different people into his storylines, often people complimented by members of this sight because he was feuding with four different people at one point. (Alex Riley, Hideo Itami, Finn Balor and Sami Zayn). But when two of Owen's four main foils got hurt and another was, well, Alex Riley, the burden was left on the shoulders of Kevin Owens and Finn Balor to deliver a compelling story. I don't think Finn Balor was ready for that task, and as such, the long stretch between their first match on NXT and their recent one in Tokyo was riddled by slow storytelling as NXT had no clue what direction they were heading in, with Main Roster call ups and injuries abound.
After their main story had began to stagnate, more light was perhaps cast upon the rest of the card, and here is probably where the biggest flaw of 2015 NXT comes to the foreground. In 2014 we had a number of interesting side storyline featuring the likes of Tyson Kidd, Tyler Breeze, Sami Zayn, Justin Gabriel. Furthermore, you had some solid storytelling in the Women's Division, and some hit and miss entertainment from the duos. The Foreign Friends had some awesome matches, The Vaudevillians-Lucha Dragons feud was gold outside of the ring, and Charlotte's downfall was an interesting read (Although the title tilt at R Evolution probably went the wrong way for the ladies). This year while the Wrestling has continued to improve from the Females, the actual storytelling has degraded in my opinion, for example, the build to myfavorite match of the year so far was very sudden and forced, and also we have had a serious lack of building in the tag division. Our current champs won an upset only a few weeks after becoming relevant, and until the recent addition of a sensational talent in Alexa Bliss, the whole division has been on a downturn. It doesn't help that the division's most over act were not featured heavily in the first half of the year.
So, where does this "developmental" promotion go from here to return the heights it once held? Well, I hold a lot of hope in the jobbers of 2014, as well as the new crop of talent that wait in the wings at the performance center. Add in the possibility of some signings over the summer, and you have a hell of a lot to be hopeful about. There is more than enough talent amongst the next group of females the ascend to the quality set as standard by their processors, and that last few weeks have shown that the tag division has a metric ton of potential that can be seized upon. The main event scene does look a little sparse but here is where WWE needs to return to the formula. With Rhyno, Joe and Breeze, there is potential for a quality pack of challengers to be built, but they badly need reinforcements. Build up singles talent in the midcard for the next three months, and while that is happening perhaps some of the talent on the main roster in need of a refresh could challenge for the "Big X" Belt, think Tyson Kidd in the summer of last year. The names that come to mind are Fandango, Damian Sandow and Curtis Axel (who was supposed to be getting an NXT run recently). Then when Itami and Zayn come back, they will add needed bulk to those numbers, unless their set for an instant call up, in which case you have built up the talent needed to deal with that.
I'm a huge NXT fan, I'll admit. When Triple H mentioned UK dates on that Facebook Q&A the other day, I might have marked just a little bit. Furthermore, part of the reason why I like NXT is seeing some of the younger talents without shackles on. But what I really liked about NXT was that it was a product dedicated to giving the fans what they want to see, and I think they can build a serious brand from the ashes of what they have here, but they can't rely on past stars and working gimmicks if they want to continue to create a compelling TV product, and with the live specials, well... I think they still continue to deliver, but they also have an expiration date if NXT doesn't start to feature the most ready talent of the future on their weekly TV show, especially if WWE is going to continue to take their stars when they feel like it, rather than waiting for the right time for a whole generation. All in all though, four NXT episodes and sometimes a live special is still the only thing I'm paying my £9.99 for, and I still think it's worth it.