NXT has had a transitional year, graduating both its top aces, a number of key male midcard figures, several tag teams, and more or less the entirety of its women’s division. It’s little surprise then that the promotion has hit a lull—having graduated many of its top stars in 2015 and 2016, it has yet to strike gold again and found the “next” Sasha Banks, Bayley, Finn Balor, or Sami Zayn.
Thank u Brooklyn #WWEBrooklyn ❤️— LIV Morgan (@YaOnlyLivvOnce) December 29, 2016
This is especially true in the women’s division, which lost not just the Horsewomen but also basically the entire midcard that was expected to move up the card in late 2016. There has been much grousing that the new division is overly green and has yet to pick up where its predecessors left off.
Give it time.
@YaOnlyLivvOnce #NXTOsaka @BillieKayWWE— Peyton Royce (@WWEPeytonRoyce) December 29, 2016
The big TakeOver matches that fans have come to expect out of NXT’s women’s division aren’t always a realistic desire for an inexperienced division. Surely, fans always hope for a Bayley-Sasha in Brooklyn match—but that fight was special and important because it was the product of a build that took almost two full years. Yes, it was a masterful, riveting character-driven performance by both—but the impact of that is dramatically lessened without the long, shared history.
@WWEPeytonRoyce @BillieKayWWE u need a side of fries with that salt bro ?— LIV Morgan (@YaOnlyLivvOnce) December 29, 2016
The Horsewomen didn’t show up at the Performance Center and turn into superstars overnight. A tremendous part of their success comes from the fact that they were allowed to grow into the performers they are today. Yes, NXT certainly had far less reach than it does now. Today’s developmental performers don’t have the luxury of several years of building a foundation under the radar.
@YaOnlyLivvOnce @BillieKayWWE should've kept your job at Hooters in Jersey... 'homie' #SoGangsta— Peyton Royce (@WWEPeytonRoyce) December 29, 2016
But think back to the origins of all the Horsewomen:
- Bayley’s early characterization presented her as basically a legitimate stalker. She seemed more likely to commit homicide than become the beloved figure she grew into.
- Becky Lynch’s first gimmick was an Irish Riverdancer. Seriously.
- Charlotte’s delivery was painfully wooden, and she overtly stared at the text display when reading her lines.
- Sasha Banks’ first story was about a secret admirer. It was terrible, and she came across as ridiculously naive.
Had you seen any of them in their first few months on NXT TV, it would seem impossible that they would end up legitimately change wrestling—but that’s exactly what they’ve done (Obviously with notable contributions from the rest of WWE’s women’s division, which should not be downplayed).
@WWEPeytonRoyce @BillieKayWWE hmmm... I think I'm doiiiiin just fine right where I am I hope you have a good day off tomorrow ✌ ️— LIV Morgan (@YaOnlyLivvOnce) December 29, 2016
Yes, things are far from perfect in any aspect of WWE, and that’s certainly the case with its women’s division. But there is a legitimate seachange in the company’s policy towards female recruitment, and given the coming women’s classic tournament, rumored for early 2017, it seems rather evident that the bad old days are well over.
@YaOnlyLivvOnce Enjoy ur 3 mins of I made it fame. When you learn how to lace ur own boots I'll give you a shot at lacing mine kid #DreamOn— Peyton Royce (@WWEPeytonRoyce) December 29, 2016
The Twitter fight embedded above between Liv Morgan and Peyton Royce is a prime example of what fans are missing when they label NXT a faltering promotion. No, there aren’t any blockbuster matches to see between the pair (or their respective allies, Aliyah and Billie Kay). But what is present is the foundation for a lengthy war, to evolve over time. It should be exciting for any wrestling fan to see the genesis of something that one day might be great—is that not the point of NXT?
@WWEPeytonRoyce why u so mad ? Ur tired, boring,&stale. I wouldn't ever wanna lace up ur crusty boots. Maybe next time kid.Keep workin hard— LIV Morgan (@YaOnlyLivvOnce) December 29, 2016
The above fallout video is from September 28, 2016, a day when Morgan challenged the NXT Women’s Champion Asuka to a match—and was forced to tap out in only a few minutes. To rub salt in the wound, Kay and Royce—who are now calling themselves “The Icons”—mocked Liv relentlessly.
It might seem an ordinary clip, but recognize this: any random October 2013 video with Bayley being mocked by Summer Rae and Sasha Banks also surely seemed ordinary at the time. But now, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s the launch pad for one of the greatest wrestling feuds in recent years.
Patience is a virtue.