The last thing any of us really need in life is more wrestling content. We need less. A lot less, actually. That doesn’t mean I don’t still enjoy wrestling, I do, I just want to spend less time watching it. Like the NFL, I don’t find myself wishing there was more football on television each week. Sometimes, less is more. Monday Night Raw would be better if it were less than a three-hour program. Commentary would be better if there were less people in the booth. The creative direction of the shows would be better if there were less cooks in the kitchen.
But NXT needs more.
Three hours is far too long for a wrestling program. I haven’t watched an episode of Raw live in years, and I don’t think I’m alone. I remember staying up late years ago just to see the culmination of the cryptic Save Us.222 promos. I would gladly sacrifice sleep to catch the end of a two-hour Raw; I would never sacrifice sleep to catch the end of a three-hour Raw. And that’s a shame because from a wrestling standpoint, the product has never been better. The company is littered with capable workers, but it’s wasted on a show that’s too long.
Smackdown Live, on the other hand, is the perfect wrestling show. Watching it live doesn’t feel like a chore, which is what watching a good show should feel like. For instance, nobody is looking at their watch while watching an episode of Game of Thrones on Sunday nights. You’re entranced for that hour HBO has you, and once it’s over, you immediately begin thinking about what is going to happen next week. Watching professional wrestling on a week-to-week basis has never produced that same kind of excitement, but the current Smackdown model is the best WWE has to offer. The segments don’t seem as long, the matches don’t drag, and you never feel like you should have just watched all the important segments on WWE’s YouTube page the next day.
Two is just the right amount of hours for a wrestling program. But even still, Smackdown isn’t perfect. It’s tag division is deep, but it’s deep in the Guys Who Can Fill Time sense, not the Guys People Actually Want To See sense. Smackdown is a top-heavy show, but when there is only two hours to fill, that’s not as noticeable as it would be on a three-hour show. (You could make the case Smackdown would be far more painful than Raw if it was a three-hour show. Twenty-minute Baron Corbin matches every Tuesday night!)
But NXT is different.
I watch NXT every week, but if you asked me what happened on the show the next day I probably couldn’t tell you. For a one-hour program, everything feels forgettable. Some weeks, there are cruiserweights competing against one another, other weeks Steve Cutler (?) is competing in a match against a random jobber. NXT has become a Wrestling Show With Three Good Matches program, but that’s not a positive thing. The show has grown stale.
The best thing about NXT are the PPVs. They don’t run as long as the main-show PPVs, which is a lot more important than it may seem. The energy for the shows are always contagious, even if you’re sitting on your couch watching them from home. The tag-team title matches are usually better than the main-brand PPVs, the women’s division matches are usually better, and the main event matches are usually better. It’s very difficult to watch an NXT PPV and not enjoy the majority of the show.
That is rarely the case for most WWE PPVs.
But WWE has to decide what they really want NXT to be. Do they want it to still ostensibly be a developmental brand? Do they want it to be a better version of WWE’s failed ECW experiment? Or do they want to go all-out and give it the feel of WCW in the mid-’90s? With NXT’s popularity and roster getting bigger and bigger, these are the kinds of questions that have to be answered. They have to just pick a direction.
No matter what direction WWE picks for NXT, they will have to add another hour to its Wednesday night program. Three hours is too long, but one hour is just too short. NXT is stacked with too many talent wrestlers not to showcase the majority of them on a weekly basis, even if it is just a promo one week, a backstage segment the next, and a match the week after that. NXT needs to feel more like a show that isn’t just about Good Wrestlers Having Good Matches.
New, interesting stables -- like SAnitY -- need to be showcased every week in some capacity, so the group can really showcase their characters on a larger scale. Roderick Strong is too good of a worker not to get time on the program in some capacity on a week-to-week basis. The NXT tag-team division is the strongest in the WWE, but I can’t recall one TM-61 promo since they’ve been on-screen characters.
If WWE is going to keep names like Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, Asuka, Austin Aries, and Bobby Roode in NXT for months, and years, even, the company has to showcase them more than they have been. The more you showcase them, the less fans are worried about when they’re getting called up to the red or blue brand. Reading that Nakamura could be NXT for the long haul is less of a bummer if fans feel like they’re seeing him as much as they’re seeing Finn Balor and A.J Styles each week.
A year ago, adding another hour to NXT probably wouldn’t have been a good idea. Now, it’s almost a must. The roster is too stacked, the PPVs are too good, and it’s the only wrestling program on planet earth that actually needs more time. For a company that’s been adding more content wherever they can, it’s surprising this hasn’t already happened.
Let’s hope it does.