It’s pretty amazing the difference in how people perceive NXT from this time last year to now.
In early 2016, it was hard to click on a story about a TakeOver live special where someone wasn’t commenting about how much better it would be in comparison to the next main roster pay-per-view (PPV). Fans joked about not wanting to see their favorite NXT stars “sent down” to Raw and SmackDown.
Today, even with an event coming up this weekend and a global Superstar like Shinsuke Nakamura atop the card, interest in the product is waning. The company is no longer touting sellouts of every live show and fans talk about not watching the weekly WWE Network series while debating whether or not they’ll tune in to TakeOver: San Antonio.
The man credited with the brand’s creation and rise has noticed the change. In his conference call yesterday (Jan. 26), Triple H gave his assessment on NXT heading into 2017:
I’m not happy with where it is right now by far.
The Game sees the same issues many of us do - namely that no matter how many times he’s told us NXT isn’t a “developmental” promotion, that’s one of its functions, and that means its roster is going to be constantly in flux - especially now with two distinct rosters to feed at the next level:
I want it to be much better than it is, but it’s a rebuilding process. All these things going on, they all make changes in the ecosystem. Where everything lands at the end of the day is a moving target.
His most intriguing comment, however, might have come in response to a question about changes which might expand the brand and improve the Network show:
I think NXT has the potential to be a lot of things. Where it sits is not 100% my decision. I know those conversations have happened.
While it’s obvious that in a multi-million dollar global corporation, and one notoriously micro-managed by its CEO (and Haitch’s father-in-law) Vince McMahon, Triple H has never had complete control over every aspect of NXT, this is the first time I can remember him publicly admitting it.
Maybe that’s because, as he’s taken on additional initiatives such as global expansion via increased Network content, he does have less time to devote to NXT. Or, maybe as it becomes clear the brand might never be the hot, cool thing in wrestling ever again, he’s making a political move in distancing himself from it.
We can only speculate on his motives while we watch to see what steps WWE takes to recapture the old magic NXT possessed from 2014 - 2016.
But for now, wondering about the business side of NXT may be of more interest to a lot of wrestling fans than watching what goes down in the ring.