For a long-time, Triple H and NXT could do no wrong in many fans’ eyes. WWE’s developmental/third brand was where diehards turned to see quality matches worked by men and women Vince McMahon hadn’t “ruined” yet. Every time a TakeOver event was scheduled the same weekend as main roster PPV, the web was awash in jokes about how the Raw and SmackDown Superstars had their work cut out for them if they didn’t want to be overshadowed by the so-called minor league.
That seems to be fading in the second half of 2020, at least in some corners of the online world. The tie finish of the 4Way Iron Man NXT championship match last night (Sept. 1) in particular has drawn a lot of criticism, and may have exacerbated it.
Is this idea that “NXT has lost it” because of AEW Dynamite and the “Wednesday Night War”? Or are The Game & his team really not delivering the way they did in the past?
The two fans who’ve done the bulk of this site’s coverage of the black-and-gold brand over the years got into that very discussion earlier today in the Cageside Seats “office.” We figured, why not invite the best dang pro wrestling community on the interwebs into the conversation?
Kyle Decker: There’s an “NXT has lost it” narrative floating around recently. Some is probably due to just their change in the booking, but I have to think the AEW/WWE “war” has made it more trendy to not like it.
Sean Rueter: There are valid criticisms, but most of it is that Triple H lost the ability to be the anti-Raw now that there’s an actual outside WWE alternative. NXT used to be your only easily accessible choice if you wanted to “fight the man”. Now it is the man.
I also think they’re still figuring out how to deal with this group of guys who seemingly are never going to be called up (Adam Cole, Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano & Finn Bálor). Especially when their plan to feature the next guy who would eventually get called up was derailed by injury.
Their booking of the women’s division proves they haven’t completely lost it.
Kyle: I think there’s definitely a change, but that’s because - as you said - they’re not just developmental. In a way Triple H had it easy because no one was getting stale. They were going to the main roster. Now he has four guys that are probably never going to the main roster (well, Finn may go back) that are main event guys that they need to figure out what to do with.
I honestly don’t think their booking is any worse than it was prior. I think then, people were very willing to gloss over NXT’s shortcomings and now they zero in on it.
Sean: In general, I agree with that. Booking a non-finish for a heavily promoted title match does feel like a step backwards, though. And like tempting fate when the “NXT is losing it” narrative was already out there.
Kyle: Yeah. It was a risky play and I didn’t love it (though wasn’t mad about it). But I also give a bit more leeway when they had to figure out in a matter of days what to do with their title scene after a plan they were building for months was pulled out from under them.
So saying “Let’s get to this match and as we rewrite everything we had planned” is somewhat understandable. But as I said in my recap, they need to get it done next week. And the fact Bálor vs. Cole is that show’s opener makes me worried we’re still not getting a clear winner.
Sean: That’s fair, but it’s also fair to not pay attention to any of that and just judge it based on what they put on screen (which I didn’t hate either, but was also pretty silly to not consider - in story - the possibility of your 4way ending with two or more guys tied).
Kyle: Yeah, I didn’t take into account any of that when I reviewed it. But when looking at their overall booking, I wouldn’t point to last night’s finish as argument that they’re “losing it” without providing that context.
Sean: I don’t buy that they’re “losing it”. More like “AEW makes people realize Triple H is just another wrestling promoter with pros and cons, and not the end all be all savior of pro wrestling some people thought he was from 2014 - 2018.”
So those guys* aren’t sold on the idea that NXT is substantially different than it has been in the past, allowing for circumstantial differences that are always going to come up.
Are you sold on it? Are NXT’s glory days in their rearview? Or is it just a perception issue due to a changing market?
Let us know in the comments below, Cagesiders!
* We weren’t planning this as a post when we were chatting in Slack this morning (breaking news - people who blog about wrestling also like to “talk” about wrestling), so there are other angles to consider that we glossed over or skipped. We just thought it was interesting topic, and this was a
lazy convenient way to get the dialogue started with you all.