In 2014, after signing stars from the independent scene and Japan, NXT established itself as the hottest brand in professional wrestling. Just one year later, with the help of their stacked roster, Triple H and company began booking some of the best professional wrestling shows to come out of the WWE in quite some time. Although WrestleMania 32 was certainly not short of exciting moments, one of the most highly anticipated matches of the weekend was not to take place at the show of shows. Shinsuke Nakamura was set to enter the WWE in style, making his NXT debut a few nights before the largest WrestleMania of all time in a match against one of the most significant stars NXT had ever produced: Sami Zayn.
Nakamura would leave Dallas one of the hottest stars in the company, while Sami Zayn would quickly become a staple on the main roster.
It seems that this moment was the beginning of a shift in the attention of many NXT fans. With favorites like Sami Zayn, Bayley, Enzo and Cass, American Alpha, and Finn Bálor all making their main roster debuts in 2016, it would appear that some of NXT’s steam left with them.
To make matters worse for the NXT brand, the WWE has created some of the best weekly television it has in years with SmackDown Live. Although this success can perhaps be attributed to former NXT head writer, Ryan Ward, heading the creative team for the blue brand, eyes aren’t as focused on the yellow team as they were in the recent past. Many fans have voiced complaints with the new NXT. Some have called the product “stale” and “boring,” only tuning in to the TakeOver specials and following the product from a distance. I believe that this criticism is not only unfair, it is completely inaccurate.
NXT has successfully reloaded by focusing on established stars like Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Bobby Roode. The main event scene has remained healthy, despite the departure of Finn Bálor, a man who took the brand to new levels before being drafted 3rd overall in the brand split of 2016. The Revival led the tag team division into the new era, along with teams such as DIY, TM61, and The Authors of Pain. Asuka carried the women’s division on her back while new stars like Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay began to blossom. Sanity, a new faction, consisting of Eric Young, Nikki Cross, Killian Dain, and Alexander Wolfe, showed promise of a bright future in the coming year and are sure to be a great success for the product as a whole.
Photo Credit: WWE.com
As we prepare for the next period in NXT history, I hope fans will continue to trust Triple H and his vision for what the brand is and will continue to be. While stars like Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, The Revival, and Asuka are most likely moving on to the main roster sooner rather than later, there has been a constant influx of new talent to fill the gaps. The recent signing of Chris Hero, for example, who returned to NXT as Kassius Ohno, is no doubt going to cause a splash in the near future. With additions like this, plus the development of some truly talented stars already on the roster, NXT will be going strong for years to come.
I fully expect to see DIY carry the tag team division in 2017, with the help of teams like TM61 and The Authors of Pain. As for the women’s division, Ember Moon has the potential to be one of the faces of the brand, and will undoubtedly capture the NXT Women’s Championship at some point. The main event scene is going to look drastically different, but don’t be surprised if Triple H brings in a familiar face or two to do business with guys like Kassius Ohno, Bobby Roode, and Eric Young.
Thanks to the WWE Network, watching NXT’s weekly program couldn’t be easier. It’s available on demand, only an hour long, and still very well done. The TakeOver specials never disappoint; on the contrary, more often than not, they rival whatever the main roster is doing at the moment. It is true that there is more wrestling available to watch now than ever before, but be sure to give NXT a fair shot in 2017. It’s still some of the best wrestling in the world and there is no sign of that changing anytime soon.