Why the NXT Developmental System is Failing on Prime Time TV

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Since its inception, the NXT developmental system has not exactly done a great job cultivating the right type of talent that is desired for the main roster of WWE. Don’t get me wrong, the talent in the developmental system is extraordinary. In fact, they are some of the best in-ring performers that professional wrestling has seen on the mainstream level for quite some time.

The biggest success stories coming out of NXT were actually with FCW before it was renamed to NXT. Guys like Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns are probably the biggest success stories out of FCW/NXT. But in mid 2012 when NXT became it’s own system and Triple H took over as head of talent development, the people he recruited have not exactly lit the world on fire once they have transitioned to the main roster. There have been a few that have adapted like Kevin Owens, Braun Strowman and Drew Mcintyre (2nd run with the company), but the others have primarily floundered in mediocrity and maybe slightly dipped their toe in at the main event level.

Samoa Joe, Apollo Crews, Enzo and Cass, Sami Zayn, Ricochet, Finn Balor, Aleister Black, The Ascencion, Bobby Roode, The Revival, War Raiders, Lars Sullivan, No Way Jose, Hideo Itami, Austin Aries, Mojo Rawley, Tye Dillinger, Akam and Rezar, Chad Gable & Jason Jordan, Buddy Murphy, Neville, and Shinsuke Nakamura. I am sure I missed a few, but these are just the names that immediately spring to mind under the Triple H regime. While the wrestlers listed above have all the talent in the world, most of them have floundered in mediocrity during their time on the main roster. While some of them have achieved success in winning titles, they were usually short lived and ultimately they had trouble connecting with the audience outside the NXT bubble. Can we genuinely claim that any of these people are legitimate bonafide superstars. Before I move on, I will say that NXT has done a phenomenal job of recruiting for their women’s divsiion. But that is another article for another time.

Many people will blame Vince McMahon or the writers for the lack of connection the above mentioned wrestlers. While that may be true to some extent, the fact of the matter is that these NXT stars are lacking what it takes to become a big name player. Jim Ross said it best that it is important for these starts to “make the most of your minutes” while on TV. When I look at this list, only a handful of them have exhibited a personality that I deem interesting and the vast majority of them did not connect with the audience because they have not exhibited the interpersonal skills to get the audience behind them.

Which brings me to my big point. For nearly 20 years now, “internet wrestling” fans have blamed and criticized Triple H for how he hurt the business. They claim how he buried everyone and only put himself over. It’s interesting and very ironic, because the truth is. Triple H is one of you. Given the recruits he has signed to NXT over the past 8 years, it is evident that Triple H is a mark for the “indy scene.” He has gone out of his way to provide the “internet” with a brand of wrestling that while can be entertaining to some degree, completely fails in the main stream media. The NXT brand cannot even capture an average of 700K fans on a Wednesday night. That’s not to say that the wrestling is not a good product, it just simply means that the majority of wrestling fans do not care about it. That reason is because Vince McMahon has trained the professional wrestling audience for the past 40 years on what professional wrestling is supposed to be. Not just wrestling, but entertainment. For those of you IWC members that constantly complain about the WWE main roster product, please stop dead in your tracks. Triple H has given you what you wanted on a silver platter for 8 years now and it has failed. This just goes to show that the wrestling world does not revolve around you hardcore fans as much as it does the casual fan and family based audience. It revolves around those who like to be “entertained” more than just watching wrestling.

Braun Strowman is arguably Triple H’s most successful signing to date. Is Braun the best professional wrestler in the world? No, but he is consistently on TV every week, has had very few injuries keep him off the shelf, and most important he is an attraction. The word “attraction” goes “hand in hand” with entertainment. Children look at someone like Braun Strowman and he strikes fear in their eyes with his aggressiveness and overall stature. He legitimately looks like a monster. Or the exact opposite, he becomes beloved when he pulls a child out of the audience at Wrestlemania and wins the tag team titles with said child. Braun Strowman is purely an entertainer first and a professional wrestler, second.

Professional wrestling for the sport of it is inherently a dead product in the United States. Don’t believe me? The ratings of AEW and NXT should prove that. Both NXT and AEW should feel grateful for the fact that we live in a world whereby “content is king.” Due to the amount of avenues that humans can consume visual entertainment, companies will pay large amounts of money for products that are simply average at best. That is the only reason both NXT and AEW survive on national television to date.

I thoroughly believe that there is a way for the NXT product to improve. Part of that would be revamping the types of individuals that they sign to contracts. I understand that Triple H has already begun doing so. I would recommend that before any of these signings even step foot in the ring, they learn how to cut a promo. It is almost embarrassing listening to some of these “call ups” to the main roster pick up a microphone. They should be spending just as much if not more time on how to speak and engage with fans than learning how to chain wrestle. Every superstar who ever made it to the top level in the past 40 years has been arguably one of the best talkers the business has ever seen. Think I’m wrong? Hogan. Austin. Rock. Cena. Each one of them have the “gift of gab” and carried the company on their backs for extended periods of time. None of them were “5 Star” mat technicians.

Why is that? Because WWE is an entertainment company. Not a professional wrestling company. Engaging your audience and connecting with them will always be more important than perfecting a superkick. So before you tell me someone like Adam Cole or Johnny Gargano is so much better than Braun Strowman, ask them to compare paychecks and tell me who’s more successful. The professional wrestler…or the entertainer?

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