Sunday 26 February 2012

NXT Level

WWE really need to try harder with NXT. The show should be a place for new talent to earn a spot on RAW or SmackDown by engaging with fans and getting themselves over so that management have no choice but to use them more. Instead it’s a regimented affair where everyone is scripted to sound like everyone else, no unique personalities are present and the wrestlers are treated like idiots by the commentators, host Matt Striker, and each other. How is anyone supposed to stand out in such an environment? It says a lot about how WWE currently sees the show when two of the original pros have been fired since it began and one of the original hosts has left the company without being replaced.

With a little work it could be so much more than this.

Part of the problem is that the program currently bears no resemblance to its original format. WWE either need to officially reformat it or make an attempt to go back to what they originally intended by reinstating the pro-rookie dynamic and having stars from RAW and SmackDown that people actually care about appear as regulars. Having the likes of Chris Jericho and CM Punk on every episode helped the first season, why not repeat the process now?

The simplest and most effective way of making NXT a worthwhile affair would be to (finally) draw the current fifth season to a close and begin a new season. Everyone currently working on the show has been there long enough to earn a shot at getting over on RAW or SmackDown. Promote them all to the central shows and give them three months to prove they deserve to be there. If they don’t manage it then it’ll be time to release them: they will have had more than enough opportunities.

There are more than enough talented guys in FCW to make a sixth season of NXT very watchable. The obvious inclusions would be Kassius Ohno, Antonio Cesaro, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, formerly Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Tyler Black and Jon Moxley respectively. The first three have been big stars in Ring of Honor while Ambrose was a standout in companies like CHIKARA, DGUSA and EVOLVE. They would all put on some truly excellent matches and provide some very enjoyable promos. A show built primarily around these four would be the best thing WWE could do with NXT.

After a year and a half in development the former Tyler Black (now Seth Rollins) deserves a shot at the big time

Then there’s Richie Steamboat. He’s a guy that has never been with a national promotion but deserves the chance to connect with fans. Meanwhile guys like Mike Dalton and Big E Langston have the look to warrant a shot at making an impact in a low pressure environment like NXT. If they don’t connect they can always be dropped back to FCW upon elimination to work on their shortcomings. The aim with guys like that should be to give them some exposure and let them attempt to get themselves over. They shouldn’t be rammed down the audience’s throat.

Guys like Abraham Washington, Eli Cottonwood and Husky Harris (a personal favourite of mine) could be considered for spots on a sixth season too. All are guys who weren’t given a fair chance at success in their previous runs on TV.

With the properly chosen cast and an emphasis on characters and good wrestling a sixth season of NXT could create some new stars. The show currently gets fairly poor viewership so what’s the harm in shaking it up a bit? The tasks that plagued early seasons should be quietly dropped and the airtime should instead be dedicated to matches, promo segments and video packages on the rookies. Videos showing the rookies and pros training together or spending time on the road would be a nice touch, and give the show a more realistic feel than the majority of WWE programming currently has. The company has enough money to be able to furnish each pro-rookie unit with a video camera to take on the road and record things. Obviously not everything would be appropriate for a TV audience but it would be a fresh approach to an established format.

NXT is also a good way of giving current stars something to do. Remember how the Miz grew as a character during the first and second seasons of NXT? Perhaps a Dolph Ziggler or a Cody Rhodes could use NXT to make the same progress. Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks have somehow become regulars on the C-show, so why not use them as pros on a sixth season. The fact that they’re a team could make for an interesting storyline or rivalry involving their rookies.

Ted Dibiase, Jack Swagger, Jinder Mahal, Drew McIntyre and Santino would all be good additions to NXT. They could even find a use for Khali by pairing him up with a rookie who excels at promos and playing on the fact that Khali doesn’t speak good English. A healthy mixture of main event performers and underused Superstars regulars should be what WWE aims for when drawing up their new pro list.

This man's career would benefit from a return to the original NXT format

For NXT to function as it should changes need to be made. It should be a proving ground for young stars and a way for them to prove to management that they deserve to be on the main roster. It doesn’t work that way at the moment. But it wouldn’t take much to turn it into a worthwhile show for fans and competitors alike. Ultimately it’s going to help WWE build a future for itself, so they’re stupid not to spend time and money on it now. If they do then the next generation of wrestlers can finally start making waves.

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