WWE needs to change its mentality and believe in NXT stars

WWE, Vince McMahon (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
WWE, Vince McMahon (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

WWE says that NXT is developmental OR a third brand on even footing with Raw and SmackDown, so why isn’t that actually the case?

For years, wrestling fans have been frustrated with the way wrestlers transition from WWE NXT to the main roster. We saw, for example, how the company “promoted” EC3, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Aleister Black, and Ricochet to Raw and SmackDown as a means of boosting the floundering Men’s Division. EC3 is out of the company, Ciampa and Gargano are back in NXT, and Black and Ricochet have yet to win a title. Aleister is currently not even on television.

There are other examples of former world champions in NXT losing momentum on the main roster. Robert Roode and Andrade are two of them. Keith Lee was a double-champion this summer and then moved to Raw, where he had initial momentum but has been dragged down by the usual monotony of main roster booking since.

And that’s just the Men’s Division. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay were one of WWE’s most over acts in NXT as a tag team. They had some moments together on Raw and SmackDown, but they were broken up for no reason and have been given makeshift tag partners since. Nikki Cross seemed to be in a great position with Alexa Bliss in a tag team, but where is she now? Shayna Baszler has, likewise, suffered from inconsistent booking.

The larger issue, though, is the fallout this has created. We are now in a situation where fans are worried about top wrestlers in NXT going to Raw or SmackDown, whether they would reach a wider audience and potentially receive more money, because they would not be booked properly. It almost seems like sabotage, particularly when you look at how poorly Gargano and Ciampa were booked in their brief time on the so-called “main roster”.

Gargano and Adam Cole have been NXT’s biggest stars since 2017, putting on five-star classic after classic with excellent character work to boot. They may never reach Raw or SmackDown, though, and if they did, they would not receive the same booking as in NXT.

The logic is baffling to me. If a wrestler can prove they are talented, entertaining, and the total package in “developmental” or a show that, now, is on the same network in the same 8 p.m. ET timeslot, then why wouldn’t they be able to generate the same interest and receive that same spotlight on Raw or SmackDown? Why change what’s working?

I get that the audience is different, but is it really that different? Because when I go online and see the people talking about these shows, they are the same people. And before you get on me about the “Internet Wrestling Community”, am I supposed to believe the millions of people tweeting about wrestling on social media are “fake” or not reflective of the fanbase who isn’t on social channels?

There’s a quote from Road Dogg I go back to, because it infuriates me. He said that if Cole were bigger, he would be the Universal Champion by now. I want that to sink in for a minute. If I wrote that same sentence in this article, you would probably nod with agreement and then proceed to make a comment about how it’s unfair WWE cares so much about his size. This quote is literally from someone with influence in the company, so that tells you a lot about how antiquated WWE is. Even if Road Dogg would put the strap on Cole, so to speak, the fact that Vince McMahon would not despite Cole’s obvious success and support of backstage personnel speaks volumes.

WWE’s entire mentality must shift from this stuck-in-the-past vision that almost seems like an alternate reality where they are trying to game us into liking their show. No, we’ll watch and enjoy wrestling when it’s presented well, and when we feel like the people we are rooting for the most have a chance to receive the spotlight.

Nobody wants to engage in the self-defeating exercise of getting on board with someone, watching them undermined and neglected, and then rinse and repeat. Nor do we understand how people who have proven themselves to us for years are still stuck in the same position, under the guise that there is something larger at play we cannot understand.

Next. Ranking The 10 Best Wrestlers In WWE NXT History. dark

But we do understand, having watched these shows consistently, and know who the cream of the crop is. It is WWE who will not let the cream rise, and in an industry driven by emotional connection and strengthened by the individual brands of wrestlers, I cannot fathom why WWE cannot consistently capitalize on the wrestlers who have already distinguished themselves as rising stars.