NXT has a lot of heel factions, which could benefit some babyfaces

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If you have watched any episode of NXT over the last year or so, you will have noticed the influx of heel factions that are scattered throughout the weekly shows (and the TakeOvers).

While the sun has set on the Undisputed Era as the show’s Four Horseman-esque centerpiece group, the likes of The Way, Legado Del Fantasma, Imperium, and now Isaiah “Swerve” Scott’s new group — comprised of Scott, AJ Francis, Ashante “Thee” Adonis, and Briana Brandy. If Danny Burch were healthy, he, Oney Lorcan, and Pete Dunne would be included in this category, too.

As fans have seen in All Elite Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling, utilizing factions can bring plenty of benefits to a wrestling show’s television presentation. When done well, they allow more wrestlers to get featured on TV, gives said wrestlers room to develop their characters, plant seeds for future feuds, and lead to a well built-opposition of babyfaces or heels.

With these antagonistic groups becoming a prominent part of NXT, the black and gold brand has a chance to accomplish those goals.

NXT has a real chance to get some heels and, most importantly, babyfaces over with these factions.

For most of these groups, the potential benefits vary based on the goals the NXT creative team has for each one. The Way, Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae’s goofy cult, gives the lead heels — both of whom are natural babyfaces — a chance to show a different side to their on-screen personalities while establishing Indi Hartwell as a featured star (I suppose you could include Austin Theory, but that guy shouldn’t be on TV at all, let alone taking part in prominent storylines).

LDF and Scott’s new group essentially serve the same purpose: spotlight the main stars while easing newer, greener acts into the product in lieu of leaving them to flourish or flounder on their own.

Again this is an admirable pursuit by the NXT creative team. But NXT using this well-used and effective trope to elevate some heels is only half of the equation. To find the solution to the “NXT needs stars” problem, it will need to get some more babyfaces a boost as well.

While it’s not nearly as grim as the main roster, NXT has a babyface problem. Aside from a few outliers (Sarray, Zoey Stark, Kushida, Kyle O’Reilly….for now) many of the show’s main protagonists either lack credibility, haven’t fully fleshed out their characters, or aren’t particularly likable, and that’s before having to ponder whether the likes of Karrion Kross, Raquel Gonzalez, and Mercedes Martinez are faces or heels.

Aside from the names in that parenthetical detour, NXT has some interesting babyfaces on the roster that it needs to be careful with. Leon Ruff is very good, but the creative team hasn’t defined him much outside of “that guy that lucked up against Johnny Gargano that one time”. Being used as a stepping stone for “Swerve” and his crew only reinforced that stigma.

Bronson Reed is getting another crack at Gargano’s North American Championship but doesn’t appear to have any backup to fend off Austin Theory (maybe Dexter Lumis, the worst babyface in NXT, will help him out?). Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter are easy to get behind, but they seemingly get beat up by Xia Li all the time. MSK is fun to watch, but the NXT audience doesn’t seem to share that opinion, for whatever reason.

Scripting the babyfaces in a manner that portrays them as too prideful to team up with other babyfaces, too dumb to figure out a plan to counteract multiple instances of interference, or incapable of beating the heel in big matches won’t help them or the heels they’re challenging.

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However, if the creative team can use this opportunity to depict the faces as smart and give them fuller characters, they and these factions will be better off for it.

We’ve already seen glimmers of this during past episodes of NXT when MSK teamed with Kushida to battle LDF (though the babyfaces lost clean) and when Stark kept Toni Storm from attacking Sarray and/or Zayda Ramier. While these weren’t the most revealing moments, they at least reinforce these wrestlers’ well-adjusted sense of right and wrong and gave fans a baseline reason for cheering for them.

With these factions becoming a key part of the show, the writers will have even more chances like these to expound on the fan favorites everyone’s familiar with and introduce new wrestlers without much problem. But, as is always the case, it will depend on how they act on those chances.