This Wednesday, NXT will hold its second Breakout Tournament, with a first-round matchup between Ikemen Jiro and Duke Hudson serving as the kickoff for the single-elimination invitational.
The tournament allows WWE’s “alternative” brand to accomplish several things booking-wise. Obviously, the format provides the NXT creative team with a way to fill television time, but it also gives the writers a chance to introduce the audience (at least, those who haven’t watched much 205 Live recently) to some fresh faces and present those faces as potential featured stars for the brand. Plus, it highlight’s NXT’s greatest strength — its in-ring action — in a manner that gives the viewers something to invest in beyond the quality.
In NXT, all of its tourneys have maintained this standard, which is why fans generally get excited whenever the brand announces one. Knowing this, the creative team should consider enacting some scheduling tweaks to maximize that excitement.
NXT should pick set dates and times for their respective tournaments.
For all of the praise NXT’s tournaments rightfully receive, it’s hard to decouple that acclaim from the brand’s “Get Out of Jail Free card” usage of them. It’s almost as Triple H and the writers keep them in their figurative back pockets like a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” hoarding lifelines for the more difficult questions.
Every time one of these tournaments is announced now, it feels like a last-minute audible to cover for the lack of initial ideas. It’s understandable, putting together a compelling weekly television show year-round is hard. Ironically, though, the very thing that NXT sees as a safety valve should be the engine that drives interest in the show.
If NXT followed the model set by New Japan Pro Wrestling with the G1 Climax (or the New Japan Cup) or Pro Wrestling Guerilla with their Battle of Los Angeles, to use a couple of examples, and scheduled, say, the Breakout Tournament every May or the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic (men’s and women’s) every September, many of its creative issues would be alleviated.
Locking in consistent times would not only give fans something to look forward to every year, but it would also give wrestlers a storyline incentive for winning outside of general title contention. The latter isn’t as vital for the Breakout Tournament, but a framework where tag teams are fighting to move closer to a title shot AND for seeding in the Dusty Cup sends the message that even matches that seem like filler (though that isn’t too much of a problem in NXT) have far-reaching implications. Alongside compelling characters, those are the aspects of pro wrestling that keep fans hooked.
To its credit, NXT has gotten a lot right with its tournaments. Through sound booking of the winners and the runners-up, the creative team has constructed a dependable means for spotlighting established and new talent, which is why fans enjoy seeing them.
Now, it’s time for the brand to take the next step to make things easier for them and keep things interesting for the fans.