WWE looks to the college ranks to find the stars of the future.
The WWE is working tirelessly to find their next star. NXT 2.0 is dedicated to the young faces on the roster, to mixed responses from fans and critics. Another step is the introduction of the newly announced “Next in Line” (NIL) Program for college athletes to potentially join the WWE. There was a loud, negative response that bubbled up in the social media space, but that response is widely off base. The NIL Program is a step in the right direction that will help build for the future.
It’s understandable why wrestling fans would have a negative response to the WWE taking steps to sign future performers. Since the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the promotion has released nearly 100 wrestlers, and even more behind-the-scenes personnel. These decisions are blamed on “budget cuts” in years where the WWE continues to break revenue records on a quarterly basis.
These cuts have included some fan favorites and impacted the depth of the roster across the board. Still, the company is moving forward with the NIL Program to create a “clear pathway from collegiate athletics to the WWE.”
Wrestling has a long history of building superstars from college athletes.
The WWE has a long history of collegiate athletes that have become stars for the promotion. Roman Reigns, The Rock, Bianca Belair, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Charlotte Flair, Shelton Benjamin, are just a few names of titleholders that competed in collegiate athletics before breaking through as professional wrestlers. It would be smart to look to today’s collegiate athletes and think there’s opportunity and talent in that space.
WWE just announced 15 individuals who are a part of the first NIL class. It would be unfair to look at the group and compare them to those who’ve taken similar steps. But they shouldn’t be completely written off because they didn’t take the path through the independent circuit or because the WWE continues to mismanage its already talented roster.
Fans are understandably frustrated with current practices and treatment of the talent. Yet, the company is making the right decision with launching the NIL Program. Will they find the next crossover star? Only time will tell, but they’ve been successful with college athletes in the past and there’s potential to recreate the opportunity in the future.