On a brand filled with wacky gimmicks, Thea Hail stands out


Over the last couple of years, NXT has gone through an identity crisis. After WWE’s attempt to use the brand to sink All Elite Wrestling before the nascent promotion got its sea legs under it failed, it tried to lure in younger audiences with transparent raunchiness and wacky gimmicks before shifting to a hybrid approach with better matches. Still, the show suffered from not knowing what it wanted to be. Thea Hail hasn’t had that problem.

One of the youngest members of an NXT women’s division that’s defined by its youth and inexperience, Hail joined WWE’s developmental arm in 2022 after spending a cup of coffee on the independent circuit. Given what her gimmick is, she clearly guzzled down that cup and bought a few more.

Again, this is an NXT roster that features a vague businesswoman, mobsters, (aggravating) “left-wing” cult members, a math-based superhero, a spoiled “daddy’s girl”, a John Oliver cosplayer, and whatever the Meta-Four’s deal is. In an environment like that, it’s easy to get lost among the litany of zany characters, but Hail has stood out for the better.

How has Thea Hail become a breakout performer in NXT?

Playing off of her age, WWE introduced Hail to their audience via a series of video packages that hyped up where the then-18-year-old would attend school, mirroring the National Signing Day announcements in college sports. Of course, Hail conveniently chose the institution that’s domiciled in the WWE Performance Center: Chase University.

Thanks to figurehead Andre Chase’s quasi-Dean Douglas/Bobby Knight (without the racism and abuse) persona, Chase U has become a surprise hit with the NXT fans, and Hail has snugly fit in with the group.

Her performance as an overexuberant (to say the least) student would aggravate a lot of people if she were even several years older, but the suitable combination of age and gimmick only partially explains Hail’s early success.

Like a few of her contemporaries, Hail’s 100 percent commitment to portraying the character has elevated what would be seen as a one-note act in lesser hands, and her ability to express emotions beyond everlasting ebullience adds a bit of depth to her schtick.

Combine that with an improving in-ring skillset (unlike most NXT recruits, Hail entered the company with some indy wrestling experience, so she had some fundamentals down) and it’s no surprise that Hail has caught on with the NXT fans the way that she has, so much so that she received two cracks at the NXT Women’s Championship.

Of course, it’s fair to wonder how long Hail can continue with this character, which explains why she has recently aligned herself with Jacy Jayne as she goes through a rebellious phase. It’s a shrewd booking decision that allows the creative team to try something different while maintaining the flexibility to return to what’s working, but there will come a day when she’ll have to permanently move on to something else.

It’s an inevitable aspect of pro wrestling (and life in general); people grow and change as they get older and gain perspective. Top stars like Roman Reigns, Cody Rhodes, and Becky Lynch certainly aren’t the wrestlers that they were a decade ago.

As those three could attest (among many others), it takes time to figure things out, even if it means cycling through several bad gimmicks before landing on something viable.

For sure, Hail will experience these peaks and valleys during her career, but if it doesn’t get any worse than this for her creatively, she will have plenty of great things to say about her time in the sport after she retires.

Next. NXT No Mercy 2023 event card and information. dark

As we’ve seen, even the most talented members of the NXT roster have struggled to mesh with whatever gimmick the creative team handed them. Hail, however, has figured out how to reach the optimal level of outrageousness on a brand that’s overflowing with it. And that should serve her well in a promotion that values that ability.