World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) held affiliations with several smaller regional promotions as far back as the late 1990’s, to act as their developmental system.
Starting off with Heartland Wrestling Association, who also acted as the farming system for inexperienced World Championship Wrestling (WCW) hopefuls.
Other notable WWE developmental territories include International Wrestling Alliance, Deep South Wrestling, and of course, Ohio Valley Wrestling.
Under the tutelage of the infamous Jim Cornette and the organisation’s creator Danny Davis, the latter produced a batch of would-be superstars, and pumped them onto the WWE main roster.
Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Randy Orton, Batista, and Shelton Benjamin, all now globally recognised names, and they all passed through the doors of OVW. Where they got exposed to live crowds before the daunting switch to national television.
Despite the success of OVW, Vince McMahon’s company wanted to relocate their developmental brand, citing talents resentment travelling to Kentucky, as many of them lived in Florida.
The Building Blocks
Eventually, in 2007, World Wrestling Entertainment helped create Florida Championship Wrestling. Which would serve as the brand spanking new WWE developmental system.
For a brief spell, both OVW and FCW simultaneously trained WWE prospects. But, by February 2008, WWE officially ended their relationship with their previous talent breathing ground, and moved all contracted talent to Tampa, Florida.
During its five-year lifespan, Florida Championship Wrestling seasoned some extremely familiar names to modern day wrestling fans. Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Jon Moxley and Bray Wyatt all passed through those hallowed halls, on route to becoming global superstars.
However, in 2010, another brand appeared alongside Florida Championship Wrestling, those now world-renowned three letters, NXT.
Following the dissolution of the disastrous WWE attempt of reviving ECW. The first official NXT television program debuted in February 2010.
It was far removed from the critically acclaimed NXT of today. As the show featured “rookies” from the Florida based developmental league, and had them compete in a gameshow to become contracted members of the WWE main roster.
Maybe you liked The Miz of all people mentor former Ring of Honour Champion Daniel Bryan, or the whacky antics of Titus O’Neil running an obstacle course. But really, it was an aggressive waste of time.
Mercifully, when WWE ceased operations of FCW in June 2012, it solely focused on NXT as their developmental territory. Running its operations out of Full Sail University under the WWE NXT banner. With the television program remodelled to focus exclusively on developmental talent.
Finally, on the 27th of February 2014, NXT Arrival, the first live special for the new brand aired.
Over time, NXT cemented itself as the most popular aspect of WWE television, amongst hardcore fans.
Best Of The Best
At its peak, the black and gold brand provided us with exceptional matches, countless memorable moments, and stellar NXT: TakeOver events.
It sat on its lofty perch as a separate entity to main roster WWE. Acting as an internal home for the best independent wrestlers the world had to offer.
After well over a decade of not catering for hardcore wrestling fans, suddenly, stalwarts of the North America indie scene like Kevin Owens, Adam Cole Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe were all excelling under WWE.
Sasha Banks, Bayley, Paige, Charlotte Flair and Emma were some of the superb female stars changing the culture of women’s wrestling, in a company that was tragically behind the times in that aspect.
Main roster WWE actively ignores the demands of the fanbase, and caters for an audience of one, Vince McMahon.
This offered up a product that was exciting, edgy, and most importantly, engaging.
The fact the wrestling community is still praising the biggest and richest wrestling tycoon, for delivering on the hallmarks of an attractive show says it all, surely, that’s something that should just be expected?
Yes, NXT as a brand has lost momentum.
Of course, the emergence of AEW is the obvious choice. With NXT ultimately losing the Wednesday night ratings war with the up-start company.
Failed call-ups to the main roster have been a prevalent issue too.
While superstars have successfully made the jump, to find varying degrees of success. A plethora of wrestlers went to either Raw or Smackdown and were wasted. With many no longer even with the company, getting released from their contracts.
It’s those cuts that have kick-started the talk of NXT drastically shifting a seemingly winning formula.
Over the past number of weeks, a wealth of NXT names were let go from their contracts.
Bronson Reed, Bobby Fish, Killian Dain, and Mercedes Martinez were just some of those on the chopping block. As WWE look to focus on younger, bigger wrestlers for NXT, that could one day potentially headline Wrestlemania.
The much blunter statement, seemingly read verbatim from a source of Dave Meltzer said, “no more midgets, no one starting in their 30s, and people who can be box office attractions and main characters.”
This is the same NXT that won the brand warfare night at Survivor Series back in 2019. Emerging from the developmental shadows, and arriving as a legitimate third flagship brand for WWE.
Now the diehard NXT fanbase are going to witness their beloved show take a backwards step.
Change Is Coming
Professional wrestling has an age-old cliché, of being the land of the giants, especially in the history books of WWE.
NXT was the haven from that, and offered an alternative of indie cult heroes under six-foot. But because they don’t turn heads at the airport, they can’t be superstars in the eyes of the boss.
After the recent batch of 12 releases, it was instantly reported by many respected publications that the brand would be undergoing a major revamp.
The new logo was revealed, giving everyone major art attack vibes.
With new lighting, younger beefy boys & gals, and an entirely different television format expected to gradually debut, from Wednesday, 22nd of September.
However, the most stomach-churning nugget of information is that this revamped NXT will be produced by both Vince McMahon himself, and Bruce Prichard.
Triple H and his crew built the NXT brand up from the ground and turned it into an international phenomenon. They’ll still be heavily involved, but expect to see a drastic shift with both McMahon and Prichard lingering around.
The pair will be heading the marketing, direction and booking of major talent on the show.
The programme is going back to its roots, thankfully not its gameshow one, but the purely developmental roots.
Vince McMahon doesn’t want ready made wrestlers, he wants mammoth humans who can be trained in the WWE style.
After all, it’s not the wrestling business, it’s the sports entertainment one.
These are callous decisions, that have aggravated the NXT faithful, and even worse, left many amazingly talented individuals without a job.
But it’s a choice that’s not going to harm WWE in the slightest, they’ll do what they want to do.
They’ve got gigantic television deals to fall back on, so their bottom line is intact.
However, they’ve blatantly disregarded an unbelievably passionate group of supporters. The NXT we all know, and love is set to seemingly die in front of our very eyes.
It could just drive more fans away to the many spectacular alternatives available in modern-day wrestling.
WWE have released an ample number of huge names, who have already, and will continue to show up on the competition’s shows.
People know how to find these other organisations. While it won’t ultimately bother the business side of WWE, the ratings will continue to plummet week after week.