Missing The Marks: The Evolution of NXT

NXT Takeover: Unstoppable is taking place tonight on the WWE network. The Takeover shows have been some of the most exciting events produced in North America for the last year. The male roster is made up of some of the most talented wrestlers from promotions all over the world, including Ring Of Honour and New Japan. The female roster is putting the WWE Divas to shame.

The matches, thus far, have been great. Stripped of the comic book antics that WWE peppers throughout its main roster events, NXT feuds are more simple, which allows them to give greater focus to the wrestling. They also don’t have WWE creative scrutinising every move they make and telling them what they can and can’t do.

The quality of the wrestling is such a refreshing change of pace for the world’s largest wrestling organisation that I found myself having an odd feeling when it comes to the talent. You see, for all the Network time dedicated to it, NXT is still a developmental organisation. This means it is a training ground for wrestlers who want to be involved with mainstream WWE programming. The increase in pay, as well as exposure, means that we are supposed to see it as a promotion. But because I also realise that the will lose creative control over their characters and their matches will be subject to far more restrictions, I don’t see it as a promotion at all. In fact, I dread the day that some of my beloved NXT stars make that cross over to the bigger brother.

Now, much of this is unfounded. Neville has been having fantastic matches in WWE while retaining much of his technical ground game that WWE usually likes to limit. But then again, a lot of it isn’t. The Ascension haven’t been anywhere near the force they were in NXT and, without adequate competition, Paige hasn’t shined nearly so brightly.

But a few things have happened recently that have made me hopeful for the future. Monday Night Raw saw John Cena’s US Title open challenge be interrupted by Kevin Owens. Now Owens is being booked into the Elimination Chamber PPV event for a shot at the United States Championship. This is the second time that a NXT star has faced Cena for the belt (third if you count Neville. The Universe certainly does. Whenever he’s being awesome the crowd always chant NXT). But this is first an NXT star has fought for a belt on the main PPV’s

For those of you waiting for tonight’s replay, Owens walked down the Raw ramp like he fucking owned the place and John Cena even showed some apprehension towards the NXT Champion. This is something special seeing as how Cena’s usual shtick to belittle his opponents, not fear them.

This could represent a brand new chapter in the NXT saga. What I’m hoping is that WWE will blur the lines between the two promotions. To have superstars from both rosters be able to float in and out as booking permits. But what I don’t want is for NXT to become one hour Smackdown or another Velocity. There needs to be a clear cut difference between the two brands. One, big, bombastic and theatrical. The other retaining the athletic purity of professional wrestling. NXT cannot lose its unique selling points.

Before now, stars from the WWE lower card have frequently been invited to vie for the NXT championship, or take part in the program. This is good, as it gives under used guys more time on the Network, as well as selling the NXT talent, but there needs to be more integration. If all manner of wrestlers are allowed to cross over then it is no longer a question of one brand being superior to the other. It’s two different shows, one that caters to the hardcore wrestling fans and one that has the Hollywood style, mainstream appeal. This is my dream for NXT.

Maybe it could even be Rated R. Nah. Now I’m just being ridiculous.