The sports world may have come to a standstill earlier this year, but the WWE refused to shut down. While I have been a casual wrestling fan for many years now, my first foray into NXT came just this year. The combination of WWE being the only game in town over a handful of months as well as the company moving NXT from the subscription-based WWE Network to cable television on the USA Network made this venture possible.
WWE NXT is Deserving of the Hype
Fast forward to the end of 2020 and I must admit that NXT now comprises upwards of 90% of my weekly WWE viewing. The black and gold brand hooked me quick through a combination of star in-ring talent, entertaining feuds, superstar charisma, and so much more.
Why exactly should you tune into NXT on Wednesday nights? Why should the “next generation” become your appointment wrestling viewing over the main roster superstars on RAW and SmackDown? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are seven reasons why NXT is WWE’s premier brand. And trust me, there are plenty more beyond those in this article!
7 Reasons Why NXT is WWE’s Superior Brand
1) Emphasis on In-Ring Wrestling
One of my biggest gripes as a wrestling fan is that the main roster shows of RAW and SmackDown contain more bark than bite. Superstars will stand and argue with each other for half an hour, only to never come to blows in an actual wrestling match. There are at least seven different talk shows that various superstars host where talking is all that gets accomplished. Heck, it’s not rare for an entire segment of RAW or SmackDown to not contain any wrestling at all.
On NXT, this is NEVER the case. The matches come at you fast and furious all night long. There’s no extended dialog to kick off the show. As soon as the greeting is made, the entrance music for the evening’s first match is upon you. More NXT feuds are started through physicality than chatter see tweet above). The show still pans for backstage interviews and sets up plots, but it is done in a fraction of the time compared to the main rosters. If you want actual wrestling (and superstars who lay it all on the line at that), then NXT is for you.
2) Pay-Per-View-Worthy Matches for FREE
Avid WWE fans no full well that the viewing experience is nothing without a WWE Network subscription. The whole purpose of RAW and SmackDown is to build the hype ahead of the next pay-per-view, which you can only see if you pony up for the company’s digital network. That’s not necessary when it comes to NXT. While the brand does have a couple of PPV series (NXT TakeOver, NXT WarGames), fans are regularly treated to high-profile matches for free on a weekly basis.
The brand also puts on several holiday-themed shows such as Halloween Havoc and New Year’s Evil. While they are built weeks in advance just like a main roster pay-per-view card, they air for free just like a regular NXT. If you’re like me, you definitely like “free.”
3) The Roster is STACKED
Believe me when I tell you that the “minor leagues” of WWE are more than on par with the main brands. On the men’s side, Undisputed Era, comprised of Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly, Roderick Strong, and Bobby Fish, is a fixture of the main event spotlight and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Karrion Kross is back from injury and Doomsday is just waiting to be unleashed. I’ll give $5 to anyone who provides me with proof that Dexter Loomis blinks. Current NXT Champion Finn Balor, Johnny Gargano, Tommasso Ciampa, Kushida, and The Velveteen Dream are five more superstars who would give anyone on the main roster a run for their money.
NXT openly touts its women’s division as being the best in the world of wrestling. It’s hardly an exaggeration. Rhea Ripley was a trailblazer this past spring when she became the first to defend an NXT title on the grand stage of WrestleMania. Candice LeRae and Shotzi Blackheart are currently deadlocked in an intense feud. Racquel Gonzalez is downright nasty. Toni Storm is destined for stardom. And we can’t leave out current NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai either. Stacked roster indeed.
4) Pat McAfee is a Legend
He’s not a weekly performer, but the fact that Pat McAfee is a part of the NXT picture at all should be enough for you to tune in. Most recently, the former NFL punter teamed with his squadron of Pete Dunne and NXT Tag Team Champions Danny Burch and Oney Lorkin against the Undisputed Era in a hellacious WarGames match. No one is better on the mic than McAfee and his feud with UE is likely far from over. The best part if you never know just when he’ll pop up, as was the case when he helped Lorcan and Burch capture tag team gold this fall.
5) Banger of a Soundtrack
I was all about SmackDown’s FOX rebrand including a theme song switch to AC/DC’s “Are You Ready.” But when it comes to WWE show music, NXT takes the cake. The argument starts and ends with Slipknot’s “All Out Life”, the brand’s current theme song. But just to double down, the 2020 Halloween Havoc theme was Marilyn Manson’s “DON’T CHASE THE DEAD.” NXT WarGames 2020 had Ghostemane’s “Hydrochloride.” I think you get my point.
6) Awesome Announce Team
In my opinion, the commentary team has a bigger impact on the WWE viewing experience than most people realize. While SmackDown’s Michael Cole and Corey Graves are easily the most recognizable, I’ll go out on a limb and say NXT’s announce team of Vic Joseph, Wade Barrett, and Beth Phoenix is the best in WWE at present. Joseph never lacks enthusiasm as the color commentator, while Barrett is the best heel analyst WWE has had since JBL left the desk. The trio does a great job every week and their numerous arguments are bound to provide viewers with an additional laugh or two.
7) The Greatest Referee WWE Has Ever Known
I say this in a somewhat hushed tone because I don’t want him to leave NXT for one of the main shows, but Tom Castor is downright hilarious as an official. His enthusiasm is unmatched. Of course, part of wrestling is that when matches break down, the referees often lose control. Not Castor. He is constantly directing the wrestlers, contorting to get the closest view of the action he can, and maintaining strict order. Perhaps I’m the only one who pays more attention to a referee than the actual superstars during a match, he is a highlight of the weekly show.
Side note, Castor suffered a broken leg and ankle in a match last year, but he gutted it out and made the official three-count. If that’s not officiating greatness, then I don’t know what is. Tom Castor, know that I appreciate you, man!