by Shanna Harris (@AbsoluteSmark)
If you were to ask me my opinion on what a wrestling show would be, I’d have to say NXT before anything else. Why? Because NXT is the best televised wrestling that WWE produces each week. On certain weeks, it’s hard to believe that NXT IS a WWE program. NXT is not the formulaic Raw or Smackdown that you’re forcing yourself to watch week in and out. In fact, NXT falls very far outside of the regular WWE television formula. Which is one of the reasons why it’s so great.
Since I first started watching the show on July 24, 2013, I’ve fallen harder and harder for NXT. There’s so much good happening on the show, and with time, it will only get better.
Despite what you may have heard about NXT (like it being a “rookies only” show and not worth your time), NXT over the past year has become my go to wrestling program. No other show on WWE TV is getting everything right like NXT is. The stories are immersive and consistently entertaining. The rivalries range from truly funny comedy to truly serious feuds centered around honor and pride. The wrestling matches that take place each week are the center piece of the show, not an afterthought. NXT treats wrestling like the peanut butter to the jelly sandwich that it is.
What always puts NXT over the top for me has always been the women’s wrestling. These are not 2-3 minute matches where the competitors struggle to hit a bulldog. The matches are not Divas dressed in ridiculous sexy Santa outfits. They do not participate in dull battle royals either. What you get with women’s wrestling on NXT is consistent, quality matches from hungry women determined to make a positive impact on the sport. They have their own personalities, stories, and they are as much a part of the show as the men. They aren’t fodder. They are athletes.
Here are some of my favorite matches/things about NXT from this year:
1. NXT ArRival: Cesaro vs Sami Zayn
Despite the fact that Vince McMahon thinks that Cesaro can’t connect with crowds because he’s Swiss, I believe that Cesaro has all the tools to be a huge star. Why? Because NXT showed me that he did.
Not only was Cesaro down at NXT this year cutting promos and wrestling the best of the future crop of WWE main eventers, Cesaro and Sami Zayn have put on 2 of the best wrestling matches you will see on any WWE program this year. At NXT ArRival, Cesaro defeated Sami in 22:00 minutes of wrestling that had the entire audience on it’s feet and screaming with each false finish and dive though the ropes. Cesaro can’t get over, huh? Well, in NXT he already was. In a contest that I, a non-list maker, consider a match of the year, Cesaro proved that Vince McMahon is as wrong about Cesaro as he is about how in touch he is with what the people watching his shows want to see each week.
NXT makes stars. NXT does not break them.
2. NXT TakeOver: Natalya (with Bret Hart) vs Charlotte (w/Ric Flair)
It’s hard for me to describe just how much this match means to me as a fan of women’s wrestling. In a business determined to keep women dull and uninspired arm pieces, I was so proud to have this match as evidence of what women’s wrestlers are capable of if given the story and allowed to be what they actually are.
For me, it doesn’t get much better than this. These two women WRESTLED THIS MATCH. Actual wrestling that we all know and love. No cheesy jealousy angles, no games, and no going soft because someone may get hurt. This match was a straight up mat classic that had me on my feet from the time the match started to the final bell. The story that needed to be told was told in the ring and post match.
How many times in a generation will we ever see downed Natalya being mock whooo’ed by Ric Flair at ringside? How many times will we ever see a women’s match with BRET HART and RIC FLAIR at ringside? How many times will we get to see Natalya and Charlotte both overcome with emotion embracing each other in the middle of the ring after a match for the ages?
It happened once, and it happened at TakeOver.
This match changed my life, and everything I ever thought women’s wrestling could ever be. I will always be appreciative of NXT for giving NXT women a higher standard to reach for. It works when it’s done.
3. Rusev DeHypes Mojo Rawley
I enjoy Rusev and Lana on the main roster. I really do. It’s one of few things the big WWE shows have gotten right this year, other than the whole pesky thing where Lana and Rusev are bad people for being proud of being from Russia.
But by far, the very best thing that Alexander Rusev did this year was de-hype the always annoying Mojo Rawley. I very rarely ever laugh at anything “comedy” on a show, and this moment had me in tears from beginning to end.
Here’s the video:
Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn face off before R-Evolution:
This. This is everything to me right now.
A week from today, Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn will go one on one with the NXT Championship on the line. The above video was their pre-match showdown. It’s cut up, but I think it illustrates just how effective in-ring promos and backstage segments can be.
For too long, WWE has put the focus on “entertainment” and lack of interactions ahead of telling an actual story. Most characters on WWE TV shift from one motivation to the next without a second thought, and there’s almost no acknowledgement of past feuds. It drives me crazy.
At NXT, there’s none of that. The past is referenced constantly. Just check out this OUTSTANDING hype video for Kevin Owens.
For those who are often annoyed when WWE misses the little things that make the big things better, you will never miss the little things on this show. Everything is covered. And when it comes time for TakeOver, all the little things and the big things add up and my excitement goes through the roof. Every single TakeOver has been better than the one before it, and I doubt that will change anytime soon.
I’m not ashamed to call myself an NXT super fan. I’ve watched just about every NXT from the Summer of 2013 to now, and my fandom has only increased with time. NXT is a program like no other on WWE’s roster of shows. It’s action packed, written intelligently, and often gives you more bang for your buck. NXT is one of few things that remind me to keep my network subscription active.
NXT is a program that doesn’t insult your intelligence. There’s no John Cena anywhere to be found here. There’s no guest hosts. They are forced to use WRESTLING and conversation to keep the show flowing. NXT will pack more action into 45 minutes than any show on the WWE Network. NXT will make you actually care for and miss a wrestler when he/she isn’t on TV. NXT will keep you entertained by making you laugh, cry, or think. Anyone can watch NXT, but only a few will ever appreciate it for what it is. I guess I’m one of those people, because I just can’t get enough of NXT. Can anybody every get enough NXT? I probably never will.
NXT means business, and every week strives to prove to everyone that it is a force to be reckoned with. I believe in NXT, and will watch it until someone decides to take it off the air.
Unsurprisingly, NXT gets an A for this year. If you watch NXT, how would you rate it for 2014?