On Wrestling: A Look Back at WWE/NXT Takeover



By Paul O'Brien

The hug. The crowd. HHH. “Breathe.” The difference. The characters. The Fallout. The commentary. Tyler Breeze. Nattie. Zayn. Flair. The emotion. The psychology. The newness. Charlotte. The tears. The passion. The future.

HHH is building something special. Something different. Like his own territory. From the long shadow of WWE to the sandbox of NXT, the viewer can almost feel the relish in which he approaches these shows. And that freedom and relish is mushrooming into something notable.

Older viewers couldn’t help but notice the parallel of Paul Levesque sitting beside Paul Heyman on the aftershow, as the small, rabid crowd chanted his name. The pride in the performers; the humility towards the connected fan base; the want to make it even better - it was familiar to say the least. NXT isn’t ECW - and it’s not trying to be - but without the blood, gore and toys, NXT has that “not WWE” feel to it. It had a “this is ours” feel to it.

And that’s a great thing. Especially for WWE.

NXT is a place - a collective effort - filled with people with something to prove, not least of which is The Game himself. Apart from all the shit he gets for being the ‘heir apparent,’ the pressure on Levesque to somehow just know how to run a behemoth of a company must be an anxious road to walk sometimes.

NXT is the perfect place for him, the talent, the crew, and WWE proper, to experiment; to detonate some controlled explosions. And all you have to do is look at what’s working on the WWE main roster now to see what a great proving ground NXT is turning out to be.

Last summer, I had the privilege of seeing a couple of NXT events live around Florida. Just like Takeover, they were superb because the experience wasn’t so manicured and it wasn’t so polished. The highlight of last night’s Special Event was the emotion, the glimpse of the performers under the characters. It was that it all meant something.

So much so that Tyson Kidd’s segment on Fallout felt out of place. Just before Tyson’s appearance, his wife said “My heart and soul poured out in the ring.” It was totally believable and it made Nattie more relatable in one sentence than five years of terrible gimmicks.

Maybe there’s learning in that too?

Of course the huge advantage of making something ’special’ is to make it different and unique. Putting NXT Special Events on more than three or four times a year would soon make it harder to coax the magic out of the performance. And the temptation will be there.

I just hope they resist. For the better good.

Great show.

Paul O’Brien is the author of crime wrestling novels, Blood Red Turns Dollar Green, which are set in around the lives of pro-wrestling promoters in the 1970’s.

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