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WWE: What Is NXT Supposed To Be Now Anyway?

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According to the always reliable Wikipedia, NXT is the professional wrestling developmental branch for WWE based in Winter Park, Florida. Well, Wikipedia, I think it’s time you updated your page on NXT because a lot of people would agree that NXT is no longer developmental. A more accurate name for NXT might be Indie Supershow, or King of Indies (already taken), or Place Where You Can See All Your Favourite Independent and International Wrestlers on a Weekly Basis Show. That last one is a little wordy.

Basically, NXT WAS a developmental branch of WWE, taking over the role from Florida Championship Wresting. Now, NXT is a very well produced and deep pocketed indie wrestling promotion.

Here are some of NXT’s best workers and standout performers:

  • Sami Zayn: Formerly El Generico. Everyone’s favourite racially insensitive luchador.
  • Kevin Owens: Formerly Kevin Steen. Partnered with El Generico about as often as he was trying to kill him. Likes zoos.
  • Hideo Itami: Formerly KENTA. Was the best, and last good thing about NOAH. Sorry, Suzuki-gun Invasion. You have been a disappointment. An 18-minute Taichi match! You can go to hell. Oh wait, that is hell.
  • Finn Balor: Formerly Prince Devitt. Not really a prince, but he did get to ride on Bad Luck Fale’s shoulders to the ring quite often. Oh, and he also started a little faction you may have heard of called the BULLET CLUB!
  • Neville: Formerly Adrian Neville: Formerly formerly Pac: The good Pac, without the X. Recently called up to the main roster as guy who wears a cape.
  • Kalisto: Formerly Samuray Del Sol (what is a samuray anyway?). Amazing luchador. Married to a woman called (Sister?) Abigail. Thanks, Wikipedia. Also recently called up to the main roster. Does not wear a cape.
  • Sasha Banks: Formerly Mercedes. Held the Chaotic Wrestling Women’s Championship for 260 days. Likes Sailor Moon.
  • Becky Lynch: Formerly Rebecca Knox. Has wrestled around Europe and Japan. Also appeared on the TV show Vikings for about 5 seconds (thanks @David_Stepp)
  • Bailey: Formerly Davina Rose. Once wrestled Canadian Ninjas.

Trivial facts aside, the one thing they all have in common is they were established wrestlers, some more so than others, before joining NXT. Wrestlers like Balor have little use of a developmental system at this stage in their careers. Sure, Balor might need to work out the timing on his new ring entrance before debuting on Raw. And Owens might need to learn to cut a promo without using too much unsavoury language. But really, most of those performers listed were pretty much good to go when they arrived in NXT. Zayn has been main roster ready forever now.

Of course, they’re not the only wrestlers featured on NXT. Tyler Breeze, Charlotte, Enzo Amore & Big Cass, and The Vaudevillains just to name a few, have all built a solid following in NXT. While even some of these NXT stars had independent experience prior to WWE, NXT is where they’ve really made a name for themselves, or even further back in FCW in the cases of Breeze and English. These wrestlers have gotten over on their talent, and the backing of NXT officials.

That’s not a lot of success stories for a brand that is/was supposed be developing the stars of WWE’s future. The number, and popularity of pre-established stars easily outweighs the successful “homegrown” talent featured in NXT.

What about the not so successful (yet?) homegrown talent? In a promotion with so many international superstars with years and years of experience, names like Scott Dawson, Mojo Rawley, Jason Jordan, Baron Corbin and many others are struggling to stand out and make a name for themselves. Some of them have been given opportunities and TV time, but when you feature alongside more experienced and capable talents like a Zayn or a Balor, how can you expect them to look like superstars? They’ve got almost no chance.

And that’s really the main fault of the so-called developmental system. It’s not developing “new” stars, it’s highlighting established stars. And that’s great for fans like me. NXT, along with Lucha Underground are the two weekly pro wrestling programs I look forward to watching the most because of the big name independent and international stars, and the high quality matches and production. But is it great for WWE's future?

CJ Parker is, in a way, the first major casualty of the non-developmental NXT. Parker was given a questionable gimmick of “laid-back cool guy.” I’m sorry, but RVD has beaten that gimmick into the ground. To Parker’s credit, he rolled with the punches and turned the gimmick around into a great, modern heel character who could get major heat from the crowd. Unfortunately, he also mastered the role of enhancement talent. He could make guys look like a million bucks in a short, 5-minute squash, such as with Owens’ debut. There’s always a role someone like that in any wrestling promotion. Parker was great at it, and a lot of guys would be happy with that spot in the WWE.

However, for Parker, at 26 years old, that’s not what he wanted at this stage in his career, so he made the very gutsy move of requesting his release from WWE. And you know what? Good on him. In a recent interview with Greg Mehaffy, Parker stated that he wants to go out and get more experience and exposure. That's an amazing statement. Parker, who was with the current version of NXT from its inception, felt he had to leave the company to develop and grow as a wrestler. If that doesn’t tell you there’s a problem down in Florida, I don’t know what will.

For argument’s sake, if NXT really is no longer the professional wrestling developmental branch of WWE, what is? Does WWE need their own developmental territory when the entire independent wrestling circuit is their true talent goldmine? Is the WWE Performance Center, the official wrestling school of WWE, all they really need to train and develop homegrown talent? Does NXT need its own developmental show where wrestlers learn and get TV time in the hopes of one day making it to the grand stage of NXT?

It’s an interesting situation for NXT and WWE’s future stars. I’m obviously not qualified to provide any answers, hence the deluge of questions that brings this piece to a close, but I do hope that the situation is recognised and addressed before more NXT performers take the CJ Parker route.