WWE’s NXT brand has often been hailed as one of its best shows. Even more so, when it became a wrestling program following its stint as a game show with reality elements. Triple H, Dusty Rhodes, William Regal, Shawn Michaels, and others, ensured the brand wouldn’t flop. Many of today’s Raw & SmackDown stars were the products of their vision. However, this would eventually lead to NXT squaring up against the new kid on the block, AEW Dynamite. In my previous article about the black & gold brand, I talked about the “Rise & Fall Of NXT”. I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already, as this piece serves as a follow up.
Let’s begin with the drastic change in presentation for NXT 2.0, AKA the elephant in the room. Look, I love a revamp. Any product should think about it once in a while. Without it, you risk becoming stale, and that’s when people stop taking notice. It gets people talking, but you need to hope the feedback is positive.
When the multi-colour NXT logo was shared online, fans panned it because it’s so far gone from what we’re used to. It’s not the right fit for a wrestling program, and it would be better suited if you were producing a show teaching art for kids (any UK fans remember the show Art Attack?). NXT’s look was always dark, gritty, and underground, but now it’s about smacking us with as much colour and lights as possible. While replacing the former setup with a hip new thing, it ironically reminds us of an early 90s show. I understand wanting to reach a younger demographic, but more needs to be done than changing the logo & lighting.
I think the worst thing about the switch was they didn’t have Triple H introducing it. There has been much said about WWE management interfering with a product we were told was his. Of course, we know they couldn’t do this because he’s resting up after his cardiac arrest, but they could have postponed the changeover. Or better yet, have William Regal & Shawn Michaels introduce in his place. They chose not to do this, so anybody tuning in would not understand the significance. What is NXT 2.0? Why have they gone through with this? What is the long-term vision? Will there be any more changes? There are so many unanswered questions which they could have addressed out of the gate.
That’s another thing, why change the name to NXT 2.0? Does this mean the original NXT wasn’t good enough? Are they admitting the previous product was inferior? It sounds slightly arrogant to refer to it as 2.0, because it undermines all the blood, sweat and tears which built the original product. Aside from this piece, I will never refer to the show as NXT 2.0, because it will always be NXT to me. There’s no need for the fluff. Much like my good friend Tony Mango said in his article, it’s more like NXT 5.0 or 6.0 because it’s not the first time management has changed things.
Earning Last Names
Let’s talk about Tuesday’s show. I understand why they are calling Bronson Rechsteiner “Bron Breakker”, and it’s for two reasons. First, it’s so they can push him to the moon without fans resisting by saying “they are only pushing him because he’s a Steiner!” (like we didn’t know this). Second, it’s like Charlotte Flair having to earn her last name. Remember how long she was called Charlotte? WWE is making Bronson earn his name, which would be the recently trademarked Rex Steiner. He has to prove he can get over with a crappy last name before he has their full support.
The first mistake of the night was Bron Breakker going over LA Knight, a contender for the NXT Championship. I watched this show twice to be sure I missed nothing and am still perplexed at the booking. The only thing that makes sense is that when LA Knight was Eli Drake in Impact Wrestling, he won the tag titles with Scott Steiner. They have that connection, so it makes sense that Knight would be Breakker’s first match, but having him lose on the same night he’s challenging for the NXT title is confusing. More on Breakker later.
The Imperium match was eye opening for two reasons. Aichner & Barthel are freaking jacked! It’s crazy how chiseled and ripped they are. Few can match their physiques. The fans did not like Jensen and Briggs, so the heels of Imperium had the fans’ support. I liked Briggs more, but Jensen is only 20, so there’s a lot to work on. With Imperium, I’m wondering if they should split away from Walter now that he isn’t NXT UK Champion and unlikely to move to America.
I’ve been rarely paying attention to Hit Row since they debuted, but I can see their appeal. Somehow, the group isn’t so much about Isaiah Scott (the North American Champion) as it is B-Fab and the other two. The biggest questions are, when was the last time Scott defended the title? And how did the Hit Row/Legado Del Fantasma feud become more about the girls? Not that I’m against them having the spotlight, but shouldn’t it be more about the leaders? I haven’t started caring about the back-and-forth yet, so I’d rather they stopped talking nonsensical crap and beat the hell out of each other.
I admire B-Fab’s look and confidence, but in the ring, she’s green as hell. Also, Hit Row’s theme is catchy, but it makes for one of the most annoying chants I’ve ever heard. It’s almost as bad as directing “What?!” at The Undertaker. The most positive thing I can say about the feud is that both stables look like they belong together, which is half the battle won.
He’s Not A Real Priest
Damian Priest pops in for a grim joke and to get a pop from the crowd. Aside from that, he isn’t seen again. When was Odyssey Jones with The Way? Still, it was nice to get Austin Theory back. I have to say, the buildup to the wedding was perfect. This is what NXT has always done well. It knows how to tie in story elements in a meaningful and digestible manner. Did it deserve to be the main event? That’s up for debate. I think it did, but that’s only because I’ve seen the storyline progression for over a year. Also, we have to consider how badly the NXT title match changed, but we’ll go over that soon.
Next up is the newly nicknamed “Golden Child” & “Chosen One” (Drew McIntyre will be mad) Carmelo Hayes, and the guy who eats, sleeps, and picks his nose whenever he does, Trick Williams. Boy, this was not good shit! Apologies for the curse, but the promo was terrible. I didn’t understand what Trick was trying to say (I must be too old for this), and the beat down of Duke Hudson was poor. For me, it was the lowest point of the show, and it didn’t make me a fan, to the point I’m wondering if they are ready for TV.
I’m really digging the duo of Gigi Dolan & Jacy Jayne. They are pretty new, but have the confidence and skill set to make it work. With Mandy Rose leading them, she’s not acting as a mentor, so much as they are all learning together. During Mandy’s main roster run, she didn’t have what it takes to be a women’s champion, but coming back to NXT can help her level up. Still not much of a fan of Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter, although their chemistry is improving.
The tag match was alright, but when Regal bumped it up to include Mandy Rose & Sarray, it became arguably the match of the night. Sarray is extremely talented, and Mandy carried her team… which I never thought I’d say. So, Rose isn’t a blonde bombshell anymore, but sometimes you need to change things up. It wasn’t as much of a radical transformation as the commentators made it out to be, but I understand the significance. She looks more like a proper wrestler now, instead of a model pretending to be one.
Von Wagner/Diamond Mine
During the match, we saw Kyle O’Reilly get taken out by Pete Dunne & Ridge Holland. This is disappointing, because without him, the NXT title match loses a lot. William Regal announces that a random nobody we have never seen before, Von Wagner (the guy who saved Kyle), would step in and take his place. Ok, this is another mistake because, while it’s cool pushing new guys, putting a complete stranger to the audience in to the title picture is absurd. Don’t do that! It cheapens the NXT Championship and its contenders. Stick in someone who deserves it, like Cameron Grimes, or turn it in to a triple threat.
I didn’t get to check out The Creed Brothers on their debut, so their match was new to me. Brutus is a beast, he reminds me somewhat of a 2002 Brock Lesnar. Julius is clearly more expressive, so while he hasn’t got the size like his brother, he has the potential to be the more charismatic. With Diamond Mine backing them up, they have some skilled teachers and a mouthpiece.
I’m slightly worried for The Creed Brothers’ opponents, but that’s probably a good thing, so long as they look dangerous while not actually hurting anybody. Malcolm Bivens put over the new girl, Ivy Niles, incredibly well. She already looks like a star. In fact, you probably won’t remember, but she worked a fight on Raw Underground with Shayna Baszler. I’m also pleased with how the show introduced Tony D’Angelo.
The title match was hurt in three different ways. First, Samoa Joe was injured, otherwise it could have been Joe vs. Ciampa vs. Dunne vs. O’Reilly. Second, whatever happened to O’Reilly, I hope it isn’t an injury, but if it’s not… then they really shouldn’t have added Von Wagner. He got no reaction for his entrance, and was jeered later on for getting in some offense.
The third issue was LA Knight losing in the opener. How can anyone believe he would win the title after that? With him & Von Wagner, there were only two viable challengers left in Tommaso Ciampa and Pete Dunne. They carried much of it, and as a British fan I was rooting for Dunne, but I’m not against Ciampa getting Goldie back. He’s the logical choice, although if you really wanted to make NXT 2.0, you’d go with a new champion. Did anyone notice LA Knight get busted open by Ciampa’s necklace?
The wedding was beautiful and void of the usual drama. I loved The Way’s antics and how Indi Hartwell performed. If anyone was wondering why there was a zombie referee standing next to William Regal, it’s a call back to the Haunted House of Terror match between Dexter Lumis & Cameron Grimes at Halloween Havoc 2020. During the cinematic, the referee turned in to a zombie and scared Grimes, so it was just a fun reference to it.
The most amusing parts of the ceremony came from Dexter Lumis. When the priest asked if anyone had a reason they shouldn’t be married, most of the guests put their hands up, but they quickly put them down when Lumis showed them his hatchet. The best part was when Beth Phoenix asked him if he would remain loyal to Indi so long as they both shall live, and he responded “I… do”. The place erupted! It was such a heartfelt moment, and as much as we love wrestling, it’s moments like these we often remember the most.
The show ended with Tommaso Ciampa and Bron Breakker. You could say they were teasing a future title match, which I think is jumping the gun. There’s no need to push Breakker or Wagner so hard and so soon. Let them grow and earn fans respect. You can tell the show isn’t being overseen by Triple H, because he wouldn’t let this happen. He would let things grow organically, instead of shoving someone in to the deep end. There’s so much potential in this roster, but there will be resistance if it isn’t treated right.
I feel like NXT 2.0 is better than some were expecting. There was a lot to process, especially all the fresh faces and the way some were booked. However, the one thing I wanted from WWE was to figure out how to make NXT a developmental territory again. I wanted WWE to stop forcing it as a third equal brand to Raw & SmackDown, and make it what it was. There’s no need to confuse things. The show is called NXT, so make it about the next generation of talent.
WWE has kept some of the established names around, like Samoa Joe, Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano and William Regal, to keep up some familiarity, while also giving the new talent credible mentors. Only time will tell who will emerge from the new breed as top stars, but refocusing has brought about a better environment for them to learn. If seeing talent you have never seen before isn’t your cup of tea, then NXT isn’t for you. This is how it was back in the day, and how it should always be. I can’t agree with some changes, but my mind is open enough to give it a chance. Much like the roster, the rebranding has to prove itself, and it’s impossible to judge if it works after one show. Ask me again in a few months.
NXT 2.0 is a success, but it’s an acquired taste, and one we may take time to get used to. The storytelling and ring work has changed little, but the roster has, and we have got to accept it. Hopefully, Triple H will be back soon to tell us this is what he wants too. Until that happens, there will continue to be resistance to WWE management, because we don’t want it to be managed like Raw & SmackDown. It was already in capable hands. With that said, I’d like to know what you think of NXT 2.0 in the comments. Thanks for reading!