WWE’s promotion of the New Era has conjured a consistency of great in-ring performances that has not ever been seen in the company’s history. Despite these great matches, much of them being conducted by beloved NXT grads and independent wrestling darlings, NXT still has a show that appears to have a more passionate following than the company that allows it to exist.
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II, like almost every NXT show, has an aura that is feverish. While this kind of aura can often be seen on main WWE programming, it is nowhere near as consistent. It begs the question: Is it possible to duplicate the passion on Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live that is regularly seen on NXT?
In order to answer this question, one must look at the present obstacles keeping it from happening. For one, NXT is sports entertainment, but does not present itself as being an extension of sports entertainment. Instead, they seem to have taken a page from Ring of Honor to create an organization whose storylines rarely go deeper than involving win/loss records of the competitors involved.
The focus is on the action with dynamic characters. While WWE is giving segments to borderline irrelevant members of the rosters like R-Truth and Goldust playing Pokemon Go, and providing a stage to celebrities like Jon Stewart who are icons on primetime television, but trespassers to a wrestling audience.
There was a time when spectacle was a more accepted aspect to WWE programming, but that time has passed. The WWE audience clearly wants in-ring action with believable, but enthralling characters.
Secondly, NXT is the land of the clean slate. Although the audience at Full Sail University is regularly subjected to wrestling excellence, it is also understood that many of the performers within the NXT ranks are there to form their craft before being called up to the main roster. In simpler terms, NXT wrestlers are above the law.
This could not be further from the case for those who are members of the WWE roster. In a world where each and every mishap is documented on the internet for all to see on repeat, wrestling fans never forget when someone makes a mistake on live television, or when someone is misplaced creatively.
Two perfect examples of this are the recent Royal Rumble wins of Batista and Roman Reigns. Daniel Bryan was clearly the favorite in both Rumble matches, and fans all over the world were able to unite in rage online in the event that either Batista or Reigns was given the spotlight over a surging, white-hot Bryan.
When looking at the differences between NXT and WWE programming, one could also look at the fact that former independent wrestlers are given a chance to sign in NXT. Those former indy stars, who embody everything that the New Era stands for, are technically sound due to, in most cases, following in the footsteps of many former stars that developed a skill set through traveling the globe and inheriting a plethora of wrestling styles before getting to NXT.
Although there are many more former independent wrestling stars being showcased on WWE television than ever before, WWE has a well-documented recent history of deciding who the faces of the company were going to be well before reaching their highest status. Reigns, John Cena, and Randy Orton are WWE main-eventers who have been assumed to be chosen well before we watched them win multiple WWE championships. To many of the diehard fans, they represent stalled progression of the ones they wished to see on top, which has brewed habitual resentment in the hearts and minds of many fans.
When all of this is taken into account, there is one key ingredient, and one alone, that creates the fever at NXT shows: they are considered separate from WWE. Nobody is going to argue that the WWE has made their fair share of mistakes, but they have paid their penance in the form of the New Era. And yet, fans seems to be unwilling to forget the images of Batista and Reigns winning consecutive Royal Rumbles, CM Punk being taken away from them due to apparent company mistreatment, etc. None of these spirit-killing moments took place in NXT, the new land of opportunity within WWE.
Obvious steps have been taken by the WWE in order to appease those they have disappointed, but these steps so often go unappreciated that it sometimes makes the efforts look futile. No sins have been committed in NXT. NXT is the Garden of Eden, incorruptible and resistant to the big, bad, fan-hating Vince McMahon, constantly budding with fruit no fan dares bite into.
A couple mistakes, albeit large ones, have tainted any chance of full acceptance of the WWE by the entire fan base. The fans want to accept, as they have warm, fuzzy memories from years gone by — years that did not provide misplaced entitlement to fans that made them think that they run the program. NXT, to the fans, is pure.
Therefore, the only conclusion one can come to is that the fans will continue to complain, but they will also continue to pay. All parties must stay the course.