WWE NXT has been a tremendous addition to weekly WWE programming. It is a great way to showcase the talents of future superstars and introduce them to an audience awaiting their arrival and competition with the main roster on RAW and WWE Pay-Per-Views. To date several NXT superstars have received the call up to the main roster but there has been a trend of disconnect and weak introductions of these wrestlers to the mainstream audience, leaving fans to ask, “Who are these characters?”. I will focus on Xavier Woods, Emma, Rusev, Paige, Adam Rose and Bo Dallas and explore how a few tweaks in introductions, vignettes and booking could help make these superstars’ transition a smoother and possibly a more successful one to answer just who these talents are from NXT!
NXT has quickly developed a cult like fan base. It is a program heavily promoted on the new WWE Network and is available in select international markets. Additionally, there is a select group who attend the show live at Full Sail University so the fans and superstars are able to set the culture of NXT programming . This venue and show is great for in-ring and on-screen character development for these new talents however it would appear that the superstars are “over” with a select fraction of the “WWE Universe”.
An example that would be similar is the cult following ECW has to this day. The ECW wrestlers have legendary status with ECW live crowds and fans. Once they arrived in WWE to a new audience, to some they were unknown and fans did not get behind them as anticipated. WWE needed to properly introduce these talents to their audience and showcase their historic runs, similar to the way WWE showcases someone like Rob Van Dam. I believe that a similar philosophy should be implemented with NXT talents.
Superstars like Paige, Adam Rose and Bo Dallas uniquely gained popularity in the NXT arena. They’ve spent time honing their skills and are deserving of a main roster spot. It cannot be assumed, however, that the character they developed in NXT would automatically receive that same reception on an episode of RAW.
Paige nicknamed herself the “Anti-Diva” and established that she was not like the other divas on the roster. It would have been favourable to introduce Paige with highlights of her NXT matches, her championship win and also highlight her wrestling family lineage. Also, it should have been emphasized that Paige wasn’t discovered in a swimsuit magazine but in a ring and that she isn’t a model but a wrestler which makes her unique from others on the roster and that her one goal is the Diva’s title. An idea I heard on a wrestling podcast would be for Paige to run through the “competition” en route to finally winning the title which would showcase her wrestling ability. Presently, it seems WWE has chosen to do this in reverse but if Paige is the special talent that fans feel she is, she’ll rise to the top.
Adam Rose had a tremendous debut with his unique entrance that caught the NXT fan base by storm. Upon arrival it didn’t matter what Rose did in the ring, to NXT fans, Rose was already a star. His entrance and character too was expedited to the main roster. If RAW/Smackdown fans are not familiar with Rose’s character it would be absurd to anticipate the same reaction. It must also be noted that Rose’s entrance looks tremendous in Full Sail but less impressive in major sports arenas.
Finally, Bo Dallas’ entire character was developed out of the reaction he received from the live NXT crowd. The fans didn’t buy into his character and Bo was able to turn that around into a villain who is condescending and continues to conduct himself as a role model in his own mind. Bo’s vignettes could be misleading to an audience unfamiliar with how this character came to be. WWE needs to better introduce to their audience what these talents accomplished in NXT that resulted in their call up to the main roster.
Vignettes have always been a great way to introduce new talent and unique characters. In addition to creative vignettes, NXT’s contribution to a talent’s development should not remain hidden as fans are aware of the program and the performance centre. For example, Rusev alongside Lana were introduced as Bulgarian and Russian villains who despise the United States. A gimmick like this where the foreign villain who speaks no English and has a manager will go only go so far. Fans should be introduced to Rusev’s muay thai and sumo background and there should be highlights of Rusev destroying his American NXT competition. Regardless of these creative alternatives “booking” of talent is also an important factor that often determines success of talents.
A debuting NXT talent must be portrayed in a serious light as their first impression. If they evolve into a comedy character that’s fine as a character like this has it’s place, but the first impression should be one of someone to take serious and get behind or despise. The ways these superstars are portrayed are vital to their acceptance and/or rejection from fans.For example, Xavier Woods was very abruptly brought up to the main roster and put in a meaningless storyline. Woods doesn’t need to thrust into a main event spot; but there has to be purpose. One scenario could have been that R-Truth declared he was pursuing Tag Team gold and was going to search NXT for the next bright star to form a new and dynamic team to challenge for the Tag Team Championships. Once Truth surveyed the NXT landscape, he could announce that on an upcoming episode of RAW the NXT star he chose. They could compete in the tag division and see if they gain momentum and if they lose on their quest, Truth could turn on Woods, a star he felt he made and could destroy. Gives both men some meaning on the show and opportunity to garner interest from fans.
Another talent that has been miscast in my opinion is Emma. Emma’s dance was instantaneously showcased on RAW and fans got no introduction of who Emma is besides her bizarre dance. In NXT, Emma’s wrestling was what made her popular and over time fans began to appreciate Emma and the one way they saw to further support her beyond cheers was to join in her unorthodox dance. Emma should be given the opportunity to show off her wrestling skills and convey to fans that although she is “fun and games” on her way to the ring that once she’s in the squared circle it’s all business for this Australian darling. Instead Emma has become an intentionally, unfunny comedic character and I don’t fault her but those giving her instructions. Let’s hope that Emma can pop this comedic bubble and get her due respect for her in-ring abilities.
These are my observations and suggestions as a long time WWE fan. I’m sure these Superstars will find success over time. Not everyone can be the Shield or the Wyatt Family who needed very little to skyrocket to the top in a short span of time. Those men proved that they are indeed special talents and top talents will always rise to the top. As a fan of NXT, I hope that everyone who is called up is successful–that may take a few weeks, months and years but these young talents will have the time to prove to fans they belong in front of millions of fans in arenas and on television worldwide.