Opinion: NXT has firmly established itself as WWE's third brand
- A look at the growing influence of NXT in today's landscape and how it established itself as the third brand in WWE.
- The story of how a developmental brand became the third brand of WWE with a global fan following.
Back in 2010, when NXT was launched, it was envisaged as a breeding ground for talent who would eventually move up to the main roster brands - RAW and SmackDown. However, over time, it has successfully carved a niche for itself in the WWE Universe and the professional wrestling landscape.
NXT has always been associated with excellent quality of storytelling and wrestling. Every NXT TakeOver is a wrestling spectacle in itself. The show consistently produces matches that are candidates for 'Match of the Year', making it highly-sought-after among the wrestling community.
The Women's division of NXT is arguably the best in the world in terms of sheer talent. Moreover, the current NXT Champion, Adam Cole, was voted as Pro Wrestling Illustrated 'Wrestler of the Year' for 2019, edging past some of the biggest names in the industry.
NXT has always been a platform that has provided opportunities to wrestlers to express themselves more freely, due to which it is a major attraction for wrestling talent around the globe. The fans also feel more connected to the wrestlers and the stories they narrate. This is in contrast to the relatively toned-down and controlled portrayal we see on RAW or SmackDown.
The reward for all the hard work NXT has put in over the years finally culminated at Survivor Series 2019. The marquee pay-per-view not only saw NXT go head-to-head against RAW and SmackDown in the war of brands but also emerge victorious by a comfortable margin.
This victory was an emphatic declaration by the WWE that NXT has now graduated from a developmental brand to WWE's third brand with a global identity and fan following. With its TV deal with USA Network, NXT is WWE's direct answer to AEW Dynamite.
The growing influence of NXT in the overall WWE landscape can be gauged by the complexion of the WrestleMania 36 match card.
For the first time ever, NXT Women's Championship will be defended at WrestleMania when Rhea Ripley takes on the most decorated NXT alumnus Charlotte Flair. Former NXT Champion and 2020 Men's Royal Rumble winner Drew McIntyre is set to challenge Brock Lesnar for WWE Championship. Former NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler will face 'The Man' Becky Lynch for RAW Women's Championship.
Sami Zayn recently became the Intercontinental Champion at Elimination Chamber, thereby winning his first championship since his NXT Championship victory in 2014. The United States Championship is currently held by former NXT Champion Andrade, while former NXT Superstars The Street Profits now hold the RAW Tag Team Championship. Unless there are any changes in plans for any of these Superstars, they will most likely defend their titles at WrestleMania 36.
On March 14 episode of SmackDown, 16-time World Champion John Cena emphasized that WWE should invest in wrestlers such as Drew McIntyre, Tommaso Ciampa, Matt Riddle, Rhea Ripley and Velveteen Dream for the future. The common thread between all of these mentioned Superstars is that all of them are still or have been a part of the NXT ecosystem.
Considering the impact that NXT and its Superstars have made in the WWE in the past 12 months, it is safe to say that the Black and Gold brand has finally made it big in the WWE. We can expect this trend to continue in the coming months.Published 23 Mar 2020, 18:41 IST