Someday, the poets may write: 'Oh, NXT... where have thou gone?'
Of course, WWE's Black and Gold brand is still there. It's on the air, every Wednesday on the USA Network. But, for some reason, NXT feels like that it's lost its luster. The brand that helped to re-shape the wrestling world just a few years ago seems to be in a bit of slump.
The history of the NXT brand is an odd one, as it began as somewhat of a sideshow, focusing mostly on putting their prospects through silly stunts and corny contests.
Eventually, it evolved into one of the best, all-around wrestling brands in recent memory. Under the Black and Gold banner, some of WWE's biggest stars planted their flag in the ground. Several historians could even argue that the company's Womens Revolution actually started on NXT soil, with names like Charlotte Flair, Paige, Bayley, and Sasha Banks helping to strike new ground.
At one point, NXT went from a punchline to a pipeline of talent.
The early days of the third brand were just downright silly. Born in 2010 out of the ashes of every ther developmental territory that WWE had burned through in the past, it didn't get off to a great start.
But, just a few years later, NXT became the jewel of the newly-launched WWE Network, and began being lauded for it's fantastic series of TakeOver events. By 2016, they were often being compared with Ring Of Honor as the best place to see wrestling presented, as it was meant to be.
The following handful of years saw a bevy of talent make their way through the ranks, as Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe and others would put on eye-popping matches. This was definitley the golden era for the Black and Gold brand, as they began to be regarded on the same level (or even higher) than their distant cousins, RAW and SmackDown.
However, when NXT un-officially became WWE's third brand, they lost their luster.
Despite great efforts by talents like Johnny Gargano, Tomasso Ciampa, and The Undisputed Era, the last few years have seemed to dilute the product. And, their incredibly forced move from the WWE Network to USA has been a tough one.
The constant comparisons to AEW every week have been a burden, as they continue to put out a great in-ring product, while not receiving the same buzz they once did.
Now? It appears they may even be giving up on the so-called Wednesday Night Wars.
It's almost as if — when they made the jump to prime time, cable television — that they no longer felt as intimate to the audience that they once did.
NXT went from being a gem in the wilderness to an over-exposed product, and starting receiving apathy, instead of appeal. They were no longer something that only the insiders knew about; they went from being an alternative to being the apex. Then, they began featuring stars from WWE's main roster, and it further watered down their product. That hurt their image as The Little Engine That Could.
This is unfortunate, because the chemistry that Triple H and company concocted there was once (arguably) the best brand in all of pro wrestling.
Hopefully, someday, we will again see the greatness NXT once stood for.