Tuesday, December 5, 2023

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NXT on USA – A Share of the Spotlight?

The wrestling world is on the cusp of great change with SmackDown moving to Friday nights on Fox Sports, AEW debuting on TNT and NXT is now on the USA Network.

The move to a network as big as USA, means that NXT will have more eyes on it than ever before and therefore more exposure for the brand, it’s talent and especially its Women’s division.

The NXT Women’s division is something that could definitely do with more of the spotlight. The reign of Shayna Bazler has been excellent and she has proved to be one of the most capable and dominant champions in the brand’s history. But it has exposed a lack of credible challengers and top-tier talent within the ranks.

Credit: WWE

Since the loss of fan favourite superstars such as Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, and Kairi Sane, NXT management has seemed unable or even unwilling to elevate to the current crop of talent to the next level.

Bianca Belair was phenomenal when she burst onto the scene but seemed to cool off after her loss to Baszler at TakeOver: Phoenix and has been unable to regain that momentum. Candice LeRae spent months playing Mrs. Gargano rather than the multi-talented performer we know she is, although her feud with Io Shirai has been awesome. Mia Yim hasn’t been given the fuel to really get going and Taynara Conti and Vanessa Borne have some way to go before becoming viable contenders.

Credit: WWE

If there has been anyone who has been gearing up to the next level it has been Io Shirai. Io’s feud with Baszler and ensuing heel turn has set her up nicely to play a major part in the division. The loss of Dakota Kai, to injury certainly left a gap and thankfully her return has come at just the right time. As has the inclusion of Rhea Ripley and Toni Storm, both coming from NXT UK is perfect for the division. They are bonafide superstars, engaging and interesting characters and future champions across all of WWE.

The new crop of talent waiting in the wings like Deonna Purrazzo, Chelsea Green, Xia Li, Santana Garrett, among many others could and should benefit hugely from the spotlight an extra hour of TV and network exposure will surely bring.

Credit: WWE

One of the best things about NXT in the past has been it’s easily watchable running time, 1 hour weekly TV and 2.5/3 hour pay-per-view, that allows the viewer to enjoy the shows without having to dedicate 3 hours plus they must do to watch WWE Raw and pay-per-views. However, this reasonably short running time also has its downside, as there just isn’t enough time to fit all of the roster on the weekly show. The move to USA means that NXT is now a 2-hour show, giving management the opportunity to showcase more of the talent on a weekly basis and provide a fair share of the spotlight.

But will the exposure and extended TV time spread to NXT’s major shows, TakeOver (insert state here)?

TakeOvers always features amazing matches from start to finish, usually at a running of around 2.5/3 hours. This running time allows for around five or six matches, four title matches, and an end-of-feud match. This usually means there is only enough space/time for one women’s (Championship) match. Yet the most recent TakeOver held in Toronto, and longest one yet, we were treated to two women’s matches, Candice LeRae vs Io Shirai and Women’s Championship match, Shayna Bazler vs Mia Yim. Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come. More time equals more talent.

Credit: WWE

There can be little doubt that one of the things that put NXT on the map in the first place was its Women’s division. The rise of the four horsewomen in NXT arguably kick-started the “Women’s Revolution” in WWE. Let’s hope that the move to USA will provide an opportunity for it to boom once more.

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