Originally published at POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: "The Future of NXT"
**We are live tonight with Rewind-A-Raw at 11:15 p.m. ET as Wai and I will review Raw coming off SummerSlam. We will also discuss the AEW Rampage number, Nick Khan’s interview with BT Sport, and share our thoughts on NXT TakeOver 36.
**Braden Herrington & Davie Portman have the NXT TakeOver POST Show available with a rundown of Sunday’s card featuring Samoa Joe winning the NXT Championship and lots more.
**I wanted to thank Nate Milton and Kate from Montreal for joining me on the SummerSlam POST Show on Saturday night. We spent almost two hours discussing the show from Las Vegas and taking your calls with a lot of reaction to the handling of Becky Lynch’s return and beating Bianca Belair in 26 seconds.
**On Tuesday’s Rewind-A-Wai, Wai Ting will be hosting the show with Espresso Executive Producer Jon Pine for a review of GCW’s “Run Rickey Run” event from Feb. 2020 featuring Rickey Shane Page vs. Nick Gage.
**We are hopeful that John Siino makes a complete recovery after upNXT Summer and Davie Portman’s rap.
THE TAKEOVER OF NXT
One of the major topics of the weekend was the future of NXT after reports over the prior weeks were largely confirmed by WWE president and chief revenue officer Nick Khan in speaking to Ariel Helwani for BT Sport (it was taped on Friday afternoon and released on Sunday).
Khan confirmed a complete revamp of the brand in the coming weeks specifically noting production elements with a new logo and new lighting along with its updated philosophy on talent recruitment. Khan seemed to hint at a streamlined process attracting high-level athletes and performers they see with the potential to become “WWE Superstars” (a term that can be as broad or as narrow as the person advocating for talent) and moving away from the pipeline of independent wrestlers funneling their way to NXT.
Khan is a great speaker and that’s evident with every earnings call and someone with a lot of attention in the television and business world. This interview was one where the average wrestling fan was going to be the primary audience and for the NXT loyalist, this description didn’t inspire confidence if the existing product was one you were attached to.
By specifically using the term “Indie Wrestling”, it was going to strike a chord with that audience and the feeling they are abandoning the style that attracted them to NXT. It was the starkest contrast between Nick and Tony Khan with the latter tweeting an obvious response to the interview and endearing himself to the audience that feels NXT is no longer catering to them. AEW has essentially been given its own runway to attract the top independent talent.
“We’re doing a complete revamp on NXT, led by Paul Levesque/Triple H.
Look for it in the next few weeks, it’s going to have a whole new look, a new feel.”
Nick Khan confirms to @arielhelwani that changes are coming to NXT and the reason why.
— WWE on BT Sport (@btsportwwe) August 22, 2021
The changes to NXT on the talent side are not going to be felt overnight. The immediate ones are aesthetic with the updated look of the Capitol Wrestling Center, but the talent makeup isn’t changing immediately. They have a roster full of talent that survived all the cuts and is the roster they have to utilize. In 6-12 months, it might be a vastly different atmosphere in NXT, it could also be a hybrid as NXT was functioning as several years ago with the idea of experienced Indie talent (Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens, Bobby Roode, etc.) joining the company simply to assist the development process without being considered for the main roster. That direction changed and all those names graduated, which also demonstrated the ability for concepts to change on a dime when something is pressing or in need of a refresh.
On the surface, it appears to be a re-narrowing of the scope of who can become a star. “Who can be a WWE Superstar?” sounds like the updated phrase that equates stardom to the mythical “people that turn heads at airports” mentality that was code for “large and ripped”. It’s a theory that hardly plays out and if it were true, based on my experiences, every child throwing a tantrum with their parents at the boarding gate would be headlining WrestleMania.
It isn’t even a departure from the recruitment process – WWE has been going after high-level athletes for years and was one of the major reasons for building the Performance Center, so they could compete with high-level sports leagues in recruiting those athletes. The proof is in the pudding and how many stars have been developed from scratch? Granted, what NXT was in 2013 was vastly different than what it became in 2015 and that was greatly altered in 2019. If your argument is that NXT serves to fill the Raw and SmackDown rosters, then this new philosophy appears to streamline that process.
However, if you saw NXT as a viable third brand that catered to your die-hard audience, the lesson learned from both NXT at its peak and AEW today is that the die-hard audience is larger than people think and one that can be financially viable. It’s an audience that can sell out Barclays Center, it can sell out The United Center, it can land television deals, and that audience will travel and spend a lot of money on your product.
It’s been said over and over that by placing height and weight requirements on star potential, the vast majority of proven stars in the industry’s history wouldn’t get through the door. Ironically, Paul Levesque was on Colin Cowherd’s show over the past few days and admitted that he didn’t see it in John Cena the first time he saw him (which was probably in OVW as Levesque alluded to).
Cena was floundering on SmackDown until the rap character was discovered on a bus trip and it was the lifeboat his career needed. In fact, if you want to peg one person who saw money in Cena off the jump it was Dave Meltzer around 2000 or 2001 in an issue of the Observer that basically called it to a tee before most did.
This business benefits from open minds and not closed ones. AEW didn’t see Daniel Garcia as too inexperienced at 22 years of age, they didn’t see someone that wasn’t 6-foot-3 or 240 pounds, they saw a top prospect and booked him in big scenarios, created a national buzz for him, and today, Garcia feels like a can’t miss talent in their system. In WWE, even a generational talent like Ricochet can fall through the cracks and became a background player on Raw.
It’s that proof of concept that will also carry weight with talent weighing their options. WWE will always maintain the childhood fantasy that many performers grow up aspiring to, which is nearly impossible to combat if you’re career is centered on the idea of headlining WrestleMania. The other factor is financial and becomes interesting when there is a top-tier talent whose contract is due. If WWE is putting a giant offer on the table, are you guaranteed to see all that money or be a target the next time cuts are made and your price tag makes you a candidate to be released as we’ve seen over the past year and change?
While very different circumstances, I wonder if we will look back at NXT getting television in 2019 similar to ECW doing the same twenty years earlier? It was received as a major “win” for the brand as it grew but the lasting effects were detrimental. The shine wore off on NXT as they were thoroughly beaten on Wednesday nights with WWE not just throwing in the towel but striking down the foundation NXT was built upon.
The product will be under a microscope and we will see in real-time how these changes are received, how extreme they are, and how does the television audience respond? There are more hours to consume than ever as WWE attempts to sell developmental over a third brand for two hours on cable each week.
NXT was built on the notion that it was WWE’s succession plan, that the work being done on the smaller frontier would influence the larger entity. That was never realistic and having competing visions on how the company’s on-screen product should be run was never going to end smoothly and time will tell if the TakeOver of NXT succeeds.
**We have a story on the main page on the incredible numbers that CM Punk pulled for AEW Rampage on Friday. The show averaged 1,129,000 viewers and 0.53 in the 18-49 demographic. It’s AEW’s second-highest 18-49 figure in their history behind the debut in October 2019 and fourth-largest audience ever. This was a grand slam for the promotion.
**TSN 2 will be airing a replay of “The First Dance” this Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET as a lead-in for AEW Dynamite.
**Friday Night SmackDown finished with 2,102,000 viewers and 738,000 in the 18-49 demo, per Brandon Thurston of Wrestlenomics. On the eve of SummerSlam, the show was advertised around another face-to-face segment between Roman Reigns and John Cena before their main event the next night. It was in the same range SmackDown has been performing at over the last four weeks. Last week’s show that also featured Reigns and Cena in a face-to-face did 2,084,000 and 746,000 respectively.
**John Cena posted the following message on Monday morning indicating that his current run with WWE is over. Cena is still advertised for the September 10th “Super SmackDown” at Madison Square Garden:
Words cannot describe how appreciative I am that the @WWEUniverse allowed me the opportunity to return and perform. Thank you staff, superstars, and most of all FANS for giving me an unforgettable summer at “home” with my “family”. The journey takes me away now but I’ll C U soon.
Cena also spoke to GMA to promote his next film “Vacation Friends” that comes out on Hulu this Friday. Cena spoke of his recent time with WWE and his future:
I think I will try to do the best I can until I feel I’m offending the consumer. There’s nothing like the energy of being in that ring with the audience around. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to do a whole lot of stuff. That energy is indescribable. That place is my home. I wouldn’t be who I am without it. The audience is my family — I want to be kind to them — I still feel good even though I finished second so I still feel I have something to contribute.
**Mike Johnson at PWinsider.com reported Sunday night that TakeOver was Adam Cole’s last night on NXT. Fightful Select added that as of Sunday morning, Cole had not signed a new deal with WWE beyond the short-term extension that had been reported, to get through this past weekend. It would leave the options of Cole either deciding to stay and move up to the main roster or going elsewhere and would be free to do so immediately with the expiration of his deal.
**Pro Wrestling Tees has announced that the new CM Punk shirt, which was designed by Stank from the PWT Cast podcast, is the highest-selling design ever for the company. On the PWT Cast, co-hosts Stank & Scrump noted that the company has bought all the available ringer t-shirts in North America in order to fulfill all the shirt orders for the new design. A limited version of the shirt was made available during Rampage at the United Center (they did not put it out until after Punk had appeared in front of the crowd) that was specific for those in attendance with “I Was There” written on the back, similar to the event-specific shirt they produced for Money in the Bank in July 2011. After Rampage, AEW Shop and the Pro Wrestling Tees’ sites crashed from the volume seeking out the shirt.
**We have the Canadian numbers posted for Friday’s episode of Rampage featuring CM Punk’s debut as well as Friday Night SmackDown going into SummerSlam. It should be noted that Rampage streamed live on TSN Direct at 10 p.m. ET and then aired on a one-hour delay on TSN 2 at 11. Rampage will always stream live on TSN Direct but select episodes will air on TV.
**Sportsnet 360 carried TakeOver 36 on Sunday night and averaged 38,000 viewers. It was also available on the WWE Network in Canada and they don’t aggressively promote the TakeOver specials airing on 360.
**WWE Raw takes place from San Diego, California tonight at the Pechanga Arena following SummerSlam. The show will include the following:
*Nikki A.S.H. & Rhea Ripley vs. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler
*Logan Paul appears on “Moist TV”
**NXT is taping television Monday & Tuesday at the Capitol Wrestling Center and will return live in several weeks.
**AEW Dark: Elevation streams at 7 p.m. ET tonight featuring the following matches that were taped in Houston last week:
*Colt Cabana, Alan “5” Angels & Evil Uno vs. PAC, Penta El Zero M & Rey Fenix
*Orange Cassidy, Chuck Taylor & Wheeler Yuta vs. Jack Evans, Angelico & The Blade
*The Varsity Blonds vs. Warren Johnson & Zack Mason
*Anthony Bowens vs. Dante Martin
*Tay Conti vs. Precious Preston
**The opening of Being the Elite features CM Punk moments before he walked out on Rampage and the reaction to the pop by Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks.
**If you missed TakeOver 36, WALTER and Ilja Dragunov had one of the best matches of the year. For my money, it was the best WWE match of 2021. It was super physical and Dragunov was at another level as the underneath babyface fighting the monster and did many little things. The way he sold the big strikes by crumbling against the ropes and his incredible facial expressions were something to behold. I thought it was a classic and would be in the discussion with the top matches in NXT TakeOver history.
**MLW’s March 31, 2022 card in Dallas will take place at Gilley’s. All tickets purchased for the September 11th event will be honored at this show. Last week, MLW stated it would not be running in September due to the concerns of COVID-19 numbers in the state.
**West Coast Pro in San Francisco has announced that Minoru Suzuki will be facing Daniel Garcia on their 3-year anniversary card on October 8th. The card will take place at The State Room at 3-6 Baden Avenue South with tickets available here. The promotion stated on Monday that the front row sold out in ten minutes and they have sold nearly half of the tickets already.
**Minori Suzuki’s U.S. tour will now include two Game Changer Wrestling events. Suzuki is scheduled for the September 17th card in Los Angeles and September 24th at the Melrose Ballroom in New York City.
**DEFY Wrestling has added Rocky Romero for both nights of their Leviathan cards this Friday and Saturday. The shows take place at Washington Hall in Seattle and you must be 16 or older to attend.
**The WWE stock closed at $49.05 on Monday.
ON THIS DATE
Triple H won his first WWF Championship on this date in 1999 on the night after SummerSlam. The night prior, Mankind won the title in a triple threat with champion Steve Austin and Triple H with then-Governor Jesse Ventura as the special referee. The ending allowed a babyface to win at SummerSlam with Mick Foley serving as the 24-hour holder of the title to get the belt from Austin to Triple H. Hunter’s first reign would last several weeks before losing the title to…Vince McMahon.
CM Punk and Jeff Hardy closed the show at SummerSlam 2009 with a TLC Match. Punk won the World Championship from Hardy. The two would have a Steel Cage rematch several days later at SmackDown, which Punk also won and would end up being Hardy’s last WWE match until his return in 2017.
Seth Rollins becomes a double champion when he beats John Cena for the United States Championship at SummerSlam in 2015 at the Barclays Center, with assistance from Jon Stewart.
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