There’s no denying that WWE is in a prolonged slump, with falling ratings, a dismal television product, and rising fan apathy. But at the same time, there is a beacon of hope to be found within WWE. Somehow, down in WWE’s developmental system, they’re managing to put on a show that has been critically acclaimed for putting on an interesting, engaging product full of complex characters and memorable feuds. So, what is it that NXT is doing so right that WWE could learn from, and possibly apply to their moribund main product? Well, we’ve got a few ideas.
10. Comedy Is Serious Business
In WWE, if you’re in the dreaded realm of “comedy acts”, you know what your role is. You come out, you get the crowd to pop for your silly antics, and you lose to the “real” wrestlers. Maybe if it’s a holiday you’ll get to participate in some wacky backstage “party” sketches to fill time on Smackdown. But that’s all you do, and it’s all you can ever hope for until someone, somewhere, decides to change your gimmick to something more “serious”, at which point you might be able to win a match occasionally. We’ve seen it countless times over the years, most recently in acts like Adam Rose, Fandango, and Heath Slater. Comedy wrestlers are just the warm-up acts to the real show, and they don’t matter.
But in NXT, being a comedy act doesn’t mean you still aren’t a legitimate threat to win matches. The Vaudevillains, playing a parody of old-timey carnival sideshow acts, just ended a run as NXT Tag Team Champions. Bayley is a living, breathing, anime girl who loves to hug people. Even Bull Dempsey found a career renaissance as a fat guy pretending that he’s found the secret to losing weight and getting fit, despite looking exactly the same as he always has. The point is, nothing in the craziness of these amusing characters has any bearing on their abilities inside the ring. And let’s not forget Enzo and Big Cass, one of NXT’s most popular acts despite the fact that Enzo is a five-foot-tall Muppet with the craziest hairstyles this side of anywhere. NXT is full of goofy acts that make people laugh, but when the match starts, it doesn’t matter, because when they wrestle, you discover that Simon Gotch is one of NXT’s most unique wrestling talents, Bayley is one of the best female wrestlers in the world, and Big Cass, well, he’s seven feet tall, and you can’t teach that. NXT operates under the idea that you can’t just waste talent, no matter what character they’re playing, so everyone, no matter how odd, can be treated and booked like a “real” wrestler.