Maybe you’ve heard about this little developmental wrestling organization that WWE is running down at their Performance Center in Florida. Known as NXT, it is tasked with training the next generation of WWE Superstars. From humble beginnings, it has risen in the eyes of fans everywhere to potentially be the best thing going in North American pro wrestling. It runs weekly shows that air on the WWE Network, and its Pay Per View-style events have become so popular that they’ve increased from quarterly to bi-monthly spectacles, including a massively hyped show that sold out the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn the night before SummerSlam. With all its unexpected success, NXT has certainly become the little underdog promotion that is garnering mainstream attention, and some say it’s already changed the face of wrestling forever. Which brings to mind another small independent promotion that certainly had a gigantic effect on the wrestling world, way back in the 1990’s. Indeed, it’s easy to look at NXT and make comparisons to the wrestling company that still lives in the hearts of older wrestling fans to this day, the renegade organization known as Extreme Championship Wrestling.
7. A Small, But Loyal Fanbase
The ECW fanbase was a rabid group of regulars who were fiercely invested in what they had come to see as “their” promotion. It’s a symbiotic relationship with the fan base that comes with having a wrestling organization that regularly runs shows in the same location. While ECW was ostensibly a touring promotion, it ran most of its shows in a small area around Philadelphia and New York, as opposed to the continent-spanning tours of WCW and WWE at the time. The ECW fans were so recognizable that some of them even adopted gimmicks of their own, and were recognized on ECW’s programming, and efforts were made to have the fans feel like they were part of the show. Of course, that kind of familiarity with your fans can lead to problems, and at times it seemed like the ECW crowd tried to take attention away from the product in the ring with their organized chants and imposing presence.
While not quite as menacing or bloodthirsty as the ECW audience could be at times, the crowd at Full Sail University is every bit as loyal to NXT. It’s their own little underdog promotion (even if it is owned by WWE) that they’ve seen grow and evolve and have become quite attached to. In fact, when NXT Takeover: Brooklyn was announced, the fans nearly revolted, because it meant that for the first time, they wouldn’t be able to see an NXT show live from the Performance Center. We’ve even reached the point where specific fans are easily identifiable, none more than Izzy, the 8-year-old super-fan of Women’s Champion Bayley, who has been the symbol of her rise to the top of NXT. And chants? They’ve got them all, from “This is Awesome”, to “You F’d Up”, to chanting Chad Gable’s name in time with Kurt Angle’s old theme, because wrestling fans are nothing if not creative. But the most prominent one, in the vein of the old “E-C-Dub”, is always “N-X-T!” They love this little faux independent wrestling organization, and that love is returned by the performers every week.