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NXT’s Effect On Independent Promotions




The wrestling business has certainly provided many interesting scenarios so far this year with Lucha Underground gaining notoriety, Global Force running a live event tour, and Ring Of Honor’s national television deal on Destination American, but the NXT brand has arguably had the most buzz during the past six months. The WWE Network specials have received rave reviews, there are sell outs on a regular basis for live events, and NXT merchandise has sold well. The continued success of the NXT brand using many performers that initially became stars on the independent scene has prompted many to ask, is NXT trying take over the independent promotions?

The NXT brand was built to be an alternative to the Raw or Smackdown product and it’s an extremely smart business strategy. First of all, the entire WWE Network is built around providing content and more specifically, original content because despite every PPV in history being available on the subscription service, the original Network numbers show that nostalgic events only draw a certain number of subscribers. It’s also important to note that the older events and much of the entire network caters to the diehard fan base, and many of that group of fans collected events through tape/DVD trading before the network was launched. Technology allows most of those original recordings to be transferred to different formats so again, original content will be the key to success for the Network.

That being said, the NXT brand provides original content for the network and it’s ultimately another selling point along with the monthly WWE PPVs for fans to pay $9.99 to access it. Aside from the content itself, NXT allows the WWE to target another demographic because while Raw is a PG product for a family audience, NXT is geared toward the smart mark fans and it has become another revenue stream. Essentially, NXT is the WWE version of Ring Of Honor and it’s no coincidence that many competitors that originally made their name in ROH are staples of the NXT show. Is the WWE copying ROH? No, mostly because of the PG environment and the presentation of ROH allows there  to be differences, but NXT is based on the in ring product, which is what ROH is usually known for so there are similarities.

It should also be noted that while NXT sells out smaller venues during its live event tour, it’s not designed for the main stream and that’s actually one of the reasons it draws a different demographic than other WWE programming. In theory, NXT is supposed to be an introduction for stars before they move to the main stage of Raw, but regardless of how many competitors become stars on Raw, it’s a win-win situation for the WWE. Either a competitor helps build the NXT brand and becomes a star on Raw and it freshens up the show, such as Kevin Owens or there could be a competitor that is used to keep the NXT brand strong after some stars go to the main roster, which might be Samoa Joe’s role after Owens transferred to the main roster. The point being, success in NXT is marketable for the WWE, even if a competitor doesn’t transition to Raw. That’s not to say Samoa Joe won’t have a run on the main roster, but just an example that success for the NXT brand isn’t just determined from how many competitors work the main roster.

That being said, despite the tremendous success of the NXT brand thus far, it’s not perfect and it’s almost comical that some fans will praise NXT in an attempt to downgrade the main roster or criticize WWE booking. While WWE booking is shaky at times, do the smart marks realize NXT is a WWE product and they are paying to watch it? Does Vince McMahon care why you pay $9.99? No, as long as smart marks subscribe to the network, it doesn’t matter if they claim NXT is “better” than Raw. However, comparing Raw to NXT is apples to oranges in many ways because NXT is only an hour show and you can get more mileage from a product that isn’t over exposed or stale, which is sometimes the case for a three-hour show. The other aspect to consider if the advertisement revenue that is generated during a Raw broadcast and the lack of commercials allow NXT more flexibility for booking matches, but Raw makes major money with sponsorships so again, it’s apples to oranges comparison.

So, is the WWE trying to take over the independent scene? It’s possible that NXT running a tour schedule could affect independent promotions, but the WWE is trying to expand revenue stream and I doubt they are directly trying to put smaller companies out of business. If anything, NXT is an example of the independent groups providing a platform for stars to be discovered and the WWE knows that it’s important to have somewhat of a feeder system outside of the WWE.  It’s obvious smaller promotions aren’t a threat to the WWE and several independent organizations, such as ROH and PWG have been mentioned on so it’s doubtful the WWE is trying to damage smaller companies.

It’s been reported recently that ROH World champion, Jay Lethal and Adam Cole could be on the WWE’s radar. If WWE would sign either competitor, it would take some star power from the ROH roster, but there’s a tremendous amount of talent on the independent scene so ROH would be in no danger. Speaking of the talented star, Lethal is great in the ring, but seems to lack somewhat on the mic, which could hinder his progress in the WWE. Adam Cole seems to have all the skills to be successful on the main stage and in some ways, he could be the next Shawn Micheals. Regardless, the two would be a great addition to the NXT roster and if you haven’t seem them, I would recommend watching ROH on Destination America. The bottom line is, despite the corporate image the WWE has and the perception of some of the internet fans, the WWE isn’t trying to shut down the independent companies, but rather expand their own product. The expansion of the NXT brand has certainly provided some interesting scenarios on Raw and the WWE network so it seems like it’s a good decision for the WWE to continue to book a diverse product.

-Jim LaMotta


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