NXT was supposed to be the future of the business. A state-of-the-art facility where athletes from all over could come, collaborate, learn, and become the next best generation of wrestlers. Despite producing some amazing talent, most of NXT’s output hasn’t resulted in new names, only reworked existing talent. It’s all due to the WWE’s obsession with wrestling the “right” way.
There is a preferred way to wrestle. If you venture into the indies you’ll often find some amazing, raw, talent bouncing around the ropes. But you’ll also spot a lot of room for improvement. A lot of the small things that makes a wrestling match a believable ballet only comes from experience and time. You can begin to understand why the WWE emphasizes a correct way to wrestle. WWE often focuses on selling and striking to help make matches look like real fights.
When you watch those NJPW or Ring of Honor matches, they all tend to move at a faster pace. A thirty minute match in New Japan often feels shorter, but deeper. Okada vs. Omega felt like a saga of wrestling poured into forty minutes. In the WWE a ten minute match can feel like eternity, stretching over time and space. WWE matches have a lot more downtime, a lot more setup, and a lot of emphasis on protecting their talent. In addition the WWE is producing a television show that requires commercial breaks, which means the wrestlers have to stall and slow down the match. Wrestling is different in the WWE and it changes the pacing and feel of every match they put on.
The WWE attitude isn’t contained to the ring. The promos are painfully scripted, constricting any personality a wrestle might have. Booking often destroys any hope a wrestler might have at improving themselves. Aiden English was given a singles match on TV only to lose to Tye Dillinger, but why? The promo was perfect for English but he was just fed to Dillinger for no benefit. It killed English’s single push and did very little for Tye’s. Talent, from NXT up, must fit inside a very specific box that hasn’t widened much over the years.
If you recall, it wasn’t that long ago that wrestlers like CM Punk and Daniel Bryan were often ignored by the WWE. Punk was told to gain weight during his tenure at OVW, then WWE’s training division, to a detriment to his in-ring ability. It took years before either were given any real respect within the company and even then they still needed to prove themselves. So it doesn’t come as a shock that matches between previous indie darlings often feel fresh. Watching Kevin Owens move with grace, or Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins pick up the pace, feels like we’re watching something completely different. That’s because, for the WWE, we are.
Change often comes very slowly in the WWE. Even with legions of talent washing ashore in NXT, and quite of few of them moving up to the main roster, it still feels like the same product from a decade ago. Just like with internal bullying, the lack of a real women’s division for years, and any other issue you might find within the confines of the WWE, it all runs the same issue. The WWE is an ageing behemoth that could be atop the wrestling world for decades to come, but they’ll need to change their attitude.