All of that came to an end in 2001 when Vince McMahon had purchased the remaining competition left in WCW and ECW. To those in the know, the purchase of ECW wasn’t as much of a shock as it was WCW because WWF and ECW had a working relationship up until the company shut down. Whereas with WCW it came as a big shock because…well…let’s face it….IT’S WCW!!! The WWF’s biggest competition beat them in the ratings for 80 plus weeks in a row, things didn’t look good. But as the ratings turned around and as management changed, things went downhill FAST.
The last Nitro was all about uncertainty for the employees of WCW. Where would they find work again? Would they get a chance to wrestle for WWF? What are they going to do now? Wrestling fans like me were wondering: What’s Next? Me personally, it was hard to put my mind around that now all of the variety has now gone away. I mean sure there were the Indy’s and all of that, but, I enjoyed having my options on TV. I spent all of the late 90’s and early 2000’s switching between Monday Night Raw and Monday Nitro along with Thunder and SmackDown! . Then when ECW got their major TNN deal I watched that as well. I also ordered various Pay Per Views from all three companies. I enjoyed the variety. Each company had something to offer from ECW’s hardcore style to the Cruiserweights of WCW and my first company in the WWF. Once that went away, I knew I’d get bored with the monopoly in Stamford.
2002 comes around. WWF gets the “F” out and two more companies come in with main stream attention: Ring of Honor and NWA-TNA. I was happy again. NWA-TNA Pay Per Views were under five dollars a week and Ring Of Honor was that next big Indy that the scene was missing since ECW’s closing a year before. NWA-TNA was bringing in a lot of the guys WWE didn’t pick up and ROH had guys that were hungry to make their names known in the world of wrestling. Twelve years later, both companies still exist but are nowhere near what WCW or ECW were. Because of how big WWE is right now and, at the time of this writing will be published, the WWE Network is just launching, it is incredibly difficult to “compete” with the machine.
Regardless, both ROH and TNA exist to this day. Both had great beginnings from TNA’s six sided ring, ROH’s various styles of wrestling and the great talent such as AJ Styles, CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, along with others. Both of their times have come and gone. They exist, but they aren’t nearly what they used to be.
We are now in 2014. WWE is at the top of the wrestling mountain. As previously noted, TNA and ROH still exist but are far distant from WWE’s mind as far as competition goes. Also previously noted when this blog is published, the WWE Network will be up and running. Where am I going at with this? Is it really that crazy of an idea to not believe that their developmental company, NXT, isn’t wrestling’s number two?
Look at what they got going down there! Everyone is working their hardest to make this company work; from production to the staff and all the way to the top with the talent. They currently have a lot of the Indy darlings from El Generico (Sami Zayn), PAC (Adrian Neville) and Solomon Crowe (Sami Callahan). The “home grown” talent via FCW and the Performance Center have been excellent as well. Through NXT, they developed a lot of WWE on air talents such as Big E, The Wyatt Family (featuring Brodie Lee), and Cesaro (Claudio Castagnoli). Even though these guys have made the jump to the main stage, is it really even a great jump? Besides the production, where do NXT and WWE differ to make the argument of NXT being wrestling’s number two?
Yes, the talent does go through WWE’s developmental system. However, because of that dream of making the main programs, they are working hard to get noticed so they get what they ultimately want. Every taping I’ve watched, the crowds are always in to these matches. Indy shows are the most intimate experience you can get as a wrestler and a fan and NXT gives the fan just that. You get to know these guys and gals before they hit the “big screen” of wrestling. The other good thing, they let their talent work! It makes all the difference when you want a good quality match instead of the lack of wrestling RAW and SmackDown! has seen in quite some time instead of the same old.
Where am I getting at? Answer: WWE Network! NXT will be aired on this platform. This network will be getting a lot of buyers for wrestling’s past, but will also be able to get a glimpse of wrestling’s future. NXT has WWE production, WWE talent, WWE fans, WWE front office and staff. Now that NXT is getting the big time exposure it rightfully deserves, there is no reason to believe that the member of the WWE Universe that is a true fan of the craft wouldn’t gravitate towards the lineup that NXT has in store.
Although there is no sight of that outside company that could give the machine a run for their money, it will still be exciting to get that mainstream variety back. It won’t match what we had in the Attitude Era nor will it replicate the Golden Days of wrestling. However, with the platform the WWE Network is affording its future, the sky is the limit and maybe, just maybe, more can come of this opportunity than what most think!