WWE is reportedly pondering a programming shake-up that would see its hugely popular developmental show NXT expand in length to a two-hour running time. Despite its consistent high quality and the level of devotion it inspires in fans, NXT has up until now remained firm in its weekly one-hour timeslot, with only the quarterly two-hour NXT TakeOver specials providing thirsty fans with their extra fix of action from the yellow and black brand.
This should be a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ for WWE. NXT does not need to change.
First of all, it’s a show that benefits hugely from its compressed time frame. While the roster is undeniably stacked right now, it’s a situation in which absence makes the heart grow fonder. Often, performers can go weeks without appearing in person or having a match on the programme.
The current NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa, for example, regularly turns up in pre-recorded promo segments rather than presenting himself to the chorus of boos with which the fans at Full Sail University regularly greet him. This means that, when he does turn up in person, the chorus of jeers is considerably louder. The same is true of the Undisputed Era, who trigger enormous yells of “Adam Cole Bay Bay” that wouldn’t be half as deafening if Cole and his buddies worked a match on every show.
It is definitely possible to have too much of a good thing and, for many of the talents on the WWE main roster, over-exposure is the main problem with them. Dream matches don’t exist any more because five hours of main television a week means that everyone has to square off against everyone else before long – and they have to do it at least half a dozen times, whether it’s in singles bouts, tag matches or gimmick battles. The aforementioned Ciampa and his rival Johnny Gargano have worked together three times since WrestleMania weekend. Compare that to every main roster feud this year and the problem becomes clear very quickly. More TV time means spreading the talent pool thinner.
The shorter format also prevents any lapses into formula. Anyone who has watched more than an episode or two of Raw or SmackDown will be familiar with how it works. There’s an opening promo from either an authority figure or one of the main event performers, which often leads into a match that’s due to start “right now”. NXT features none of this dismal predictability, usually kicking off with the bell ringing for some action between the ropes. General manager William Regal appears only when the story demands it, making his arrival a clear signal that serious stuff is either happening or just about to happen.
If NXT were to move to a two-hour format, many of its greatest strengths would be sacrificed at the altar of simply producing even more content for wrestling fans to attempt to cram in to their weekly schedules. It’s already very difficult for even the most dedicated WWE obsessives to watch all of the shows on offer, but an extra hour of NXT might well make it completely impossible. At the moment, the product is hot and beloved by the most hardcore of fans, but the added time commitment may hit that reputation, especially if it starts to feel more like Raw and SmackDown.
Ultimately, it all comes down to that initial point. NXT isn’t broke, so it doesn’t need to be fixed. In their determination to make changes and shake things up, WWE could well be on the verge of turning its freshest show into just more of the same.
Photos courtesy of WWE.