ROSEMONT, Ill – The prevailing thought heading into the two big shows of WWE Survivor Series weekend — Saturday’s NXT Takeover and Sunday’s Survivor Series — was that the NXT talent would shine at their event and then get squashed like bugs by the Raw and Smackdown stars at the final major WWE marquee event of 2019.
What Sunday’s biggest WWE spectacle of the fall showed us is that the developmental label placed upon NXT needs to be shed right now.
While fans inside the Allstate Arena bought their tickets to see their favorite superstars from the Monday and Friday signature shows before NXT was announced to be on the show at the beginning of November, they let the upper brass at WWE know that the talent who wrestles every Wednesday night on the USA Network is just as big if not bigger stars than the counterparts standing across the ring from them on Sunday evening as out of the seven matches, the black and gold brand won four, Smackdown won two and Raw only one.
The reason NXT started to appear regularly on the brand shows was because of wrestlers who weren’t able to make it back to the United States to appear on the Nov. 1 edition of Smackdown due to being stuck in Saudi Arabia after the Crown Jewel event on Halloween because of what the company deemed as a mechanical issue to the airplane to bring the talent back to the States in time.
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WWE had to audible and brought in NXT talent, and it got over with the fans on that night, highlighted by NXT champion Adam Cole beating Daniel Bryan in a fantastic match. People in WWE told Sporting News over the weekend that the reaction from Smackdown made them pivot and add their third brand to Survivor Series.
From the opening bell of the night that began with Raw tag team champions The War Raiders defeating Smackdown champions The New Day and NXT’s Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly from The Undisputed Era to the main event that had NXT women’s champion Shayna Baszler winning against Raw Women’s champion and the company’s full-time star Becky Lynch and Smackdown Women’s champion Bayley, the crowd was firmly behind the NXT wrestlers and gave them the biggest reactions throughout the show.
Pro wrestling fans are very passionate. They let you know in a hurry whether they like something or not by booing or cheering in the venue of that particular show or hopping onto their favorite social media platform.
It is also an excellent time to be a wrestling fan with three WWE shows during the week and All Elite Wrestling going head-to-head with NXT on Wednesday evenings from 8 p.m.-10 p.m. ET.
After eight weeks of competing against one another, AEW has seven of them with NXT winning this past week. NXT had been made to look strong on Raw and Smackdown leading into Survivor Series. If NXT was going to be taken seriously, they had to look good a little less than 24 hours ago. What would be the point of watching if they were going to be made to look inferior? Who is going to want to watch at that point?
Sensing that could happen, you have to give WWE Chairman Vince McMahon credit. He could have stuck to what he knows and let things play out and treat NXT as the little brother.
But knowing he’s in a wrestling war and wanting to defeat the upstart AEW before they start gaining a steamroll of momentum, he put NXT in a position to succeed, and those talents knocked it out of the park.
Who would have thought one month ago that you’d see Rhea Ripley standing tall in the Survivor Series women’s elimination match over Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks? Cole and Pete Dunne tearing the house down to put on the best match of the night and having the crowd on their feet loudly chanting “Bay Bay” for Cole? Matt Riddle pinning Randy Orton and Keith Lee defeating Seth Rollins and more than holding his own with WWE’s top male star in Roman Reigns?
“This is a moment in time of a lot of things have happened,” Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the founder and senior producer of NXT and WWE’s executive vice president of talent, live events and creative, told Sporting News. “It’s funny how a mechanical issue with a plane that people blow up into so much more, but a mechanical issue to a plane, can create chaos that creates so much special, magical moments within it. When you can capitalize on those things, it’s amazing.”
WWE often gets criticized, and sometimes rightfully so, for not listening to their fan base enough. They feel they should have a voice since they’re paying for the live event tickets, buying the merchandise, paying $9.99 a month for the WWE Network streaming service, and watching on television on average of eight hours a week.
And those people aren’t wrong. Without the fans, there’s no WWE or any major professional sport like the NBA, Major League Baseball or the NFL.
McMahon was backed into a corner, and for at least one November night in suburban Chicago, he made the right call and let the NXT talent shine — which a short time ago wouldn’t have been given the time of day to succeed and the platform to break through.
A new beginning could have started for WWE.
Hopefully, it isn’t a fad because what happened at Survivor Series helps not only NXT on Wednesday night, but also WWE in the big picture, as new stars were created.
In this day and age in pro wrestling, you have to look toward the future and not be stuck in the past or time will pass McMahon by.
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