The WWE's wrestling/reality-competition hybrid NXT premiered back in February 2010 and is best known as the program that introduced talents such as Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett and David Otunga to a wide audience.
In the two-plus years that have passed, NXT has been taken off the air in the United States but is currently enjoying a cult afterlife on YouTube, Hulu and WWE.com.
The current NXT has dropped the reality-competition element and acts solely as its own separate brand, and because it is now such a lower priority for the company, the creative and production team of NXT is given a rare opportunity to fly under the radar and make a show that’s allows its story lines to breathe and it’s roster of characters to be quirkier and more three-dimensional.
As a result, NXT may not be the “best” wrestling program out there, but it’s by far the most consistently entertaining product that the WWE produces. Here are six reasons why wrestling fans should seek out the show online:
Though the WWE relies on using the same handful of personalities over and over, they have a rather large roster of very talented wrestlers that go wasted not appearing on Raw or Smackdown.
Solid performers like Tyson Kidd and Michael McGillicutty are given a chance to shine on NXT, being featured in long matches that demonstrate the wrestler’s athleticism and storytelling abilities.
You will rarely find a squash match on NXT and anyone who comes down to the show is given an opportunity to REALLY show what they’re made of in the ring or on the mic.
If you’re like me, you’ll end up developing favorites and discovering “enhancement” wrestlers who are really quite amazing.
Though it’s easy to point to Michael Cole as the reason why commentary on RAW and Smackdown has been so lackluster these days, it’s actually the over-inundation of promotional considerations and a general lack of focus that’s to blame.
There’s no such problem on NXT, where commentators Josh Matthews, Matt Striker and William Regal are given the opportunity to breathe and actually enhance the stories being told during matches by going the old-school route of being informative and pointing to the faces and heels while never putting down the talent.
It also doesn’t hurt that the three are among the best commentators with the company right now. Matthews is peppy with a great sense of timing and transition, Striker plays annoyed without being annoying himself and Regal has the driest sense of self-deprecating humor I’ve ever heard on a WWE program.
If you want to hear commentary done right, NXT is your show.
The WWE is commonly referred by the non-wrestling world to as a soap opera for men, but NXT takes that perception and runs with it, creating melodramatic story lines that allow its roster to demonstrate some great comedic chops.
Look no further than the centerpiece storyline on NXT, the ongoing trails and tribulations of Maxine, the Amanda Woodward-like (that's Heather Locklear on Melrose Place) diva who will do anything in her power to get off of NXT and onto SmackDown.
Maxine's schemes usually include using her ex-fiance Derrick Bateman, his new girlfriend Kaitlyn and Johnny Curtis, the nemesis of all three.
On any given episode, one is accusing another of sleeping with someone, someone is reading another person’s mail or text messages when they shouldn’t be, or someone is getting slapped.
In the most recent episode, Maxine convinced Johnny Curtis to chloroform Matt Striker so that she could have an opportunity to get to the commentary table and get closer to William Regal, who has the power to give her what she wants.
With all of the self-aware melodrama and angst that courses through NXT, the show is basically a parody of Downton Abbey, only with more fisticuffs.
Though NXT started as a kind of reality/competition show where rookies competed for points in order to score a Raw or Smackdown contract, the show which is technically in it’s fifth “season” has dropped the competition element.
Instead, it focuses solely on the stories of its remaining contestants and various members of the regular WWE roster who can’t get screen time on the two big shows.
Because these talented personalities are more or less WWE cast-offs, NXT tends to be populated by more eccentric characters with offbeat gimmicks or tics.
Take the "Mid-Card Mafia," comprised of the dreadlocked surfer Tyler Reks and his scuzzy friend Curt Hawkins, who carries around a cane as an affectation.
Though both are talented in the ring and on the mic on their own, they’ve only begun to gain traction as a very unlikely but very entertaining heel duo who continue to be a thorn in the side of host Matt Striker and match coordinator William Regal.
Because of its slow evolution away from the old competition model, NXT has become known on the Internet as "the show that won’t die" and because of that, the show continues to point at its own drawn-out irrelevance.
Wrestlers can’t remember how many of the competition points they’ve earned throughout the season, nor can they remember which pros they were originally paired with.
When Darren Young cuts a promo where he promises to beat Titus O’Neil and win the season, O’Neil responds “Oh, we’re still doing that?”
When story lines start up from out of the blue, like when Tyson Kidd asks Trent Barreta to be his tag partner, Barreta seems to shrug “Sure, it’s not like I got anything else going on."
That type of meta-humor can be distracting when used inappropriately, but NXT isn’t just making a comment on itself.
It points to flaws in most wrestling writing and the cobbled-together nature of most of these shows, while at the same time remaining very earnest in its own stories.
Characters will poke fun at the machinations of the show, but they stay true to themselves and what motivates them to want to compete in the WWE.
Because while NXT is a show that has gone through a bit of an identity crisis, it still features younger talent who want to make it to the big broadcast shows… and that makes it smarter and fresher than most of the product out there.
Unlike Raw and Smackdown, NXT is only an hour but is usually overly stuffed with material.
Besides a wholly unnecessary Raw Recap segment, NXT doesn't waste its time trying to promote the next PPV or product placement and because of that, more time is devoted to the show itself.
NXT has a real indie-inspired can-do spirit with wrestlers and writers giving 110 percent, and that energy shows up in the show as aired.
Not every story is a winner nor is every wrestler is all that charismatic, but because NXT is never forced to build to a predetermined PPV card, they get carte blanche to put on whatever show they want.
Thanks to all of the talent behind and in front of the camera, NXT plays as a looser version of the wrestling show most people are used to and is probably the closest any WWE program will get to capturing the spirit of the good ol' days.