WWE has been criticized in the past for leaving champions off of important events. WrestleMania is a great example: In 2012, even the WWE Tag Team Champions at the time, Primo & Epico, were left off of the pay-per-view event and demoted to the dark match. This is commonplace in the WWE, but thankfully we have Night of Champions, the one event each year that is guaranteed to feature every single WWE champion. Or so you would think!
Looking at the Night of Champions card, I see the following six championships being defended: WWE Championship, World Heavyweight Championship, Divas Championship, WWE Tag Team Championship, Intercontinental Championship and United States Championship.
We also have a great Randy Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler match, and a pre-show Battle Royal to determine the challenger for Antonio Cesaro’s United States title. Most think that those eight matches are enough. But one is missing.
The NXT Championship
Earlier this year, the WWE rebranded Florida Championship Wrestling (also known as FCW) into NXT, the company’s developmental territory. The name NXT comes from the former scripted reality program that brought us many of today’s roster members, including Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett, Ryback, AJ Lee, Brodus Clay and several others.
That show was all about ushering in the next generation of WWE Superstars, and the name fits when applied to their developmental territory. What better way to usher in the next generation than to feature the NXT Champion at Night of Champions?
The NXT Champion, Seth Rollins, is a talented 26-year-old wrestler that many have labeled as a future Shawn Michaels. Those are steep expectations to place upon any youngster before they get called up to the main roster, but Rollins has proven himself and is ready for a spot on television.
WWE’s NXT Championship is the perfect way to get him exposure on television. During the early stages of the Night of Champions build, it would be very easy to show a highlight package of his matches from the NXT program (which is professionally produced in a state of the art facility as part of the WWE’s partnership with Full Sail University) and hype his debut for the following week. He can wrestle another member of the NXT roster or even a local enhancement worker.
During the NXT champion's match, Michael Cole can reveal that the title will be defended at Night of Champions, giving the WWE plenty of time to build a challenger. That challenger can come from the under card or from the NXT product itself.
It’s not uncommon for young talents to be a part of both rosters simultaneously. The NXT Champion can continue to compete on either RAW or Smackdown without the title, eventually losing the belt on the NXT program separate from their current WWE televised storyline.
Featuring the NXT Champion at the annual Night of Champions pay-per-view event is a great way to debut a new talent and provide him with immediate credibility. It also provides the NXT brand with a ready-made storyline that can span the summer months leading up to Night of Champions. Either way you look at it, it’s a win-win for the WWE.