NXT is growing, and its branches are increasingly stretching to WWE's main roster.
The revamped developmental system isn't just providing new talent, it's offering WWE a place to cultivate fandom for future stars, revamp struggling wrestlers and craft a future of its own design.
There was a time when WWE simply pulled the best talent from rival promotions and adjusted their gimmicks to varying degrees. Terry Boulder was already Hulk Hogan when he wrestled for AWA. WWE amped up elements of his character, but it wasn't painting on an empty canvas.
Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair came from other promotions already packing star power. Chris Jericho came from WCW with his ring name intact, and much of his antics remained the same.
The fall of the territory system and the lack of a real rival company has changed things.
WWE is signing talent from indy companies and putting them its own minor league system. It's a system that has evolved greatly in the last few years, going from the training grounds of Ohio Valley Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling to a brand with its own devoted fans.
With the launch of the WWE Network, that brand is attracting more eyes and creating more buzz.
NXT's increased visibilty means that WWE's newcomers already have fans buzzing when they debut.
Fans were wearing Bo Dallas' "Bo-lieve" shirts and singing Adam Rose's entrance music before those two left NXT. The reaction for them on the main roster hasn't been as passionate as it was back at Full Sail University, but they have definitely had a portion of the audience engaged from the start.
Thank Dallas' work on NXT for responses like this to his debut on SmackDown:
When Mason Ryan made his debut on Raw back in 2011, few fans knew who he was. He didn't have the kind of momentum that Dallas and Rose had.
FCW got wrestlers ready physically, but was too obscure of a show to have that same kind of impact. In the era of the WWE Network, NXT helps produce ready-made Superstars.
There is more spotlight on NXT prospects today. There were no FCW live shows, and far fewer stars from the main roster made appearances at FCW as well.
The elevated attention adds star power to these up-and-comers. When Tyler Breeze and Adrian Neville eventually make their way on Raw, shows like NXT Takeover will have boosted them forward. They won't be strangers and will have the foundation of their fanbases already built.
This shift NXT has taken better assures more prospects will succeed.
Ryan didn't stick when he made it to Raw. Husky Harris couldn't avoid demotion. Rose and Dallas have better chances to remain a part of the main roster thanks to an improving NXT system.
Tyson Kidd is about to challenge for a championship in a main event. Camacho is about to battle a rising star on a live special event. Neither event would have happened on the main roster.
Without NXT being the increasingly prominent place that it is, Kidd and Camacho likely would be sitting alongside JTG in the shadows of obscurity.
There is not enough room on Raw or SmackDown for every member of the roster to get consistent airtime. That means that folks like Kidd are too often underused and watching WWE's storylines rather than being a part of them.
Kidd has since spent more time at Full Sail University, gaining momentum, rehabbing his image.
He now has a chance to impress against Adrian Neville as a live audience watches his attempt to become NXT champ. A great match is more important for his career than the title in this instance. Enough big-time performances at NXT, and WWE will be forced to find room for Kidd on the main roster.
The same goes for Camacho.
In November of last year, Hunico and Camacho had a few shots on WWE TV, facing Los Matadores on Superstars and The Usos on Main Event.
When Hunico took over the Sin Cara role full-time, that left Camacho without a partner or direction. NXT eventually offered him shelter. There he wrestles singles matches and is currently in a feud with Rose.
That's an opportunity he wouldn't have if he were on WWE's bench, working house shows and hoping for something to change.
The spotlight is now on him more than it would be otherwise. He is likely going to be used as a means to make Rose look good, but he could still get people talking should he shine during his ring time.
It's stories like Kidd's and Camacho's that will change the fortunes for the main roster's bottom feeders. For now, it seems that Zack Ryder, JTG and Curt Hawkins have little chance to make any upward movement. But NXT serves as a potential launching pad for WWE's downtrodden.
Stars All Their Own
In the journey from Ring of Honor to WWE, Tyler Black became Seth Rollins. Jon Moxley and Claudio Castagnoli were once huge parts of the independent circuit. WWE took them all in, handed out new monikers and morphed them into new versions of themselves.
Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Cesaro have since been titleholders on the main roster, and their talent and popularity signal that they will all be pillars WWE builds around.
At WrestleMania 30, The Shield, Summer Rae, Emma and The Wyatt Family were among the many Superstars representing NXT.
Compare that match card to WrestleMania 25's and one notices a major shift. That event featured a number of wrestlers who became well known while with WCW: Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho, Big Show and Finlay. WWE didn't create those stars; they just added them to the fold.
The new model involves the company finding indy talent and processing it into something new. Apart from someone on Sting's level, WWE isn't going to take someone from TNA or elsewhere as is.
With WWE-created names and gimmicks, prospects earn their way through the NXT system. The result is that the company is crafting stars rather than borrowing them.
The NXT roster is increasingly becoming an extension of the main one, the big leagues to the Triple-A equivalent WWE is running in Florida.
Wyatt, who cultivated his character in FCW and NXT, has seen WWE shine the spotlight on him, pitting him against a franchise player in John Cena. The trio of NXTers The Shield have main evented several episodes of Raw, including the one from May 26 where they brawled with the old-guard Evolution.
Rami Sebei made his name on the indy circuit as El Generico, a redheaded luchador who struggled to speak Spanish. WWE has since turned him into the more hip, gutsy fan favorite Sami Zayn.
When he makes it to his first WrestleMania, he's likely to see WWE's own creations each way he looks. NXT will provide the majority of stars for that event as WWE's future becomes increasingly dependent on the talent produced in the NXT lab.
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