Following the debut of Samoa Joe, NXT can no longer be considered a developmental territory.
The promotion's top stars consist of a fantasy slate of independent wrestling alumni, including Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Hideo Itami and now Samoa Joe. The median age of that core talent is 33, which hardly suggests NXT is prepared to usher in the long-term future of WWE.
As I mentioned during this week's PodNasty Wrestling Podcast, with the addition of Samoa Joe, NXT is now a hybrid promotion. Gone are the days of the WWE developmental territory being judged strictly on blue-chippers and potential.
With many of the world's top independent wrestlers all under one roof, the effectiveness of NXT stars is much easier to quantify. NXT now serves to draw money at live events across the country in addition to training developmental stars for the main roster.
Many fans are excited with the WWE potential of a Samoa Joe or a Kevin Owens. However, these are short-term options in terms of WWE's future.
Owens and Joe worked very physical and aggressive styles for a long time. As their age catches up to them, so will their bodies. Booker T recently spoke to the Troy Show (h/t WrestlingInc.com) about the concerns of NXT's physical style and how it could lead to shortened careers:
I look at guys like Dean Ambrose and they throw caution to the wind every single week and I go wow how long will these guys be able to do this? I lasted 20 years. I don't think a lot of those guys will be able to last that long . I think these young guys have to think a little bit better about how they are going to perform. They've made it. I could have done the Harlem hangover until I was 40… People didn't just want to see that, they wanted to see me perform.
Current NXT champion Kevin Owens, who will face John Cena at Elimination Chamber, made it clear on Raw that he's been wrestling much longer than Cena. From a creative standpoint, it was a sharp retort from a brash heel.
From a reality standpoint, the fact that the NXT champion is more of a veteran than John Cena and in the back end of his career is startling. It's critical that the aging independent stars in NXT add credibility to the younger, less heralded and homegrown talent.
If big-name free agents in their 30s simply soak up all the glory in NXT before venturing off to greener pastures, there will be no development—just maintenance.
Once Bull Dempsey, Baron Corbin and Jason Jordan are presented as equals to the current top stars, NXT will stay true to its identity as a brand that prides itself on the future.
Ten years from now, every NXT star currently in the main event picture will be in his 40s. This clearly doesn't mesh with the promotion's mission statement.
If NXT truly wants to be an effective live event promotion in addition to a breeding ground for the stars of tomorrow, it needs to add more youth and fresher faces to an otherwise impressive main event picture.