NXT TakeOver XXV Must Be WWE's Counterattack to AEW Double or Nothing

Anthony Mango@@ToeKneeManGoFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2019

Credit: WWE.com

For months, the world of sports entertainment buzzed that All Elite Wrestling could present a legitimate alternative to WWE, but until Double or Nothing, it was all speculation.

Now that AEW's first event has been widely regarded a massive success, the momentum is firmly on AEW's side.

While this may not be a true renewal of the Monday Night War, this competition between WWE and AEW is the spiritual successor to the former's battle against WCW. And it's no secret which side is losing fans and which brand is gaining followers each passing day.

As the titan of the industry, WWE has the high ground, more experience and a broader global presence, but it's never smart to underestimate a plucky underdog that has an ever-increasing support of rebellious fans.

With ratings and morale declining, WWE needed to respond to Double or Nothing in a way that would remind everyone who is the top dog. And yet Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live failed in that regard.

If anything, those episodes further illustrated how set in its ways WWE is and how change isn't right around the corner.

But there is still a secret weapon in WWE's arsenal that can help with the healing process: NXT TakeOver XXV on Saturday.

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For years, NXT has represented something different, and that is what people are craving and something WWE needs to push to change with the times.

In many ways, NXT was the precursor to AEW, as it gave attention to the independent wrestling scene and legitimized it.

Wrestlers who made a name for themselves outside of WWE were no longer treated as empty shells waiting to be reinvented and presented as if they had never existed before. Rather, they were stars in their own right with histories that should be celebrated.

Fans seem to appreciate how AEW acknowledges everyone's roots and plays off their past, like Chris Jericho's entrance at Double or Nothing. Likewise, when they made their debuts in NXT, Superstars like Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura were big deals because of their work in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

The same went for Robert Roode and Impact Wrestling, Samoa Joe's time in Ring of Honor and so on.

In today's climate, everyone is speculating about who will be the next person to jump ship to AEW. But before that, NXT was the spot to cultivate talent from the indies.

If anyone was worth their salt, the chatter surrounding them was when they would be signed to NXT.

Right now, AEW represents to many fans what it means to take that next step in a product that is a departure from the standard WWE formula. But before that becomes its identity, WWE cannot let it slip by that NXT already had that going for it.

Just like AEW, NXT has more of an emphasis on athleticism, with a more intense in-ring style than you can find on WWE's main roster. Someone like Johnny Gargano is much more in league with how Kenny Omega wrestles than Roman Reigns.

For the type of fans who are gravitating toward AEW because of its more realistic approach to characters, NXT has much better storytelling than what you can find on Raw and SmackDown, with more compelling characters who are allowed to show nuance rather than fit into a handful of molds.

There is a less formulaic approach to NXT—or, at least, the formula is still new enough that it feels fresh compared to how things have been done on Raw and SmackDown for decades.

Triple H and those in charge of NXT have proved how much more connected to the fans they are and how the writers are willing to listen and adapt rather than try to prove themselves right.

In order to win back fans, that is what WWE needs more of.

AEW is telling everyone what they want to hear and promising them the world, while WWE is dangling cheap, flashy gimmicks and lazy quick-fix ideas like the 24/7 Championship and the Wild Card Rule in the hopes of fooling audiences into sticking around.

Everybody who hates the way Raw and SmackDown have been either doesn't watch NXT because of its smaller footprint or still loves that brand because of the differences everyone has been harping on for years, talking about how if the main roster were as good, WWE wouldn't be in any trouble.

That is why TakeOver XXV is so important; it's the Hail Mary to convince that type of wrestling fan there is still hope.

TakeOvers are virtually always safe bets to be amazing shows with some of the best matches WWE will produce in a calendar year, and this event represents a milestone that will reflect on the history of great events from the past.

If they botch this and TakeOver XXV feels underwhelming for the first time in a long while, it will be a signal that the best thing going for WWE and the foundation of its future is crumbling. Fans will have stronger doubts about WWE and will view Double or Nothing as even better in comparison.

That is especially true knowing that Super ShowDown is the next event to come, and the controversy over going to Saudi Arabia—along with how horrendous Crown Jewel was—means there is no shot WWE can bank on that event being the saving grace.

More than ever, the supremely talented performers on the TakeOver XXV card have to knock it out of the park and need to have the proper booking and creative direction to go along with their in-ring skills in order to show fans AEW isn't the only source for this type of sports entertainment.

Because of NXT's similarities to AEW, this event is WWE's best chance to appeal to that type of fan and to say "watch us do better than Double or Nothing" rather than prove the critics right with another dud like Monday Night Raw, wherein the most interesting thing was name-dropping the competition.

                    

Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.