It has been announced that WWE’s NXT brand will be moving to USA Network on Wednesday nights. Most importantly, Vince McMahon is demoting Triple H from his position as principal showrunner and will be taking a personal role in its production. As Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer said: “(McMahon) isn’t going to be hands-off on a show on the USA Network.”
Moving the popular developmental brand to network television comes as a not-so-subtle response to the upcoming Wednesday night show to air from AEW on TNT. AEW clearly tried choosing a night on which WWE had no current programming. This is consistent with their claim that they didn’t intend to compete, just offer an alternative. But WWE has now aggressively thrust the competition upon them. It is WWE that has fired the first shot in a new ratings war – a “Wednesday Night War” if you will.
McMahon simply could not abide a significant pro wrestling alternative, even though the two companies’ audiences could not be more different. In fact, it’s been suggested there is very little crossover in the fanbases. Cody Rhodes said in a recent interview, “This a different audience. I’m sure you guys know the data suggests there aren’t as many crossover fans as you think. These fans have been hiding. Where the hell have they been?”
Well, these hidden fans had been forced to find new sources of entertainment other than wrestling. Many of AEW’s core fans are displaced former WWE fans who had long since decided WWE was no longer making programming for them. Now they finally have an alternative, but the bully WWE can’t just let them have it. McMahon has to go instigating a war, trying to diminish something many people just want to innocently enjoy. Whatever the result of this conflict, we must always remember the choice WWE made here. We must remember that McMahon could not live with anything less than an iron totalitarian grip on the whole industry.
The problem for WWE is that the decorated General of the Monday Night War, that very same Vince McMahon, will be leading the effort in the new Wednesday Night War. After all, it’s the shows McMahon directly oversees which are not performing in the ratings. Triple H was the overseer of NXT and many suggest that’s one of the keys to its success. Some new blood. A fresh approach. A different creative mind.
If WWE intends to compete with AEW on Wednesday nights, they’re going to need NXT to continue being what it has been. It needs to be the show fans love it for. But with major changes to production incoming, there is almost zero chance the show won’t feel different.
Additionally, a large part of NXT’s success comes from the wrestlers themselves having more freedom to explore their characters. When you let wrestlers cut their own promos and give them some freedom to perform, that’s when magic happens. I covered this in depth in a previous article. If they start scripting all the NXT promos down to the letter, I think that’ll put at least one nail in its coffin. Simply moving NXT into the same spot Raw and Smackdown were in on USA Network, and producing it the same way, risks losing what made it unique in the first place.
If WWE intends to compete with AEW every Wednesday night, they’re going to need NXT on USA Network to to be what it was on WWE Network. It needs to remain the same show fans have come to love. But with major changes to production incoming, there is almost zero chance the show won’t feel different. Of course it will feel different. It’ll stop being Triple H’s baby and start to feel more like a McMahon-run show.
It was clearly the new blood running NXT that made it good. What else could it be? McMahon is the one variable with the most impact. Many of the NXT stars – who are legitimate stars on the yellow brand – often come up to the main roster and end up doing nothing. McMahon hasn’t shown that he really knows what to do with a lot of these talents, even though they’ve already had success under one of his banners.
That’s because a lot of that success was achieved on their own due to having more creative freedom. It is the height of hubris for McMahon to perpetually position himself as the sole creator of real superstars. It must seem to him that he is the only one blessed with the Midas touch. But there are mountains of examples to prove that talented individuals can make themselves into stars, if only they can be liberated from the tyrant who shackles them.
It seems like McMahon spreads himself pretty thin already. Now with NXT thrown onto his plate, there’s no way NXT will get the attention that perhaps Triple H on his own was able to put into it. It will become overproduced, just like the “flagships” Raw and Smackdown are. That’s why a lot of these guys and girls from NXT end up languishing on the main roster after having so much fun down in NXT. There was a personal touch to NXT and it hearkened the old school dynamic a little more. It was real pro wrestling. On the main roster they all just get swallowed up by the sports entertainment machine. A few manage to become stars, but the majority don’t even become consistent mid-carders. They tend to disappear, trapped in the purgatory of their WWE contract, out of sight and out of mind.
WWE isn’t focused on improving their creative prowess, they just want to control everything from a business standpoint. It’s the same thing that happens with stagnating dictatorships in political systems. They mercilessly destroy all competing parties as a matter of course, while disregarding the wants and needs of their citizens. It’s all simply about maintaining their grip on power
That’s also just where McMahon wants them. If they’re not being used, they should be on the bench gathering moss. Why else would WWE be offering contracts to everyone with a halfway notable name in wrestling as of late? They are essentially offering people an easy paycheck, whether they get used or not, just so they can’t go anywhere else. WWE wants to have all talent on lockdown so no one else can have them. They couldn’t care less about actually using them for their skills.
WWE is a ruthless and soulless BUSINESS. Creative is secondary in almost every way. They’re not really concerned about providing fans with a truly great product but they certainly hate the idea of anyone else trying to. WWE isn’t focused on improving their creative prowess, they just want to control everything from a business standpoint. It’s the same thing that happens with stagnating dictatorships in political systems. They mercilessly destroy all competing parties as a matter of course, while disregarding the wants and needs of their citizens. It’s all simply about maintaining their grip on power. If anything in wrestling ever needed to be combated, it’s this wanton abuse of power and position by WWE. They’ve taken the life out of the wrestlers’ performances by scripting everything, and now they want to put AEW out of business for trying to revive the old way a bit.
But there is a silver lining. If McMahon really wanted NXT to beat AEW in the wars to come, he’d keep his grubby paws off it and wouldn’t change a damn thing. But we all know he could never do something like that. McMahon will unwittingly hand AEW on TNT its best chance of winning the Wednesday Night War simply by over-involving himself. This isn’t the same man from the Monday Night War, and WWE isn’t the same company either. Last time, it was business savvy combined with top notch creative that won the war. Now with creative sorely lacking, business acumen alone won’t be enough.
The WWE empire has long been in decline – and the fall is coming. Those who think WWE is too big to fail haven’t studied the history of principalities. The same was thought about Rome too… once. Nothing stagnant lasts forever and time is the master of all.