With all the hype NXT has been getting for its USA Network premiere, you would expect some huge changes to the show from its WWE Network presentation. Nope! Besides a couple of concessions made for audiences unfamiliar with the NXT product, it was the same show longtime fans were used to.
After an intense introduction to the show from a shadow-ensconced Triple H, NXT proceeded to march out some of its more popular performers and some who are just coming up. One would expect to see Undisputed Era and Velveteen Dream on a giant first episode like last night’s. But the appearance of Cameron Grimes, a guy who has only recently started to appear on the show, was an interesting choice.
They really seem to be pushing Grimes, a Southern man with a bad attitude, who comes walking to the ring like a dirty Droog with a Guns and Roses fixation. Whether he is one of the guys to go with to get NXT over to a broader audience remains to be seen.
Remember when Vince declared there should be no wrestling during commercial breaks on the main roster shows? That is not the case on NXT on USA, broadcast live instead of the taped show we’re used to. After ads, we rejoin the current match already in progress. The show moves. If anything, the live presentation adds a dose of energy to NXT the Network show hasn’t had.
Regular NXT viewers on the WWE Network may have a difficult time with the amount and length of the commercial blocks, though. We’re spoiled. But if there’s a concession to be made for the opportunity for a larger audience on USA, I suppose it’s a small amount of ground to give up.
The first USA NXT also served as a bit of a primer for new audiences. The announce team made sure to explain who each wrestler was, spelling out their backstories. More so than usual, the commentary was a dissertation on who was good and who was not.
But the announcers may be a huge key to the show’s mainstream success. Attitude Era fans will surely remember the Glamazon, Beth Phoenix, now behind the microphone. Nigel McGuinness has the distinguished British attitude that Americans seem to enjoy. Then there’s Mauro Ranallo who has already secured his place as one of the greatest commentators of all time. His excitement and crazed pop culture references are something to tune in for and talk about later.
I know it’s temporary, but the decision to have the first hour on USA and the second hour on the WWE Network is not great. While switching over between cable and streaming, it took me five minutes to get into the Network’s server. One has to imagine they were overwhelmed, but it was still frustrating.
It’s still way too early to tell who the breakout star will be now that NXT is out of the gates and running. Fan favorite Johnny Gargano didn’t even show up last night. Matt Riddle, a highly visible part of advertising for the USA portion of the show, didn’t hit the ring until hour two. The NXT roster is packed, and there are plenty of competitors looking for air time.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out, especially when the competition with AEW starts in earnest next month. But for now, NXT fans did not have their worst fears realized.
The matches were still as gritty and intense as ever. The announce team hasn’t changed. Matches still took place at Full Sail University, where the crowd rarely has the time or desire to start a “Boring” chant. They even kept the current theme by Slipknot. It’s not glitzy or glamorous. Most importantly, it ain’t RAW.
Time will tell how things progress from this debut. Right now, regardless of where the show finds a television home, the slams remain the same.