Until you screamed it at the top of your lungs.
We gained momentum... you made us unstoppable.
We had a vision for change... you made it a revolution.
We told you "we are the future" until you told us... the future... is... now.
[the lights come up at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, revealing a sold-out, 15,000+ crowd]
WE! ARE! N! X! T!"
NXT debuted on February 23, 2010 on Syfy, replacing the In Name Only ECW brand on Syfy until a few months in when it was moved to WWE.com, later Hulu and now the WWE Network. NXT was originally a mix between reality television and a game show, and the main goal was for WWE to find the next breakout star. Each of the rookies had a WWE Superstar as a pro. For its first five seasons it was a straight up competition for a WWE contract, and in some cases a shot at a certain title, with only the first four seasons having a clear winner: Wade Barrett, Kaval, Kaitlyn and Johnny Curtis. During the fifth season the show slowly transformed into something different, becoming a third brand / C show for midcard and lower midcard talent. After the fifth season concluded, it was revamped and made to showcase talent from their developmental system, NXT Wrestling, renamed after the show. The current incarnation of NXT tapes at Full Sail University in Orange County, Florida, and is aired on WWE Network worldwide. It would later move to USA Network, the current broadcaster of Monday Night Raw and expand into a two-hour, live broadcast on Wednesday nights beginning September 18, 2019.
- Aired February 23 June 1, 2010.
- Winner: Wade Barrett
- Season 1 was known for seven of the eight "rookies" forming the stable The Nexus and for the other one having arguably the most well-known Catchphrase since the Attitude Era. The winner would earn a shot at the WWE Championship at any PPV he wanted. Season 1 is considered to be the most successful season of the competition-based NXT, with Daniel Bryan, the most successful alumni, becoming at one point the most popular wrestler in the entire company.
- Aired June 8 August 31, 2010.
- Winner: Kaval
- The winner would earn a shot at the Intercontinental Title. Known for its Epic Fail of a season finale, where WWE decided to copy the success of The Nexus and have all the eliminated rookies attack the winner. This became an Aborted Arc, where only two, McGillicutty and Harris became part of Nexus not long after, and Riley associated himself with The Miz. Kaval left the company at the end of the year, while McGillicutty and season one's David Otunga later went on to become Tag Team Champions for a time before the former was sent back to NXT to be repackaged and reappear a couple of years later as Curtis Axel. Harris didn't last quite as long before being sent back. He would re-debut as Bray Wyatt in 2013. Harris/Wyatt is considered the season's most successful alumni, becoming the WWE Champion in 2017.
- Aired September 7 November 30, 2010.
- Winner: Kaitlyn
- Season 3 was an all-female season. Unlike season 1 and 2, a contract was on the line, instead of a title shot. A.J. is the season's most successful alumni because of her involvement in Daniel Bryan's main-event storylines & breaking Maryse's record for Divas Title reign during 2013. Kaitlyn and Naomi later became champions too. Jamie Keyes became the only NXT rookie to be released while the season was still airingnote
- Aired December 7, 2010 March 1, 2011.
- Winner: Johnny Curtis
- The winner would get a shot for the Tag Team Titles with his pro. Brodus Clay is the season's most famous alumni; he is best known for his "Funkasaurus" gimmick.
- Aired March 8, 2011 June 13, 2012.
- Winner: -
- Was called NXT: Redemption, and all contestants were those who failed to win seasons 1, 2 and 4. The winner would earn the right to get a shot at being on the next season of NXT. There was no clear winner as the rookie competition gimmick was slowly phased out in favor of the show becoming in essence "Superstars with storylines", O'Neil and Young were moved to Smackdown and Derrick Bateman stayed on NXT until the revamped version started.
- Season 5 was by far the longest, ending at 67 episodes, whereas every other season had run between 13-15 episodes.
Originally, new contestants were meant to participate after the Season 5 would end, but it was later decided to retool the show into a developmental. The new faces would have included Seth Rollins, Big E. Langston, Xavier Woods, Jinder Mahal, Damien Sandow, Bo Dallas, Hunico and Leo Kruger.
NXT's first live televised event, ArRIVAL, aired on the WWE Network in February 2014, followed by TakeOver in May. Live Takeover specials have run every 2-3 months since, often taking the show on the road to larger arenas.
What needs to be noted at this point is the perception of this incarnation of NXT in the eyes of many fans and critics - that is, the perception of its high quality. NXT is, as a developmental project, booked a little shorter as a program (usually 1 hour for the main show and 2 hours for TakeOver events) and with a significantly larger degree of emphasis on work in the ring & match choreography as opposed to microphone promos. However, in the "most fans are Smart Marks" wrestling era of The New '10s, with Kayfabe long dead, an emphasis on actual ring performance and crowd working via action tends to result in what many, many fans and critics feel is a stronger product than the actual "main" WWE shows. NXT TakeOver: Dallas was a particular example of this, with popular and critical opinion being that it was a stronger show overall than WrestleMania 32, in spite of the latter, being, well, WrestleMania.
As a result, it isn't surprising today to hear many wrestling fans call NXT "actual good wrestling" and for news of promotion from NXT to be met with mixed feelings - while NXT stars who prove to be skilled moving up can often mean good things for the main WWE productnote , many NXT fans have grown protective of the brand and its approach to booking, and do not want to see NXT talent "wasted" in the politics-heavy, Vince-dominated environment of WWE's main roster.note Currently, there are four championships defended on NXT programming:
- NXT Champion: Adam Cole since June 1, 2019
- North American Champion: Keith Lee since January 22, 2020
- Tag Team Champions: The BroserWeights (Pete Dunne & Matt Riddle) since February 16, 2020
- Women's Champion: Charlotte Flair since March 26, 2020note
- Cruiserweight Champion: Jordan Devlin since January 25, 2020 note
On 2018, a localized extension of the brand called NXT UK was opened in the United Kingdom, complete with its own Performance Center, television show (airing on the WWE Network) and PPVs. The inaugural PPV of the brand, NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool took place on January 12, 2019. The brand recognizes three championships:
Tropes associated with NXT:
- Aborted Arc:
- The Genesis, the stable formed by the rookies from Season 2 in the vein of The Nexus, was ultimately never mentioned again as the majority of the group went back to developmental whilst Michael McGillicutty and Husky Harris were added to the Nexus a few months later. That was because the segment where the stable was supposed to be formed, the finale of the season, was an utter train wreck of a brawl where no one had any idea what to do. According to MVP, it wasn't even planned beforehand — later reports indicate that it was Vince throwing a tantrum over how the fans didn't vote for his favored rookie Alex Riley, whom he was high on.
- Johnny Curtis' tag team title shot looked to have become one, after his pro R-Truth turned heel, as well as nuts. He finally received it, nearly 21 months later on NXT, but with Michael McGillicutty as his partner.
- All of Season 5's storylines were dropped after they had taped a couple episodes for the retooled NXT as a developmental show, but not yet aired any. Instead, for a couple weeks until the retooled version started, they simply had wrestling matches a la Superstars.
- Aerith and Bob: Let's see, you had names like Wade, David, Justin, Heath, Michael, Darren, Daniel, Alex, Percy, Eli, Titus, Kaitlyn, Naomi, A.J, Maxine, Jamie, Johnny, Derrick, Byron, Conor, and Jacob. Then you had Skip, Husky, and Lucky, which are presumably nicknames. Then we get to Kaval, Aksana (although Aksana is a fairly common name in her native Lithuania), and Brodus.
- Arc Words: "Who will be the next breakout star?"
- B Show: What it was before it was sent to the WWE website.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Michael McGillicutty gave us this gem during the season 2 finale:McGillicutty: And starting this moment... from now... from this moment on... this will be the moment... starting now... of the Genesis... of McGillicutty.
- Epic Fail: The formation of Genesis, and arguably that entire second season. Every other season has someone with a remarkable amount of success or prominence in either WWE or TNA. Nearly everyone from that season, however, has either been released or sent back to developmental, with the exception of Titus O'Neil — and even he didn't come up to the main roster until after reappearing on NXT Season 5 and teaming with Darren Young. It has turned around for McGillicutty (Curtis Axel) and Harris (Bray Wyatt), however—they're more prominent now.
- FaceHeel Turn: Some rookies have turned from face to heel over the course of their season.
- Michael McGillicutty was a face throughout Season 2 but turned heel on Kaval on the last episode.
- Lucky Cannon had been a face in Season 2 but complained about being eliminated on the last episode, thus turning heel as well, and establishing himself as a heel on his return in Season 5.
- Aksana went from a seemingly friendly Funny Foreigner to being revealed as a Gold Digger once she got her Citizenship Marriage to Goldust.
- Titus O'Neil abruptly turned heel in a promo on the 100th episode.
- Michael Cole likewise had been a face commentator up until 2010. At first he was a heel solely regarding Daniel Bryan but a face otherwise; eventually he became a full on heel and transitioned into the role on the main roster too upon the introduction of the Anonymous GM.
- David Otunga went from being a Token Evil Teammate for R-Truth into a full heel after he deserted John Cena in a tag match during his guest host stint on Raw.
- Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater, Skip Sheffield, Darren Young, and Daniel Bryan were faces going into the Nexus angle, although the lattermost barely lasted a day with the stable and was a face again during his return.
- HeelFace Turn: NXT has also had a couple of rookies see the light:
- My Greatest Second Chance: Subverted with Season 5. The entire point of the season is to feature contestants who failed to win in previous seasons, hence it was dubbed "Redemption", but it ultimately got a No Ending.
- No Ending: Season 5 never got a proper conclusion.
- Power Stable: The first season famously gave birth to The Nexus.
- Put on a Bus: Those who were eliminated from the competition and sent back to developmental. Some came back for season 5 as a second chance, then even more followed suit.
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
- Matt Striker as the host when NXT was a competition.
- William Regal as the match coordinator during the latter half of season 5.
- The Runner-Up Takes It All: NXT has either Double Subverted or played this trope straight.
- Season 1: Daniel Bryan became World Heavyweight Champion while Wade Barrett hasn't had anything as big as his initial world title chase during the Nexus angle. Even actual runner-up David Otunga had some success as John Laurinaitis's attorney. The only other rookie from Season 1 to have become a star on the level of Bryan and Barrett is Skip Sheffield, who as Ryback, was pushed to the moon in 2012 and solidified himself as a main event-level competitor.
- Season 2: Runner up Michael McGillicutty become a Tag Team champion briefly before being sent back to developmental; he was brought back to the main roster repackaged as Curtis Axel. With Paul Heyman as his manager, he won the Intercontinental Championship only a month later. Husky Harris has been repackaged as Bray Wyatt and is also being given a solid push. Winner Kaval, on the other hand was more-or-less jobbed out until his (requested) release. Alex Riley was associated with The Miz until his clumsiness cost him two shots at John Cena's WWE Championship. After his HeelFace Turn, he scored a victory over his former employer and had some success until an incident with Jack Swagger got him demoted into a jobber. He would later turn up on the developmental version of NXT as a commentator. Wyatt was the long-term victor here, achieving a level of popularity (and success, winning the WWE title) that has been reached by only Daniel Bryan so far.
- Season 3: While winner Kaitlyn may have had more success than runner up Naomi (who became a Brodus Clay backup dancer), 2nd runner up A.J. Lee has had more wins under her belt, while Kaitlyn herself? Not so much initially... until she took a SERIOUS level in badass and ended up as the Divas Champion. AJ, however, found herself in much more prominent storylines than Kaitlyn, because while she was Daniel Bryan's girlfriend, he won the World Heavyweight Championship, catapulting her into a main-event angle. She continued being involved such angles such as Daniel Bryan's feuds with The Big Show, Sheamus, and CM Punk, then as the focus of a Punk/Bryan/Kane feud, then as GM of Raw, then as Dolph Ziggler's girlfriend. She would later feud with most of the Divas roster, most often the Bella Twins, before retiring from in-ring competition.
- Season 4: Johnny Curtis didn't even appear on the main roster until six months after the finale, (and he didn't get his guaranteed tag title shot due to R-Truth's FaceHeel Turn) in various promos and when he finally did debut, it was against Mark Henry, who was in a "demolish all my opponents phase". He disappeared off TV shortly after, while runner up Brodus Clay appeared on SmackDown as Alberto Del Rio's bodyguard, then disappeared from TV when Del Rio was drafted to Raw. After his debut was delayed week after week, he took a dramatic HeelFace Turn as the Funkasaurus. Curtis returned to WWE television as Fandango, a ballroom dancer, complete with partners (such as Summer Rae, Layla, and Rosa Mendes). He was being heavily pushed when all of a sudden, a hyperactive post-WrestleMania crowd started to sing his theme song. This lead to "Fandangoing," a sensation that actually sent his theme song to the top of the UK charts.
- Season 5: While the contest was effectively abandoned, Titus O'Neil and Darren Young ended up getting promoted with SmackDown contracts, leaving Derrick Bateman as the lone rookie and technically, the unofficial winner. Fridge Brilliance also applies as the prize would have been for the winner to compete in Season 6, and Bateman did compete on the NXT Wrestling brand prior to his release. He would later show up in TNA as Ethan Carter III (aka EC3), Dixie Carter's (kayfabe) spoiled nephew, and became popular enough that he ended up becoming TNA World Heavyweight Champion, arguably becoming the second most successful alumnus of the competition-based NXT, after Daniel Bryan himself (although popularity-wise he's still probably below Wyatt).
- The Smurfette Principle:
- Action Girl: All the women who wrestle in NXT qualify.
- Alternate Company Equivalent:
- Many wrestling fans consider NXT to be the equivalent to Ring of Honor due to its logical booking and emphasis on in-ring action. Heck, they even had/have a few people who have wrestled in ROH.
- Currently, it is shaping up to be this to New Japan Pro-Wrestling, with the approaching Mob War storyline.
- Arc Words: "This is my moment!" for the blood feud between former tag team partners Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa. It's a Meaningful Echo to their tag team's Catchphrase, "This is our moment!"
- Artifact Title: NXT actually stands for "next", as it is a training ground for wrestlers who are preparing to go to the main roster. Due to the brand's consistently exceptional performance (and to combat AEW's looming threat to the company's monopoly), it was eventually elevated into WWE's third brand after Raw and SmackDown in late 2019.
- Ascended Extra: After spending several years as merely a developmental brand that Vince didn't even try to monetise, in late 2019 NXT began to be portrayed as a third major brand on equal footing with RAW and SmackDown. From moving beside RAW on television to being added to Survivor Series opposite the main brands where they won four out of seven matches that night, 2019 was one of the biggest years, if not the biggest, in NXT history.
- Ascended Meme: Josiah Williams, who gained popularity on Youtube for his "Wrestle and Flow" videos where he raps to wrestlers' entrance themes, performed in Adam Cole's entrance at Takeover XXV.
- Author Appeal: By all accounts, NXT is this for Triple H, who's known for having a preference for putting more of an emphasis on the wrestling than on other people. NXT is sufficiently under Vince McMahon that Triple H is able to exercise this. The biggest example has to be them bringing back the WarGames match, something Triple H has wanted to do for years, for TakeOver: WarGames.
- Big Budget Beef-Up: Subverted - whilst the original format of NXT was taped on the road prior to SmackDown, the Retool from a competition to an individual brand saw NXT move to Full Sail University and gain an identifiable and unique NXT set. At the same time, this trope was played straight as FCW being rebranded as NXT also saw the developmental territory gaining the WWE branding officially, and with it a more impressive arena which looked less like an indy promotion and instead like a more intimate WWE show, complete with titantron; on top of that, whilst FCW was only aired locally in Florida, NXT (at least, outside of the USA) retains the TV slots it held prior to the rebranding, and is aired on Hulu+ and the WWE Network.
- The Bus Came Back:
- On rare occasions, a wrestler who disappeared from WWE or NXT years earlier or graduated to the main roster will eventually show up again. This happened to Kassius Ohno, Danny Burch, Drew McIntyre, EC3 (formerly Derrick Bateman) and Percy Watson (who was a contestant on season two of the competition and was later quietly released, only to re-appear six years later as a commentator).
- A match example would be the WarGames match from WCW, which came back in 2017 after nearly 20 years of absence.
- A number of wrestlers who had previously moved to the main roster returned to NXT in late 2019-early 2020, the most notable being Finn Balor, who immediately abandoned his smiling everyman persona and brought back The Prince. This accomplished a few things by adding to the legitimacy of the brand now that it was supposed to be on equal status with Raw and Smackdown, revitalizing fan favorites like Tyler Breeze who had been poorly utilized after being called up, and particularly in the case of Balor, brought in veteran experience to coach and mentor the wrestlers who are actually still part of the developmental program.
- While they did not officially change brands, Kevin Owens joined Team NXT for the now triple threat format at Survivor Series 2019 as part of his ongoing feud with Seth Rollins, and Charlotte Flair was the first Royal Rumble winner to challenge for an NXT title at Wrestlemania 36 where she beat Rhea Ripley.
- Crowd Chant: "NXT! NXT! NXT!"
- Crowd Song: The Full Sail audience loves these:
- Oleee! Ole! Ole! Oleeeee! Oleee! Oleee!
- Heeeeeey, heeyyy Bayley! OOH! AAAH! I wanna knooooow....will you be my girl!
- OH! OHHHHHHH! OHHH! OHHH! OHHHHH! OHHH! OH! OH! OH! OH! OHHHHHHH..."
- Glorious! No, I won't give in, I won't give in! Till' I'm victorious, and I will defend, I will defend...
- Crush the Keepsake: At TakeOver: Chicago II, Tommaso Ciampa committed the big mistake of pulling the wedding ring out of Johnny Gargano's hand. This only managed to send Johnny onto an Unstoppable Rage. Too bad that Johnny still lost at the end when Ciampa reversed a DDT and got the pin, though.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: Since this is the developmental brand, one might think that whenever a main brand star shows up, they'll win, if only because of star power. But the show has done a good job of averting this and allowing NXT superstars to get wins over the main roster wrestlers, allowing NXT stars to get over and be seen as competent.
- Dirty Old Man: William Regal & Tensai/Jason Albert are fairly shameless in their flirting with Renee Young. To be fair though, Renee Young flirts back at William Regal...
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- Some wrestlers' gimmicks can be very different from that of the character they play when they get called up. It's very weird watching, say, Seth Rollins play a heel on Raw and a face on NXT during the first few months of The Shield, until they tape more episodes and the gimmick change gets acknowledged. Justified in that NXT tapes their episodes in advance, with the episodes they tape airing about 3-4 weeks after the fact.
- Also happens to wrestlers within NXT as management tries to find the right gimmick for them or attempts to refine the one they have. The early days of their particular character/gimmick may be completely unlike the personality they ultimately settle into in NXT. One particularly blatant example might be Becky Lynch, who debuted with a stereotypical Irish gimmick and was quickly repackaged into a rocker chick in time for the next tapings.
- Finishing Move: Unlike the WWE main roster, a finishing move is almost always that, often requiring more than just a kickout to escape from. There have been entire events where the only kickout of a finisher is once, in the main event.
- First-Name Basis: The women are referred to in this way, as is usual for WWE programming. On the male side, Enzo Amore is the most prominent example.
- Fleeting Demographic Rule: Regal gets into a feud with a young upstart who thinks he's past his prime and they have an epic match to set their differences. Is this feud with Kassius Ohno in NXT or with Dean Ambrose in FCW?
- Gimmick Matches: NXT is notable for bringing back the old WCW classic WarGames match, albeit with a modern twist, in 2017. The cage was made open-topped to give high-fliers more room to work with, with the added stipulation that anyone who left the cage would forfeit the match for their team to retain the old "no escape" philosophy, and the format was changed to 3 teams of 3 rather than the old 2 teams of 4, with the entry rules modified to speed it up. It was such an overwhelming success that it was brought back the next year, although with a more traditional 4 vs 4 and conventional entry rules setup, and again was a great success. For the 2019 installment, they also held the first Women's WarGames match.
- Graduate from the Story: This becomes the premise once they dropped the competition format. The brand now functions as WWE's farm league for wrestlers until they are ready or/and honed enough to be called up into the main roster.note
- Morality Pet: The entire show is this for Triple H. Even while working as a Heel, HHH is always in his best behavior while appearing on the show. Notably when Seth Rollins crashed a PPV event (TakeOver: San Antonio) during their feud leading up to WrestleMania 33, HHH becomes livid as if Seth tarnished sacred grounds.
- Mythology Gag:
- Once an Episode: Originally, Renee Young joining the commentary team for a match, though this hasn't happened in a while.
- Oddball in the Series: Bo Dallas in the lineage of the NXT Championship has become a glorified Jobber on the main roster compared to all the other champions. He and Big E were the only champions who did not gain fame on the independent scene before joining NXT, although the latter averted career decay thanks to his success with The New Day.
- Power Stable:
- Put on a Bus: Either because you moved up to the main roster, were released or you were injured. Getting sidelined due to injury is less likely to be acknowledged on air in NXT due to the taping schedule, so it looks like certain wrestlers have just disappeared without explanation.
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
- Dusty Rhodes as the initial Interim General Manager/Commissioner for the retooled NXT.
- Triple H serves as this whenever he turns up, regardless of if he's currently being booked as a heel on the main shows. Ditto Steph, who sometimes shows up to tout the NXT Women's Division with obvious real pride.
- JBL, despite playing the heel commentator on Raw and Smackdown, is similarly portrayed as objective and reasonable in his role as NXT GM.
- Current GM William Regal fills this role as well.
- Johnny Saint and Sid Scala serve as this for NXT UK.
- Retool: Started in the middle of Season 5, when they dropped the competition part of NXT and made it more of a third brand with storylines. They then revamped the show, moved it to Full Sail University, and essentially made it the show for the developmental system, which once had a separate show and branding.
- Xavier Woods is billed from Angel Grove, claims to have been trained in "Hip Hop Kido" by Zack Taylor, and will sometimes shout "IT'S MORPHIN TIME!" during matches. In short, he's a giant Shout-Out to Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, short of actually dressing like a Power Ranger.
- Adrian Neville's Corkscrew Shooting Star Press is named after the Red Arrows, the RAF's aerobatic display team.
- When Bayley debuted a pair of wacky waving inflatable tube men as part of her entrance, Tom Phillips declared "Wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man! Wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man!", leading an aghast Byron Saxton to outright ask if he was referencing Family Guy.
- Self-Deprecation: Jason Albert as commentator takes more after his Tons of Funk Tensai than his initial Tensai or Albert gimmicks. Half of his humour is him poking fun at himself, such as him constantly saying, "I'm not too smart but I can lift heavy things."
- Self-Plagiarism: Santana Garrett's theme for several of her jobber matches was just a symphonic version of Emma's theme.
- Something Completely Different: Compared to the parent shows, there's typically fewer grandiose storylines and promos per episode and there's an overall atmosphere of Lighter and Softer. As a result, however, it's also somewhat more serious and wrestling oriented because that change shifts the focus from pure mic skills (for the men) and sex appeal (for the women) to in-ring action (for both).
- The Smurfette Principle: NXT currently only has a handful of female wrestlers compared to the main roster. However, this is somewhat balanced out by how said women are treated. They have more time to actually wrestle, are usually promoted as characters & skilled competitors rather than just eye candy, and their interpersonal beefs usually don't revolve around romantic interest in a guy. Also worth noting: while the main roster had the Divas Championship (at least until WrestleMania 32), NXT has always had a Women's Championship (though the NXT commentators still insisted on referring to them as Divas).
- Spiritual Successor:
- To WWE's version of FCW, the former developmental system.
- Also to OVW when it was still a WWE developmental territory back in the early 2000s where a lot of their stars such as Randy Orton, Batista, Brock Lesnar, CM Punk and John Cena came from.
- NXT can also be one, to an extent, to ECW after the brand extension came back.
- Squash Match: Averages around 1 per episode.
- Tournament Arc: The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
- Wham Line:
- "This wasn't our moment. This is my moment."
- "At TakeOver Houston these three teams will be in two rings!"