NXT is basically the hottest thing in professional wrestling right now. This is evidenced by the fact that NXT Takeover: Dallas on WrestleMania weekend sold out in just 15 minutes. Even though the NXT as we know it has existed since September of 2012, the brand has really taken off thanks to the WWE Network’s debut in February of 2014.
We learned in 2014 that many of the greatest pro wrestlers in the independents were heading to NXT such as Kevin Owens, Hideo Itami, Finn Balor to name a few. Sami Zayn was already on the roster, and they added even more in 2015 with veterans like Rhyno, and all-time greats like Samoa Joe.
Just this week the future of NXT got even brighter as it is now assumed that four big stars from New Japan Pro Wrestling in AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, and Shinsuke Nakamura are on their way to the brand as well. Styles is regarded as the biggest wrestling star to never wrestle full-time in the WWE (he did have a tryout in 2002).
This article will focus on the great year that NXT had in 2015. The things that NXT did right in 2015 range from taking the show on the road, creating a new tournament to honor a legend, some great signings, and making the Diva’s Revolution mean something in NXT as compared to the so-called revolution on the main roster.
10. Taking NXT On The Road
The pure scope of the growth of NXT in 2015 can easily be measured by the fact that they could no longer be contained at Full Sail in Orlando, Florida and took the show on the road for the first time this year. They first went to the Arnold Classic in Cleveland, Ohio in March, then started regular tours in the northeast and Texas throughout the rest of the year.
With as many fans as NXT has, it was hard for anyone not living near Orlando to be able to see it live. With the huge success they had after the initial Takeover specials in 2014, it only made sense that the rest of the country would love to come see the show. This was evidenced in the fact that an upcoming tour of the midwest (shown above) was sold out in mere hours, and minutes in some cases.
9. Turning Baron Corbin Heel When The Crowd Turned On Him
Many wrestlers will tell you the best reaction is any reaction, and the worst is complete silence. Ever since Baron Corbin was presented as The Lone Wolf, he was presented as a babyface based on the wrestlers he would be feuding with. Many of his matches would end in a matter of seconds, and eventually the NXT Universe would start to turn on him for doing the same thing every match.
NXT would capitalize on this by turning him heel in 2015, and in doing so it has enabled Corbin to be in various feuds with longer matches. These longer matches have showcased the growing skills of Corbin to the point where many think he will be ready for the main roster sometime in 2016.
8. Establishing New Women To Replace Charlotte, Lynch, & Banks
When the Diva’s “Revolution” started last summer, it left a huge hole in the women’s roster for NXT. Three of its best performers are not going to be on the show all of a sudden, and that means that the rest of the locker room at NXT would have to step up to fill in the shoes of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch.
Thanks to great signings like the highly regarded Asuka (known previously as Kana), and the development of Nia Jax, Eva Marie and Dana Brooke, the ladies’ division of NXT is in great hands. Throw in current veterans like Emma, Alexa Bliss and the current NXT Women’s Champion Bayley, the division is still in great hands.
7. Making Corey Graves A Full-Time Color Commentator
Corey Graves had found some success within NXT, and he even held the tag team championship with Neville, but unfortunately concussion issues completely derailed his career and he had to make the announcement in December of 2014 that he would have to retire from in-ring competition.
On the same day that he announced his retirement from the ring, he announced he would be staying with the WWE as an analyst. In 2015, NXT had a more static announce team with Graves being a constant on it. It was one of the great things NXT has done in 2015, but they may not have him for the future as he is doing exceptionally well.
One can say he’s the best announcer in the WWE period, and he could be in line for a promotion in 2016.
6. Giving The Divas The Main Event Slot At NXT Takeover: Respect
When Bayley and Sasha Banks collided for the NXT Women’s Championship, they completely tore the house down at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. Many consider this particular match a runaway winner for match of the year in NXT, and up there for one of the best matches in all of professional wrestling in 2015.
Due to the overwhelming response to that match, Triple H made the decision to have the rematch between Banks and Bayley be the sole main event for the following NXT Takeover special, Respect. It was a revolutionary decision for what has been a revolutionary time for women’s wrestling, and NXT definitely has to be applauded for making that choice.
5. Creating The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic
This past June, we lost a legend in the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. He was a big part of the lives of the wrestlers at NXT because he was a part of their development process. The loss of Rhodes definitely affected everyone in the locker room emotionally, and there definitely was a need for something big to honor his legacy.
A huge 16-team tag tournament was held in his name on NXT and it would take place over the course of several weeks on television and house shows. A gorgeous trophy with a huge cup on top and glass replica boots of Dusty’s were showcased in the middle of the trophy. The first tournament was won by Finn Balor and Samoa Joe with the Rhodes family there to present the trophy.
Hopefully this is the start of a great annual tradition.
4. Making Huge Stars In The Tag Team Division
Speaking of the tag team division, it is a deep one within the ranks of NXT. In the process of 2015, there have been stars made from this division worldwide. These stars include Enzo, Cass, Jason Jordan, and Chad Gable.
You could tell from the Brooklyn taping of NXT that aired after Takeover that everyone knows the traditional entrance of Enzo and Cass. They have a New Age Outlaws-like monologue that the crowd can chant along with and get behind. Being talented in and out of the ring, there is a big future for Enzo and Cass.
As for Jordan and Gable, this is a newer team that formed in 2015. They started off as heels, but they work so well together and have such great charisma, the crowd started to love them and now they get one of the biggest pops. Another team with a very bright future.
3. Acknowledging & Signing Great Talent From Impact Wrestling
Though they have been around for 12 years, Impact Wrestling (TNA) has been ignored by the WWE by both mentions on television and passing up on the opportunity to sign some of the great talent that they have. While there have been some stars that have gone over there from the WWE and come back, they really hadn’t signed a true star from that company.
Triple H has gone into building the NXT roster with more of an open mind, and one great thing he did this year was sign a couple of great talents from TNA this year in Samoa Joe and James Storm. While James Storm has gone back to TNA, reports this week have come out that long time TNA wrestler A.J. Styles is on his way to the company.
Having that open mind to hire great talent regardless of where they made their name is key to the future of the WWE.
2. Creating An Actual Divas Revolution
While the main roster tried to create a Diva’s Revolution, a lack of creative ideas kept it from really being a revolution. Sure they got more time on Raw, but then there were times they were back to three minute matches.
The true Diva’s Revolution was found in NXT in 2015. Many people stated that Bayley v. Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn was the match of the year, including all of the men’s matches. Then the next Takeover special, the same two women main evented the show.
On top of that there were many other great matches for the women in NXT in 2015 including the Fatal 4 Way at NXT Takeover: Rival, and Becky Lynch v. Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover: Unstoppable. The women stole the show for NXT in 2015, and continue to look as strong as ever in 2016.
1. Creating A Unique Product To Reach New Heights In 2015
The final entry in this list of things NXT did right this year basically deals with tying it all together to create a brand that is the hottest commodity currently in professional wrestling today. What NXT did right as a whole in 2015 was succeeding in creating a unique wrestling product that stands alone away from the main roster.
They reached astronomical heights by selling out the Barclays Arena for Brooklyn, packing the building in London, and selling out in 15 minutes for the WrestleMania weekend Takeover in Dallas.
They started touring in 2015 and that will expand tenfold in 2016, and that will only get more eyes on the product and present a new way for fans to enjoy professional wrestling. There was so much that NXT did right in 2015, it will make for an exciting 2016.