Tuesday, February 10, 2015

NXT Is Going on Tour

Trips with the big conference call news today
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Triple H revealed during the conference call for NXT Takeover: Rival that his goal for the developmental territory is to be its own, touring brand by 2016. The exact quote, as transcribed by the folks over at Voices of Wrestling on Twitter, says "My goal by the end of 2015 going into 2016 is to have (NXT) be a completely touring brand no different than the main roster." This is a bold move for the developmental territory, and it's one that's sorely needed.

NXT currently only regularly tours around Florida right now, mainly in the central/northern part of the state. Two dates were previously announced in Ohio to coincide with the Arnold Classic bodybuilding competition for March 5 and 6 in Columbus and Cleveland respectively. These dates are the first NXT shows to be scheduled outside of Florida ever since it ceased being a touring arm of the main WWE roster and replaced Florida Championship Wrestling as WWE's developmental grounds. Triple H himself is a booster of the Arnold Classic, and NXT wrestler Dana Brooke will be competing in the show this year. However, the shows were thought to be standalone cards.

Triple H hasn't announced a timetable for getting NXT on the road yet outside of wanting it to be a reality by the end of the year. Logistically, NXT has a good deal staying at Full Sail University, and interrupting may take several moving parts to achieve. I doubt the developmental brand will abandon the venue altogether, but looking at how the taping schedule or placement of special live Network events are affected will be interesting going forward.

Despite the plum deal that the territory has with Full Sail, the brand has outgrown that venue. NXT's biggest weakness right now is the crowd it performs in front of. While the Full Sail crowd is energetic, loud, and supportive, it is a provincial, non-typical crowd that does not get the wrestlers ready for the main roster and whose reactions may give false indications as to which acts were ready for prime time. Blaming the underperformance of NXT gimmicks on the main roster solely on the crowd difference is lazy, and it's certainly not the whole reason why Adam Rose, Emma, and others haven't latched on yet. However, if talent evaluators have nothing else to go on but a crowd that represents a small percentage of the "smartest," most hardcore sliver of WWE fans, of course their observations may be skewed.

The question would then become what kind of crowds would NXT attract when it tours out? Triple H can actually help control that through pricing options and arena choices. Having a WWE-branded show out of podunk bingo halls like the ECW Arena or Manhattan Center may not jibe with the current BIGGER BADDER BETTER corporate slogan-mongering going on at Titan Towers, but it would definitely create an opportunity for a lower-priced ticket for families who may love wrestling but don't have the budget to head to RAW or even the house show circuit in their towns. A more intimate and local crowd with a less expensive ticket could end up bringing out the most fickle yet most rewarding fans to win over.

NXT is at an interesting crossroads where expansion probably looks attractive, but the tender balance may not be ready to be upset in too drastic a fashion. Expanding the touring options right now is the best possible option for the territory to take, one that won't screw with its perfectly-incubated one hour of television a week, but will help season its wrestlers not only for the main roster, but also for its own televised narrative.