Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Future of NXT's Women's Division

Blue Pants could be the perfect short-term solution for the female brain-drain happening in NXT right now
Photo Credit: WWE.com
The long-awaited main roster debuts of Charlotte and Sasha Banks and the surprising call-up of Becky Lynch sent waves of euphoria through most of the fanbase last night. If the renewed focus on women on the main roster sticks, then they will revolutionize the way they and their peers will be portrayed on real WWE television (although some folks rightfully have doubts, but that's a whole other post) since the days of Alundra Blayze vs. the Joshi Monster of the Month. While the ramifications for the future of the Divas Division are potentially gargantuan, the pushback on the NXT Women's Championship scene will be equal and opposite in the short term.

Expecting Banks, Lynch, and Charlotte to immediately abandon Full Sail is a fool's gambit. Kevin Owens is the latest wrestler to pull double duty, although I suspect after his rematch with Finn Bálor happens, he will leave NXT behind completely. Everyone has that buffer period, from The Shield all the way through Neville, where they pull double duty before transitioning completely to life as a full-on WWE superstar. But once they settle in for good on the main roster, will the NXT women have enough ranks to be able to continue living up to the lofty standards set first by Emma and Paige and then buttressed by the three call-ups and Bayley?

Fortunately, Emma and Bayley will linger behind to give the women's scene some kind of stabilizing force while Dana Brooke, Alexa Bliss, and Carmella all round into shape and while the world waits with bated breath whether the new Eva Marie can go or not. But the possibility that any combination or all three of those women have a lower ceiling than the current crop. Personally, I think at least Bliss should end up meeting the high standards set by the current crop, but stranger things have happened. Still, Bayley's rise to the main roster can't be far behind. She's more advanced as a character than Lynch and more refined in the ring than Charlotte; the only thing keeping her back is a hand injury, it seems.

Granted, this problem isn't exclusive to the women. Right now, the men are going through a brain drain thanks to shoulder injuries and Owens' runaway success on the main roster. Once Owens transitions for good, the main event scene for the NXT Championship will consist of Bálor, Samoa Joe, Tyler Breeze, and a whole lot of shrug emoticons. However, two-thirds of that drain, the Hideo Itami and Sami Zayn injuries, were cruel happenstance. With WWE basically promoting a huge chunk of the main event scene on the women's side, it is by choice razing what has been a backbone for television, both in terms of live specials and weekly telecasts. Plus, the men have seasoned talent that could come in and jump right into the stream like Uhaa Nation, Solomon Crowe, the Vaudevillains, and either one of the Latino guys the company signed from CWF Mid-Atlantic (Magno and Levis Valenzuela, Jr.).

The women's division needs a contingency plan to help bridge the gap between the two eras. The first thing NXT could do is push KC Cassidy and Jessie McKay to the main narrative as soon as possible. Both Aussie lasses have a ton of seasoning, both in their homeland and on the American scene, much like Bayley, Paige, and Emma did before they were snapped up by WWE. The NXT production machine wouldn't have to work too hard to get them over. For one, they would win over the crowds right away with their in-ring prowess. All they'd need is some kind of hook, and if that didn't come in the form of a ready-made gimmick, then the production team could produce some vignettes for them much in the same way it has for Bálor.

The second thing could be signing Leva "Blue Pants" Bates, who actually got interviewed by Rolling Stone's website. For all the cacophony surrounding her and her apparent flaws from some observers, she's a known quantity to the Full Sail crowd, one that is in demand like whoa. She has gobs and gobs of personality and a chameleon-like presence that can form and adapt to any gimmick given to her. She's also shown her ability in the ring for promotions like Women's Superstars Uncensored, SHIMMER, and Inspire Pro Wrestling. She's a plug-and-play option that would require very little preparation.

Finally, NXT has a trump card that it can play in the form of associate head trainer Sara Amato/del Rey. While her responsibilities backstage have grown exponentially since her hire in 2012, she still has cache with hardcore fans, and lo and behold, those kinds of fans are the ones that flock both to Full Sail and to NXT house shows. While her presence on the touring brand would be untenable thanks to her responsibilities as both a trainer and a producer, she could easily fill the role for women that William Regal has for the men up until his Christmas Day-aired match in 2013 against Cesaro. She wouldn't be a full-time competitor, but she could be an anchor for feuds that can help bolster the cred of a given opponent, whether seasoned like Bayley or in need of assistance like Brooke.

Of course, the long-term solution would be to sign more ready-to-go women from the indie scene, and WWE has a bunch of those prospects on its radar. Hikaru Shida and Nikki Storm are among the wrestlers who have received tryouts lately, and the company has not made its desire to hire Candice LeRae all that secret. But until the ink on those contracts are dry, which may be tomorrow, never, or any point in between to be honest, the solutions in the short term have to make sense and have at least a facsimile of the impact that Charlotte, Banks, and Lynch are taking with them when they pack up for the main show for good.

Women's wrestling isn't a fad. Hell, it is just like any other wrestling. So the long-term health of NXT's narrative needs to be considered along with the main roster. If NXT is going to be more than a developmental territory, then it needs to work on keeping all its working parts in good order. Maintaining the women's division should be a priority, and hopefully, the planners and bookers have something in mind so that the eventual losses of Banks, Lynch, and Charlotte don't hamper them for too long.

Of course, in the interest of keeping everything in working order, hopefully the powers that be down there do something about the flagging and anemic tag team division, but of course, that is another post for another day...