Thursday, February 4, 2016

NXT Live: Merch & Memories

Even with WWE logos strategically placed at the event, a plug for the next Monday Night Raw in town, and on-screen ads here and there, NXT Live isn't your standard WWE production. In fact, aside from the WWE-led rebirth of ECW a decade ago, NXT is likely the most un-WWE production that you'll ever see from the sports entertainment juggernaut. That being said, it's easy to forget that NXT is still, supposedly, a developmental stage.

Recently, Pittsburgh, PA hosted its second NXT Live event. The home for NXT in the Steel City so far has been a roughly 2,000-capacity concert venue known as Stage AE. The building is nestled on Pittsburgh's North Shore right between PNC Park and Heinz Field, respective homes of the Pirates and the Steelers. The first show was in June 2015 and, as fans and wrestlers alike were preparing for the debut event, news of the death of Dusty Rhodes began to break. Despite the obvious shadow, the event was solid and featured the best that NXT had to offer.

The second show was equally as well received by the audience, but really did not come close to topping the debut. As good as the brand and its stars can be, many fans are blinded by their rabid love for it all. I am in no way putting those fans or their opinions down, but nearly everything popular has a "can do no wrong" phase. With a few exceptions, NXT is still in that "honeymoon" stage. Nothing really suffers because of it, as it is obviously a great product.

For the second show, I was a bit let down by the card initially. Between call-ups and some odd omissions, the card just seemed to come nowhere close to the first on paper. Many stars who do not get much television exposure were featured, and perhaps my favorite talent on the roster was nowhere to be found. Asuka, who can pop a crowd with a simple expression, was not on the show despite two women's matches on the card. Instead, the very inexperienced Nia Jax was included. Keeping in mind that NXT is indeed developmental and that Jax does need experience, her appearance was one that even the NXT hardcores weren't necessarily pleased about. Nepotism truly seems to be at work as far as Jax is concerned.

On the plus side, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe did an excellent job delivering a quality main event. With rumors ever-circulating as far as how long both will be part of NXT, it will be interesting to see just who can take their spot. It may just take two other concepts foreign to WWE: tag team and women's main events. Both divisions are very hot in NXT. American Alpha may be the hottest team in years thanks to a combination of appeal both in-ring and on the mic, while Dash & Dawson are an amazing throwback to teams who did indeed top territories. As far as wrestlers regardless of gender, Bayley is in a class by herself. Her connection with the fans through both her charisma and athleticism is something special. Like one of her mentors, The Dream, she has the ability to reach out and touch the fans with the simplest of ease. Should that intangible translate into her eventual WWE main roster spot, the company will have its first female megastar.

One thing that remained the same between the shows, or perhaps got even better, was the NXT merchandise. The stars are marketed as well as you'd expect coming from WWE's illustrious history in that area. Posters, belts, autographs, apparel, and accessories. If there's a star on the show, there will be likely be some sort of merchandise available there. Observing the sales, it seemed as if every order demanded the commemorative poster for the event. For $15, a beautiful, retro-styled "Steel City Showdown" poster featuring Joe, Balor, and the rest of the lineup was available. For $75 a fully-signed version was also for sale. That type of item does make a house show seem that much more special.

Given the opportunity, attending an NXT show is a unique experience that shouldn't be missed. It's a magic that has made new fans and brought lapsed ones back into the fold. How long the magic lasts is anyone's guess. Though I may have felt a bit less blown away this time around, I'm guessing that I'm one of the few. Will it be my last show? Absolutely not. Hopefully, NXT regenerates itself as talent rotates and the business continues to adapt to this new phenomenon. Without a doubt, it will be an interesting ride.


Cody Dalton said...

I see there were autographs of Bayley, Zayn, Balor and the full poster, but there is another one in that first picture I can't make out. Can you tell me who it was?

J\/\/ said...

I think it's Enzo/Cass/Carmella.