Since the announcement that Raw would permanently be moving to three hours starting Monday July 23rd, it seems that is all anybody wants to talk about in the world of pro wrestling/sports entertainment. Having Monday Night Raw go three hours gives the WWE more time to focus on the mid-card, more time to properly pace their narrative, and more time to convey character and nuance to their audience. Hell that extra hour could allow them to resurrect the dying Tag Team and Divas divisions. That being said, I don’t see this extra hour every Monday night as the game changer many others seem to think it is.

Yes it gives them more time to do all the things I mentioned above, but in my honest opinion, it’s not going to change the product all that much. Raw will be the same show it’s been for years, simply taking up an extra hour of our lives. The show will still develop the same way, be pretty good 60% of the time, bad about 20% of the time, and every once in a while give you something to get really excited about. Instead of being as excited and/or nervous as others seem to be about this extra hour of Monday Night Raw, I’m far more intrigued by the possibilities that come along with the new era of NXT.

For those who don’t know, the WWE has permanently shifted the NXT Tapings to Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. It seems like an insignificant change, but in my opinion this shift has the potential to be a bigger game changer for the WWE than adding an extra hour to Raw. Confused? Allow me to explain where I’m coming from. 

For decades the format of “wrestling” shows have all been the same. The characters and the storylines have changed over the years, as well as the type of content being presented (Attitude Era to PG Era), but never the format. There is no room for experimentation in the world of wrestling, particularly the WWE, which is why after two decades of fandom, I find myself bored at times, of the conventions I’ve become accustom to.

People often ask me when I bring up my boredom with the “conventionality” of wrestling, “Why mess with a formula that works?” Which is a question that I totally understand. It works, and to try to change it now would upset the familiarity that is part of the reason that the WWE is able to draw an audience every week. However, when I look at NXT moving their operation to Full Sail University, I see an opportunity for experimentation.

Let’s face it, its not like everybody watches NXT on a weekly basis. Even I don’t, because it’s an exhibition in tried and true WWE protocol, with less experienced players filling the roles. In short, it’s the same old shit, often presented with greener wrestlers. It’s that lack of a large dedicated audience that allows for the WWE to experiment with its format, and see what kind of changes will attract viewers or put them off. NXT is an opportunity to break the conventional wrestling cycle, and see what new wrinkles and developments can carry sports entertainment into the future.

I hope that by this point I’ve got some of you a little intrigued by the plethora of possibilities that a rebranding of NXT presents. If I have, the question currently on your mind is what could you do? How would you break WWE’s conventions on NXT?

Rather than have it be the game show/pseudo reality TV program that it once was, or having it be an obviously inferior third brand, which it currently is, I’d present it as the NCAA of the WWE. By that I mean a training ground, a stepping-stone to the big league’s that are Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown, a high-level developmental playground, infused with young, energetic, unknown future stars, with a completely different structure and rule set than the WWE’s “Pro-Level Brands”.

If I had control of the New NXT the (rough) Structure would be as follows:

  • Each year, every wrestler on the NXT Roster will compete in preset number of matches equal to that of every other superstar (barring injury).
  • Each superstar will be required to face at least 70% of the NXT Roster before the year’s end (this includes tag team matches, battle royals, etc).
  • Wins and losses will be tracked throughout the course of the year, with the Superstar’s record being of the utmost importance.
  • Wins and losses, along with other factors (quality of opponents, quality of performance, etc.) will factor into a ranking system, much like College Football’s BCS.
  • There will remain no championships belts or titles on NXT.
  • At the end of NXT’s “regular season” each year, there will be a tournament (the brackets of which will be determined by the superstar rankings at the season’s end) and the winner will be NXT’s National Champion of that year.
  • To create an even more NCAA-like atmosphere for NXT, after the NXT National Champion is crowned, Superstars on the roster can choose whether or not they want to declare for the annual WWE Draft, or stay on NXT for another year (Talent can only remain on NXT for four years, at which point they must declare for the WWE Draft).

I know what some of you are thinking right now, “This would never work!” My retort… why the hell not? These changes are only structural. Superstars would still feud with one another over personal issues, in addition to their standings. If you’re sixth, and you want to catch up to the guy ranked fifth, the best way to catch him is to face him and defeat him yourself. Feuds would literally write themselves more often than not. 

Also the rule about having a set amount of matches to wrestle in a season allows for everyone to get some in-ring time during the course of the year. It doesn’t mean that guys won’t get into brawls, or come out to cut promos; it just put s a limit on sanctioned matches each guy wrestles during the year, in order for the ranking system to function properly.

My favorite part of this experiment would be the new wrinkle it would add to the WWE Draft. NXT superstars can decide to declare for the Draft, or stay on NXT to make another run at the National Championship, just like college athletes can. Furthermore, declaring doesn’t necessarily mean that the Superstar will be drafted.  If Raw or Smackdown doesn’t draft them, they return to NXT, embarrassed, but knowing that they have more to prove to make it to Raw of Smackdown. I also love the idea of there being a “March Madness” style NXT Tournament every year, but I’m a sucker for tournaments. 

This is my rough outlining of the rules, so there may be some issues that still need ironing out, but at the end of the day, these are simply experimental structural changes on a show that barely anyone is watching regularly. The things people love about wrestling, the matches, the promos, the battle of good vs. evil, and personal vendettas, still remain a vital element of the weekly narrative. The only changes are to the formatting of the show, to create a more NCAA-like feel. Maybe fans will like the new format, and tune in to see how thing play out? If not, then you’re in the exact same situation you’re in right now, so I don’t see a down side in trying something vastly different than what you’ve been doing with NXT.

All that said, I don’t expect the WWE to try something this radically different from the norm. Neither the “New NXT” nor “3-Hour Raws” are going to emphatically change the all too familiar landscape of the WWE. However if the WWE is willing to get creative the “New NXT” presents a unique opportunity to shake thinks up and become a monumental Game Changer.

There you have it, but what do you think? Would you be intrigued by an NCAA-style NXT brand? Would you look forward to a yearly “NXT Madness” Tournament in lieu of titles? Would having NXT Superstars declare for the WWE Draft be an entertaining wrinkle to add to the now “paint by numbers” yearly draft? Am I crazy for thinking this if a great idea? 

I'll be back next week with another edition of A Matter of Character, but until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying I can’t wait for the Western Conference Finals to start. Winner of that series wins the NBA Chapionship in my humble opinion. Have a great week everybody, and Go Spurs Go!