On the off-chance that you abstained from all wrestling news this week, WWE announced that their oft-lauded “developmental” show, NXT, will air on the USA Network beginning on Sept. 18 and will expand to a two-hour runtime.
While the announcement generated plenty of skepticism from the wrestling media and fans regarding NXT’s creative outlook on its new television home – and how the writers will fill two hours of screen time – one way they could address both concerns lies in the very division that creative has overlooked these last few years: the NXT Women’s Division.
The group that sparked WWE’s distaff renaissance with their in-ring masterpieces and stellar character work has taken more of a backseat to their male counterparts since the NXT Four Horsewomen received their respective call-ups in 2015 and 2016. This has especially rung true since Shayna Baszler’s rise to the top of the women’s ranks in 2018, as most of the women have gotten pushed as aggressively as an Alex Smith third-down pass.
Yes, losing Bayley, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Sasha Banks in two years took a chunk out of the division’s depth, but it still housed enough talented names to receive more than the obligatory NXT Women’s Championship-centered feud. Instead, Triple H and the NXT creative team have given fans the same “challenger of the month” feuds that they grew weary of on the main roster. It was somewhat understandable during Asuka’s dominant title run. Now, it comes across as lazy, at best.
Recently, the writers have started to reverse this trend. They gave viewers an entertaining Mia Yim/Bianca Belair series a couple of months ago. They finally presented Candice LeRae as more than a plot device in a Johnny Gargano storyline. And there isn’t enough time in the day to rave about heel Io Shirai.
But there’s still more work to be done. The writers have to keep giving these ladies secondary storylines to flesh out their characters and improve in longer matches. They have to give popular acts like Bianca Belair more than the semi-weekly squash match. Promising prospects like Xia Li and Kacey Catanzaro also need that TV time to improve — without overexposing them, of course.
Before WWE struck this USA deal, the NXT writers could lean on the show’s hour-long length as a crutch to bridle these women. But with more time to showcase all of the brand’s stars, the excuses have run out.
At this point, no one knows what to expect from NXT: USA Network Edition. But the one thing that shouldn’t be up for debate is using this platform and extended time to refocus on the division that helped earn the brand such high acclaim in the first place.