For decades, shows like RAW and SmackDown have placed and kept WWE on top of the totem pole as it relates to the world of professional wrestling. Many companies have tried to stake their claim to the throne, but the king always reigns supreme in the end.
However, 2019 signaled what many believed would be a changing of the guard in the wrestling landscape, with the launch and rise of All Elite Wrestling, better known as AEW.
Wrestling fans prepared themselves for a breath of fresh air, with Cody Rhodes, Chris Jericho, The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley among the stars leading the way in an attempt to take over on Wednesday nights. So far, their expertise is showing, with impressive ratings throughout its start on TNT.
Meanwhile, WWE landed itself a new TV deal which placed SmackDown on FOX, and simultaneously found a way to place their third brand, NXT, on the USA Network on Wednesday nights.
While ratings have shown a consistent AEW lead in the “Wednesday Night Wars” over the first month and a half of the battle, many still feel that NXT is doing more to change the professional wrestling world as fans know it.
The reasoning? Fans will praise NXT’s talented roster and their incredible depth, or the countless high-quality NXT TakeOver events that have been put on over the years, of course. But, the common thread in the whole equation? Paul “Triple H” Levesque.
AEW has taken advantage of the former WWE superstars in their offices, with a lot of their influence showing through in their programming through its first two months on the air. But, NXT has something that can’t be matched by any number of the experienced brains they have in the business: the greatest mind in wrestling today.
Many have argued that Triple H should be at the helm when it comes to all of WWE’s creative decisions, and likely has deserved the opportunity for years at this point. Need proof? Just look at the success of NXT over the years.
TakeOver events have been the highlight of WWE’s product from an actual wrestling standpoint for as long as fans can remember, and the constant ability to build new stars at the top of the food chain down in Florida has shown how brilliant Triple H’s creative mind really is.
Johnny Gargano has become a face of the brand over the last three years, and Tommaso Ciampa has gone from the most-hated wrestler in the entire sport all the way back to a highly-over face upon his return.
Adam Cole, Andrade “Cien” Almas, Bobby Roode all built up reputations as successful heels during their tenures as NXT’s top champion, and the latter two’s lackluster time on the main roster further proves what happens when Triple H’s touch gets taken away from the equation.
Many viewed NXT as a minor league “affiliate” for WWE’s main roster for a long time, and still do in some cases. But, WWE has made a conscious effort to market NXT as a third brand recently, with Survivor Series serving as the perfect opportunity to make that a reality.
“I can tell you this about it—as excited as everybody is about this moment, this is the start,” Triple H said in a video on WWE’s YouTube channel before NXT’s debut on the USA Network. “This isn’t the destination, this is the start. This brand is just getting started.”
That start truly hit the gas on November 1, 2019, as Triple H put on an NXT showcase during an episode of SmackDown as travel troubles kept the Friday night show’s regular roster from appearing. The night provided a refreshing look at the wrestling business for fans who were previously burnt out, with fans raving about all of the show’s elements from its opening to its main event.
NXT’s roots were shown throughout the episode, with Triple H showing off as a proud father for his young, talented NXT roster. He had his best friend, Shawn Michaels, by his side through it all, showing the trusted troops Triple H has behind the scenes to ensure that NXT is a perfect product, with the proper resources for his wrestlers to learn from.
He had his squad’s back through it all, hyping up Adam Cole, Shayna Baszler and everyone in between.
In the end, it brought back old eyes to the programming to figure out what was going on, drew in new fans to NXT and its fresh slate of stars, and grew the business in a positive way as NXT competes with AEW on Wednesday nights and fans flock to the wide variety of wrestling at their disposal.
“Well if we’re gonna have a fight, then I’m gonna need an army,” Triple H said at the end of NXT’s invasion on that November 1 episode of SmackDown. “What do you do when you want to build an army? You look to your blood, you look to your family, and you build an army for a fight.”
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“This is our army, this is our fight, this is our ring. Just remember one thing: We are NXT.”