G5: WWE NXT, women’s main events, Extreme Rules, more

WWE NXT continues to set new standards for itself, with the first steel cage match for the brand taking place in the near future. Should NXT still be thought of as developmental?

Charlotte and Natalya headlined Raw with the contract signing for their Extreme Rules match. Could there be a time when a women’s match headlines a WWE pay-per-view?

With Extreme Rules on the horizon, we look at the potential the card has—will it be an one of 2016’s highlights, or forgotten by SummerSlam?—and also reflect on our favourite match stipulations.

Join us for this week’s Gimme Five.

***

1. A steel cage match between Samoa Joe and Finn Balor will headline the next NXT TakeOver special. Should NXT still be considered developmental, or is it for all intents and purposes now a standalone brand in its own right?

Blake:
I know that the internet wrestling community for the most part truly believes that NXT is now essentially a standalone brand. However, to be completely frank, it is not. I will grant that NXT is not as basic as former developmental organisations in its approach to its role, but I would argue that NXT takes its role as a developmental organisation more seriously than its predecessors. Not only is it a training ground for the wrestlers, but it is a place to experiment for the writers, the technicians, other on-air talent, and producers. NXT is my favourite show WWE produces right now, but it is still development.

Richard:
I think it’s pretty obvious that NXT has gone far beyond a developmental. The quality of the matches and huge crowd involvement and interaction speaks as a testament to that.

Grady:
Oh, hell yeah! There is no way now that anyone can say NXT is developmental. If anything, it is transitional to get talent used to the WWE way of doing things, so we don’t end up with another Kaval, but I see it as an alternate brand to the main roster. Some talents’ hesitation with wanting to move up to the main roster should show you that it is an alternate.

David:
Audience reactions would tell you NXT could probably hold its own against the other WWE brands. Internally, WWE still views NXT as developmental, and outside of key wrestling markets the WWE brand as a whole (Raw, SmackDown, etc) is much better recognised, but when it comes to key wrestling locations, NXT is right up there with the rest of the main roster.

 

2. Charlotte and Natalya’s contract signing for their Extreme Rules match was the last thing broadcast on this week’s Raw. Are we close to a time when a women’s title match could headline a WWE PPV?

Blake:
I genuinely think it could happen right now. However, there are a number of problems preventing that from coming to. The main one in my mind is that Charlotte is the current Women’s Champion. When she was in NXT, we saw her wrestle once every couple of weeks. Now she is wrestling televised matches multiple times a week, and the cracks have been made obvious. Add a fairly poorly written storyline into the mix, and you have the making for a disengaged audience. The current problem is not inherently a women’s wrestling one; it is, in fact, an all-around WWE issue of lacklustre writing and overexposure.

Richard:
I think we are very close to that happening. I don’t see it happening at a SummerSlam, Survivor Series, Royal Rumble or WrestleMania, but I do see it happening. The biggest obstacle I see is the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, as in my mind that match should always be last on the card as it is the focal point and centrepiece of the company.

Grady:
Sadly, nope. I have seen a trend where the match that is the highest profile actually ends the second hour and then the ratings of Raw drop off into the third hour. To me, this is showing that they can’t hold a three-hour product and that they are showing more confidence in that second-hour semi-main event that the actual main event segment. Back to the women’s title, I don’t see it headlining a pay-per-view for a long time to come (unless there is a women’s-specific PPV or Network Special).

David:
I think the WWE Universe would probably accept it, but those behind the scenes wouldn’t be as easily convinced. In the same way the tag team division is theoretically as important as any other, but the tag team titles have never headlined a card over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, I don’t have high hopes for a Women’s Championship main event.

 

3. How will this year’s Extreme Rules stack up? Does it have potential to be fondly remembered as one of 2016’s best, or will the card be long forgotten come SummerSlam?

Blake:
I don’t mean to keep being negative this week, but so far I just don’t really care. The Reigns/Styles feud has had no real direction, the Intercontinental Championship picture has had zero character growth, and I’m not really interested in watching another Charlotte match. Granted, the Asylum Match and the Tag Team Championship feud are both intriguing, but you cannot sell a pay-per-view (or Network Special, or whatever they’re calling them now) on two undercard matches. I hope I’m wrong, but it is not building up well in my mind.

Richard:
Hard to say. If there are no title changes or debuts then it could easily slip out of memory within a couple of months. Obviously if there is a title change that impacts the whole thing going forward.

Grady:
Unless something that is big and outside of the card itself happens, it will be a footnote and we will all move on to our next show.

David:
Extreme Rules could go down as one of 2016’s best shows, for sure. There are a bunch of pre-established feuds that could come to an end on this card, and there’s certainly the potential for a title change or two. This could be somewhat of a turning point for WWE as it wraps up its post-WrestleMania storylines before starting to build towards SummerSlam and the rest of the year.

 

4. Sticking with Extreme Rules, what’s your favourite type of gimmick match?

Blake:
So long as they’re done right, I can watch a Hell in a Cell or a TLC match any day of the week.

Richard:
Thinking about it, I think my favourite type of match would be Falls Count Anywhere as this can lead to some unique pinning situations that you can only see in this type of match.

Grady:
Extreme Rules Tornado Tag Team Match, because it was the easiest game mode to play with two players in the older WWE games. I can’t think of any instance where it has actually happened, although I am sure it has.

David:
I’m a big fan of Last Man Standing. In recent years they’ve become a bit gimmicky (like the time John Cena taped Batista’s feet together) but, for the most part, they’re gritty brawls between two rivals that result in a clear-cut winner.

 

5. Bob Backlund is doing his best to make Darren Young great again. Which lower-card talent would you like to see given a chance to reinvent themselves, and which WWE legend would you recruit to do it?

Blake:
At the moment, I think Jack Swagger is probably the most underutilised talent. As for a legend who would recruit him, there is one name that springs to mind: Kurt Angle.

Richard:
Somewhat ironically, I would choose Titus O’Neil and have him managed by Ron Simmons. Have it that Titus is on a losing streak sitting in the back depressed when Ron Simmons comes in, “Damn! What’s going on with you? We gotta get your head in the game!” Camera fades out and from then on Ron manages Titus all the way to the championship.

Grady:
Take Heath Slater and give him a new legend every week, similar to how he was being beaten up by them leading into Raw 1000, but they each give him conflicting advice.

David:
Jack Swagger is definitely the guy who’s fallen the furthest over the course of his WWE career. I like Blake’s suggestion of Kurt Angle a lot – the perfect way to reintroduce Angle to a modern WWE audience and turn around Swagger’s career trajectory all in one.