If the past year of WWE and NXT signings haven’t convinced you yet, then the latest bout of NXT tapings should be enough to make it clear: WWE—NXT, to be specific—is now the new TNA.
That’s Total Nonstop Action, if there’s anyone in the audience who isn’t aware of the WWE’s distant #2 competition. Spoilers here for those who care deeply about being surprised with the goings on of the company’s highly-touted developmental brand: but NXT’s top and middle are now absolutely loaded with iconic TNA stars. I won’t call them also-rans even though some of them are a little advanced in age, but most of them still have a lot left to give.
Let’s start with the obvious: AJ Styles is still your WWE Champion after No Mercy, in a match that saw his grasp on the title teeter close to the edge of being a transitional reign. John Cena’s insertion into any title picture throws a lot of doubt when it comes to the current champion, but thankfully, thankfully, what Dean Ambrose said about him is true. He’s getting up there in that stage of his career where he’s starting to work part-time and give way to the young’ins.
Anyway, back to Styles. That he was the face of TNA and he’s now holding a top WWE championship (the WWE Championship, to be specific) validates everyone who’s coming in from Dixie Carter’s company (more on that later).
Then you have our beloved champion, TJ Perkins. Granted, he wasn’t maximized to his fullest potential in TNA and most of his credibility comes from what he’s done in the rest of the world, but one can say that his time in TNA (especially as X Division Champion) helped propel his star higher in the business.
Samoa Joe, up until this year’s NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, is the NXT equivalent of everything Styles has accomplished on the main roster. It’s only a matter of time now until Joe gets his call-up (especially with the NXT locker room getting flooded with amazing talent) but because Joe won the championship long before Styles did, you can argue that his big win validated TNA guys first.
Then you have the second batch of TNA signees: Austin Aries, who’s filling the Chris Jericho bitter veteran role down at Full Sail University; smark favorite newcomer Bobby Roode, who’s been very well-received in his debut; insane Eric Young, who appeared a few months ago to get defeated by Samoa Joe, and is now back leading NXT’s second faction, SAnitY.
And in today’s newest set of NXT tapings, two former TNA talents are now with the yellow brand. Former Women’s Champion Mickie James has returned to the company that made her famous, facing Asuka for the NXT Women’s Championship at NXT Takeover: Toronto next month (because no one else has been built up in the NXT women’s division to believably take her on). Austin Aries introduced his mystery partner for the second-annual Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, his old running mate and recently-released ROH mainstay Roderick Strong.
That makes 5 former TNA stars down at NXT, with two (out of a lot others, like Xavier Woods) on the main roster. What does it all mean? Well, for one thing, it means that North American wrestling is slowly running out of alternatives that are almost on the same level as WWE.
TNA is dealing with a lot of internal strife involving Dixie Carter and current president Billy Corgan (yes, the vocalist of Smashing Pumpkins) and due to the “disastrous” position Carter put the company in, it’s unlikely that TNA will survive the winter. Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling, once touted last year as the biggest competitor to the #2 spot, seems dead in the water as none of their initial momentum managed to translate into anything concrete. (GFW has turned to trying to pull off a multi-level marketing scheme to possibly try and generate some profit.)
Lucha Underground, even with its relatively big-name former WWE talent such as Rey Mysterio and the former John Morrison, is still a niche program that just doesn’t do enough to be able to grab the clear #2 spot in the business. Ring of Honor is running in place, putting out quality matches but not the great storylines to try and get people invested in them. (Jay Lethal, their former top champion, held his spot for more than a year, turning back all comers.)
The only true #2 promotion is not in North America, but in Japan. New Japan Pro Wrestling has clearly become the other top destination for those disillusioned with WWE life, both wrestlers and fans. The only problem is that booking is erratic there as well, and if you’re a gaijin (a foreigner) you’re not going to get much in the way of opportunities unless you’re really, really good, like the handful of foreign stars who managed to get over, like Kenny Omega and Michael Elgin.
Pro wrestling in 2016 is both great and ominous. We’re getting everything we could ever want—well, okay, most things we could ever want—but the shape of the business is getting more distorted than ever before. WWE’s increased the hold on its monopoly on big stars by finally giving in and giving us many things we want (it’s still not perfect), but in doing so has undeniably changed the face of the business. Welcome to the WWE impact. – Rappler.com