Is NXT Heading to FOX For a Clash with AEW?

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NXT could be landing on a major broadcast network within a few months. At least that’s the buzz making rounds online this week.

According to the latest edition of Wrestling Observer Newsletter, WWE and broadcaster FOX are engaged in talks over the development of NXT TV programming, possibly for FOX’s FS1 network. NXT’s current home is on WWE’s own streaming and digital network.

As AEW gets set to debut on the TNT network, WWE appears to be weighing options for a competing show. WWE reportedly wants its lauded developmental brand to go head-to-head with AEW in the same time slot.

There’s no question that NXT deserves a shot at prime-time exposure. What effectively began in 2010 as a minor league for WWE, has itself evolved into an engaging brand on par with majors Raw and Smackdown. Many former NXT hopefuls have cracked the WWE main roster through the years including Bray Wyatt, EC3, Titus O’Neil, and Kaitlyn.

NXT arguably delivers better characters and storylines more consistently than AEW. A rating war, not to mention a bitter split between wrestling fans, is sure to ensue if NXT and AEW faceoff on TV. 

AEW’s agreement with TNT paves the way for a two-hour weekly show beginning in October. WWE and FOX are under a tight time frame if a competing NXT program is to materialize.

WWE faces internal pressure to match what some wrestlers believe are better working conditions at AEW. In another report from Wrestling Observer Newsletter, a “ton” of NXT Superstars and WWE main roster talent could be motivated to jump ship to AEW due to the organization’s lighter road schedule and what some feel is a stagnating creative culture at WWE. But shifting to AEW is easier said than done.

WWE currently has main roster Superstars locked into three-year and five-year contracts. Contracts are extended when Superstars, for one reason or another, are absent from TV for months. The contractual fortress built by WWE provides time for Vince McMahon and company to cement a well-orchestrated attack on AEW.

AEW may pose the most significant rivalry to WWE since the mid-1990s heyday of WCW. Between 1996 and 1998, WCW’s Monday Nitro bested Monday Night Raw in TV ratings for 83 consecutive weeks. Eric Bischoff, WWE’s current executive director of SmackDown Live, presided over the impressive streak at WCW.

By 2000, WCW was on the ropes financially and creatively. The faltering company finally sputtered out completely in March 2001. WWE acquired WCW’s video library along with select intellectual property, wrestler contracts, and naming rights.  

Bischoff joined WWE in 2002 as the general manager of Raw.

Incidentally, FOX TV will begin airing SmackDown Live on October 4 with Bischoff at the helm. WWE and FOX agreed to a $1 billion, five-year SmackDown deal in June 2018.

The established relationship between parties is clearly an asset for quickly landing NXT on TV.

An NXT TV offering makes sense from the FOX perspective. The broadcaster is hard at work expanding its portfolio of sports content, recent highlights of which include coverage of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2019 MLB All-Star Game.

WWE’s bid to bring NXT to broadcast TV would be a powerful step forward for the brand. NXT is more than ready. And WWE can’t sit idly as AEW makes aggressive moves with TNT. With the Smackdown deal already on the books, the time is right for an NXT partnership with FOX.

Of course, wrestling viewers get the final say on the success of any move made by WWE. Would you rather watch NXT or AEW?

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