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    Monday, December 30, 2019

    31 Days of Wrestling (12/30/19): The NXT Invasion of SmackDown (SmackDown Live, November 1, 2019)

    Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies, and gentlemen. Once again, we're at that point where we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling 2019 produced for us.

    When NXT first debuted under its original reality show format in 2010, it seemed farfetched to imagine it as the brand it would come to be today. While that original season featured the likes of Daniel Bryan, Stu Bennett (fka Wade Barrett), Heath Slater, PJ Black (fka Justin Gabriel), Darren Young, Ryback, David Otunga, and Michael Tarver, the way that these talents were handled on TV prior to their main roster debuts as The Nexus made them look like "future endeavors" candidates in the making.

    Having Triple H take over as the man in charge of the brand has been the best thing to happen to NXT because it allowed WWE to have its own developmental system, where The Game could experiment on everything—from production to storytelling to talent development and beyond. The rest is history, and it became a matter of time until NXT would be seen as a brand equal to RAW and SmackDown.

    2019 gave us that with SmackDown becoming part of the FOX deal, allowing the USA Network to have NXT live on Wednesday nights. It also helped that AEW had locked up a broadcast deal on TNT on Wednesdays, necessitating NXT's move from its taped format to the two-hour live show we see today. What's funny is that it took the Saudi Arabia debacle happening just weeks before Survivor Series to firmly entrench NXT's status as the third main roster brand.

    With a large portion of WWE's roster stuck in Saudi Arabia—which doesn't say a lot about how WWE cares for its traveling talent and crew—they were forced to call on the troops from NXT to put on a live episode of SmackDown, you know, because they'd just signed a multi-million broadcast deal with FOX.

    In the short term, it was a blessing in disguise for WWE because it let them start the buildup to Survivor Series without much setup. The story was simple: upstart brand invades long-established stalwart. Let the games begin.

    But in the long term, NXT was legitimized on a level that went beyond their perennial critically-acclaimed TakeOver events or cameos on big events like WrestleMania. Having national TV airtime exposed mainstream audiences to NXT's brand of sports entertainment, while also giving the talent an opportunity to perform on a larger platform than a lot of them had been used to up to that point.

    Sure, we would have gotten the likes of Adam Cole, Shayna Baszler, Keith Lee, Matt Riddle and others on main roster programming at some point during the build or in the future. But for them to have had this opportunity because of the circumstances was the biggest win NXT could have asked for. 

    It was their chance to show the world that everything they'd worked for up to that point was going to lead to the moment when they could show the world that while they are not your kind, NXT had arrived, taken over, and is here to stay.


    31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2019. Read our previous entries:

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    Item Reviewed: 31 Days of Wrestling (12/30/19): The NXT Invasion of SmackDown (SmackDown Live, November 1, 2019) Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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