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    Wednesday, December 29, 2021

    The Year That Was 2021: NXT

    Bron Breakker

    As the second-worst year in recent memory winds down in the next few days, we're continuing a new tradition we started last year. Once again, we take a quick look back at the promotions that have kept us sane through the pandemic. For the second time, we present The Year That Was.

    When we talk about NXT in the year 2021, there's only really one major story thread to follow: this is the year Vince McMahon finally woke up and wrested back control of his developmental territory, in order to finally return it to its original purpose. 

    The thinly veiled independent wrestling company Triple H had molded the black-and-gold brand into simply did not work as a viable competitor against AEW's flagship show, if the TV ratings were to be believed. For too long, NXT had been taking the best wrestlers outside WWE and letting them be who they were, only for McMahon to not know exactly what to do with them once called up to the ranks of RAW and SmackDown.

    On one hand, that made for a compelling in-ring product for years; on the other, it simply wasn't a sustainable model in the bigger picture. In Vince's picture.

    Thus, enter NXT 2.0.

    NXT 2.0 is the current attempt to revitalize the developmental process of the WWE. For those who still haven't tuned in, it's an attempt to hearken back to the pre-Reality Era days of pro wrestling characters, with a 2021 twist—you have a Mafioso, a street fighter from Samoa, country boys, Scott Steiner's fired-up nephew, a toxic fake-woke millennial, and so on. This is their attempt to create Vince-ify characters at the Performance Center before Vince does it himself when they get called up.

    The jury's still out for this new incarnation of NXT, as it's still trying to find the balance between outsized gimmicks, which old-school fans prefer, and in-ring performance, which hardcore wrestling fans tuned in for. 

    One thing that can't be overlooked, however, is that NXT's makeover is an undeniable attempt to erase Triple H's influence on the brand's identity. After the Vince McMahon takeover (pun maybe intended), there's very little that remains of Hunter's stamp on NXT; Tommaso Ciampa as champion, Pete Dunne hanging around, and a few other outliers are the only things left of his overall creative direction, and it doesn't help that he's still sidelined by a serious cardiac event.

    By this time next year, we'll have a better idea of what NXT 2.0 brings to the table of pro wrestling. For now, however, it isn't all bad—it just isn't for everyone, and when you're a global wrestling company trying to cater to the widest audience possible, that only comes with the territory.

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    Item Reviewed: The Year That Was 2021: NXT Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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