Induction: NXT 2.0 – The 2021 Gooker Award Winner

53 Submitted by on Thu, 27 January 2022, 20:00

As a brand dedicated to developing wrestling talent, there’s more than a little irony in NXT itself evolving and flourishing beyond all expectations, only to be punished for it.

Premiering in 2010 as a hybrid wrestling/reality game show for aspiring Superstars, the original NXT soon devolved into a farce that announcers openly mocked, and that SyFy booted off television. After being rebooted as a straightforward developmental territory, it re-surfaced in 2014 on the new WWE Network, where it quickly became a feature attraction. For the next five years, interest grew and grew. Live specials began packing full-sized venues across the US, Canada, and even the UK. On pay-per-view weekends, Takeover events consistently outshined their main-roster counterparts. 

Like an oasis in the sports-entertainment desert, NXT featured compelling feuds and character arcs, producing all-time classic matches like Zayn-Neville, Bayley-Sasha, and Gargano-Ciampa. Its tag team and women’s divisions were among the best on the planet. World-class talent flocked to the promotion, made a name for themselves in front of the new audience, and moved on before getting stale.

(That’s what the main roster was for)

Despite a reputation as a brand for the hardcore fan, it was much easier to watch NXT’s 60-minute show at one’s convenience than to dedicate five hours a week in front of a TV keeping up with Raw and Smackdown. With only a few days of taping per month, NXT favored long-term storytelling over the week-to-week or even hour-to-hour booking of the main shows.

And perhaps best of all, Vince McMahon didn’t seem to care about or even watch it. This occasionally backfired, like when he randomly booked NXT Women’s champion Charlotte to lose on Raw in under two minutes…

…or when he called up Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa as a team just before the planned final payoff to their intensely personal, two-year-long feud.

And whenever WWE’s main shows got so bad they needed to apologize, like in the run-up to the Diva’s Revolution or Constable Corbin-era Raw, Vince would panic and raid NXT talent to freshen things up. But for the most part, NXT existed in its own universe, protected as Triple H’s pet project.

A site like WrestleCrap, dedicated to the worst of wrestling, rarely gets a chance to discuss NXT in its classic incarnation. While there has been plenty to ridicule on Raw and Smackdown over the past eight years, NXT has yielded only one induction on this website since its Network premiere.

Killing the Black-and-Golden Goose

So when it came time to decide the worst of the worst of 2021, how did a majority of WrestleCrap readers end up picking NXT? Not just a gimmick or an angle or a match, but the entire brand?

Well, back in 2019, All Elite Wrestling sprang up. When TNT gave AEW two hours on Wednesday nights for its Dynamite program, Vince McMahon tried to squash the new promotion before it could gain a following.

Inking a deal with the USA Network for little more than the sum of production costs, WWE transformed NXT from a one-hour, pre-taped Network program to a two-hour, live cable show. No longer could WWE Network subscribers watch it on their own time, as new episodes wouldn’t be available on demand until weeks after their premiere. 

NXT’s first two weeks on USA ran unopposed, but once AEW premiered, fans would have to pick a side. After all, they couldn’t watch them both…

…unless they knew how to operate a DVR, which all but the oldest of viewers did. Once irrelevant to NXT and its viewers, the show’s viewership numbers were now paramount to winning the weekly pissing contest with AEW. Officially, WWE refused to acknowledge AEW as competition — which is smart, considering AEW nearly always won, beating out NXT in both total viewers and the key 18-49 demographic. 

To turn the tide, WWE promoted the hell out of NXT. The black-and-gold brand led an invasion of Raw and Smackdown and beat them in most of Survivor Series’ inter-brand matches. And still, more people kept watching AEW on Wednesdays.

In April of 2021, after 18 months on USA, the cable network moved NXT to Tuesday nights, ending the competition-that-officially-wasn’t. Vince McMahon had never before suffered such an indignity; even when WCW Nitro was beating Raw every week, USA didn’t move it to Tuesdays. Blaming Triple H for NXT’s failure in the Wednesday Night Wars, Vince McMahon decided to oversee the brand himself, along with Bruce Prichard.

WWE thus announced an overhaul of NXT, re-branding the show as NXT 2.0 (which should really be 3.0, as we’ve seen). Gone was the black-and-gold color scheme; in its place was a multi-colored paint-splattered logo that vexed graphic designers.

If it weren’t for everyone on the show saying, “bitch”, you’d think you were watching Nickelodeon

And gone was Samoa Joe, who forfeited his newly-won NXT title when a routine physical exam found that he was 42 years old. With NXT 2.0, WWE hoped to attract a younger audience — younger than the average viewer of Raw, Smackdown, and especially the old NXT.

McMahon now sought to bring NXT back to its developmental roots, focusing not on putting on great matches but on building future Wrestlemania main-eventers from scratch. Unlike every developmental territory in history, however, NXT 2.0 would showcase these future Wrestlemania main-eventers as inexperienced rookies…


…in primetime…

…on a major cable network.

What could go wrong?

It’s Hoss Time!

By “future Wrestlemania main-eventers,” Vince McMahon of course means tall guys. From day one of NXT 2.0, WWE has flooded the show with as many tall guys as possible. Inexperience aside, if you tower over the NXT regulars (but aren’t huge enough to jump straight to the main roster like Omos or Azeez), you get on the show.

That’s why charisma vacuum Von Wagner got put in the four-way NXT title match simply by showing up and being 6’5”.

He was soon paired with NXT vet Kyle O’Reilly, who made the Minnesota native look like the Great Lakes Khali.

That same night, NXT Breakout tournament winner Carmelo Hayes suddenly remembered his lifelong friend, Trick Williams (6’4”, 0-0). 

Joe Gacy mentors Harland, the 6’4” college football standout entering NXT 2.0 with a perfect in-ring record to match Trick’s.

Rookie Odyssey Jones and 13-year vet Duke Hudson are each billed as 6’5, while another 6’5” hoss named Brooks Jensen…

(the one with “BJ” on his shirt)

…teams with an even bigger hoss in Josh Briggs, billed at 6’8”. Briggs already made waves weeks before NXT 2.0 with this one-of-a-kind promo on 205 Live:

Originally tweeted by Dan (@GolazoDan) on August 15, 2021.

By now, the “205” in 205 Live is merely a suggestion, serving as NXT’s B show and throwing weight limits out the window. After all, with NXT 2.0 becoming the land of the giants, who needs a cruiserweight TV show? Or for that matter, a cruiserweight title, which was retired at the start of 2022? 

Youth-anizing the Women’s Division

While NXT 2.0’s men are judged by such attributes as size, height, and bigness… 

…what matters for its women is youth. For John Laurinaitis (58), Bruce Prichard (59), and Vince McMahon (76), this goes hand-in-hand with another essential quality, hotness. To that end, WWE now hires only women 25 or younger as a policy

That could explain why Mercedes Martinez (40) was future-endeavored in August, followed months later by Mia Yim (32) and Ember Moon (33).

Taking their place were the likes of Lash Legend (24) and Tiffany Stratton (21), neither of whom had ever wrestled a match before appearing on TV.

Weeks into the re-brand, Cora Jade (20) defeated Franky Monet (37) in Monet’s final match. The next month, she and stablemate Jessi Kamea (32) got (Logan’s) run right out of the company.

In case the symbolism of NXT’s youngest woman retiring its oldest woman wasn’t clear enough, the 1000-year old Mei Ying was repackaged as a sleepy toddler in a onesie.

Mandy Rose (31) did beat the slightly younger Raquel González for the NXT title, but that’s likely down to her gimmick of being really good-looking, which WWE has been heavily invested in since her debut.

“Say ‘What’ one more time if you don’t think I’m the sexiest woman alive”, Mandy yells to own her hecklers (although it really should be, “…if you do think I’m the sexiest woman alive”).

While Mandy is safe for now, things aren’t looking up for Dakota Kai (32), whom Cora Jade recently called “Mom”.

The new focus on youth isn’t just limited to the women wrestlers; leading up to the re-brand, the Performance Center trainers, who never even appear on the show, were advised to look young for Vince McMahon. That meant cutting their hair and dyeing their beards. Meanwhile, Vince himself was on TV every week looking like Igor Bogdanoff’s corpse.

The Green Brand

But with all these young rookies come rookie mistakes. Some are harmless, like this botched handspring corner splash by Tiffany Stratton…

…or these Trick William punches that are just a little too safe.

Lash Legend’s elbow drops became legendary for all the wrong reasons…

…as did her entire match with Sarray on 205 Live.

Fortunately, 205 Live is pre-taped (go figure), allowing many of the worst spots to be edited before airing.

Even NXT 2.0’s undisputed star, Bron Breakker, isn’t immune to falling flat on his face in the biggest match of his young career.

He’s lucky he didn’t breakk his nose

It’s bad enough to make these mistakes in front of a mass audience…

(Just ask Eric Watts how one poorly-executed move can follow you the rest of your career)

…but some of these screw-ups are downright dangerous. Jacy Jayne may have three years experience under her belt, but her suicide dive demonstrates just what can go wrong with that move.

(Namely, everything)

Jayne had to leave the match for medical evaluation…

…but luckily, as Wade Barrett grudgingly admitted, the prize at stake was completely useless anyway.

When the newcomers aren’t injuring themselves, they’re risking injury to others. Here, Wes Lee and Marcel Barthel jumped into a veritable Red Sea of green hosses…

…which parted in two (Exodus 14:21-22).

In a saner world, WWE would send them all to 205 Live, wrestling’s answer to the film Naked Lunch.

How do you do, fellow members of the NXT Universe?

Believe it or not, NXT 2.0’s ratings haven’t improved since the re-brand, despite a lack of competition on Tuesday nights. Even its 18-49 viewership hovers in the low-to-mid 0.1s. Gen Z’ers and Millennials just aren’t responding to what WWE feels are popular trends among young people. These include:

Racking up likes with the Paul brothers’ Australian cousin, Grayson Waller…

…not-skateboarding with Cora Jade…

…doing mukbangs with Ikemen Jiro…

…watching Ikemen Jiro take a giant s**t…

…and spilling the tea with a fake studio audience with Lash Legend.

She lashes out, she has lashes, and her name is Lash — that’s a triple entendre!

There’s also a slew of not-so-fresh gimmicks like The Gambler…

…The Dean…

…and The Full-Blooded Italian.

A self-aware mafia stereotype, Tony D’Angelo gives new meaning to the term, gabagool. 

“Jacket Time” consists of Ikemen Jiro, who wears a jacket… 

…and Kushida, who famously likes Back to the Future (and wears a jacket). This name comes after Kushida rejected his partner’s first suggestion, “The Japanese Japanese”.

Perhaps the most boring personae belong to Briggs & Jensen, two tough country boys who drink beer as they play horseshoes and cornhole.

(That is, the bean-bag toss game)

And no matter how hard WWE pushes him, there aren’t enough logs and giant tires in the world to get fans to care about Brow Ridge Holland over here.

But the absolute dirt-worst of NXT 2.0 characters is Joe Gacy. A transparent dig at the “progressive left”, Gacy peppers his promos with SJW jargon like “micro-aggressions”, “privilege”, and “triggered”. And, like a woke Mr. Backlund, he doesn’t appear to understand what any of those words mean.

After losing his first match, Gacy celebrated that he had not been “canceled”. He refers to his followers as his “snowflakes”, not realizing that’s an insult.

(You never heard Zeb Colter call his fans “teabaggers”, did you?)

“This ring is our safe space”, he declares before wrestling his opponents in an absolutely ordinary style.

Gacy claims to speak for the young generation, but comes off like a Millennial’s guidance counselor….

…advocating “conflict resolution” with an Office 95 font.

And rather than complain about his opponents violating his boundaries and touching him without his consent as one might expect…

…Woke Joe is instead the one hugging his adversaries and caressing strangers’ faces willy-nilly.

Further proving that WWE Creative is off the mark by decades in its satire, Gacy constantly flashes the peace sign… 

…and sports this spaced-out expression that just begs viewers to change the channel.

Josh Briggs was right about this guy.

Going to a Better Place

As for the longer-tenured wrestlers of NXT, many have left not just the brand but the whole company (sometimes voluntarily).

Johnny Gargano let his contract expire and is rumored to be AEW-bound. Kyle O’Reilly saw the writing on the wall and jumped to AEW, joining stablemate Bobby Fish…

…and Adam Cole, who left to work for the competition rather than ascend to the main roster. It’s hard to say Cole made the wrong choice, either, based on the subsequent releases of Keith Lee and Karrion Kross, two other recent NXT champions called up to Raw. Kross’s call-up was especially futile, losing his debut to Jeff Hardy in two minutes while NXT champ…

…before getting repackaged as a gladiator, pulled off TV, and released — all in less than four months’ time. In 2021, NXT wrestlers got “called up to the main roster” in much the same way one’s childhood pets “went to live on a farm” when they got sick.

Even the younger holdovers from the black-and-gold NXT fell victim to WWE’s house-cleaning. Isaiah “Swerve” Scott and his popular Hit Row faction, which debuted in May, were drafted to Smackdown shortly into the NXT 2.0 rebrand.

Sounds like a resounding success for the developmental brand, right? Well, not two weeks after debuting on the main roster, WWE released B-Fab, feeling that Hit Row could do just fine without her.

As if to acknowledge their error in judgment, WWE released the rest of the faction later that month.

This all bodes poorly for Tommaso Ciampa and Pete Dunne, currently competing in dark matches on Smackdown and awaiting their main roster call-ups. At least they’ll get to see their old dogs again.


There’s a lot to nitpick about NXT 2.0, like when Carmelo Hayes cashed in his guaranteed title shot on a battered Swerve Scott as if it were suddenly Money in The Bank…

…or when Legado Del Sol abducted members of Hit Row and never let them go…

…or when Tony D’Angelo abducted a producer on the very same episode.

There’s the Usos’ brother Solo Sikoa claiming to have been abandoned at age 15…

…heavily implying that Rikishi is a deadbeat dad.

There’s the unfounded rumors of Dexter Lumis’s penis falling off on his honeymoon…

…a mystery person whom no one could identify as the sole Kiwi woman on the roster…

…and a Halloween Havoc ladder match called, “Scareway to Hell”.

There’s the odd transparently scripted promo

dreadfully acted skit

…karaoke showdown…

…or WWE-style wackiness just begging for Ron Simmons to show up and shout “Damn!”

Yet ultimately, none of these issues are likely why you voted NXT 2.0 as the worst of wrestling in 2021. What really stung about the rebranding was what was lost in the process. It’s a tall order to build a brand that earns universal critical acclaim and sells out arenas. But to strip away everything that made it great? That turned out to be quite easy.

For what it is and, just as importantly, what it isn’t, NXT 2.0 is your 2021 Gooker Award winner. 


Even at the time of this writing, the erasure of all things black-and-gold continues. 

Timothy Thatcher and Danny Burch had recently become trainers at the Performance Center, but were among a New Year’s purge of NXT’s old guard. 

That purge also included William Regal, the on-screen GM and utterer of “War Games!”, whose last order of business was to introduce the world to Von Wagner. Regal, who could drag a good match out of any opponent, and who convinced Brian Danielson not to wrestle as “Buddy Peacock”, would have been invaluable to the NXT 2.0 roster.

Scotty 2 Hotty, a long-time Performance Center trainer, had abandoned ship not long after Vince McMahon’s backstage youth drive. Other personnel, like Road Dogg (below), were let go en masse.

And so was Samoa Joe, meaning Vince has fired three of the last four black-and-gold champions in the space of two months.

But there is hope on the horizon: WALTER, the Austrian wrestling god, recently debuted on NXT 2.0. After years of resisting a move across the pond, WALTER is finally stateside, bringing not only an imposing stature rivaling that of the brand’s many big men, but also impeccable technique and world-renowned ring sense.

And WWE named him for a Nazi.

So… same time next year?

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell. Email at:
53 Responses to "Induction: NXT 2.0 – The 2021 Gooker Award Winner"
  1. Acolyte of Glorious La Parka~ says:

    Really, could there have BEEN any other choice?

  2. Christopher Haydu says:

    I could be wrong, but NXT 2.0 is a great example of something that I think is happening – or going to happen – in wrestling over the next twenty years. It’s reaching a creative singularity. It’s getting harder and harder for new talent to have completely original gimmicks that don’t remind smart fans of something from the past. And with major promotions having five hours of original television to write every single week without a break, that’s only going to get us toward the singularity faster. Once it arrives, WWE, AEW, etc. They’ll all collectively be a reboot of what was booked decades earlier because there’ll be no new ideas left. Wrestling will stay popular for a while, but eventually the singularity will drive viewers away from a product that no longer has any ability to be fresh and exciting. WWE will probably hit the wall first, and it’ll probably be sold between 2035 and 2040. Hopefully WrestleCrap will still be here when it happens!

    • Fred Craig says:

      Wrestling will still exist, but I agree that the central hubs are following a downward trend due to oversaturation and lack of originality. Hollywood and sports have done the same, accelerated by their virtue-signalling narciccism and hatred for their own customers. WWE is doing the opposite by constantly trying to pander to the lowest denominator and alienating everyone else.

  3. Michael Hunt says:

    Great article. The first time I ever heard the beanbag toss game called Cornhole was on an episode of The Middle. I was so confused as to what tf they were talking about until they finally showed it.

    I loved Dexter and Indi and I marked out for their wedding, but they just stopped appearing together and I stopped watching. I don’t even know if they are still a couple

  4. Alex says:

    NXT black and gold was great but it was abandoned by the “smart” fans when AEW arrived because it had the WWE stigma. Since then it was heavily criticized by these same fans who called it “boring” and “uncool”.
    NXT 2.0 is actually a pretty fun show and its ratings have not decreased much.
    There are some botches and crappy gimmicks but which show has not? There’s an entire twitter account dedicated to AEW botches! Still no induction though…
    Moreover, it has already given us a future superstar with Bron Breakker!
    It’s kind of ironic that anti-WWE / pro-AEW fans voted for NXT 2.0 as they were the ones crapping on the black and gold brand during the last years.
    20 years ago, Wresltecrap was a hilarious site making fun in a harmless way of the wrestling we love;
    Now it’s another anti-WWE “smart” forum. That maybe deserves a gooker…

    • Art0Donnell says:

      No. See you next year when you complain about the 2022 nominees.

    • jey says:

      You’re an NXT audience member aren’t you?

    • MikeOTR says:

      Don’t get me wrong but isn’t the AEW Botches page a massive troll account to just get people’s attention for the sake of making them upset?

    • biggs darklighter says:

      i think you read into things too much.

    • Autrach Sejanoz says:

      Found Bruce Pritchard’s burner account!

    • dave says:

      wow you sound really butthurt about a funny post on a comedy website.

    • Mr. Pelican Pants says:


      Tell Vince, Bruce & John I said ‘hi’ for me.

    • Ben says:

      Ah yes, the same Alex who complained about the list of 2021 GotY nominees since most of it was WWE. Truth hurts, I know and NXT 2.0 still sucks. What a crybaby.

    • The Peyote Coyote says:

      Hope Vince isn’t too addled to give you your residual.

    • ProWresBlog says:

      Totally agreed.

      WWE gave indy fans everything they wanted in NXT, and those fans ran for the hills when AEW came around. NXT was a solid show most weeks, but AEW fans weren’t interested.

      So WWE listens to all of these fans complaints and overhauls the brand into something new. Those same fans who didn’t watch then complain that the show they didn’t watch changed.

      You just can’t win with these people.

      NXT 2.0 isn’t perfect, but it’s DEVELOPMENTAL. These are rookies wrestlers having some of their first matches, segments and gimmicks. Of course there are going to be screw-ups and of course everything won’t be a home run, but that’s what happens when you have young wrestlers.

      I think NXT 2.0 is a great success so far. People like Bron, Tony D, Trick Williams, Andre Chase, The Creed Brothers and Joe Gacy should be main roster acts in the future. That was the goal with NXT 2.0 and they seem right on track to accomplish it.

      Maybe Von Wagner won’t make it, but they tried and not every prospect ends up going into the Hall of Fame. You don’t know unless you give them a chance though.

      I also agree on the lack of AEW criticism. I find so many issues weekly on AEW shows, yet suddenly people who make their careers out of pointing out flaws in shows go silent when AEW is involved.

      • Art0Donnell says:

        In AEW’s two and a half years, we’ve nominated it for the Gooker Award four times.
        In NXT’s entire post-game show period (ten years), we nominated it for the Gooker Award once – this one.

  5. Jerry says:

    Fun fact: While the historical Gunther Stark would not have been a familiar name to the vast majority of Germans, it may have been associated with the similar sounding famous 50s-90s film actor Günter Strack. Which would have left a mark on the character in a different way.

    • #OPC says:

      It’s crazy how the branding is all “colorful” and is supposed to be youthful and vibrant, yet this entire process just feels depressing.

  6. Vincent "How much does this guy weight" McManus says:

    hi Art,

    Can you PLEASE still do the article for the “wwe firings” ?

  7. DOC 902714 says:

    SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!! Mei Ying was repackaged as BEDTIME BEAR (I know that she’s Wendy something but I’m not going back to check). Solo Sikoa is an USO Sibling. To be fair I don’t find the NXT 2.0 brand all that bad. They’re mostly developmental and they’re going to make mistakes. Probably it shouldn’t be a live show at this point but it will be fun to see the youngsters develop (which they will in due time). I could not agree more with what was said about Joe Gacy. The name should even be reconsidered because it sounds very similar to an.,………..infamous serial killer. But his revamped Mr. Bob Backlund take(even without all the unnecessary caterwauling) leaves nothing to be desired. Two of the reasons that I tune in every week (and spawned from 2.0.) are BRON BREAKKER and ELEKTRA LOPEZ. And is anyone really hurting for the departures of Mercedes Martinez, Mia Yim and Ember Moon?

    • Art0Donnell says:

      I should note that unlike Mr. Backlund, Joe Gacy’s misuse of words is not used for comedy and seems completely unintentional.

  8. gerard says:

    vince has never heard the phrase if it ain’t broken don’t fix it!! the original nxt was a good show that was doing alright just the way it was!! but vince looked at it and said”damnit i don’t like the way this show looks it needs a makeover!!” so he pushed hunter aside and took charge himself…and…the rest as they say is history!!

    • Jerry says:

      If a thing does work in a mostly good but completely unintended way, while failing at its original task, is it working or broken? Towards the end of the Triple H/Michaels run, the part about creating the next generation of stars really came a bit short.
      We’re back to NXT 0.5 alias FCW in all its unkempt beauty. Not necessarily a bad thing, just, as stated in the main article, that’s something that simply does not belong on TV.
      Triple H is no martyr, and given the control obsession of the old Mc Mahon, it is remarkable, how long he got to do his own thing undisturbed.

      • dennett316 says:

        NXT black and gold had an embarrassment of talent, the majority of which flourished on that show under its creative direction, only to flounder when called up to the main show. How many NXT talents have we seen be thrown onto the main roster with no clear direction, no creative drive and no chance to succeed?

  9. Justin Ballard says:

    This company is an embarrassment of epic proportions. Imagine looking at a developmental system Triple H grew into a full-fledged third brand that was selling out major arenas, and saying “All of this needs to go….” Gotta be maybe the biggest-ever instance of Vince cutting off his nose to spite his face. It was his stupid move to try to squash AEW before it could get started, despite always insisting that his business philosophy is “Help yourself, don’t hurt the other guy” (Yes he actually once said this with a straight face), and when it backfired he was so pissed at Triple H he undid literally everything Hunter accomplished. I dunno how Hunter can still be associated with this company after that. I’d sell off all my shares and either try to get Tony Khan to hire me or start an independent promotion.

  10. Mr-Forth says:

    What’s funny is, Joey Ryan was doing the same act Gacy is in TNA… Before he was canned… For things best unsaid.

    Also, weird WWE tried a Nazi gimmick again. This time without thawing

  11. 314 says:

    worst Gooker ever, by a significant margin.. Shouldn’t have even been a nominee, it goes against both general rules about inductions (ongoing storylines/angles, and of course it’s meant to be funny). This “induction” just felt vindictive and mean-spirited above all else. Not that WWE deserves any defense, especially given the mass firings of the last couple years. This just added more negativity to a place I come to, when I want to escape that sort of thing. First time I’ve come here and genuinely left in a worse mood. Huge miss for this site all around.

    • Ben says:

      Oh look, it’s one of Alex’s relatives. I had a laugh at this induction due to WWE’s recent grasp of stupidity anyway. Here’s a bridge, now get over it.

      • 314 says:

        Should I call you a relative of (insert other person’s username here) because you share a similar viewpoint to them? Grow up.

        I just feel there were better ways to go about this. Perhaps had this induction had been solely about “the gutting of Black and Gold” exclusively, I’d 100% be behind it. Just feels a bit ridiculous to me to spit on a bunch of rooks (again, in a mean-spirited way) when none of this is their fault. I love this site and 99% of the time I love the content. But this? it felt like a massive departure from the light-hearted and fun nature of this site. Sorry for not joining the hivemind!

        • Ben says:

          “Just feels a bit ridiculous to me to spit on a bunch of rooks (again, in a mean-spirited way) when none of this is their fault.”

          More excuses. Common sense dictates that if they’re totally green, then they should train more before going to the actual ring so more people will invest on them, plain and simple.

          “Sorry for not joining the hivemind!”

          Not sorry at all. I’d rather have my own identity than be with a bunch of circlejerks. You can always look for another site if this one already bores you to tears.

          Again, get over it.

          • 314 says:

            I like how you ignored the entirety of what I said, zeroed in on two sentences, and managed to look completely clueless while doing so.

            “They should train more before going to the actual ring.” You ARE aware they are doing what their bosses tell them, right? You are aware they probably aren’t going to say “sorry Vince (or whomever), but I’d really rather not” and risk pissing off higher-ups? They’re getting reps, they’re learning on the fly. Had WWE not gutted Black and Gold, they’d be doing *exactly* what you suggest, which is: train more and get more experience. This was completely out of their control. They were thrust into a thankless, no-win situation, but you seem incapable of understanding that because you’d much rather tear people down.

            I love the heavy irony of you claiming to not be part of a hivemind, while spewing the same opinion as virtually every other anti-WWE clown. I’m in tears laughing at it.

            • Ben says:

              You still spew out more of the same excuses then call me an “anti-WWE clown” all because it’s rather obvious the product IS on a downhill. Next, you’re probably going to say I’m an AEW mark too, LOL. Poor thing, at this point you’re never going to get over it with all of those tears your claim as you laughing while you’re dying on the inside.

              If that makes you sleep soundly at night, be my guest.

              • 314 says:

                It’s no secret WWE’s product is in the toilet. I’m begging to be enlightened as to how anything I said is “an excuse” when you’re basically demanding these rookies tell Vince McMahon “nah I’m too green for TV”. I’m sure you’re a hard ass who tells his boss “no” ALL the time though.

    • Robert Ewing says:

      Did anyone ask you for your opinion 314 No one asked for your opinion

  12. Chris the Bambikiller says:

    That was a fantastic induction. Even if reading this made me more angry than it made me laugh.

  13. Ryan says:

    Bigger dudes and younger. hotter chicks, I honestly don’t see the problem.

  14. Barry White says:

    I stopped watching NXT when they moved to 2 hours live opposite AEW. The blatant, cynical attempt by Vince to squash another competitor just didn’t sit right with me and I haven’t looked back.

    My viewership for the main roster started dropping off a couple years ago, what with how bad Raw pretty much always is, but it really dropped off when they started mass releasing people at the beginning of the pandemic. At this point, I have only watched maybe one episode of Raw in the last 2 years, and usually just skim through Smackdown.

    WWE is just about the the dirt worst these days, and I’m glad AEW is around, or else I might not even be watching wrestling anymore right now.

  15. Ze Frenchie says:

    I never thought I’d see a Bogdanov reference on WrestleCrap, but here we are! Thank you Art for yet another great induction!

  16. Jon Milne says:

    In a way, NXT eventually winning a Gooker was foreshadowed by the 2015 Gooker Award Runner-Up, the Divas Revolution – .

    While the DR is certainly not the ONLY example of such a thing happening over the years, it did however send the strongest signal that regardless of how over and successful someone was in NXT, chances were, with varying degrees of severity, they would then get really badly misused on the main roster. And as this kept happening throughout the years, this would create a more unsustainable situation for NXT – why should I get invested in any wrestler on NXT, no matter how good the matches, if they’re just going to get buried on the main roster?

    Of course it doesn’t help that at a certain point NXT stopped developing new stars (with Gargano, Ciampa, and Undisputed Era among others all staying at the top of NXT long after they should have made way for fresher blood) nor that AEW emerged as an excellent high profile competitor in the American wrestling market. But eventually, Vince McMahon being Vince McMahon, he would inevitably point his finger of blame not at his stale main roster product which kept botching new call-ups, but at the still very well regarded indie-style shows that fans had more positive opinions of.

    And that’s how we got NXT 2.0. With nearly all the fan favourites gone and a bunch of highly green not particularly charismatic wrestlers in their place. I’ll still always love the Takeovers, but short of some miraculous positive developments, my interest in this iteration of NXT is even less than it was back in 2010 when it was a cringeworthy talent competition.

    • Jerry says:

      The upside of this might be, that the transition between NXT and main shows will become much less bumpy from now on. If McMahon gets to create characters after his own ideas from the start, there will be less rebranding and more emotional investment from him.
      I’m not saying, that it will be good gimmicks (although the generic “I am sooo happy to be part of WWE and show my best”, that became the standard over stretches of the last years got tiresome too), but if it means, no more dropoffs like the Ascension, Kross or Dallas, it still sounds like a good deal.

      Having to conform to two wildly different mindsets was always a cause of trouble, and I wonder, how many potential main roster stars we missed out, because Hunter did not get them. I am sure, Strowman would not have made it through the NXT route.

  17. ProWresBlog says:

    Internet fans cried for years for WWE to sign their favorite indy stars. So WWE finally started signing their favorite indy guys.

    What happened next? WWE gave those fans exactly what they wanted and those fans proceeded to watch AEW instead of NXT.

    WWE then saw that NXT wasn’t as big of a hit as expected and changed the format to actually feature developmental wrestlers. What happened then? The same fans that didn’t watch NXT complained that WWE was changing up the show they never watched.

    If NXT 2.0’s goal was to get younger viewers, it’s a failure. I have no problem saying that. But NXT 2.0 is a success so far. In just a few months, they created a handful of wrestlers who look like main roster level products in Bron, Tony D, Andre Chase, Joe Gacy, The Creed Brothers, Trick Williams and Grayson Waller. That makes NXT 2.0 a success.

    This nomination isn’t going to age well at all.

    • Sentok says:

      This comment is already aging poorly.

    • Alejandro II says:

      NXT 2.0 is so successful that NONE OF THEM were called for male and female Royal Rumble matches, not even the NXT champion Bron Breakker or NXT women’s champion Mandy Rose (and she was in the main roster before)

      I think that your comment didn’t age well either

    • Robert Ewing says:

      How much do vince and Bruce pay you ProWresBlog

  18. mitch says:

    I personally think Vince looks like Leona Helmsley (Hunter Hearst’s grandma perhaps) in her later years ever since he had whatever plastic surgery done to his face and neck.

  19. Mister Glen says:

    I voted for the 2018 Gooker, Crown Jewel, because I was infuriated by it. It was a show that pretty much summed up everything wrong with WWE: moral turpitude, lazy booking of main events with stars imported from 1998 and nonsensical storylines that no one wanted to see. I was angered by the whole thing.
    I voted for the mass layoffs for similar reasons, but can fully understand why this won. If Crown Jewel infuriated me, this just makes me shake my head in bewilderment. Reading about this whole fiasco (I’m a less frequent visitor these days) shows me this is a worthy induction as the Gooker.
    All great leaders have a healthy dose of ego about them. They need it to overcome the bouts of self doubt and questioning that will undoubtedly come when times get tough. But Vince’s ego and detachment from what type of media his audience watches and how this relates to what they actually want to see is straight up embarrassing. Without getting too political, the Retribution stable and Joe Gacy could only come from the mind of a Fox News Grandpa yelling at those pesky kids to get off his lawn. He has now figuratively become the Seymour Skinner ‘Am I so out of touch? No, it’s the children who are wrong’ meme.
    There are two ironies here. First, anyone who lived through the Reign of Terror would now find it ironic that Triple H was the babyface throughout this dumpster fire. Second, despite Vince Russo being rightfully pilloried for his WCW and TNA work, his time as head writer shows that as much as Vinnie Mac was a moderating influence on Vinnie Ru, the latter also probably dragged Vince into the millennium kicking and screaming. Had he not helped midwife the Attitude Era (which had a lot of reprehensible crap in it), lord knows what would have happened. Sadly, it seems as though that voice for innovation no longer exists in WWE.

  20. CF says:

    Full Disclosure: I voted for “Mass Firings During High Profitability” — what happened to NXT-3PU was an example of Vince McMahon’s utter incompetence, while the firings were Outright *EVIL*.

    NXT-3PU illustrates why WWE “won” the Monday Night Wars: No matter how incompetent, or stupid, WWE’s booking was, at the end of the day, Vince McMahon still ran WWE; meanwhile, all it took to end WCW was one guy saying: “No profit, so no show.” (Had the AOL-TimeWarner merger never happened, and Ted Turner had still been able to “protect” WCW with profits from other branches….) I am one of those who is looking at WWE and asking: “What happens when Vince McMahon finally [CENSORED]ing *DIES*, and someone who maybe has the first forward-firing [CENSORED] of a clue takes over?” Or does AEW end up making a similar error to what Turner did, and meet the same fate?

  21. Andre says:

    So, in summation: they turned a smark-pandering show that no one watched….into a paint-by-numbers WWE show no one watches….all in response to a rival promotion’s smark-pandering show no one watches. Yup, sounds about like pro wrestling in the 2020s!

  22. saintstryfe says:

    I don’t have much problem. NXT lost what it was – developmental. It became another show, but focused on people so green they couldn’t be picked out of a field of summer grass. They aren’t ready for TV and I don’t see where they’re getting that preparation. They’re being told to learn in front of a million plus viewers. That’s really, really hard, because it only takes a few screwups on a stage that large to get you shuffled off to Buffalo.

    As for the other popular choice – the firings – I don’t have a problem with them. Most of the people let go really shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and saying it was “During a Pandemic” or “at record profits”, well yeah that’s what corporations do. Some shouldn’t have been, some were dumb to have done so, and others were head scratching, but I don’t think any of them were completely without merit. The big problem is I’d have even less issue if I had any faith a trimmed down roster would be better, but it won’t. I have lost any faith in WWE to do anything right, ever.

    Now AEW sucks for entirely different reasons. I can’t stand any but about 4 people on the show, I hate the announce crew, I hate the presentation, and I hate the stupid unforced errors that break immersion (ie run-ins with music, mentioning people then suddenly they show up, ect). I also have a personal dislike of the Bucks and Cody that borders on how much I dislike politicians who align differently to me (and I really hope WWE isn’t stupid enough to bring him back). But at least those 4 people are doing really good stuff. I’m willing to watch a (muted) highlight of those people.

  23. DTownsend says:

    ok so for all the doubters out there crying over NXT 2.0 winning taking home the top prize in crap, let me break it down a little more for you. The reason NXT had gotten so much acclaim in the first place was because it was considered the best wrestling show going…at least in the United States. Oddly enough, Vince had virtually no input into the brand. Thats says a lot.

    There was an inherent problem with NXT though. It was never officially considered a 3rd brand due in large part to it not being on Vince’s radar. It was only considered “the minor leagues” compared to Raw and Smackdown so no matter how well it did or how well NXT performers did it ultimately did not matter as far as the main roster was concerned. While people lament how badly WWE dropped the ball with Kross and Lee, that had been an ongoing problem for years with NXT call ups.

    That itself creates the problem that if Vince and others within WWE didnt care about what those guys did in NXT then why should the viewers? And when AEW finally did come along, fans tuned over to see a promotion where performers wouldnt end up being ruined by Vince and WWE creative. The other major problem was WWE was raiding itself for talent. The guys and girls getting over in NXT would inevitably be called up and more talent would have to be brought in to NXT.

    The level of talent being brought in was becoming less and less impressive. Even the pillars of NXT started to get stale. There’s only so many times you can have Gargano vs Ciampa before the laws of diminishing returns sets in. Unable to successfully transfer NXT guys to the main roster and unable to find suitable talent to replace them on NXT was the real reason NXT lost to AEW. But Vince underestimated the fans need for something that didnt have his fingerprints all over it. It was his decision to put NXT up against AEW and the blame should be on him yet Triple H and others were thrown under the bus.

    All that really happened with NXT 2.0 is that Vince cut out the middleman. Instead of building up a guy like Rex Steiner only to be turned into Bron Breakker on Raw, he just went ahead and put the touch of creative death on him right off the bat. That way fans never get accustomed to something good only to see it ruined upon the call up. Now it will stink the entire time so there’s nothing to compare it to. And the whole reason why it happened at all is due to Vince’s ego. He’d rather be in charge of a steaming pile of crap rather than watch someone else be in charge of something decent.

  24. CCG says:

    You must be great at parties dude. Sure 2.0 ain’t perfect but it’s nowhere near as bad as you claim it to be. Lighten the hell up!

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