It is truly the end of an era when it comes to the NXT we all knew and loved. After the latest round of releases, which included Samoa Joe, William Regal, Scott Armstrong, Road Dogg Jesse James, and others, along with Bron Breakker winning the NXT Championship from Tomaaso Ciampa, the Black and Gold Era of NXT is officially over.
The Black and Gold Era of NXT was highly successful for WWE, but it was not exactly what the powers at be had in mind when Triple H created NXT all those years ago. Originally meant as development, Triple H made NXT the place to be making it the alternative to the main roster of WWE. Though NXT was seen as the third brand and less superior than Raw or Smackdown, from 2016-2021, NXT was the best brand for WWE. Whether Vince McMahon liked it or not.
With indy wrestling taking off, NXT became the alternative for wrestling fans. So many of the stars from Ring of Honor, Evolve, Pro Wrestling Guerilla came to NXT to make it in WWE. And outside of 2004-2010 TNA, wrestling fans did not have an alternative to WWE. But for an hour a week on the WWE network and two and a half to three hours every four months for Takeover events, Triple H was giving them an alternative. He was giving the wrestling fans, a pro wrestling show, not sports entertainment.
That is why so many fans connected with NXT. The Black and Gold Era of NXT brought wrestling fans back to their roots. In fact, WWE switched up their PPV schedule in 2020, so NXT would not have their Takeovers on the same weekend as the main roster shows. More people watched the Takeover events than the PPVs. Or said the NXT Takeover event was better than the PPV.
While NXT was the place to be, many acts could not translate to the main roster. Some were able to with the right push, but either widdled in the middle or were released. WWE did not know what they had until they were gone. Yes, NXT was supposed to develop the future stars of tomorrow, but when they had to unlearn everything about the business and do it the “WWE way” McMahon and others grew tiresome of their act and were never given the proper push. Even though some of these wrestlers were big stars outside of WWE and already had fan recognition. It did not matter if WWE did not develop and find you, a wrestler had little chance of success.
And that is why the philosophy of NXT had to change. NXT was a pro wrestling show, not a developmental program. Triple H saw it as an equal not inferior. NXT proved they were superior in every way. They were there to bail out WWE when they were stuck in Saudi Arabia. NXT stepped up at the Survivor Series. But NXT never got the respect from upper management it deserved. NXT was always labelled as the third brand when in fact it was the best brand.
Wrestlers came in from other companies just to go to NXT. But when they went to the main roster, nobody cared about them after their debut. When an NXT wrestler was called up, the fans did not care, as they were either jobbed out, which hurts the brand or given no backstory. Many times the announcers would never mention the wrestler was from NXT. He was just a local indy guy. Yet NXT was on the same network as Raw, the flagship show.
And being on USA hurt NXT. Yes, this was a reactionary move to All-Elite Wrestling debuting, but NXT was a one-hour show, not a two-hour production. So after a year of being beat on Wednesday nights, NXT moved to Tuesdays. Soon after, with the model proving unsuccessful in turning NXT stars into future stars for WWE, which is another topic for another day of how WWE can’t cultivate stars, WWE decided that the Black and Gold era had to come to an end. They rebranded NXT… NXT 2.0.
NXT 2.0 was going to be like Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) strictly developmental. Wrestlers were going to do things the WWE way. No more Indy wrestlers coming in. WWE was going to bring in potential wrestlers on tryouts and they have six months to make it or they are out.
Members of the Black and Gold era of NXT were hanging on by a thread. The reminisce of good wrestling was there, but when Johnny Gargano, Kyle O’Reilly, Adam Cole, and others leave or wrestlers just get released, the NXT we all knew and loved was coming to an end.
And with the events of last week closing the door of the Black and Gold era of NXT, fans can only go back and talk about that version of NXT in the same breath as the Attitude Era for WWE.
Because what we have now on Tuesday is not the same. It is harder to watch. Less pro wrestling and more sports entertainment. That is exactly what the powers at be in WWE wanted. There are still a few remaining members of the old Black and Gold on the main roster. Some are in prominent roles, while others are barely used.
We can only wonder what might have been if NXT was treated as an equal in the eyes of WWE brass. We bid au revoir to NXT Black and Gold.