Is NXT to blame for WWE’s injury crisis?

WWE's first ever Universal Champion, Finn Balor, sadly had to relinquish his title on Raw the day after winning it at SummerSlam credit
WWE’s first ever Universal Champion, Finn Balor, sadly had to relinquish his title on Raw the day after winning it at SummerSlam
credit to for the photo

Triple H has scoured the world and brought the world’s best indie talent to the WWE and has made NXT the best thing on the WWE network. It’s quarterly takeover specials are some of the best wrestling events in the world and include more match of the year candidates than any other show with the possible exception of WrestleMania (and that’s debatable).

However it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. Many of the performers that are promoted from the developmental system to Raw and Smackdown get lost in the shuffle and fail to become the stars that their talent deserves. On top of that the last 12 months has been one of the worst in the WWE’s history in terms of the number and severity of injuries suffered to talent up and down the card with seemingly everyone on the roster being forced to spend some time on the shelf.

Are these things linked? Is NXT, in-part, to blame for the WWE’s injury crisis? Here’s some reasons why:

NXT has introduce a harder hitting style
Of all the criticism the WWE receive over their current product it is far more common for fans to be unhappy at a storyline or match result rather than the standard of the match itself. A reason for this is that over the last several years the standard of match has increased dramatically. Yes, there is the occasional stinker but by and large WWE superstars are far more athletic and put on more exciting dangerous matches than at any point in their history. Although he has not been involved in injuries (touch wood) there is a reason that Shinsuke Nakamura is known as the ‘King of Strong Style’.

Don’t just take my word for it, this is what WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin said in an interview to FOX 411 in February this year “I just think that, when you look at the game of professional football it’s sped up so much more than it used to be. The guys are bigger, faster, stronger, and I think the same kind of goes with WWE. I think the guys and the gals are working harder and faster, and are more athletic than they ever were. So the athletic sequences are so risky.”

“Riskier” matches mean an increased chance of injury, if this wasn’t point one I would quip that “that’s the bottom line ’cause Stone Cold said so.”

No easy matches
Since the beginning of it’s current format NXT has been the place where wrestling purists can watch the sort of hard hitting style of match previously only available in larger independent companies like ROH. As a result the amount of comedy segments and matches have dropped dramatically. Now I’m not arguing that The Great Khali, Santino Marella and Hornswoggle should still be employed by the WWE however I cannot remember too many incidents where any of them were involved in injuring an opponent (with The Great Khali maybe he hurt himself but his opponent usually remained unscathed).
This is especially the case for the female wrestler (previously Divas)
The Divas Revolution started in NXT with Paige and Emma and then continued after they were both called up to Raw/Smackdown with the ‘Four Horsewomen’ (Bayley, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair). Once the latter three were also called to the main roster women’s matches started to receive a lot more time than they had before. Where previously a women’s match would be allotted under a minute now it is common for women to receive the same length of time as the men and with the longer matches comes an increased chance of injury.
Also, as I recently stated on Twitter, I can’t remember many injuries occuring as a result of a good ol’ fashioned pillow match.

Crowd Expectation
Pac vs El Generico. Samoa Joe vs Fergal Devitt. Tyler Black vs Brian Danielson Not too long ago each of these matches would have been billed as ‘dream matches’ when the performers were on the independent scene. Although five of the six now wrestle under different names these matches were just another match on either a stacked NXT card or just another episode of Raw. With the WWE/NXT crowds all still expecting instant classics when any of the above mentioned stars step into the ring (or “stepped in” the case of Daniel Bryan) it is hardly surprising that punches and kicks are a little more snug (remember John Cena’s broken nose at the hands, or rather knee of Seth Rollins) and riskier moves are being attempted. Is it any surprise that pretty much all of the six wrestlers mentioned at the beginning of this point have experienced serious injuries while trying to put on matches that meet the crowd’s lofty expectations.

The guys and gals in NXT often have reputations of being among the best in the world. No one gets to that point without making a lot of personal sacrifices so that they can achieve their goals. The sort of person who is willing to do this has to possess a certain level of competitiveness or degree of ‘Type A’ personality or they would not be able to get to the top of their field. Put two or more of these people together in a ring and you can expect at least one of them to want to put on a show and make a name for themselves. Although not part of NXT Jay Lethal has worked with many of the NXT roster (many of whom also worked in Ring of Honor) and has also been linked with the company. When speaking to LAW: Live Audio Wrestling in July 2015 Lethal was asked what makes ROH great and stated “The vibe in the locker room is the same as it’s been since day one – just hungry guys trying to prove that Ring of Honor is a great wrestling company.”

Given that NXT performers often go out looking to steal the show is it any wonder that this leads to them taking risks that eventually lead to an injury. Unfortunately this does not stop once a NXT competitor is called up to the main roster.

New stars = new moves
Every wrestler on every roster for every company in the world has a moveset. Some movesets are obviously more varied than others and some movesets contain maneuvers that are unique to that performer and another performer may not have encountered before. Remember in 2014 when AJ Styles broke the neck of Lionheart, Roderick Strong and Yoshi Tatsu within the spell of a few months? Do you think it may have been one of these or one of the many other instances where he injured another performer (many of which are covered here) could be one of the factors Styles does not use the move as often now he works for WWE? Although Styles has not performed in NXT the point about new moves still stands.

It isn’t just Styles whose signature move has injured an opponent as Samoa Joe and his Muscle Buster was also involved a freak accidental injury which has sidelined Tyson Kidd since June 2015. Also along with accidently breaking Cena’s nose Rollins with a mistimed knee he has also allegedly been banned from using the Curb Stomp due to it’s inherent dangers. Strangely along with the move was allegedly been banned temporarilly and was edited out of WWE releases such as “NXT Greatest Matches Volume One”.

Potential language barriers
NXT is currently home to performers from around the globe many of whom do not speak English as their first language. Given that AJ Styles injuring Yoshi Tatsu (which albeit was outside of WWE and NXT) was put down to a potential language barrier between the two it is possible that this could cause possible problems for WWE down the line. Although Nakamura and Asuka are yet to be involved in any injuries it is worth noting that it was never disclosed how or when Hideo Itami injured his shoulder so this could have been the result of an in ring incident.
It’s also not just those whose mother-tongue is another language that could be at fault. Given how difficult Americans found Cheryl Cole to understand would it be unreasonable to think that some of the WWE roster would struggle to understand a potentially out of breath Neville?

Performance (Centre) Anxiety
NXT is more than just the inring product, NXT is the entire developmental product including the massively hyped Performance Centre. This state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar base of operations houses 12 rings, a 5,500 foot gym, a built-in weight room, a “promo room” and a green screen room. Basically if it can benefit a WWE superstar or help them improve in any way then someone has probably thought of it and included it. This is purely speculation but I believe it is reasonable to assume that given these facilities at least some of the performers who train there push themselves a little too hard. Especially when Bill DeMott was the head trainer…

More Experience = More Miles on the clock
There was a time where a development programme was for youngsters or for those with little to no experience but since NXT was launched in it’s original format the “rookies” included people like Daniel Bryan who made their debut in December 1999 meaning he had 10 years experience when he made his NXT debut in February 2010. During that 10 years he wrestled hundreds of matches all over the world and already had suffered an untold number of injuries, putting an unquantifiable amount of wear and tear on his body. That wear and tear was undoubtedly a factor in his early retirement.

Debutants are older
As stated already NXT superstars tend to have a lot more experience than the kind of performer WWE would previously look at (recent NXT debutant Bobby Roode is less than six months away from his 40th Birthday). Now although there are exceptions to this, such as Paige who has around 10yrs experience despite only being 23 years old, but experience can only be gained over time meaning NXT stars are often a lot older than you would expect a rookie to be. This along with the unfortunate fact that in all sports (and life in general) that the human body becomes more susceptible to injuries as it gets older and these injuries also take longer to heal. Think of any sport and there will be multiple examples where the amount of injuries an athlete suffers increases as they get older.

Sami Zayn
He threw out a shoulder by waving his arm before he even stepped foot in the ring. Come on dude wtf!?