What do you know? It’s time for another installment of DraftKings Network’s The Three Count. Just for a quick recap, NXT has reached a new distribution agreement with The CW, AEW has announced a new singles tournament named the Continental Classic (which is basically their version of New Japan’s G1), and we still await the debut of Jade Cargill. We get into what we think of each topic below.
Does the new NXT deal with The CW prove that the black and gold rebrand was needed?
A resounding yes! I loved the black and gold brand as much as everybody did. It was a particular time in WWE history when it rivaled the main roster when it was thoroughly cooking. There were moments when you watched the Takeovers and wondered how a main event pay-per-view would follow it. I think it was around June 2021 when the five-way for the NXT Championship happened when I said, “ok. This needs a refresh.”
They treated it like the third brand to the extent that there wasn’t much upperward movement to RAW or Smackdown. A lot of feuds got scale, and the work rate matches didn’t hit as much because the emotional investment wasn’t there. NXT 2.0 came, and while that wasn’t perfect either, it provided us the influx of stars and personalities The CW has taken a liking to. The NXT you have now is an ideal mix of all the incarnations you have before it. Younger stars like Carmello, Trick, Bron Breakker, and Ilja Dragunov are flourishing. The brand has probably had one of the best women’s rosters in the business with Lyra, Roxanne, Tiffany, etc. You allow them to all have engaging stories as well as great matches.
Then, add ingredients like Becky Lynch and main roster stars that work to bring eyes to the brand – it all works. The CW is in 100% of all homes with cable, and they also have an app. WWE did what they were supposed to do: maximize the brand and then make a deal with the highest bidder. Murjani Rawls, Culture Editor
Even without the CW deal, NXT needed retooling, and you’re seeing the fruits of that decision paying off with the brand getting its own TV deal. The Black and Gold era from late 2015 to 2019 was fantastic, but they got a little bit too high on their supply with the “third brand” thing. They lost focus of it being a show meant to develop homegrown talent, and acts like Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Iyo Sky, and others were kept in Orlando when they should have long been moved up to the main roster.
The decision to shift gears in 2021 and focus on new talent with ‘2.0’ was correct, even as the internet pilloried the decision. The quality of the in-ring action dropped significantly during this time, but that was to be expected. Acts like Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, Tiffany Stratton, etc., were allowed to take their time and develop, and now you’re seeing all of them hit their stride as breakout stars for the company. The rebrand worked. Nick Simon, Staff Writer
I think yes, but it shows that NXT can continue to grow as a brand. Newer fans may not remember that NXT was originally a competition-based show trying to determine the next up-and-coming stars for the WWE. They then re-branded, literally morphing into a developmental brand for the company. Now, they are creating their own stars and have grown even more popular with the latest change, and the CW deal shows that it didn’t go unnoticed. Teddy Ricketson, Staff Writer
What do we make of AEW’s Continental Classic?
I’m all good with Daniel Bryan checking off every wrestling box he wants before he takes that final bow at the end of 2024. Given his extensive career, the man has more than earned it; I don’t think it’s feasible at this stage of his career to go to Japan and do the actual G1 tournament. If I had a hesitancy, it’s that AEW does a lot of tournaments already. Besides the round-robin aspect of the Continental Classic, what makes this one stand out from the many others? I assume a title shot will be on the line at the end.
What makes the GI cool in the time that I’ve watched it is that it’s great matches and little stories that go alongside them. There will probably be many dream match scenarios that come in these brackets, but “dream matches” are AEW’s bread and butter. Give us things to sink our teeth into so we don’t tune out after the first round. Murjani Rawls, Culture Editor
Tony Khan loves him a good tournament boy, I tell you what. It feels like there’s a new tournament every other month in AEW, and a lot of times, it doesn’t do much for the person who wins it. However, the company should lean in on 2024 being Bryan Danielson’s final year as an active wrestler, and if this tournament is built entirely around him, then I’m cool with it. Nick Simon, Staff Writer
Do you remember how Teddy Long became infamous with tag team matches? It feels like Tony “Tournament” Khan runs AEW. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it doubles as a way to get a lot of wrestlers involved and lets fans know what to expect for potential matchups in the weeks ahead. They eventually lose their luster, but I agree with Murjani in letting Daniel Bryan do whatever he wants since his time in the ring is limited and already more than what he thought we would get from him after the injuries in his career. Teddy Ricketson, Staff Writer
Where should Jade Cargill make her debut?
For a second, let’s note that the WWE has an embarrassment of riches in their women’s division. Kairi Sane returns, and we STILL have Jade Cargill’s impending debut on the horizon. I don’t think she debuts on RAW because that would put her on a collision course with Rhea Ripley (I believe that’s a Becky Lynch course). I don’t understand why they are hyping up Jade this way for her to lose. So then that leaves NXT and Smackdown. NXT would be a choice where Jade could be Lyra and hold the championship for a while. Although, I don’t feel they would have Lyra beat Becky to drop the belt soon after.
That leaves Smackdown and the upcoming Survivor Series. The babyfaces need one more person for War Games against Damage Control (if they have it), and Jade would be perfect. First, seeing her and Bianca Belair on a team would be incredible. There would be no pressure on her because Jade would be in the ring with all veterans. In a match like that, she can do her thing, and people will make her look like a million bucks. That would be a hell of an introduction. Murjani Rawls, Culture Editor
This is fascinating because her official debut is imminent, and they’ve truly left the door open for her to appear anywhere. Could she appear on Raw for a program with Rhea Ripley or Becky Lynch? Yes. Could she hang out in NXT for a few months before being pulled up to the main roster? Yes. Could she team with Bianca Belair, Charlotte Flair, and Shotzi for a (yet to be announced) War Games match at Survivor Series? Also yes.
I think she’ll start in NXT. She’s already been training at the Performance Center, and it will allow her to tighten some things up in ring before being bumped up to Raw or Smackdown. The NXT women’s division currently has a babyface champion in Lyra Valkyria, and Jade would be a good foil for her heading into 2024. They’re currently determining participants for the women’s Iron Survivor Challenge at Deadline next month, and I think that’s where she’ll make her in-ring debut. Nick Simon, Staff Writer
The WWE is in an interesting spot. Do you acknowledge inadvertently that AEW was able to build a major star and instantly thrust her into the Monday Night Raw title picture where she belongs? Or do you force Cargill to start out in NXT, hang around for a bit being utterly dominant and getting the fans adjusted to her, and then have her be the first NXT superstar to win a Women’s Royal Rumble and catapult her as the face of the women’s division in a WrestleMania Night One main event that will be must-see?
I like Nick’s idea that she debuts for NXT at Deadline, and I think having her be the first woman from NXT to win the Rumble would give her such a good heel platform; it just depends on if they think two months in NXT will be enough to warrant that dominant of a win. It’s only a matter of time before Cargill is featured on the main roster, but for now, I think NXT, for some amount of time, is where she begins. Teddy Ricketson, Staff Writer