So, you're either NOT a pro wrestling fan, or you're a casual fan who knows about WWE. But you've never heard of this whole NXT thing that some of your friends are super excited about.
What, exactly is NXT -- and what is this NXT TakeOver: Phoenix event scheduled for Talking Stick Resort Arena the day before the Royal Rumble?
"It’s a lot of the up-and-coming stars that you’ll see on WWE TV later, but it’s really cool because they get a really intense focus," said Daniel Bryan, a Valley resident and current WWE champion who used to be an NXT star. "A lot of times it’s more wrestling-based than our WWE, which is more entertainment-based and more towards the casual fan."
Located in Orlando, Florida, NXT was founded in 2010 and originally featured wrestlers who were a part of WWE's developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). In 2012, the FCW name disappeared in favor of the NXT brand.
Since then, NXT has become a favorite of hardcore wrestling fans who enjoy longer, hard-hitting, independent-style wrestling. NXT superstars, including wildly popular guys such as Johnny Gargano, Ricochet and Adam Cole, are often brought in from other wrestling federations and are well-known by die-hard fans even before they make their NXT debuts. Like Bryan, many NXT stars go on to WWE's main roster and are featured on WWE's weekly Raw or Smackdown Live shows.
NXT is produced by Paul "Triple H" Levesque, one of the most decorated wrestlers in WWE history and WWE's current executive vice president of talent, live events and creative.
Bryan said current NXT stars such as Gargano, Ricochet and United Kingdom champion Pete Dunne are among his favorites, along with NXT women's champion Shayna Baszler.
"I really like Johnny Gargano. In fact, I have been trying to steal him from NXT to be brought up to Smackdown for a long time," he said. "I love Roderick Strong because I’ve known him for years. I think Shayna Baszler is awesome. She does so much cool, catch-wrestling stuff within pro wrestling."
NXT airs Wednesday nights on WWE Network. NXT UK, a spinoff brand featuring wrestlers from the United Kingdom and around the world, was launched last year and also airs Wednesdays.
"If you like really hard-style wrestling where they get stuck in, NXT is usually a fantastic show," Bryan said.
NXT holds 4 to 5 TakeOver events each year. These shows are similar to WWE pay-per-views in that they feature numerous title matches featuring the best that the brand has to offer. TakeOver events are typically held one day before major WWE PPVs.
NXT TakeOver: Phoenix will feature five total matches, including four championship matches. The event will begin at 4 p.m. Arizona time.
Here's the current card:
NXT championship match: Tommaso Ciampa vs. Aleister Black
NXT women's championship match: Shayna Baszler vs. Bianca Belair
NXT North American championship match: Ricochet vs. Johnny Gargano
NXT tag team championship match: Undisputed Era vs. War Raiders
Non-title match: Matt Riddle vs. Kassius Ohno
Get their when doors open and you'll be treated to a pair of bonus tag-team matches: Kairi Sane and Io Shirai vs. Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir, and the Street Profits vs. the Forgotten Sons.
In addition, WWE Royal Rumble Axxess at Phoenix Convention Center will feature NXT and NXT UK superstars competing in a 15-man Worlds Collide Tournament that will begin Saturday morning. NXT UK will also tape three episodes over the course of the Axxess weekend. Go here for everything you need to know about Axxess.