NXT Takeover: Respect was about opening a whole new can of worms linked to corners of WWE bookings that do not get nearly enough attention or promotion of their worthiness. If there has been any acknowledgement since the rise of Daniel Bryan in 2014 that WWE do listen to their fans, although fulfilling their wishes is massively temperamental. There were three tag team matches, in a tournament (although there was a compromise in the winners being Finn Balor and Samoa Joe), the debut of a foreign wrestler (Asuka), and a women’s Iron Man match. It is something that all personnel on premises should have been extremely proud of. It was called ‘Respect’ for a reason.
However, there are a couple of people who could really do with shutting up about it – The Authority – Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Do The Authority figures have to stick their noses into everything? Falling back upon the excuse of “whatever is best for the company” probably isn’t good enough to justify juggling the characters and get away with just about any overnight swerve booking that they fancy. That isn’t to say that they won’t try though.
When watching NXT Takeover: Respect, there seemed to be a unanimous wince online, not only at Sasha Banks making a girl cry in the front row, nor Bayley’s horrifying looking fingerlock and kicks to the head that ended their monumental Iron Man match. It was simply spotting Stephanie McMahon in the intimate crowd, on the front row, stood besides Lita, Becky Lynch and WWE Divas Champion Charlotte. It was excruciating that the character that viewers had seen in the infamously overlong Ronda Rousey promo segment of Wrestlemania 31 (“And none of this would have been possible without… me.”) is dangerously close to being how she is being portrayed sincerely in the NXT Universe, whether it is the true Stephanie McMahon or not. Considering how it is standard for this duo to be portrayed as heels, it’s unlikely that Bayley and Banks would have been too upset had The Authority not been at ringside. After all, the entire NXT roster was there to applaud the women.
It does raise the question of how the atmosphere may have plummeted had Stephanie ended the night by grabbing the microphone and giving a motivational speech on ‘girl power’, as it wouldn’t have come as any surprise.
Stephanie McMahon has become to NXT what Triple H is to WWE Raw, as being an Authority figure, she has laid claim to the division, as opposed to be one to overlook it. One only needs to look back at the invasion of Raw by Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte, and how it closed with the smug grin of McMahon overlooking what she had just done. The fact of the matter though is that unless The Authority is being used as a plot point (which hopefully it will not – as NXT could do without twenty-minute opening promos with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon on the microphone), they serve no purpose on air.
It’s easy to complain about Stephanie McMahon, but the difficulty extends further, to Paul Levesque – Triple H. It is public knowledge that NXT is Triple H’s baby, and fans no longer need reminding. There is only so much hugging of the revolutionary female wrestlers that he can do before things get really silly, and the point at which the growth of NXT slows down means that his congratulatory presence is somewhat redundant.
— Triple H (@TripleH) May 21, 2015
While it may not be fair not to give future NXT alumni the same reception that the ‘Horsewomen’ figures were given towards the end of their time in developmental territory, there is no denying that while there are many other ideas and stipulations that can be played with that have gone untouched (for example, we are yet to see any No DQ, ladder, Falls Count Anywhere, Best of Three falls matches etc. by the women), the scale has presumably hit its practical limit by taking its arena size shows abroad. NXT Takeover: London is the very last time that The Authority figures have any on air function on NXT programming, and probably not to discuss NXT with its alumni again on main roster programming either.
All of the “look what we have done” gestures have been exhausted, as there is nowhere else to go with regards to scale. Until NXT has a Takeover event held on the Moon, there are very few reasons why either Triple H or Stephanie McMahon should appear on NXT – and so it should stay from here on in. It is the final progression as a company division. To know that they are pushing buttons backstage is public enough. Until bookings become centred around a wrestler, whether face or heel, versus the company, they serve little visible purpose. Kevin Owens vs William Regal was an opportunity that will sadly go unrealised – the first time since Survivor Series 2001, the invasion by the then effective heel Heyman, that fans would have been engaged and defensive enough that they sided with McMahon.
Since NXT’s explosive increase in popularity and exposure, there has yet to be such an angle, and even then, it has become independent enough that the role should be taken by other figures such as William Regal. Whether it will be at the hands of Balor, Zayn, Corbin, Crews or someone much further down the line, the time will come, but not yet. It is time for His and Her Royal Haitchness to take an extended hiatus from NXT.