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While watching NXT's "R Evolution" it wasn't hard to get excited about the future of WWE. There was more talent on that show that appeared main event ready than not, and the show successfully strung together a series of very good matches in a way that hadn't yet been achieved by any of the main PPVs from the main roster. From the arrival of Kevin Owens to NXT to open the show, to the wonderful main event between two established NXT stars in Adrian Neville and Sami Zayn, the card was chock full of guys (and girls) that looked like they were ready to shine on the biggest stage.
But at the same time, there was an aura around NXT, one that could be compared to another awesome division in wrestling. The cruiserweight division in WCW was a collection of some of the finest talent in the last 25 years of pro wrestling. Perhaps the greatest assemblage of in-ring talent ever, the division featured technical legends Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Ultimo Dragon, Rey Mysterio Jr, as well as less-heralded names like Alex Wright, Lance Storm, The Jung Dragons and a slew of other undersized yet massively talented workers. As good as those guys were, they never really moved beyond their mid-card status in WCW (except for Benoit briefly), thanks to a logjam of talent on the top of the cards. While fans could wonder how great it would be to see Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko wrestle for the world title, it was never going to happen thanks to an army of talent that management decreed more valuable than the members of the cruiserweight division.
WWE is facing a potentially similar problem right now with their talented group of young stars that are currently on both their main roster, and down in NXT. It has to be believed that the backstage management isn't as crazy as WCW, but like WCW, there is a logjam of older, more experienced talent, that stand in the way of the young guys from getting a good spot at the major shows.
Let's do a quick assessment of the veteran talent in WWE. At the top of the pyramid are John Cena and Randy Orton. Orton and Cena have been pivotal figures in WWE for about a decade now, and they are still in their mid-30s. It looks pretty clear right now that they are going to be a factor in WWE for at least another 5 years. Behind them there is Sheamus and Daniel Bryan, two injured stars who management is strongly behind. Big Show and Kane are both veteran talents who have had big roles in WWE in 2014, although they could retire soon. Ryback and Rusev are two young guys who are not quite at the main event level, but WWE seems to have a big interest both of them potentially being main event workers. In addition, there is a group of young guys who are in the hunt to blow up, most notably Roman Reigns who might be "the face of WWE" in four months, as well as Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, and you can never rule Bray Wyatt out.
Take a look at all of that talent listed above. For the most part, those guys all rank ahead in the pecking order than guys like Zayn, Neville and the other superstars of NXT. Now, remember that there are only about 8-9 matches on a standard WWE PPV, and out of those 8 or 9, only about three of them are actually worth anything. That means that there are only really six spots on every PPV that can really help out a talent establish themselves as a legitimate player in WWE. Not to mention the fact that in addition to all the regular talent, there are a few part-time wrestlers (Triple H, Chris Jericho Brock Lesnar, etc.) who will also be in the mix for prime spots at major PPV. It is certainly a daunting task for the guys in NXT to face as they get ready for the main roster.
The problem with WWE is that they have no real incentive to release anybody. The turnover rate for a WWE wrestler has never been lower. During the Monday Night Wars, it was uncommon to see a wrestler stick with the same company for more than 3-4 years. Today, there is no competition that can really match offers with WWE, so they can hold onto talent as long as they want to. That means that there are more guys competing for a limited number of spots than ever, and that is without even getting into the backstage politics and being friends with the right people in order to earn a push.
An underrated part of the Attitude Era was that before it, WWE was experiencing a shortage of major talent. After both Scott Hall and Kevin Nash left, WWE was left without a lot of options in the main event, and things got even bleaker when Bret Hart left a year later. But it ended up all being a blessing in disguise. It opened the door for younger talent, like Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H and others to come in and become major stars. Those opportunities simply don't exist anymore because WWE doesn't have any real competition, so they can hold onto as many talents as they want.
As fun as the NXT show was, it is just so damn hard to imagine something like that taking place on the main roster. On the main roster, John Cena will be in the main event instead of Zayn or Neville, and Ryback or Roman Reigns would plow over Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Hideo Itami. It is the reality of the roster situation in WWE, and it isn't any fun.