WWE’s NXT is so popular that even its ring announcer has fans.
Gwen and Rick Healy wore self-made, yellow Dasha Fuentes T-shirts, showing support for their favorite NXT talent during a fun NXT show on Friday, March 18 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.
Along with the local Healy couple, more than 1,000 fans -- including many families -- packed the convention center. They left happy, enjoying the excitement from start to Finn-ish.
NXT champ Finn Balor main evented back-to-back South Florida shows -- the sold-out event in West Palm Beach and the other sell-out (with 600-plus) on Thursday, March 17 at The Fieldhouse at the BankUnited Center at the University of Miami in Coral Gables.
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All the action-packed matches -- featuring an array of NXT superstars and women’s wrestlers each night -- were awesome, and Balor received plenty of support from high-energy crowds at both shows. Justin, a young fan, made a sign to acknowledge his favorite, Balor, and his friend Hunter created one to tribute his hero, Sami Zayn.
Yes, Hunter is named after NXT forefather Paul Levesque, a.k.a. WWE World champ Triple H (Hunter Hearst Helmsley). His father liked the forename, and mom allowed it.
Nicholas Reyes, 13, of (Southwest Miami) Kendall, not only attended the NXT show the night before in (Southeast Miami) Coral Gables, but he, mom Dania and dad Rick also drove (about 75 miles) to West Palm Beach for the second South Florida NXT stop.
“NXT is a good platform for wrestlers -- Roman [Reigns], Seth Rollins, Big E, Rusev -- to the main roster,” said Nicholas, who is not named after WWE superstar Dolph Ziggler. “I like NXT. It’s good for kids; it’s really interactive.”
On the current roster, Nicholas is a fan of Balor, Baron Corbin, Tye Dillinger, Sami Zayn and the Hype Bros. (Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder). To his delight, Balor, Corbin, Dillinger and Zayn wrestled in Miami and West Palm Beach.
Sydney, 8, and her family traveled a little farther than the Reyes trio. She and her sister ‘glad’ their mother and father decided to attend the NXT show in West Palm Beach after their two-day road trip from Westchester, New York to (South Florida) Boynton Beach. Sydney felt a little scared of the dark (dim lighting) inside the convention center during the show, so she and mom, Jessica, sat near the back by the doors, where lighting brightened while still viewing the crowd-pleasing match-ups.
“There’s so much audience participation,” Jessica said. “It’s like the Rocky Horror Picture Show of wrestling. We love it. It’s a good family event.”
Sydney then happily displayed her bracelet, representing Connor’s Cure. Her mom proudly matched.
In June 2014, Paul Triple H Levesque and Stephanie McMahon founded Connor's Cure in Connor Michalek’s memory, a non-profit charitable organization for pediatric cancer research, which they personally funded through the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation. A huge WWE fan, Michalek, who had battled cancer of the spine and brain since he was 3, died on April 25, 2014 at age 8.
Older wrestling fans Timothy Santiago, Kevin McMurtrey, Jordan Yanchik, Anuar Collazos and Ronin Spartas enjoy NXT the most of all WWE programming, because they feel NXT is more of a pure wrestling show -- more about the matches and less about the drama.
“They get more time to wrestle, and we like that better,” they agreed. “It’s different [from Raw or SmackDown].”
Hailing from Broward and Palm Beach counties, they didn’t think twice about attending the NXT show at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
Neither did Sara Webb of Jupiter.
Webb, 20, began watching WWE at age 4.
“My sister and I were channel flipping, and we saw Triple H,” Webb recalled. “The music, the entrance, the character was larger than life.”
Webb and her sister hooked. They grew into big WWE fans.
“They were our super heroes,” she said. “My sister grew out of it, and my mom thought I would, too, but I didn’t. I still love it, especially NXT. I mean there were times when I lost some interest in WWE. I would fast forward through Raw and SmackDown, but once NXT started, I had to watch NXT every week.”
Webb continued: “I love it for the sport of it, and there’s real, legitimate talent in NXT -- some established talent from the indies -- and that’s really cool. NXT is about the talent and the wrestling -- not the soap opera.”
Like Webb, Alexa Glazier of Boynton Beach is very passionate about NXT. The 11-year-old attends shows regularly with her dad, Neil, in Fort Pierce, Orlando, Sebring and West Palm Beach.
“Why do I love NXT? I love NXT because I think that the interaction between the fans and the superstars and women’s wrestlers is great,” Alexa wrote. “In my opinion, I believe that in the hour they play NXT every Wednesday on the WWE Network is better than a three-hour Monday Night Raw. This is because NXT just truly puts on better matches and also has great promos.
“One [other] thing that I love about NXT is the women’s wrestling division. These women are not called divas. In my opinion, divas are not focused on their wrestling. [Divas are focused] more on their looks. NXT’s women’s division is all about amazing wrestling, and sometimes they put on better matches than the men.”
NXT women’s champ Bayley is her favorite women’s wrestler.
“Every time Bayley comes out, I know I am sure to get a hug,” Alexa said. “Many fans, including me, support her, and she shows her love back to us.”
Alexa’s favorite NXT tag team is American Alpha (Chad Gable and Jason Jordan).
“Because whenever I see them in the ring, I know it is going to be one of the best matches of the night,” she noted. “Their chemistry together is amazing, and they just put on a wonderful match.”
Alexa was right. American Alpha versus The Revival (NXT tag champs Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson) did just that in Miami and West Palm Beach. Credit to both teams.
As for the NXT men in singles action, Finn Balor tops her list.
“Because when I hear that music hit, I just get goosebumps,” she said. “I also love when Finn Balor becomes the demon. Then I really get chills on my spine.”
Balor and NXT elicited chills, thrills and sing-a-longs, too, as fans in Miami serenaded Samoa Joe on his birthday during the main event against Balor.
Happy Birthday. Happy times.
- NXT on WWE Network
WWE NXT is 8 p.m. Wednesdays on WWE Network.
- NXT TakeOver: Dallas
NXT TakeOver: Dallas is Friday, April 1 live on WWE Network from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas during WWE WrestleMania 32 Weekend.
- NXT in Fort Pierce
NXT returns to the Havert L. Fenn Center on Saturday, April 16 in Fort Pierce.
Tickets cost $10 and $20, and bell time is 7:30 p.m.
- NXT abroad
To see NXT in a city near you, check
- Pro Wrestling On The Web
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