NXT sells out in California debut during WrestleMania 31 Week
SAN JOSE, Calif. —The next generation of WWE has been making a huge impact since NXT’s arrival on WWE Network in February 2014. The past year of live specials, large name signings and epic battles inside the squared circle all seemed to be building toward something even bigger.
That “something even bigger” finally came, as NXT truly marked its territory in the sports-entertainment world Friday night, when a sold-out crowd of 5,000-plus fans crammed into the Event Center at San Jose State University to see the future of WWE in action.
“I had to take a moment and see everybody out there,” San Jose native Bayley told WWE.com about entering the arena for her first match in her hometown since relocating to Florida two and a half years ago to join WWE’s developmental system. “As I got closer to the ring, I started seeing my mom, my nephew and my sisters. Then I looked up and saw all my friends and people with signs. This is my hometown and they were extra supportive. It’s a cool feeling.”
Rhyno, who has experienced some raucous crowds in his day, summed up the NXT Universe in one word: “Insane,” he said following his match in San Jose.
That feeling of excitement wasn’t just in the jam-packed arena. While Finn Bálor entered in full war paint, Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady brought the crowd to its feet with their trademark trash talk. NXT’s Divas showed why the spotlight is on them, and the backstage area was bustling with current Superstars, Legends and Hall of Famers jostling for a good view of the show on the arena floor or around monitors behind the curtain. They were as fired up as any fan to see the next generation ply their craft and offer a few pointers when they could.
“We want to be around people that are like we were, just hungry,” Sean Waltman said. “Being around people like that is pretty sweet.”
Waltman was joined backstage by WWE Hall of Famers Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, while fellow Hall member Jim Ross took the show in from ringside. Even WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon stopped by San Jose State to see the future of WWE for himself.
For Superstars that have been a part WWE’s developmental system at different points in its evolution, the sight of thousands of fans packing in to watch the future is staggering.
“It’s super-impressive to see how huge it’s become,” said Seth Rollins, the first-ever NXT Champion. “I never could have imagined this when I signed a developmental contract and walked into a warehouse in Tampa.My first show was in front of 12 people. “
There was no one more moved by the outpouring of support for NXT than Triple H, who took on the developmental system and molded it into what it has become. The WWE COO made a surprise appearance at the event to thank the fans for making NXT’s California debut a huge success, and assure them that this is only the beginning of NXT’s rise.
Rhyno thinks that the reason for NXT’s astronomical success during WrestleMania Week and beyond is simple.
“At NXT, everybody works so hard, from the bottom to the top. The competition is great and the fans see that,” he said. “It’s special.”