For the third year in a row, WWE is showcasing NXT to the Greater Philadelphia Area. Looking back at the past two years of NXT Philly, the majority of the talent whom performed in those shows have since then been promoted to the main roster, but Philadelphia will possibly have its first taste of superstars such as Shinsuke Nakamura, Andrade “Cien” Almas, the Authors of Pain, and the new NXT Champion, the “Glorious” Bobby Roode.
I have had the pleasure of going to NXT Philly the past two years, and the showcase has been nothing but exceptional. This year, I will not be able to go because of my recent move to Florida, but I still have a lot of Philadelphia inside of me to explain why NXT Philly has a problem, and this reiterates a topic that I wrote about last year.
The problem with NXT Philly is the choice of venue: the Tower Theater.
Not to say the Tower Theater is a bad venue in general. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the world’s best comedians and music performers at the Tower Theater, but the venue is not meant for a wrestling show. While there is certain uniqueness to the theater setting, a wrestling show is meant to be held in a four-sided venue. Fans should be able to get a glimpse of the show from all four sides of the ring.
Also, while the show is advertised as NXT Philly, the Tower Theater is not Philly. The Tower Theater is in Upper Darby, just across 69th Street from Philadelphia, and while there are a variety of venues in the actual city in Philadelphia more qualified to host an NXT event, WWE has to choose one with a bad setting for wrestling that is not even in the city that they connect to the event.
Parking is another major concern around the Tower Theater. The surrounding area is mostly street parking, and a small lot for SEPTA passengers at nearby 69th Street Station, and at the time of night that the event is hosted, A: one can easily have their car broken into, and B: finding street parking prior to the event will be very difficult considering the rush hour traffic, but that goes for all of Philadelphia and its borders.
Lastly, the ticket prices will start at $40 before Ticketmaster fees, and when time starts to wind down before the event, people will resell on StubHub and not make back what they spent because demand for the event will go down. In 2015 as a reseller, I made the big mistake of buying eight tickets, only meaning to use four of them, and lost nearly $100 after reselling. The lesson I learned brought me to buying tickets for $15 from StubHub in 2016.
One thing I will praise WWE for is being able to lipstick the pig. They have a very good set-up plan, having a general admission area on the stage exclusive to the fans that want to pay the extra money to see the action up close, and providing as much floor seating as possible, even on the left and right sides of the ring, which don’t even have much room to play around. They need the room for the production crew to do their work, and they’ve put on a good show every year.
I vowed for WWE to try to move the event last year, listing three venues: Wells Fargo Center, the Palestra, and the Liacouras Center. All venues with secure more parking lots, all venues with four sides, and a great atmosphere for wrestling in each, but looking back, I realized choosing those venues make me a stupid idiot.
An NXT Live Event would never be held in an arena with a capacity as that of the WFC. Luckily, with the Royal Rumble returning to Philly next year and NXT liking to pair with the main roster for the big four pay-per-views, Philly should be getting a Takeover special, with the WFC as the likely venue.
The Palestra has never hosted professional wrestling before, and the space between the sideline bleachers where the basketball floor is might not be enough for a WWE-size ring or staging. However, with how the WWE has done in the Tower Theater in terms of the production, I’m sure they could pull it off in the cathedral.
The Liacouras Center is also a high-capacity venue, with more seats than any of the Philadelphia Big 5 venues. While the floor space is enough for a wrestling show (taking a look back at TNA’s prior events in the LC), it would be hard to imagine WWE putting a show in a venue on a college campus with more rush hour traffic than the Tower Theater.
Last year, I had a discussion with Maryland Championship Wrestling ring announcer, Danny Mays, who is an expert of the industry. He and I went over the key factor that all of the Philadelphia venues have in common: money. It’s always the big question mark for booking a wrestling event whether it be WWE or the smallest independent promotion.
It’s easy to expect that companies such as Comcast Spectacor or universities such as UPenn and Temple have a high cost for rent of their venues. The Tower Theater has hosted TNA before NXT and is a big fan of the wrestling industry. WWE is all about making good deals, so if the Tower Theater makes the best deal, that’s a win.
I would still like for WWE to look into different venues for future NXT Live Events in the area, and shouldn’t be limited to just Tower Theater.
Local independent promotion CZW has been doing a great job hosting shows in the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, since moving from the old ECW arena after new management took over. Maybe the WWE should look into renting out a Flyers Skate Zone like the one in Voorhees, or maybe even Northeast Philadelphia. Not as much rush hour and very accessible parking.
The WWE has also been doing a good job with expanding on their national tour for NXT, adding Asbury Park, NJ last year. Why not add other areas that they produce live events in, such as Hershey or Bethlehem, which are two more hotbeds for Philadelphia fans?
I think that NXT Philly will once again wow the fans, and I’m excited for all able to attend, but I think it’s time for WWE to make a change in their selection of a venue after this year.