The overall landscape of the professional wrestling industry is rapidly heading for a change, and the next month will be critical for the overall health and stability of the business. WWE will soon be moving SmackDown to Friday nights in prime time on Fox beginning Oct. 4 while an upstart promotion with major financial backing premieres its own two-hour live weekly show two days earlier, so the opportunity to deliver the best of what this genre has to offer to the mainstream is massive.

Yet it's a somewhat less-heralded move beginning this week that could make the biggest impact. 

NXT, which has evolved from a WWE developmental brand into a product that is recognized as producing arguably the best in-ring action globally following a breakthrough 2018, will expand to two hours and air live beginning Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. ET on USA Network.

Originally debuting in 2010 as a pseudo-reality show before being reintroduced in 2012 as a developmental program, it took two additional years beyond that before NXT began to look like the product adored by hardcore fans today. But its graduation from the WWE Network to cable television solidifies NXT's status as a legitimate third WWE brand, on par with Raw and SmackDown, and sets the stage for potential "Wednesday night wars" opposite the aforementioned upstart AEW, which debuts two weeks later in the same time slot on TNT. 

"At the end of the day, the winner in all of this are fans, and they get to choose the best product of what they want to watch," NXT patriarch and WWE executive vice president Paul "Triple H" Levesque told CBS Sports' State of Combat podcast. "We have been on Wednesdays since the beginning. This was more about a platform shift for NXT than it was for anything else.

"While competition is exciting and I think it's great for anybody, I would put our NXT roster up against anybody on the planet. There is no one that I would trade, that I would switch out for anyone. I'll put them up against anyone and go toe-to-toe. I'm very confident that we will put on the best show long term and captivate fans in a meaningful way."

Listen to our complete interviews with Triple H and Shawn Michaels ahead of the debut of NXT on USA Network below, and don't forget to subscribe to the State of Combat with Brian Campbell podcast.

Although the idea of NXT competing directly against WWE's newfound rival AEW certainly ponders images of peak "Attitude Era" in the late 1990s, it's a different competition that could ultimately define NXT's long-term impact. Should the yellow-and-black brand gain an instant foothold ratings-wise against Raw and SmackDown and consistently "win the war" from a creative standpoint, it's worth debating how much that might force WWE's default main roster shows to evolve even more to match the feel of NXT.

"Not to minimize the [main-roster] guys at all, but certainly from our talent, that's the way they look at it," NXT trainer and two-time WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels told our State of Combat podcast. "They are in competition with all of them."

Shayna Baszler, a two-time NXT women's champion, echoed the words of Michaels by saying the entire roster has "Raw and SmackDown in mind. That's a thing." The UFC veteran and women's mixed maratial arts pioneer pointed to the locker room cohesion as the "secret sauce" as to why NXT's storytelling and match quality is so different. 

"I think there is very much a feeling of helping the person next to you be better," Baszler said. "You talk about the spirit of competition, but I think what people miss in pro wrestling is you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the NXT locker room who is holding other people down. We are all helping each other, and if you can elevate the people around you, it's going to elevate the entire process."

After plotting NXT's transition to cable television for nearly two years, Levesque believes the adjustment to a live, two-hour format each week only gives the creative team more airtime to use deserving (and underserved) talent.

Levesque also addressed the elephant in the room: assumptions by critics and fans that moving NXT off of the WWE Network to cable TV will bring more cooks into the kitchen -- i.e. WWE chairman Vince McMahon -- and potentially alter the formula that makes it so unique. 

Not only did Levesque assure doubters that McMahon will be far too busy to have a day-to-day influence, he reminded those of his father-in-law's track record. 

"I always want the product to change and get better. So am I hoping it changes? Yes. Will Vince or anybody else's involvement change the core of what it is? No," Levesque said emphatically. "The intent is for them to not be involved. One thing that people don't give Vince credit for is that none of this would happen without him. NXT doesn't exist and the concept of it being this alternative brand without him saying it exists.

"The truth is, everything in WWE has his fingerprint on it, even NXT, because I sat under his learning tree for 25-plus years and a lot of the things that I do were learned directly from him. NXT is going to be what it is and what it has been as an alternative. And for people that are super passionate and really into what we do, this is the brand for them. This is going to feel like it's home for them."

Along with Levesque and his creative team (including the late Dusty Rhodes), those most responsible for NXT becoming what it is today is the talented class that began to give the brand its own independent image compared to that of WWE proper in 2015. The likes of Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, Neville and the Four Horsewomen (Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, Bayley and Becky Lynch) helped elevate and propel NXT to another level.

The 'Four Horsewomen' of NXT changed women's wrestling across the country. WWE

Even though NXT has learned how to reload its talent base (think Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka) without its quality suffering a major decline once superstars were "called up" to the main roster shows, it wasn't until 2018 that the notion of NXT being a consistently better product than WWE's main roster evolved from a hipster take to possible fact. 

What fueled that renaissance year was the addition of Mauro Ranallo as lead announcer and a series of TakeOver pay-per-view cards that raised the bar in terms of star ratings and storytelling. Each show seemed to somehow best the great one before it as the likes of Johnny Gargano, Adam Cole, Tomasso Ciampa and Velveteen Dream helped raise the profiles of both the brand and themselves. 

"I don't want to speak for a lot of guys in NXT, but I will. A lot of us are incredibly proud of the growth of the brand," Cole told our State of Combat podcast in August. "I've only been here for two years but just to see the growth that NXT has gone through is amazing to me. We are very proud of what we produce week after week, the team and the roster and our fans and our relationship. You can't put a price on it. To us, bell to bell, NXT is the best wrestling show in the world, and we are incredibly proud of that."

Adam Cole (left) and Johnny Gargano (right) recently concluded a stellar trilogy. WWE

A mixture of 1980s territory style booking with the work rate and theatrics of the modern Indie style has given NXT a unique flavor that its participants aren't always interested in necessarily graduating from. Some of that is the freedom given to performers and the undying support of the crowd for everyone involved to succeed. 

Gargano, who had a brief call to the main roster ahead of WrestleMania, went so far as telling our State of Combat podcast in August that his career dream is no longer to be a superstar on Raw and SmackDown. He preferred to stay in NXT, a desire he reaffirmed with a commitment on last week's TV program.

"To get that opportunity to do that for a bit was super cool and something I look back on fondly, but the deal is basically that dreams can change and goals can change," Gargano said. "For me, I think it's really important that I carry the flag for NXT. I love NXT, and that's not a company answer. It's the truth. I pour my heart into NXT, and I love absolutely everything about it."

Michaels remembers walking into WWE's Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, three years ago (not far from where NXT is filmed at Full Sail University) and telling anyone who would listen that NXT was going to end up being its own show on television. With that vision now becoming a reality, Michaels has taken a great deal of pride in having a huge influence in where it's going led by a scrappy and committed group to proving the sum of their parts is the best thing going today. 

"People that have watched NXT, we have always done everything we could to outdo ourselves and put on the best show that we could put together and we have done that time after time after time," Baszler said. "It's a critical time right now. I am the champion of what I believe to be the best women's division in the world, and I have thought that for a while. We have huge things coming up and I think I speak for everyone at NXT to say we have all sights set on NXT on USA."

Listen to our complete interviews with Triple H and Shawn Michaels ahead of the debut of NXT on USA Network below, and don't forget to subscribe to the State of Combat with Brian Campbell podcast.