WWE’s developmental brand NXT has made tremendous strides in 2015.
They continue their push for global domination with its first international tour across the United Kingdom. The string of events is highlighted by NXT TakeOver: London, a live special 3/2CT Wednesday, Dec. 16 on WWE Network.
Paul “Triple H” Levesque stands proudly as the figurative father of NXT and its biggest fan. Anyone needing proof of this can just listen to the executive vice president of talent, live events & creative speak about the roster. He promoted the TakeOver show and what the tour means for WWE as a whole during a media call.
“I can’t tell you how excited the talent is,” he said.
“While you have some guys and girls who have international experience, you have a lot who have never ventured outside of the United States. For them to be headed to the U.K. on tour in this manner and to the business we are doing with packed events in every city we are in. Capping it off with the NXT special on WWE Network from a sold out Wembley Arena is just awesome. This is a huge opportunity for NXT, but also WWE.
“…It’s a much different time slot and an opportunity for the U.K. to receive its own live special event, pay-per-view if you will, that emanates from the U.K. It’s been a long time since WWE has been there in any manner to do that…I’m hoping that this is very successful on every level. My desire to do this is to reinvigorate that process to the world. Hopefully the reaction to all of it is big enough that we will be doing these more and in different markets in local time zones. I think the Beast in the East special from Japan kind of set the template that even at five thirty in the morning, if it’s special and good, people will tune in. That is what I’m hoping to prove again with this NXT Takeover.”
Looking at the card and NXT’s reputation of putting on show-stoppers, the chances of this are likely. Among the big matches on the show include Asuka versus Emma. Levesque believes this is the chance for people to get more than a glimpse of what a colorful and spectacular performer she is. Dawson and Wilder defend the tag team tiles against Enzo and Colin Cassady. Two emerging forces collide when Baron Corbin battles Apollo Crews. Bayley defends the NXT women’s championship against intimidating Nia Jax. Finn Bálor defends the NXT heavyweight championship versus Samoa Joe. Levesque remarked this Joe is rejuvenated and has more passion than ever before.
NXT has been getting such positive buzz. At the same time creative on the main roster has been subject of criticism as of late. There are fans that wonder why the company can do so well with NXT, yet miss the mark at times on Raw.
“I think sometimes there is a difference in styles, a difference in theories and way things are done,” Levesque said.
“I don’t necessarily think one is better than the other. There are different styles. We have a saying here with chocolate and vanilla. For NXT, I control the product and I don’t on the main roster. There are different philosophies, and that’s okay. They are both very valid and have their place. But with chocolate and vanilla, when we put together NXT, I get to pick the flavor.”
Later Levesque went a little deeper in relation to the main shows using elements of what NXT does. Although he believes they each have their own identity and should. Levesque also described that those on the main roster have the challenge of making the transition from developmental and adjusting accordingly in order to succeed. Raw and millions of people watching live is a different animal.
“There is a stark difference, and I’m aware of what works in NXT and what works in that environment and what works in the larger arenas in front of the whole world,” he said.
“In some ways it’s different musical styles. If WWE is pop music than we are a little bit more of an alternative rock. There is a bit more niche to it. There are definitely things I see moved up, but I think you see them happening slowly but surely. Over time I think you see things we started at NXT or little bits and pieces of the way we’ve handled certain things. Again, it’s chocolate and vanilla. You don’t want to change the chocolate to vanilla. It’s a fine line, but there are certain things I can see boiling up.”
Given the growth of NXT, Levesque was asked about the potential of the show moving from WWE Network to USA and maybe replacing an hour of Raw.
“It’s been thrown around,” Levesque said.
“I’ve heard the thought. Not internally, but I’ve heard the thought from the outside. Three hours is hard. The thing for me is if you made NXT one of those hours there are a lot of ways to skin the cat on this. The thought would be to do it there that night and then you are just kind of doing a third hour. Then it’s not NXT. Then it’s not a different brand. Then it’s not a different feel or flavor. If you’re just doing all the same, it’s all in the same. Is there a way to do it? I don’t know. I think at the end of the day three hours no matter how you do it is extremely difficult.
“It just is. I’ll be the first guy to admit if I go to a movie and it’s longer than two hours I’m looking at my watch. I don’t care how good it is. It’s very difficult to do, but I think we have to become more discipline and more creative with how we do things and how we operate the shows. We’ve had some unfortunate situations from injuries and everything else. Look, it’s on us. It’s on us to be more creative and come up with a better format, a better show. We hear people’s frustrations, and we in a lot of ways feel the same way. It’s fixing it and trying to fix it. It is what it is. How we fix it, we aren’t a hundred percent sure yet. But we will get there. Trust me.”
When it comes to scouting talent he is open to anyone out there. Levesque has the same mentality about NXT and if there was interest in bringing the brand to a traditional channel. Although he likes the grassroots approach NXT has executed to perfection and building word of mouth watching where it is now.
“One of the cool things about being on the WWE Network is that it’s special,” Levesque said.
“It is episodic programming that makes you want o stay on the network and be a part of the network. That’s a great thing. ‘The Sopranos” were on a paid channel and it certainly didn’t hurt them long-term. It was the biggest show on television… I’m of the opinion where with any platform if you build it they will come. If you give them the right product in the right way, hopefully people will find it one way or another because they hear about it and want to watch. If it is on the network, then great as I get a lot more people to get the network so they can see NXT. It certainly hasn’t been hurting us.
“We are going to be in London next week on Wednesday with 10,000 people and sold out. When you look NXT as successful as it is with the limited exposure of WWE Network being a much smaller universe, it certainly doesn’t seem to be hurting the buzz or expansion of the brand. I’m hoping that continues.”
Whether it”s competing in the ring or NXT, Levesque hasn’t been one to rest on his laurels. He teases big plans for 2016.
“I think once we get past the holidays we will be having some announcements in the beginning of the year,” he said.
“I think people are going to be very excited, to say the very least. I said it last year that I think it will be a big year for us. For me, it exceeded expectations. In the coming year I have huge expectations and I’m hoping I exceed those as well.”
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