The first NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn in 2015 rocked the Barclays Center with a series of exciting moments and matches on the eve of SummerSlam. Paul Levesque, WWE executive vice president talent, live events and creative, believes the success of the event put the developmental brand on another level. NXT’s biggest fan predicts much of the same with NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III on the horizon. For legendary performer, it’s an annual homecoming.
“It’s very exciting to come back to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center and SummerSlam,” he said during a media call to promote the WWE Network show. “NXT TakeOver has been a little bit of feeling of our WrestleMania. I feel like it’s the end of the season and the start of the season all at the same time much like WrestleMania is. This is a very exciting moment for us. As I’ve said a couple of months ago, it has been about reinvigorating the brand and get it firing on all cylinders. I feel that is where we are right now. Coming out of this, I’m real anxious to come on the other side of it and really get things rolling. There is a lot of good things in store.”
The atmosphere is electric and infectious at NXT TakeOver events. So much in fact many alums who are now on Raw or SmackDown want to be a part of it.
“As we got closer to the event the number of main roster talent who were coming up to us, you talk about 80 percent who have come from this system, were coming up to us and saying, ‘Hey, can I come Saturday night? Can I be a part of it? Could I be on the preshow? Could I sit in the crowd? They want to be involved,” Levesque said.
“They want to put their thumbprint back in on what they did and how much fun they had there. That is really cool. It feels like a homecoming for everybody. That Saturday in Barclays is a big opportunity for everyone to come back from NXT and feel like they are a part of this whole deal.”
TakeOver is a homecoming in a different way for Drew McIntyre, who challenges Bobby Roode for the NXT Championship in the main event. McIntyre’s was introduced in his first run with WWE as the “Chosen One.” The Scot didn’t reach the level he was striving for and was released in 2014. McIntyre had a renewed fire and motivation to reach his full potential. Three years later after traveling the world and building a solid reputation, McIntyre was given another opportunity with WWE. Much like Jinder Mahal, his former 3MB tag team partner and current WWE Champion, he is making the most of it. The challenger’s ascension up the ranks is one of the central stories heading into the event. The EVP is excited about the card in general.
“There has been a big build on it,” Levesque said. “Bobby Roode spending the year of being this dominant pompous champion and making it his brand. Drew coming in as the new guy to bringing it back to the whole, ‘We are NXT.’ Ember [Moon] and Asuka, who is a different level of performer just because she is so different. Ember has really coming into her own the last six months. She has been poised and ready to be the one to carry it beyond.
“When you see the turn Hideo Itami had. I feel for the guy with all the starts and stops he had physically, not due to anybody. Things just happened, but there have been these starts and stops that I feel this attitude turn for him has really put him in a position he is really thriving in. Then you have Aleister Black, who I feel has come in with a look and feel for a character that is something different than we have seen in a long time. It’s been slowly but surely, step-by-step, he has been coming into his own as a player you can’t see a ceiling on. The Authors of Pain have been one of the most dominant tag teams just from a sheer size and power and everything they bring to the table. Then when you put them up against SAnitY with Killian [Dain] and Alexander Wolfe, it’s just a different feel. Then with Eric Young guiding them there is the unstoppable force and immovable object. Then Andrade Almas, we kind of rebooted him with Zelina [Vega] coming next to him and the refresh of him going down the road. Then you have the return of one of the favorite players on the entire roster in Johnny Gargano. To me, that’s an intriguing match. I want to see if Gargano can start this run of his singles career. Can Andrade continue down the path of reinventing himself with the path he is on.
“That’s not even talking about all the other talent who aren’t even on this card. That’s what is so exciting about NXT. I’m not even bringing up the other women. I’m not even bringing up Roderick String, [Kassius] Ohno, the U.K. talent who will be there in Brooklyn. I’m not even bringing up the other talent we have that are coming in the door. The Kyle O’Reilly’s, the Bobby Fish’s, everybody us who is walking through. NXT is really this hot bedded place to be. It’s an exciting time. This card, we’ve rebooted where we are at. This is the finish of that season. We are ending on a high note, but also starting a new season and really taking things into high gear. When you see that split, you see where this goes coming into the fall and everything else. It’s going to be hot.”
Levesque is always thinking about what’s next and planning for the future of the brand for the short-term and long-term. Listening to him speak, NXT may in fact be his fourth child. He cares that much about it and brings the passion to meetings with Vince McMahon, father-in-law and WWE chairman, to discuss progress.
“There is a lot of talent that he will on the occasional basis will say, ‘Where are you at with this person? When do I get them?’” Levesque said.
“It’s my job to then creatively work with the team, both main roster and my own team, to decide when is the right strategic time to put that person in the right place they need to go to so that they have the best opportunity in front of them and to make sure they are ready. Sometimes I will say this person has been ready for so long. They don’t know the things they are missing that we can see from our side of it. It’s, ‘Look, I need you for another three months. This is what I need you to focus on. I don’t want you to fail when you get up there.’ There is a lot of components that go into it. We have those conversations. He gives me his opinion and then I give him my opinion.
“Sometimes there are things he will see on the show and say, ‘I really like this guy.’ He’ll talk about doing something with him right away, and I’m like, ‘Hold on. We are really protecting that person on TV.’ That is our job. We are really protecting what they do to make them succeed where they are but give them that opportunity at the same point and time to continue to grow. He relies on us heavily as well to say, ‘This is where they are in the process. They need more time to bake.’ They need more time to do this or that. We want them to be the best they can possibly be not only for Raw or SmackDown. I want them to be the best they can be. I want them all to succeed on the biggest level they can.
“Granted they can’t all do that. They can’t all be the main event of WrestleMania. But I want them to have the opportunity on the main roster so when they are given whatever it is, whether the opportunity is bigger or small, they take advantage of it and knock it out of the park. As long as we give them the tools to do that, then whatever is going to happen is going to happen.”
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III airs live August 19, 8/7c on WWE Network
SummerSlam 2017 airs live, August 20, 7/6c, Pay-Per-View and WWE Network