As has now become a tradition, WWE's Executive Vice President, Talent, Live Events & Creative, Paul "Triple H" Levesque hosted a conference call this afternoon as a lead-in to tomorrow's live NXT event.
It's been an exciting week for the Orlando, Florida-based show (The Game said on this call that he doesn't like to call them "Developmental") with appearances on nationally televised and main roster programs like Raw and Main Event even before we get to Thursday's night two-hour card on WWE Network. The media on the call had as many questions for Haitch about how those appearances went, and the future of NXT, as they did about Takeover. His answers provided some insight, heightened some speculation and revealed just how much the NXT brand is a work in progress.
Don't call it 'Developmental' - His vision of NXT
This was one of the first points he made on the call, even before he broke down the matches. Trips believes that the NXT roster is much more than just "developmental", and he made the analogy to the late 90s with the main roster as WWE or WCW and NXT as ECW.
While he would later say that his goal was to grow NXT until it played more of the role that WCW did in the Monday Night War era, he was also careful to emphasis that he wanted the show to have its own identity and feel to it. Triple H didn't come out and say that they would remain a separate promotion designed to push Network subscriptions, but he did respond to a question from Dave Scherer at PWInsider (whose notes contributed to this report) by saying that that idea wasn't off the table. Triple H's goal is to figure out the best way to spotlight the talents on the NXT roster, and keep their product "special".
It really seems that he has preached to Vince McMahon that WWE is, in his words, a victim of their own success. NXT will be a feeder system for the main roster shows, but there is a desire to have it be a catalyst that pushes those shows, and the performers on them, to be better - to innovate and raise their game.
NXT on Raw - Triple H's impressions
He was obviously very pleased, calling himself a proud father. He thought that they did extremely well, and seemed to fit right in - again busting the "developmental" stereotype. The thing that excites him is watching them perform at the next level and react to it, and he stressed the importance of their learning and growing from the experience.
The other workers backstage were said to be supportive, but after saying that they wanted guys like Sami Zayn, Adrian Neville and Tyler Breeze to do well, they changed to "but not THAT well" when they saw what they could do.
While he shied away from suggestions of having NXT wrestlers on Raw or Smackdown as a regular thing (since that would take away some of what makes them "special"), he did respond positively to suggestions that NXT might go on the road like those shows in the future. They may not be on USA or SyFy, but live crowds for NXT events are up, and they are moving merchandise for the talent. Those things lead to a similar experience for their roster members without being called up, per se.
Hunter ran down each of the matches on the card, taking special time to emphasize Charlotte vs. Bayley and to say how proud he is of the women's division. He told a story of their having to headline a NXT Live event over the weekend due to so many of the boys being up for the Raw and Main Event appearances this week.
He promised that someone would be shaved bald following the Enzo Amore/Sylvester Lefort match.
Kenta's debut was also emphasized, with Trips mentioning that his role is very important to the company's global initiatives.
All that said, there is clearly a training and developmental aspect to the program. Hunter again put over all the work that went into designing the Performance Center, saying that he would put it up against any major sports team's training facilities. An editor from Muscle & Fitness was recently down to go through their training regimen, and Trips joked that he was unable to return emails for three days after they were through with him.
He also talked about the rate with which talent progresses, which can vary greatly. While he frequently hyped how ready guys like Kenta, Fergal Devitt and Kevin Steen were, he said that even they have things to learn.
Specific to those names, he said there is a plan in place to bring up Steen and Devitt "in the biggest way possible". That's the goal for everyone, though, to position them to be as big a success as possible when they're brought up (and for all the "not developmental" talk, he still uses the term "brought up").
Speaking of names, he was asked about the three new acquisitions keeping their names thus far. While he wouldn't commit to no changes, saying that there still might be some for intellectual property reasons, he did say that it's his belief that WWE shouldn't ignore what has come before. Pretending that there isn't already a following for guys with an independent or international pedigree doesn't make sense. So while they may "WWE-ize" their ring names, they will not eliminate their history from outside the company.
Concerning how NXT performers will be introduced on Raw or Smackdown, Scherer suggested that there is enough talent to run an NWO or Invasion type angle. Triple H said that nothing is off the table, and went on to describe the process of pitching ideas to Vince and seeing what bubbles back down. He wants to get to the point where McMahon is asking him if they can have certain performers for the traveling roster and Hunter is fighting to keep them on NXT.
They are aware that what connects with 600 fans at Full Sail Live will not necessarily work in front of ten thousand for Raw. For that reason, they think of NXT as a "petri dish" where they try out ideas that they might not on a main show.
One of the cooler things was brought up earlier on, before the Q & A and after he hyped Fatal 4Way. Levesque mentioned how proud he is of their partnership with Full Sail University, and said that they use the gate money from NXT shows to fund scholarships at the school. With this week's contributions, they'll have donated more than 100 grand in scholarship money.
Add that to his mentioning later how the plan is for the production and technical crew on NXT shows to one day be doing those jobs for the main shows, and it sounds like a key strategic investment on WWE's part.
How does all that sound to you, Cagesiders? What else would you have asked Triple H, or liked to have heard him say?