In the clip embedded above, you can see host Ariel Helwani got HBK’s thoughts on Vince McMahon leaving the job he said he’d never leave (Michaels was surprised, but thinks McMahon did it because he decided it was best for business), and his current relationship with Bret Hart (the love & respect is real between the former foes).
They also talked about Shawn’s experience working on the 2.0 rebrand. Michaels has spoken elsewhere about how chaotic it was, and reiterates that here, saying a lot of elements were dictated to them from WWE headquarters — although it wasn’t always clear from who, as HBK says he was answering to different people at different times while Triple H was out recovering from his heart issue. He does say that returning the brand’s focus to being primarily development was always part of The Game’s plan:
“But it was my understanding that Hunter did want to get back to developmental. Now, I don’t think we would have done it as drastically, for instance starting out on the shows with 75% new people, we wouldn’t have put anybody out there before we were ready, so there were some things that were sort of insisted upon that we couldn’t control... make no mistake about it, it was challenging, and it wasn’t fun having to be that guy to try and balance both sides... putting on a two hour wrestling show with people who had never done it before — it is not easy.”
Now that he and his friend are in charge, Helwani asked if Michaels envisions getting NXT back to its 2016-2018 glory days, when big international & independent stars debuted regularly, and it was a traveling show selling out mid-sized arenas almost every weekend:
“I think right now, it certainly is about developmental. But that is certainly not from the standpoint of forsaking real talent, and real ability that’s out there. To me, you’re crazy if you don’t see people that are out there, that are very valuable, that you know can be valuable to the WWE. Even if it’s coming into NXT, just trying to get maybe a feel for how life is here in the WWE, and then quickly moving on, if that be the case.
“But I don’t — I know it sounds cliche and maybe not honest, but nothing really is off the table. I’ve always been one that, if it’s a good idea, I’ll steal it from anybody. If there’s a really talented guy out there and we think he can help this company? We’re crazy not to take him. Cause we can still develop people at the same time.
“Because all of our younger talent here is gonna benefit from being in the ring with those guys, even if it’s just a handful of times. They’re gonna glean such experience from that, but again I don’t ever want to take off the table not getting guys out there that can really contribute to Raw or SmackDown in the future, cause that’s what all of this is about — feeding the machine...
“I don’t want this to be Hunter’s NXT, I don’t want it to be Vince’s NXT, and I don’t even want it to be mine, to be perfectly honest. I do, I feel like I’m filling some pretty big shoes. You can never do the first and be the original. Hunter’s already done that and established that. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a lot of firsts and a lot of originals, so I’ve learned that you don’t come back and try to copy that again.
“So we — at the forefront, I’m more focused on developmental. About developing the young men and women that we have pass through here, getting them prepared for the main roster. In the process, if we are able to build back this brand where we can get back into those arenas and start selling ‘em out? That’s a bonus. But I can’t say honestly, Ariel that that’s the goal right now. To me, I’m focused on the development of these young men and women. But I tell ya, the more people we can get that have experience, and that we can filter through our system — it’s only gonna help.”
Sounds like a decent plan, especially with main roster stars passing the Performance Center almost every Tuesday. At the rate Haitch is bringing back people directly to Raw and SmackDown, though, there may not be too many spots there for the talent Michaels & team are developing down in Orlando.
Let us know what you think, and check out the entire episode of The MMA Hour — including some remarks from Helwani about his “frustrating” interview with Tony Khan last week, and his opinion on the relative merits of the AEW & WWE products right now that have Wrestling Twitter buzzing — right here.