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WWE executive/wrestler Triple H held a media conference call Tuesday morning discussing Wednesday’s “NXT Takeover: The End” special, the WWE Performance Center, and the upcoming cruiserweight tournament.
– Triple H opened up the conference call by running down the Takeover card, highlighting each individual match. Hunter emphasized “styles making fights”
– Hunter said the name of the special “The End” has “a lot of meanings,” which will play out Wednesday night. He specified that NXT champion Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor inside the cage is “the end.”
– Hunter previewed the cruiserweight tournament that he hopes will be the best cruiserweight tournament of all-time. He said announcements about who will be in the tournament will be “coming up.” Hunter said there will be some big surprise inclusions and the presentation will be “totally different,” including the announce team.
– Asked if the NXT roster will look a lot different after the main roster brand split with potential call-ups, Hunter said he does not know, but he believes it will be different. Hunter said he’s not concerned about it, though, because the roster keeps being replenished.
“If the brand extension heavily relies on NXT talent to move to Raw and Smackdown, it allows for a lot of talent to move up (in NXT). I look forward to the challenge,” Hunter said.
Hunter said he will remain aggressive in pursuing talent around the world. “To me, talent is talent, and I don’t care where they come from,” Hunter said.
– Asked if the behind-the-scenes staffing will be affected by the main roster brand split, Hunter said he doesn’t think it changes anything. Hunter said they’ve always had two different tours running at the same time. He said he’s unsure if that changes to just a Raw and Smackdown touring brand during the roster split going forward. However, as it relates to NXT, Hunter said they don’t just create in-ring talent, but road agents, producers, editors, etc., trying to find the “aces and long-term players at every level of what we do.” Hunter said the main roster touring will change slightly, but for the most part it will be very similar.
Asked if the NXT touring brand will be affected by the main roster brand split, Hunter said they are trying to juggle Raw, Smackdown, and NXT be as big as possible. “Where do people sit and how does that all work?” Hunter asked rhetorically. Hunter said if people move up to the main roster, he has 70 or 80 people chomping at the bit to get a bigger spotlight. Hunter said the Florida fanbase is excited to see talent before they ever become a big deal. On the road, Hunter said it’s about creating stars and storylines to carry forward to the house shows. “I’m not worried about it all,” Hunter said. “One way or the other, I’ll make sure of it. I’m excited for the talent to have new opportunities for themselves.”
– Asked about searching for U.K. talent, Hunter said it’s a massive talent pool for them. He said it’s more of a global look, though, than searching just in the U.K. for a period of time. Hunter said they spread their talent search around the globe. “I just look at them and go, ‘This person is very talented and I want to work with them.'” Hunter said there is a tremendous amount of talent coming out of the U.K., including Zack Sabre, Jr. in the cruiserweight tournament.
Asked if the best wrestlers in the world are at the cruiserweight level, Hunter said there’s good wrestling everywhere. He said there was a time where the word “cruiserweight” applied to just high-risk, aerial wrestlers. “That has changed,” he said. Hunter emphasized mat-based wrestlers being part of the cruiserweight division again, which excites him for the future. “It goes from being a car-crash style to based in a better, long-term product in storytelling,” he said. Hunter said if you watch just a three-hour high-flying show, you become desensitized to it and it loses its wow factor.
– Asked about Eric Young and Bobby Roode’s NXT status, Hunter said they’re both very talented guys. As far as their contract status, they’re “working things out with both, and hopefully they work things out.” He said “stay tuned” and he looks forward to working with them.
Asked about NXT heading to Canada in 2016, Hunter said the hardest thing for them is a matter of routing. Hunter said NXT will do 180-190 events this year. Add that to the 300+ touring events of Raw and Smackdown, you’re in the range of 500 live events for the year. He said a lot of factors go into adding tours, scheduling, deals in-place, and not eating away at their own audience. Hunter said they’re still trying to get to what all of the routing looks like being on the road. Now, with the brand extension “changing things a little bit,” it affects “where and how you go.” He said they’re “figuring that out.”
– Asked about Hideo Itami’s status, Hunter said he recently put out a statement saying “see you soon.” He said sometimes the guideline is just a guideline and not the best-case scenario. Hunter said Hideo had issues with scar tissues along the way and some mobility issues. He said he wants Hideo to come back 100 percent and not be “almost, kind-of ready” to return. “When it’s right, he’ll be back.”
Asked about a women’s tournament similar to the cruiserweight tournament, Hunter said it’s funny how things happen in the industry. Hunter said they have a lot of things on the table and he just started throwing out conceptual ideas. He said secrets don’t stay secret long, then within a month, he started hearing that buzzed about. Hunter said he would like to do it if the timing is right. “Is that on the table? Yeah. There’s a lot of things on the table,” Hunter said. Hunter said there’s a mention, then it takes on a life of its own, then people started calling them clearing space in their bookings to be available. Hunter said, “Hold on, we’re just talking about it.” Hunter said he appreciates the speculation and conversation with things growing and taking on a life of its own, like “The End” label for Takeover. He said he doesn’t want wrestlers to change their careers based on ideas, though, until they make official statements on plans.
– Asked about Joe vs. Balor being selected for the first-ever NXT cage match, Hunter said he went to them proposing the cage match. He said they started the feud hoping it would go a certain way because it’s a fluid business. When they got to this point, he said it felt like the right rivalry, right moment in time, and the right show to have “closure.” He said it needed a definitive ending at Takeover. Hunter said they don’t use those tools a lot and he felt this was the right place, right time to bring out the cage. “This is something I want to see,” Hunter personalized. “I’m very excited to see this tomorrow and to see where this ends.”
Asked about the cruiserweight tournament including collaboration beyond NXT, Hunter said it’s been excited to work with outside groups and get a feel for what’s happening outside of WWE. “And support that, in a way,” Hunter said. He said he likes the indies undercurrent for guys to have places to go. Hunter said there are a lot of cool places to go work and work on your craft in a meaningful way. He said the goal is to take care of yourself for the rest of your life. Hunter referenced EVOLVE, Rev Pro, and Progress getting “massive exposure” from the partnership and also beneficial for WWE to expose new stars to the WWE fanbase. “It also gives us a better feel for who they are,” Hunter said. “We’re breaking new ground.” Hunter said he’s constantly thinking about “what if?,” then consulting with people like WWNLive’s Gabe Sapolsky.
Asked about the cruiserweight tournament’s look & feel, he said it will be heavy on sports presentation, like a lot of tournaments. Hunter said this will be different from top-to-bottom in terms of how it’s presented, talked about, and put out there. Hunter previewed some announcements in the coming weeks to build excitement for an “oh wow moment in the business.”
– Asked about Brock Lesnar returning to UFC while under WWE contract perhaps leading to UFC fighters crossing over to the Performance Center, Hunter said for any sport or endeavor like MMA, there is cross-over. He said they field “a lot of calls” from MMA athletes for try-outs, feelers, and doing something to make money after their career is over. He said anytime you work with pro athletes, it makes other pro athletes think, “Well, I could do that.” Hunter said it applies to Olympic athletes, strongmen, MMA, and any other athletic endeavor.
Asked about legends he would like to see work with the NXT talent, Hunter said there are a lot of people out there who can help. He said some legends have a lot of experience and knowledge that is invaluable to the roster. “It’s all points of view,” Hunter said. “The more information you have, the more opportunity you have to learn. That is what this is all about for talent.” Hunter said when he joined WCW early in his career, there were a ton of veteran stars who knew the inner workings of the business that greatly impacted his wrestling education. Hunter said he’s trying to create that environment in NXT. Hunter did not name any legends by name.
– After the Q&A concluded, Hunter talked about Muhammad Ali.