KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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This morning, WWE and Paul “Triple H” Levesque hosted an NXT Conference Call for which I represented the Torch. Here are the main points from that call…
-Triple H was asked how the falls were decided for the 2-out-of-3 match between Johnny Gargano and Adam Cole. He said that pure wrestling made sense for both, and a street fight obviously worked given the outside help that Cole might get from Undisputed Era. He said, though, that the stipulations wouldn’t particularly matter with two talents the caliber of Gargano and Cole.
-He was then asked if he was considered for the roles Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff recently got with Raw and SmackDown. He said that’s not how it happened, and the scope of what he does is beyond that. There are only so many hours in the day. He said he’s worked with Heyman a lot, but it’s the first time he’s worked with Bischoff in this setting and he’s excited about that.
-He fielded a question about conversations with talent when they’re left off of TakeOver. He said talent wants to be on everything and they’re hungry, but the lack of overexposure is part of the magic of NXT. He also stressed that you can be a big part of NXT TV and not be a part of a particular TakeOver show, like KUSHIDA or Bianca Belair this time around. He said that talents like Drew McIntyre and others have come to him about doing something with NXT, whether here or in the UK, because the competitive nature raises the bar for everyone.
-Triple H was asked which match had a chance to steal the show, and he brought up all of them. He likes the personal story of Io Shirai-Candace LeRae; Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish are in the conversation for match of the night every time out; all three North American championship competitors have show-stealing ability.
-Shayna Baszler has stated there was still interest in a Horsewomen vs. Horsewomen match and Triple H was asked about the likelihood of it happening. He said it’s not outside the scope of reality, though many members are kind of doing their own thing, and Ronda Rousey is out at the moment. He said that he’d love to see it when the time is right.
-A question came in about whether Triple H was heir apparent to Raw and SmackDown. He said that in any company of this size, you need succession plans, although these change on the regular. He joked that Vince McMahon will outlive all of them anyway.
-Triple H said that there would probably be an announcement about a Mae Young Classic tournament soon, but with the coming changes with FOX, a lot of Dominoes fell and changed things, and certain plans got pushed back.
-A question about Johnny Gargano’s status was next; Gargano has missed some house shows and Triple H was asked if there was concern. Triple H said he couldn’t talk about medical exactly, but “things linger,” and Triple H made the call to keep it from becoming more and it’s cleared up now.
-Triple H said internal thoughts on the EVOLVE 10th Anniversary show were positive and that the leadership there is doing something special.
-The inevitable question about NXT expanding time came next, perhaps to multiple shows a week. Triple H said the landscape is always changing and they’re always planning. There’s a wheel of distribution options, and it’s a question of where the content all goes. He then brought up AEW without naming it, saying that people ask him about “counter-programming.” He said Wednesday has always been the home of NXT so it wasn’t a question of counter-programming on WWE’s end. He says he worries about doing his own business with NXT.
-Triple H was asked about his grueling travel schedule. He said they’ve figured out how to implement a lot of Star Trek ideas but we can’t “beam ourselves up” yet. He said you do the best you can and you make sure to put a team in place. When NXT UK started, he was at every TV taping, but he was largely there to put together a team that would no longer require his presence. He’ll be at the TakeOver show in Cardiff, but otherwise has not felt the need to attend NXT UK TV in a while.
-Triple H was asked how he eases the mind of nervous performers, and he said that he doesn’t. If a performer doesn’t have butterflies, then they don’t care. He says to use that energy. When one is trained and ready, they relax when they’re out there. Panic only happens when one hasn’t done the work, because then there’s nothing you can do to make it better. He continued that it doesn’t really matter if NXT goes live, because preparation is the same. He said he was frustrated with some of the talent when he was on SmackDown who had the attitude that it was no big deal because it was taped. He would tell them there’s ten thousand people out there, and it’s always live.
-Triple H was asked about Simone Johnson, the daughter of The Rock, who’s at the Performance Center. He said she clearly shares the passion and work ethic of her family. Rock was at the PC recently, primarily as a proud papa who was able to impart some advice. Triple H said that the PC is a kind of fountain of youth, because the buzz, vibe and energy of young, hungry performers is infectious.
-TakeOver: Toronto will feature two women’s singles matches for the first time in three years, and Triple H was asked if it was ever a consideration to expand TakeOver to six matches to feature both a men’s and a women’s grudge match away from championships. He said that although the formula works, it’s not exactly a formula, because they don’t think about making a five-match card – they simply put together the best show they can with the time allotted – he doesn’t feel the need to expand the length of the shows – and five is what shakes out and it’s better to not just add a match for the sake of a match when the ebb and flow is working. This time, he loved that both the Io-Candace and Mia-Shayna feuds were hot and ready.
-With the renewed focus on building a strong women’s division, a question came regarding the possibility of the women in their own WarGames match this November. He said that anything is possible and that he’s open to all of that.
-Triple H thanked us all for coming and signed off.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The most interesting thing to most, I think, will be Triple H taking the opportunity to talk about AEW (again, without saying the name) in response to Dave Meltzer’s question about expanding NXT. Participants were asked to respectfully keep all questions to NXT and the PC, so I’m not sure anyone would have explicitly asked what we were all wondering. There was a lot here about building a (usually) five-match show with way more matches’ worth of worthy talent, and I wholeheartedly agree with the approach of making TakeOver special and not overexposing the shows with matches for the sake of them (now let’s slice an hour from main roster PPVs, eh?). The impending announcement of another Mae Young Classic was also welcome news. All in all, it was an enjoyable 40 minutes or so leading into one of WWE’s most important weekends.