Since the announcement of NXT moving to USA Network next week, WWE have been pretty quiet on what would happen not only to NXT itself but NXT UK and 205 Live. What would happen to the talents, the schedule… Of course, the rumour mill has been grinding at full speed over the last few weeks. The words of WWE COO and “Father” of NXT were expected and they came today on Newsweek. Like you will read, nothing is set in stone for the moment but, obviously, things are meant to change and follow this new (r)evolution.
“As the brand continued to grow through the WWE Network and everything we were doing there, the next step was to increase the viewing, the range and scope of what we can do,” Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative, told Newsweek. “It’s an exciting time and I’m thrilled that the product is opening up to two hours and going live.”
For him, this new step is a natural one for a brand that was created in 2010 and has exceeded every expectation. “This is something that has been a year and a half in the making of these conversations happening. As the brand continued to grow through the WWE Network and everything we were doing there, the next step was to increase the viewing, the range and scope of what we can do. It’s an exciting time, and I’m thrilled that the product is opening up to two hours and going live because it allows me to present more talent, and we have a deep talent roster in NXT. And to be able to give them more time and give them the opportunity for more of them is great. It’s come with some challenges, live TV working without a net, but they are all up for the challenge and it’s going to be exciting.”
As expected, being 2 hours and live means changes and new challenges. But not for Triple H. “In that manner, it’s not really going to change how we approach the writing of the program. I don’t intend for it to speed things up. I don’t intend for it to now all of a sudden you’re going to see the same talent more often because they are on the same show and it’s two hours instead of one. I see it as opening a door. The biggest challenge for me in the last two years or so has been not having [time]. With the show being one hour, not having the ability to get talent out there. To continue to tell the story that needed to be out there [and] to continue to tell the story that will take you to the next TakeOver or whatever it was.
But to have the availability and opening to say, yeah I want this person on TV, I want to debut this talent. I want to move this person into something big. And you just run out of time and space. This really opens up that opportunity and will allow for a much more diverse grouping of talent to be shown. There’s a lot of talent chomping at the bit for the last year saying “put me in coach,” you know? And we haven’t had it. Now we have that space and time and, trust me, they are going to be there to be the top players on the brand and that’s the competition that will breed success.
Talents have always been the centrepiece of NXT. The new format will allow them “to be competitive with each other. If I’m just starting to make my way onto NXT and I see the people at the top, I want those spots. If they know just the best are getting on TakeOver, they will be working doubly hard for it. When asked about TakeOver PPVs, Triple H says you might see that go up to six in the USA, instead of 5, and maybe more than the 2 that took place in the UK this year.
Another important thing that has made the success of NXT is Full Sail University. The place is just a few miles away from the Performance Centre and has become the home of NXT. The fact of keeping this partnership, and even expanding it, was logic. “For me, it was very important. For one, with our partnership with Full Sail. We do so much there than just put on shows. If you’re a student at Full Sail, they are working on our shows with us shadowing and it’s a learning process for them as well. To continue that process, I wanted to keep it there. They are one of our biggest and best partners. The other thing to me, that fan base in Florida, they built this. They were there on the ground floor and their energy and excitement allowed [NXT] to become what it has become and what it is becoming, and I want them to be on that ride with us and to continue to grow it. When we say “we are NXT” they are every bit a part of that as the talent are in some ways. I want them to continue to show the world when we go live on USA Network. I want them to stand up and say “we are NXT” because they are.”
The question of brands has been widely talked. But the fact is Red will remain Red, same for Blue when Black and Gold will expand. “I think you’ll see that RAW will become very much distinctly its own brand as well as SmackDown on Fox. And NXT will be its own. The ability, as time moves on, for people to move from RAW to SmackDown, and NXT to RAW or SmackDown, but also RAW or SmackDown to NXT. NXT UK will sit under that NXT banner as well, probably 205 too breathing some life into it a little bit. That creates three distinct brands that talent, over the course of their career – which hopefully is long – where they can migrate from one to the other and be reinvigorated and have fresh starts and have longer, more meaningful and lucrative careers while staying within the same company.”
“You’ll start to see 205 begin to”, he adds. “I think it always existed as an island onto itself, a little bit, and it’s become lost in this limbo. You’ll begin to see it move more towards the NXT banner and the talent there. We have a lot of talent. For them to begin to compete either open against anyone or in the Cruiserweight division, but have that title sit under the NXT brand is more meaningful. It creates more opportunities for more people.” If it seems like the purple show is not set to disappear, its talents will have the capacity to go everywhere. As of today, the matter is where 205 will air.
NXT is supposed to be a platform to the main roster, but recently, Johnny Gargano has said that he would love to be NXT lifers, something that could suddenly happen. “I think it can. No different than somebody becomes the face of RAW and spends the majority of their career there. It’s the same with SmackDown and the same with NXT. I also think the opportunity for someone to leave for a period of time, take a breather and come back a little later refreshed is important. This gives them an opportunity to do other things. As NXT becomes bigger and more of a global brand, like you see what we’ve done in the UK, you will see talent has the opportunity to take a breather from RAW or SmackDown and go someplace else. And still, it be very meaningful for them and not seen as “I’m going down to the minors” or anything else. It’s going to be a shift over to a different brand with a different feel and a different vibe where they can go and refresh and become something different so when they do go back – or maybe they don’t – they can rebrand themselves. The most successful talent in this business, from a long term standpoint, has the ability to reinvent themselves over time. And that gives them the chance to reinvent yourself at all times.”
Yesterday night, after being fired by Shane McMahon on SmackDown Live, Kevin Owens posted on Twitter the figures 14-24-20, as a letter in the alphabet, to spell out N-X-T. Since 2003/2004 and the debut of indie stars like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Neville, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura or Samoa Joe, the developmental brand has more and more become a brand of its own. Triple H acknowledged, “That long-term, people begin – and I think they are – to lose the perception of “developmental” and it just becomes a brand. That it becomes a brand with its own unique look and feel, but that it creates the opportunity for every talent on every brand to have another place to go do what they do. The true success for us would be to deliver the best product possible for the group of fans that are really passionate about NXT, which is a large group of the core audience of what we do. We cater to the hardcore. We cater to the people that are in deep and into it the entire way. If we can make it a success for them, and make a show that they think, “man, no matter what else is on I got to catch NXT each and every week” then that would be a success.” More than ever, with NXT, the future is now.
All pics and videos courtesy of WWE