For a conference call about NXT: TakeOver, Triple H sure managed to talk about a lot of other things on Friday. Which is all good.
Having just come back from the world premiere in Los Angeles of the Andre the Giant documentary set for HBO on April 10, Triple H was in his office in Stamford, CT, sharing his thoughts.
“Got a chance to speak about @WWENXT, international expansion, and the STACKED #NXTTakeOver card with various media. Happy to provide insight on the ever-changing landscape of @WWE – thanks for rolling with the technical issues everyone. See you next week @WrestleMania!” tweeted out Paul Levesque, Executive Vice President, Talent, Live Events & Creative at his @TripleH account.
The quarterly conference calls are scheduled for Triple H to talk about the NXT: TakeOver events, generally scheduled before big, main roster events. NXT: TakeOver: New Orleans, on Saturday night, is no different.
“I really feel like this one is something special. It’s probably one of the most stacked, loaded cards, from top to bottom of established and new, and just feeling epic across the board, long-term stories that have built,” he said of the show. “I just feel like this one is firing on all cylinders, and hopefully everybody will agree when they see it.”
From there, he jumped to questions, but some of the performers on the show came up again (and again) in conversation.
Here’s the lineup, with any associated thoughts from the boss:
– NXT Championship Match – Andrade “Cien” Almas (c) (with Zelina Vega) vs. Aleister Black (not discussed at all)
– NXT Women’s Championship Match – Ember Moon (c) vs. Shayna Baszler … Triple H’s comments came in the context of learning curves and improvements on the roster.
“On the women’s side, even Ember Moon, who had experience in other places, but coming in, I think struggling to make that adaptation at first, with the confidence level and all those things, just changing that for herself over the last period of year, year and a half,” Triple H said, and then addressed her opponent.
“Then even the improvements even on a Shayna Baszler, who’s coming in with a lot of the technical side of the MMA side, but character building and her confidence level, and ability to speak, and promo work. Just everything, becoming so much more well-rounded.”
– Triple threat tag team match for the NXT Tag Team Championship and Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic trophy: The Undisputed Era (Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly) (c) vs. The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) vs. Roderick Strong and Pete Dunne
With Adam Cole scheduled to work twice (because of Bobby Fish’s injury), both in this match and the next one, perhaps it’s inevitable that his name came up. Triple H positively raved about him.
Cole was Triple H’s example of someone who was more than he expected.
The glowing words: “You look at Adam Cole, a guy that come in with a wealth of experience from places and sort of a brand built and a following and all that. And whether everybody sees it within the show, I don’t know, but for me dealing with him on a day-to-day basis, and I know I get the same feedback from Matt Bloom and Shawn Michaels and everybody else, dealing with him, the level of understanding, the level of pro, the level of the right thoughts coming out of him, the level of the way he approaches things, where when you’re putting stuff together, it’s less direction and him having the right idea right from the get-go. That level of improvement is huge. He’s changed so much in the period of time that he’s been with us.”
He also mentioned Pete Dunne, the UK-based based champion, “where we’re not as hands-on every single day,” is noteworthy. “The change in him from when I first met him and we started doing stuff, and then got to the UK tournament, to where he is today as a performer, putting things together, his mentality, all that stuff, the way he sees stuff, it’s night and day.”
Ladder match for the inaugural NXT North American Championship: Adam Cole vs. EC3 vs. Killian Dain vs. Lars Sullivan vs. Ricochet vs. Velveteen Dream
The title itself came up — why is a secondary title being introduced, and why now?
“There’s a lot of reasons for it. The timing is right. To me, the North American championship is a long-term expansion play, much like the UK championship is,” said Triple H. “As NXT is doing multiple tours, and doing over 200 live events a year, doing multiple tours in Florida, and more and more out of state touring, it’s doing international touring, as the UK continues to evolve, which you’ve seen the announcement of Download and some other tours that we’re going to be doing over there in Europe, but there will also be some follow-up announcements coming soon.”
“The Game” doesn’t feel like it’s a title that can be associated with any previous North American championship belts.
“It’s one of the funny things to me is that people asked about the lineage of it, and I kind of feel like when the lineage stops for that long of a period of time, it’s weird, there’s really not a lineage there,” he said. “I’m a huge history buff of our industry in general, and any time I can make those correlations, I love to” … but not this time.
(An aside, he doesn’t seem to think there will be a secondary women’s title in NXT, except for a coy “time will tell” response: “I don’t look at the women’s division any differently than I look at the men’s division, realistically. It’s all about the amount of talent we have, and how can the talent fill the pipeline that exists, whether that be tag team championships, whether that be secondary singles championship — it just depends on the amount of what we have in the pipeline.”)
Back to the NXT North American Championship participants; he singled out two.
“Across the board, I see that improvement in everybody, whether that be somebody like a Lars Sullivan, who is a homegrown, just kind of lead from zero to where he’s at right now; I feel like every time I watch him go to the ring, I see him improve,” he said, moving on to another. “Velveteen Dream. It’s hard to say there’s anybody in this system that’s improved faster and more than him.”
NXT TakeOver: New Orleans will be the usual two to two-and-a-half hours. “that’s the balance right, to give people enough and so much that they go, ‘Man, that was awesome’ but they don’t feel like you overstayed your welcome, or that you were like, ‘Oh, it was a great movie but they didn’t need that last scene where they had the false finish and then went into the last scene of the movie.’ I don’t want to look at my watch. So we’re conscious of that.”
He also doesn’t want to use someone just because they are being paid. “I’m not a believer that every single person needs to be on every single card. I know for the most part, we do that,” he began. “If the talent roster got so that we could so fortunate that it was so thick that we felt like, ‘Geez, now I’m leaving these people off all the time,’ I would prefer to add another event and make it a second, meaningful event in a period of time than make the single event longer and kind of less meaningful in its entirety.”
Triple H also talked about WrestleMania, scheduled for Sunday, as well as the week that has grown with more than a hundred other events in town.
As for his own match at WrestleMania, teaming with his wife, Stephanie McMahon, against Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey? “I’m about to get thrown around by two of the best shooters in the world.”