There’s excitement and nerves for NXT talent and staff heading into Vengeance Day this Saturday in Charlotte, North Carolina, WWE’s senior vice-president of talent development creative Shawn Michaels said during a media call Thursday promoting the event.

Other than Stand & Deliver last year during WrestleMania week in Dallas, this will be the first premium live event for NXT outside of the Performance Center in Orlando. Michaels is hoping for a good turn out, noting ticket sales have gone well.

“I think we’re expecting around 5,000 people, which certainly for the set up that they’ve given us is pretty close to capacity so from that standpoint we’re very happy,” Michaels said. “Everybody’s excited and honestly nervous. These are all new people going out and doing this. Everybody’s anxious, they’re nervous, extremely excited, we’re looking forward to getting on the plane tomorrow and heading to Charlotte. Hoping to do more of these, but looking to have an absolute blast and put on what we hope to be a fantastic show.”

NXT Vengeance Day takes place this Saturday at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte and streams live on Peacock in the United States and on WWE Network providers around the world.

Few questions were asked about Saturday’s card, which includes Bron Breakker defending the NXT Championship against Grayson Waller in a steel cage match and Roxanne Perez facing Toxic Attraction members Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne in a triple threat match for her NXT Women’s Championship.

In other title matches, North American champion Wes Lee defends against Dijak while The New Day’s Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods put their NXT tag team championship on the line in a fatal four-way match against Gallus (Mark Coffey and Wolfgang), Pretty Deadly (Elton Prince and Kit Wilson) and Chase University (Andre Chase and Duke Hudson). The women’s tag team championship will be defended by Katana Chance and Kayden Carter against Fallon Henley and Kiana James.

Michaels believes the one non-title match on the card – Apollo Crews and Carmelo Hayes in a two-of-of-three-falls bout, has show-stealer potential.

“I think that one’s going to be fantastic just because I think they’re two phenomenal athletes – I love watching those two perform, to be perfectly honest,” Michaels said. “I think it’s a stacked card. I think Wes and Dijak is going to be really interesting, clearly our ladies defending the tag team titles, I think that’s going to be a good match, and of course the cage match. It’s going to be great top to bottom, but if you’re asking me if I’m going to pick one that I’m probably going to be jumping out of my seat for quite a bit, I’m going to say it’s going to be Carmelo and Apollo.

Michaels was asked about Waller causing mayhem in NXT since becoming the number one contender for Breakker’s championship and perhaps comparisons to a young HBK in terms of being cocky and confident in himself.

“We have a great deal of communication. I think he’s been on record saying we have a great relationship and that is true. I like to think I’ve got a pretty darn good relationship with a lot of my guys and gals,” Michaels said. “(Waller) is cocky, he’s brash, he’s confident, he knows that he’s good. He’s another young man that came in here very early and it’s almost a similar trajectory with him and Carmelo that I did my best to get them on 205 as quickly as possible and then when the big change came and I was able to get them on NXT…they were both guys that looked at me and said ‘we’re ready, give us the ball’ and they’ve got to compete with one another as well as Bron and Tony D and the Creeds. You’ve got a lot of people, but Grayson is one of those guys that I really, really like because he’s one of the hardest workers you’ll find, but there’s not a lot of difference between the guy you see on TV and the guy he is in real life. I happen to like that about him and I suppose that’s probably no secret given my past.”

Meanwhile, New Day has stuck around NXT since winning the tag titles while also appearing on Smackdown and Michaels was asked if we would like to see more main roster stars be regulars on NXT.

Michaels said the crew always enjoys welcoming main roster talent and they can help in a lot of ways, including boosting ratings, but the key is they can’t lose sight of NXT as a development brand.

“It’s got to work for the main roster, but I also like to get people that are ready and willing to be ready to teach and help talent develop,” Michael’s said. “That sometimes is more than just a one-shot deal. That’s what’s been so great about New Day is having them down here for an extended amount of time, not only from ring time but also just being able to talk with them. There’s so much wisdom and knowledge that Xavier and Kofi can give our talent outside of the ring let alone in the ring.”

Asked if any new soon-to-debut wrestlers may be sitting front row and introduced to the crowd, Micheals wasn’t about to give away any surprises.

“I will say this, we’ve got a lot of exciting things coming down the pipe here in NXT,” Michaels added. “It’s Wrestlemania season for everybody here in the WWE. This is an extremely exciting time in WWE and obviously NXT right along with it. This is our first time getting out of here in three years. We’re looking to make this a great show, but then we are very excited about taking Vengeance Day and steamroll into Stand & Deliver at WrestleMania in April.”


On if Vince McMahon has been involved in NXT or main roster creative since his return to company: “He has not and I don’t think (he will). I’d imagine Vince would probably got bigger fish to fry than us down here in NXT. I’ll say this, one of the things I enjoy about my job down here is plausible deniability. That’s why I don’t ask a lot of questions because I don’t want to know the answers to some of them. Even back when we were here, he was very good with us down here. They helped us in a certain way, guided us in how they wanted it to go, but after that it was hands off. Hunter, the same thing. They’ve very good with us down here in NXT. They understand this is a different environment down here so we’re very fortunate to kind of be independent no matter who’s running the ship up there in Stamford. They allow us a great deal of freedom down here which we appreciate.”

On Mandy Rose’s sudden championship loss and departure: “Obviously not the ideal situation. I guess if I’m allowed to say for the record, I didn’t fire her. I can’t fire anybody. The only thing correct about any of that was I handle creative. It was unfortunate. I think Mandy was fantastic for us. I absolutely enjoyed working with her, she was a phenomenal champion. We would’ve loved things to have gone differently and been able to build our story with Roxanne, but I was put in a position to where I had to make a call creatively and so we did that and that’s one of the things that I’ve learned doing this job is nothing comes before the brand and we have to put those things forward and that’s what we did. Roxanne is certainly where we were going regardless, we just went a few weeks earlier than we expected to. The great thing is now we’re right back on course and I will say honestly I think the world of Mandy Rose, she was nothing but phenomenal with us. We’ll miss her, but we are thrilled about Roxanne Perez being the NXT women’s champion taking us into the future.”

On Dakota Kai’s jump to the main roster with Bayley and Io Sky in Damage CTRL: “Obviously she’s doing great up there and that is no surprise to me. I was always and still am a fan of Dakota Kai. I will tell you, I don’t know that there’s a tougher young lady than her. I used to comment on that all the time – the girl can take a tail whoopin’ and she does it really well. I’ve always enjoyed her, thrilled for her success and glad she got the call. I think she’s getting what she deserves. Her and Io are both very talented and doing great with Bayley and look it, they’re only at the beginning right so I think the sky’s the limit for them and I believe all of them have an extremely bright future.”

On having William Regal back in WWE: “Obviously it’s great to have him back. I got to see him at Raw (XXX special) and he hasn’t been down here a bunch obviously because he’s been busy, but at the same time, thrilled. For us, it’s having him home where he belongs. Obviously he’s always welcome here at the PC. Everyone loves having him here. Like a lot of people, it was a very nice homecoming for all us to get to see him. We’re looking forward to having him down here on a more regular basis. Obviously he hasn’t had the opportunity to do that, but he’s still getting his feet wet in his new role, but he knows the invitation is always open down here and he’s welcome anytime.”

On the process of how NXT talent are selected to compete in the Royal Rumble matches: “It’s made by the guys upstairs, obviously the main roster folks..Yes I give advice, opinion, recommendations and I recognize that sometimes it matters a great deal and other times it doesn’t. I think they had a pretty good idea who it was they wanted this year. Obviously they asked us our opinions, we certainly gave them, but for this year it was a matter of who they wanted and then a couple back-ups for alternates just in case something were to happen. They only needed women, is my understanding. For us it’s a great opportunity for NXT to have anybody up there, but I’ll be honest it’s always the main roster call. Anything that has to do with our talent going up there is more often than not main roster call and then when we’re looking for main roster folks to come down here that’s me making a request and for the most part it usually being granted other than there being conflicts in talents schedule.”

On former NXT UK talent showing up on NXT lately and the status of Ilya Dragunov and Meiko Satomura: “Much like several months ago, we want them here, love having them here. A lot of it is availability, a lot of it is visa issues, a lot also again is for some of them that is a big career move and a big life difference. Those are all things that we want people to consider before they make that move. Nothing would thrill me more than to have Ilya and Meiko here on a regular basis – they’re phenomenal talent. We’re thrilled about Gallus being back and Tyler (Bate) being back. As far as who’s coming in the future, a lot of that is up to the talent themselves.”

On how Alba Fyre (Kay Lee Ray) is viewed within the NXT roster: “I worked with her in the UK and she’s the longest reigning UK champion I think there is. Obviously, I’m a fan. I’ll say this, at different times we’ve been thrown some different curveballs and I have to try my best to get wood on as many of them that I can. In her situation, from coming over here from the UK changed midway through, so we tried to adjust to that. Anytime you make those adjustments, whether it’s name change or a character change, there’s obviously a rough period that you go through before it smooths out. I think the future is very bright for her. I understand that sometimes fans can get impatient that a certain person has been there so long.”

On the current status of NXT Europe: “We are moving forward…starting to get the infrastructure in place. Looking for venues and dates and things like that. Hopefully in the next couple months would be thrilled to have an announcement given some (update) of direction and time.”

On developing the next generation of talent with his experience: “I pushed the envelope farther than it should have been pushed. I have guys that I encourage to push that envelope – I tell talent what Vince told me which is go out there and I’ll pull you back. The actual truth of it is I just have to sometimes pull them back earlier. Things are very different now. I think we know that we don’t live in a culture now like we did in the 80s or the 90s. It’s a very different time now. Ultimately the thing that I enjoy most is that the talent down here know that I want the best for them and I want the most success for them and I would never give them information that I don’t think would be to their benefit. You lose credibility if you do that so I’m always open and honest with them about trying to show them what I did and why it can’t be done now and why it could hurt their career going forward.”