When the idea arose for NXT to host an event at the Barclays Center on the eve of WWE SummerSlam, Paul “Triple H” Levesque wasn’t sure it was a good idea.
The executive vice president of talent, live events and creative for WWE became comfortable with the move when 6,000 tickets were sold during a presale. Then the venue sold out with more than 13,000 fans expected for NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn airing live 9 p.m. EST Saturday, Aug. 22 on WWE Network. Needless to say, Levesque was impressed.
“It speaks to the brand,” he said during a conference call to promote the show. “It speaks to the excitement around the brand. It speaks to the excitement for the future of WWE in general.”
NXT has evolved from a developmental system into a full-fledged brand with its own touring schedule (Triple H talked plans for worldwide touring such as the United Kingdom), merchandise and identity.
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The original premise of NXT remains as its success has led to many call-ups to the main roster in recent years. With big names essentially promoted, it begs the question of how it would impact NXT’s product sustainability long-term?
“That is the strength, not the weakness,” Levesque said. “It’s funny how some people look at me saying, ‘Oh my God. This is being taken away and this moves on.’ I’m thrilled for that. I’m thrilled for the talent. I’m thrilled for the WWE brand in general for talent to be able to perform at that level. It also opens new opportunities for me to create new talent for us to be fresh and not get stagnant with the same talent sitting there.
“I think that is a strength and not a weakness. It will keep the brand fresh. It will keep the brand new and exciting. It’s funny in some ways. Other people say we are doing this and this. [A sense] that we are plucking the indie guys and cherry-picking this and that. I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as talent. I don’t care where somebody comes from, and I don’t care how I get them. If they work the indies, great. If they come from the NFL and the guy has charisma and can pick this up and can do great, awesome.
“It is funny how people’s view of that changes. You look at Kurt Angle. He was a great performer, and I don’t recall him toiling away on the indies. Talent comes from where they come from, and great talent is great talent, bar none. You lose what you lose and you pick up what you pick up. In the best way possible, you utilize their strengths and book them the right way and tell the right stories with them.
“We’re going to be just fine. I don’t see it as a weakness. Do I see that as the challenge? Absolutely, it’s a challenge when you have something in mind for the next six to eight months and all of a sudden you get the call that they want to move this guy or girl. That’s great. I have to reshuffle and rethink it. That’s okay. It makes me come up with, I think, sometimes something even better. On one hand it’s the challenge, but we as a brand are up to the challenge, and I’m excited about the challenge. I look forward to a year from now people not saying, ‘Remember when NXT was great.’ I want them to say, ‘Oh my God. I didn’t think it would get this big even last year when we thought it couldn’t get any bigger.”
NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn is the biggest event in the brand’s history, since its inception in 2012. It will also be in front of its biggest crowd. There is a double main event with Finn Bálor defending the NXT championship against Kevin Owens, and Bayley challenging Sasha Banks for the women’s title. Yes, the divas are considered a main event. When you think of the “Diva Revolution,” it can be traced to NXT with many of the girls like Banks and Bayley stealing the show.
“It’s awesome,” Levesque said. “I’ve said it before in some ways for all of them. Whether it is the Shield coming up or the Wyatts or Kevin [Owens] coming up, Sasha, Becky [Lynch] and that whole group. In some ways I feel like a proud dad watching these kids going from something that is almost raw clay to here they are getting called up and getting recognized in the biggest way possible. I believe that we put out an opportunity for the girls to perform at a level they have never done or really seen before. They excelled at it.
“Its paradigm shifted the business, but that’s on them. They are the ones who did it, all of them. Even the current divas who are on the WWE main roster, that is not to take anything away from them. They are now just as big a part of that as well. It’s exciting. I look forward to those girls main eventing and being as big a part of this business as anybody else. I think their belief system has changed in the way they look at it.
“If you ask Sasha or Charlotte right now, they will tell you their goal is to main event WrestleMania. That is pointblank, no thought about it. We’ve instilled it in them and what they believe. It’s what they want to do. I think that is step one in making it happen. Knowing them and knowing their drive and passion for this, I don’t doubt it will happen. I don’t doubt that at all.”
On the topic of NXT running on the same night in similar venues as promotions smaller than WWE, Levesque makes it clear their decisions aren’t out to be malicious. They have no plan to run company’s like Ring of Honor or Evolve out of business.
“It’s funny that people say that and read into things,” he said. “Other than the fact that I know various companies piggyback our pay-per-view or our business model when we go into markets, because there are a lot of fans excited about the weekend, they want to piggyback on that. Why do they do it? It’s probably because it’s a pretty smart business decision as far as there is a lot of fans there and excitement about the brand. So it makes sense for us to do the same thing in some ways. That is part of the exploration process.
“When we looked at doing the Texas [NXT tour], it was totally based on that we thought we could do good business and had some [venues] call us with some offers…To be honest, we were unaware a company was running there. The decision when you go back to SummerSlam and to be there on the Saturday was better business for WWE. I don’t want anybody to fail. I’m not going after anybody, contrary to anybody’s belief. There is no targeting or anything. I want our business to succeed. I want NXT to become as big as it can become…
“If it doesn’t work, that’s fine. As far as Evolve and Gabe [Sapolsky] [potential dealings], it’s looking for opportunities whether people are running quality events and shows that in some way can help support the business overall. I think the underneath of WWE and having the indies and all these things out there are important to our business and the health of our business. I don’t want to see anybody fail, but also want to do what is right for our business. That is how we are going to do things. If it interferes with somebody else’s business plan, I can’t concern myself with that because it’s about my business plan. I’m not in the business to put anybody else out. I’m in the business to succeed.”
The stacked NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn also includes a tag team title match with champs Blake and Murphy with Alexa Bliss defending against The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch). Jushin Thunder Liger will step foot in a WWE ring for the first time versus Tyler Breeze. Baron Corbin faces Samoa Joe. Apollo Crews is also making his much-anticipated debut against Tye Dillinger. Levesque is impressed with Crews and is happy to have him on the team.
“He does amazing stuff,” he said. “He has had incredible success around the world. I’ve had my eye on him for a long time. Now we are working together. and hopefully as a performer, we can get him to grow to that level. Some people will grow to that. It’s about running a WWE playbook and how we see the business. If you work for us, it’s getting you to run our playbook and our style. I’ve said this before in what style is better. We know what works and what we feel is the best system to sell WWE and NXT.
“I want to teach them that and help them succeed on the biggest level possible. He has all the tools. I’m really excited to debut him this Saturday in the biggest way possible. I think you are going to see other debuts shortly here in the near future that when people talk about the brand of NXT, some of these main players going away or not. What’s the strength of that brand? The important thing for me is fresh blood and keeping things moving. The excitement of that young hungry talent and Apollo Crews is that he has that. He is young, hungry and has every tool available. I’m looking forward to him becoming a massive star.”
- Watch NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 9 p.m. EST Saturday, Aug. 22 live on WWE Network from the Barclays Center.
Visit www.WWENXT.com for details.
Matches will also be taped earlier in the evening from the Barclays Center for a special hour-and-a-half edition of the NXT show that normally airs 8 p.m. EST Wednesdays on the WWE Network.
- Those in New York for the SummerSlam Weekend activities may want to attend the NXT panel 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 22 at the Barclays Center.
- During the conference call Levesque revealed details of a WWE Performance Center: All Access Pass on Sept. 28. They are offering this once-in-a-lifetime fan experience that is going to allow fans of the WWE Universe to get an inside look at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando and everything that it does.
The unique deal is limited to 40 people and will take fans behind the scenes like never before. They will spend the day at the Performance Center, participating in autograph sessions, Q&As with NXT superstars and tour the facility in its operating state. Fans will witness training classes, strength and conditioning and everything that happens on a daily basis. They will also be participating in the promo classes, learning creative and recording their own promotional video.
Participants will also be treated to an NXT live event in the Performance Center to watch with the other members of developmental staff. Tickets go on sale noon Monday, Aug. 24 at
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- NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn
Finn Bálor will defend the NXT championship against Kevin Owens in a ladder match 9 p.m. EST / 8 p.m. CST Saturday, Aug. 22 at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn from the Barclays Center live on WWE Network.
Title holder and challenger will also be part of a NXT panel discussion for fans earlier that day.
Also, Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Tyler Breeze.
NXT women’s champ Sasha Banks vs. Bayley.
Baron Corbin vs. Samoa Joe.
NXT tag champs Blake and Murphy with Alexa Bliss vs. The Vaudevillains (Aiden English and Simon Gotch).
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte vs. Dana Brooke vs. Emma
Apollo Crews vs. Tye Dillinger.
Enzo Amore, Colin Cassady, Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley vs. Jason Jordan, Chad Gable, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder.
Carmella vs. Eva Marie.
Bull Dempsey vs. Elias Samson.
Note: Some matches will be taped for NXT shows at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on WWE Network.
- WWE SummerSlam
WWE SummerSlam is 7 p.m. EST Sunday, Aug. 23 on pay-per-view and WWE Network from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. There is a pre-show at 6 p.m. EST on WWE Network.
- Pro Wrestling On The Web