Fighting

Triple H talks WWE NXT TakeOver: Dallas during WrestleMania Week

WWE NXT champ Finn Balor defends the belt against Samoa Joe during NXT TakeOver: Dallas on Friday, April 1 live on WWE Network during WrestleMania Week from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Your referee is Drake Wuertz.
WWE NXT champ Finn Balor defends the belt against Samoa Joe during NXT TakeOver: Dallas on Friday, April 1 live on WWE Network during WrestleMania Week from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Your referee is Drake Wuertz. Photo By Jim Varsallone

NXT TakeOver: Dallas is 10 p.m. EST Friday, April 1 live on WWE Network from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas during WWE WrestleMania 32 Week.

Paul Triple H Levesque, the forefather of WWE’s growing brand, discussed the historic event during a conference call on Thursday, March 31.

“This is a really, really exciting time for NXT,” said Levesque, who will be wearing at least two hats WrestleMania Week. “This is the first NXT TakeOver live [WWE] Network special as part of WrestleMania Week...A year ago in San Jose [WrestleMania 31 Week], the [NXT] show that we did there was just a live event, non-televised, and [since then] the brand has grown exponentially, a massive amount in one year. It’s huge, and I’m very excited about that and look forward to see it continue to grow.”

Levesque, 46, is the WWE executive vice president of talent, live events and creative. Under his watch and with a talented ensemble in the ring and behind the scenes, NXT continues to develop, evolve, grow into a widely popular brand, taking giant steps at times.

“Just a few weeks ago...as we were getting ready to go into the week based around the Arnold Classic, it dawned on me we were doing Columbus [Ohio] again,” he proudly said. “It was just a year prior that we were in Columbus for the first time, and that was kind of our first trip outside of the Florida area for NXT, and we tentatively started to look into national touring, and it expanded very rapidly.”

A couple of times, NXT scheduled two live shows [non-televised) in different cities on one night. Like a brand split.

“The great thing with NXT now is it’s grown,” said Levesque, who as Triple H is WWE World champion. “We had the opportunity to tour outside of Florida...In order to learn how to do what we do, you have to have reps. You go to go out and do it in front of a live audience -- whether that’s 50 people, 500 people, 5,000 people or 50,000 people. You got to do it. Every crowd is different. Every place you go is different, and that’s a fact.

“The great thing about where we’re at now with NXT is we’ve been able to put on shows on be in Philly or New Jersey or Chicago, and at the same point and time, also be running shows in Florida, giving experience to talent that might not necessarily get that experience without running that second town. They just wouldn’t be able to get those reps.

“And we have enough talent now that we can give an amazing card in Chicago and still give a great card in Kissimmee [on the same night], with maybe a few of the matches on it [featuring] newer talent, and in Florida, a lot of our fan base there loves the fact that they get to see these guys. They’re watching them develop now, and they’re watching them start from zero and become something, and then all of a sudden they’re on NXT television, and now they’re moving up that ladder. They were watching the band before they even had a hit, and that’s an exciting thing to them. They’re on the ground floor at what we’re doing every step of the way.

“It’s something we’ve carefully monitored, but our fan base in Florida, even when we’ve done the shows where there’s some newer talent on there who they haven’t seen on TV and then the upper end of the show is filled with talent who they know, they love the shows. They love the fresh. They love the new talent. They love seeing them evolve, and it’s been great.

“So [two shows in different cities in one night] is definitely something we want to do on a fairly regular basis. I want to keep that opportunity for talent to get reps in front of fans.”

Austin Aries and Shinsuke Nakamura, both who got plenty of reps in other places, will make their NXT wrestling debuts at NXT TakeOver: Dallas.

“I’m looking for them to be the phenomenal performers that they are,” Levesque said. “Make no mistake about it...and this is not me bragging or bragging about the brand or anything else. When you walk into WWE, coming from some place else, I don’t care where that is, there is a difference between the production we do from any place else on the globe, and I don’t care who that is. So there’s a learning curve.

“When people talk about Nakamura, there’s a learning curve for him. It’s not a learning curve of what he does in the ring. It’s a learning curve of how he presents that, and how the world sees that, and a style of what we do in the production of what we do. When you add to that a little bit of a language barrier and a comfort level, it’s a big transition for people walking in the door -- to go from wherever they were to WWE. It just is.

“To me having that stop gap -- even if that’s all it is, a stop gap of NXT for a minute -- to get their feet planted firmly, to get the butterflies out, to get everything calmed down. I see it in talent all the time. It’s probably one of the most frequently said things that I say to guys and girls coming in from other places who have a lot of experience and have been a lot of other places is relax. Do what you do. Because they clam up, and they freeze up, and they don’t want to do the wrong thing, and they want to do it the right way. It’s just a change. It’s hard to articulate, but it is. It’s a comfort level.

“When you walk out in WWE, when you walk out on Raw or SmackDown, when you walk out at WrestleMania, that spotlight is bright -- very, very bright -- and you don’t get a whole lot of time before people lose interest or lose faith, and that’s on any level.

“So, to me, it’s a benefit. I know sometimes people look at that and go like, ‘Oh, why are they doing that with him? He’s ready to do this or that.’ Yea, he is, but trust me. It’s for the right reasons, and decisions are made very strategically.”

- NXT TakeOver: Dallas

Austin Aries vs. Baron Corbin

Levesque said: “It’s going to be an amazing show. We have a ton of talent on it, just a massive card, starting out with Austin Aries/Baron Corbin. I think Aries’ debut is going to be very exciting. Baron has really come into his own. It’s going to be a very exciting match.”

Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Levesque said: “Sami Zayn and one of the most exciting things on the card is going to be the debut of Shinsuke Nakamura. I’m a huge fan of Nakamura, have been for a long time. I’m really excited to see him coming into NXT -- excited to see what he can do in WWE -- and Sami Zayn always continues to ‘wow’ people.”

NXT tag champs The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) vs. American Alpha (Jason Jordan and Chad Gable) for the titles

Levesque said: “To me, two of the best tag teams in the world -- bar none -- right now. That will be exciting.”

NXT women’s champ Bayley vs. Asuka for the title

Levesque said: “A match I’d been looking forward to since the day Asuka got here is Asuka versus Bailey for the NXT women’s championship. Completely different styles. Bayley becoming just this consummate champion and Asuka this destroyer.”

NXT champ Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe for the title

Levesque said: “The rematch between Finn Balor and Samoe Joe, which if you saw [NXT TakeOver] London, I can’t wait for that match to take place.”

Also, Apollo Crews vs. Elias Samson

Your referees will include Shawn Bennett and Drake Wuertz.

The pre-show on WWE Network is 9:30 p.m. EST with broadcaster extraordinaire Renee Young, SmackDown commentator Mauro Ranallo and WWE Hall of Famer Lita.

@WWENXT

@WWENetwork

“The great thing about NXT, if NXT puts on a phenomenal show on Friday night, it will light a fire under everybody who is competing Sunday night...To me that drives people to be better, and it does it across the board,” said Levesque, who as Triple H is the WWE World champ, main eventing against Roman Reigns for the title on Sunday night, April 3 at WrestleMania 32.

“I’m going to give them a speech, before they go out there, about pushing on Friday night, knowing that I’m the guy who’s going to watch it and go, ‘Gees,’ I got to go follow that. So it’s a double edged sword for me, but that’s phenomenal, because it’s going to make everybody better.”

WrestleMania 32 is live 7 p.m. EST Sunday, April 3 on WWE Network from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, near Dallas.

@WrestleMania

Levesque added: “The beautiful thing about it is NXT, Raw, SmackDown, it’s all WWE. So what NXT does, it allows us to super-serve our most hardcore fans, our biggest fans, our most passionate fans...Raw, SmackDown, we serve a very broad audience, and it appeals to various segments of the world. Different populations, different age groups. It kind of covers everything.

“So NXT allows us to super-serve a very passionate fan base, and that to me is the best part. There’s a group of fans who want something specific, and we’re going to give that to them and then some.”

And that pleases everyone in the company, especially the boss.

“Talent is talent, and first and foremost, Vince [McMahon] is a promoter,” Levesque noted. “If he looks at something and says, ‘This talent I can do something with, and I can promote, and I can make money with him; the company can make money with him, and that guy can make a lot of money,’ then he’s all over it. He’s a big fan of NXT, and he’s a big fan of what we do. He’s a big fan of the people who watch it and all of it.

“Do we agree on like, ‘This guy I think is a phenomenal talent.’ He might think a little less of him. That is what it is, but to say Vince is not a fan of NXT is just ludicrous and not accurate -- even though ‘sources say.’ It’s probably speculation, because sometimes [NXT] talent comes into Raw or SmackDown, and maybe things aren’t exactly what fans would like to see, or it’s not exactly how they thought it would go, and then that becomes a change for them.”

@TripleH

@WWE

- NXT on WWE Network

WWE NXT is 8 p.m. Wednesdays on WWE Network.

Talent learns from a skilled group of coaches/trainers at the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center in Orlando. Shows are taped at Full Sail Live at Full Sail University in Winter Park, near Orlando.

- NXT abroad

To see NXT in a city near you, check

www.wwe.com/events

- Pro Wrestling On The Web

http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/fighting/

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