Paul 'Triple H' Levesque talks NXT Takeover: London, difficulty of three-hour shows, Samoa Joe and more
Paul "Triple H" Levesque, WWE's executive vice president of talent, live events and creative, took part in another conference call with the wrestling media Thursday morning to promote NXT Takeover: London, which will air live on the WWE Network on Wednesday, Dec. 16.
Levesque opened the call by talking about the significance of the live event taking place live in London, as it is the first time in a long time WWE has did something like this in a long time.
"This is a huge opportunity for NXT, but also for WWE," Levesque said. "It's a much different time slot than usual and it's an opportunity to receive their own live special event that emanates from the U.K. It's been a long time since WWE, in any manner, has been there do something like that. And for them to have that to air on the WWE Network live in primetime for them so that they don't have to stay up until two or three in the morning or whatever it is to watch a WWE event, it's a huge opportunity for them. It's a huge opportunity for WWE."
"I'm hoping that this is very successful on every level," he added. "My desire to do this is to reinvigorate that process to the world and hopefully the reaction to all of it and to the network is big enough that we will be doing these more and in different markets and in local time zones."
Levesque then did his own preview of his sorts for the matches that are slated to take place on the live special. During his preview, he took time to praise Samoa Joe, who is challenging Finn Balor for the NXT championship in the show's main event.
"While Joe has obviously been around for a long time and has always been a spectacular performer, I haven't seen an invigorated Joe, a passionate Samoa Joe like we have seen in the past few weeks on NXT," Levesque said. "It's just something different. He has flipped a switch and gone back in time I think. It's great to see. I think his passion for the brand has come through and it's really exciting."
Levesque then said that there will be a fatal four-way tag team match between Jordan & Gable, The VaudeVillains, The Hype Bros and Blake and Murphy that will air episodes of NXT following the live special. The same goes for the debut of Elias Sampson.
He then said that the success of NXT exceeded even his own expectations in 2015 and that there will be some major announcements coming about the promotion in early 2016. He then opened the call up to questions.
First up for Levesque was a question about why NXT uses more of an old-school style and why WWE typically doesn't.
"It's a difference in styles and a difference in theories and a difference in the way things are done," he said. "I don't necessarily believe that is better than the other. It's different styles."
"For NXT, I control the product and I don't on the main roster," he added. "It's just a different philosophy and that's okay. I think they're both very valid and have their place, but it's chocolate and vanilla. When we put together NXT I get to pick the flavor."
Levesque was then asked whether WWE has thought about taking an hour away from Monday Night Raw and turning into an hour of NXT.
"I've heard the thought, not internally, but I've heard the thought from outside. I've heard it bandied about," he said. "Three hours is hard."
He then said that if NXT was done at the same venue as Raw every week that it would lose its unique feel.
"I think at the end of the day, three hours, no matter how you do it, is extremely difficult," he said. "It just is. I'm the first guy to admit that if I go to the movies and it's longer than two hours, I'm looking at my watch. I don't how care good it is. It's very difficult to do, but I think we just have to become more disciplined and more creative with how we do things and how we operate the show."
"We've had some unfortunate situations with injuries and everything else and it's on us to be more creative and come up with a better format, a better show," he added. "We hear people's frustrations and we in a lot of ways feel the same way. It's [a matter of] fixing it and trying to fix it. It is what it is. How we fix it, we're not 100 percent sure yet, but we'll get there. Trust me."
With all of the injuries hampering WWE's main roster, Levesque was asked if WWE has considered promoting Balor to the main roster to fill the void left by the injured superstars.
"When we see Finn Balor will be when everything is right for Finn to get called up," Levesque said. "I think he has expressed that he's in no rush. He's expressed to me his desire to sort of really ground himself in NXT."
"The thing that people forget about Finn is that he came from Japan where he didn't do promos a lot," he added. "There's such a vast difference between what we do on a production level of what we do and it's overwhelming to guys and he hasn't been here that long. There are still a lot of things he's picking up and growing. I see him change and grow every single time I see him and we do television. I see a difference in him in little things that probably people even watching the show wouldn't see with the way he works a camera, the way he handles himself and presents himself."
"The that I hate doing is, 'Well, there's a lot of injuries so we're going to pull this guy up. Then the injured guys are going to come back and we're not sure what we'll do. Now, we've got too many guys for the spaces. I hate taking a guy as talented as Finn Balor or anybody and say, 'You're the band aid to hold us over until these other guys come back and then we'll see from there.' If we don't have that game plan in place for when we call these guys, and I'm not saying for everybody, but especially guys like a Finn Balor, it's not the right time. You need to have something in your mind and hopefully a long-term plan in place that gets them to where you want them to be."
Levesque was then asked if one hour could be taken away from Raw and have it given to NXT on the USA Network, but on a night other than Monday.
"One of the cool things about it being on the network is that it's special," Levesque said. "It's exotic programming that makes you want to stay on the network and be a part of the network. That's a great thing."
"The Sopranos were on a pay channel," he added. "It certainly didn't hurt them long term. It was the biggest show on television. That would be my hope. If somebody internally is of a different mind set and our marketing people, our financial people, all of those people decide that would be the right place and the right move, then I would support it 100 percent. To me, it doesn't matter. I'll take the platform where I can get it and I'm of the opinion that whatever the platform, if you build it, they will come, so to speak. If you give them the right product in the right way, then people will find it one way or the other because they want to watch it."
With the relationship with EVOLVE firmly established, Levesque was whether there would be more working relationships on the horizon with other independent promotions.
"I am wide open to finding talent wherever talent are," Levesque said.
He then said that there aren't many wrestlers that he is unaware of and that 90 percent of the conversations he has with William Regal, who actively scouts talent for WWE, are about wrestlers on the independent scene and the promotions they work for.
"To me, I've used the term before, the independent undercurrent of the business is vital," Levesque said. "It's vital to everyone. We can't expect everyone in the world that wants to be in this industry to learn how to do what we do based solely on the [WWE] Performance Center. It would be ridiculous for me to think that. I want to take the best guys that I think have the best chance of success and in some way teach them our system and what we do."
He also said that he believes that having talent go to various independent promotions and gain experience is very important and that he's open to having working relationships with the ones that run their business the right way.
"This business takes a long time to learn right, to learn how to really do it," he said. "You think you know how to do it when you've been in it for a little bit of time and then you realize five years later, 'Whoa, I didn't have a clue.' It takes a long time, especially to learn how to get yourself over and to be a top guy and to draw and have people be interested in you as a performer."
Near the end of the call, Levesque was asked whether elements of NXT could make their way to WWE's main programs.
"Obviously, if I'm utilizing them I think they're right. Otherwise, I wouldn't be utilizing them in some way," Levesque said. "There is a stark difference, and I'm aware of that, of what works in NXT and what works in that environment and what works in the larger arenas in front of the whole world."
"It's different musical styles," he added. "If WWE is pop music, then we're a little bit more of an alternative rock or something like that where there's a bit more niche to it. Yeah, there are definitely things I could see that could move up. I think you see them happening, slowly but surely. Over time, I think you see things that we started in NXT or little bits and pieces of the way we've handled certain things that you see boiling up."