Following a night of blistering action at NXT UK Takeover: Cardiff, Rushonrock.com’s King of the Ring, Andy Spoors was invited to hear the thoughts of Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque as he discussed a magnificent night of British wrestling, NXT’s move to the USA Network and much more. Here we bring you the full transcript. No holds barred and no punches pulled…
You haven’t retired from the ring yet. Would you consider wrestling in NXT UK and if you had the chance, who would you want to face?
HHH: Did you see what happened here tonight?
You could still go a couple of rounds with Walter though right?
HHH: Yeah but I’m not sure I’d want to though! I am thrilled to sit back there next to Shawn and enjoy watching it. These guys and girls, this is their time. I’m never opposed to it if I’m asked to step in and do what I can do, but for me right now, this is about them and it’s their time and their brand. Let them go and do what they can do and showcase themselves to the world. I said it earlier to the talent, they’ve had a busy day today because there’s a lot of competition in this area at the moment. Or in the world in general! This is a big day and there’s a lot going on and I think they staked their claim. Maybe put a flag in the ground. We just said it back there, they came in here with a goal today to say “follow that!” when they were done and I think they did that.
It must be so exciting for someone like Cesaro to come over and have such a great match. I wondered if you had a chance to talk to him about how he feels?
HHH: Yeah, he’s all lit up back there with a huge smile on his face. You’ve heard guys recently talk about it. Youve heard Drew McIntyre talk about wanting to come over here and Finn Balor came over here. When something is hot, people want to be part of it. They want to go there and if they think they can help, if they can lend their hand to that, then absolutely. He made Dragunov tonight right? He doesn’t have to be here, he doesn’t have to do that but he wants to be here and be a part of this. There’s not much to not want to be a part of when you come here too. This place is so loud, the crowd was electric. It’s fun to just go out there and do his thing and I think that’s what this is about for them. It’s one of the things I’m most excited about, if I could just say yeah it would be a free for all. Between here and Florida, NXT right now, everybody is coming to me from inside and outside saying, “hey, can I be a part of that!?”
You could have done a tonne of things with Cesaro tonight, but you must be delighted?
HHH: Absolutely. There’s a lot of things you can do and there’s a lot of things he would of have done probably. You have the opportunity to do just about anything as it’s a blank canvas, but to me Dragunov is a special talent and we want to invest in him and showcase him to the rest of the world. It’s a really great outlook for him to step in to the ring with one of the guys that is technically, bell to bell, there’s not many better. If any – you could make that argument. So an incredible talent, and I think in spectacular fashion, gave me everything I was looking for and people reacted to it.
You’ve got a lot coming up, AEW, NXT going to…
HHH: I don’t have anything to do with AEW to be honest.
So what is different and what is new about what you’re going to do in NXT from what you were doing in the ‘Monday Night Wars’?
HHH: It’s so funny that you guys want to put a label on stuff. There’s no labels. Everybody puts labels on it, how come there was no ask about them (AEW) coming to our time slot? We’ve been on Wednesdays at 8 o’clock since the beginning. We go on Wednesdays at 8 and no one goes “you’re counter-programming!” We just changed distribution platforms, which we’ve been talking about doing for a long time. I couldn’t care less. I’m going to put on the best show we can, I’m going to pack arenas, I’m going to thrill crowds. They are going to do it (motions to the back), I ain’t got nothing to do with it. I’m just going to set up the table and they’ll do the rest. USA network, you’re going to see a lot of these kids, you’re going to see a lot of what we have in the States and not be worried about anybody else’s product. I’ll put it up against anything. There’s nobody I would trade any of them for and there’s nothing I would switch out. We’re just going to go out there and on the strength of what we do, it’s not about four or five shows for us, it’s about the last four or five years for us. Across the board, one after the other, everytime somebody wrestles, they ask “how you going to top it?” They do. And we’ll just keep on doing what we do.
It was a great show, for me the highlight was where Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster won the UK Tag Team titles…
HHH: I think it was for them to yeah!
They became the first ever Welsh champions. It was a massive moment throughout the arena but how did you see the match and did you feel that it was a massive moment for the guys?
HHH: Yeah I thought it was spectacular! Look if you are Mark Andrews it’s tough to have a better day than today. You come in here to your home town, with one of your other home town buddies. Your band’s music is playing as a theme, you come to the ring and have a crazy, incredible match, innovative across the board, spectacular and then you win the tag team championships in front of your home crowd and jump in with them. Pretty decent day right? It doesn’t get much better than that, so yeah spectacular across the board.
Just a quick follow up, it is really the ultimate storytelling – I’ve seen these guys wrestle in bingo halls, come here and make a statement like this. You must be proud to see and create moments like this?
HHH: I’m incredibly proud of them, I’m thrilled to see it for them. Two guys back there, that couldn’t be better guys and happy to see it for anyone with that level of passion. When you’re that passionate about something and it means that much to you, to see them succeed. It’s not just about the winning and losing moments to me. Watching Dragunov have the night he had tonight. Watching Kay Lee Ray have the night she had tonight. Walter and the night he had. It’s hard to imagine he’s excited, but he is! I feel like I’ve watched Tyler Bate go from being a boy to being a man in NXT UK. And that’s a really cool thing, to watch what he did here tonight for 40 minutes with Walter. That’s hard, and I’m proud of every single one of them and the moments they had. But the thing I’m the proudest of is their passion for this and how excited they are. Give them that platform and that opportunity to go out there and share that passion with the rest of the world and you can feel that in them. To me that’s what resonates in this crowd. That passion brings it out in them and then you make up silly chants.
With the way NXT UK has developed so quickly and NXT moving to the USA Network, do you still believe there is a developmental brand, or do you feel you have the finished article just on a lot of different brands?
HHH: We’ve used the term, but it’s bothered me in some sense since the beginning. There’s aspects that you can say are absolutely developmental, especially in the US. People forget, we just went through this exercise the other day and I don’t want to go through the numbers as I’ll get them wrong. When you start looking at the brand that NXT is and you see people like Brawn Strowman, who had never stepped through the ropes before he walked into the Performance Centre, ever. Alexa Bliss had never stepped through the ropes before the Performance Centre. Charlotte Flair. Homegrown. Velveteen Dream. Homegrown. When you start to make a list of the people that came from zero to where they are today, the term developmental in some ways works. Even Tyler Bate, as good as he was, how good is he now? At the same thing, the term developmental sounds less than… I don’t even like the word “call-up”. It just sounds wrong and it is wrong. There’s three brands to me in the WWE. There’s Raw, there’s Smackdown and there’s NXT. There’s variations within NXT. There’s NXT, I feel like in a lot of ways there’s the Cruiserweights that are on 205 are part of NXT. I feel like NXT UK is just an extension of the NXT brand. They’re here, in their country, doing their own thing to build this out and make it its own thing. This doesn’t seem developmental you know what I mean? Barclays Centre sold out. Chicago sold out. LA, every place we go. Here in London, it’s just a different brand, there’s just different touring brands and that’s really all it is. The platforms are different, but those are steps of growth. As you now see on USA in the US, I think all these brands have that opportunity to grow. There’s three banners. There’s Raw, there’s Smackdown and there’s NXT.
Should we expect any of the UK talent to go across to NXT in America now it’s weekly?
HHH: I think a big part of the show you will see on USA is crossing. I see that show on USA as what I just said, as NXT. So if we have the opportunity to bring Walter over, Walter will be there. Toni Storm, Kay Lee Ray, Piper, you already see Rhea (Ripley) over their sometimes. The build to be able to do that, the build to be able to bring in the UK champions, the build to be able to bring the tag team champions and all of that. I think being a part of that, having the brands intersect like that helps keeps it fresh and interesting for the talent. I love the fact that brand can have the off shoots from here. You can have those moments like Pete (Dunne) had and defend the championship over there, doesn’t mean someone can’t come over here. But having said that in the next year, in 2020, you are going to see a lot of growth come out from the UK and this brand is going to be at the forefront of that. I think you’re going to see a lot more Takeovers here for the UK itself, you’re going to see hopefully more touring. Its all steps and I want to make sure the steps are all there and I want to make sure we can make them work. I don’t ever want to take that next step with the brand before it’s ready to do it and make it successful. Sometimes it might feel like it takes a long time to get to this. I say this all the time about the UK brand in general, when we were building it, everybody was saying, “it took forever” and then they did and before a Takeover and “it took forever”, before they got their own brand and champion and “it took forever”. And then when we did it, it was like “oh my god it happened so fast!”. It flips the other way, it’s all steps and in the big scheme of things it is all happening quickly. It might seem slow, but in this process here, I think you’re going to see a big change. To be honest if it goes well, USA can be a game changer in a lot of ways, as it opens up so many eyeballs. Just the ability to put eyeballs on the UK itself and it feeds back into the network and everything else so it’s all synergistic together. The opportunity for that is across the board for everybody.
You touched on it earlier about the crowd tonight, one of the chants I’d like to ask about in particular was aimed at Vince McMahon. What did you make of them and what sort involvement does he have in the UK brand?
HHH: Well he was watching it! He tweeted about it. They chanted “are you watching Vince McMahon?” I believe was the chant correct? He tweeted’ yeah I’m watching and it’s a hell of a show’ or whatever it was. I said this on Facebook, people don’t give him credit for what he is. First of all, none of us would be here if it wasn’t for him. He took something that was dying and turned it into a global phenomenon. People don’t give him credit for staying on top of all the things he does or we do. He absolutely sees everything we do, he sees NXT in the US, he sees NXT here. He’s proud of all of it, he’s proud of his talent, he’s proud of his crew, he’s proud of the guys putting up the ring, all of it. It all sits under the umbrella that he put up. He’s extremely proud of all of it, he’s OK with people criticising it and taking on all the sins of the world that aren’t always necessarily his fault. That’s part of the gig, but I can tell you he’s watching tonight. I can tell you he’ll call me shortly after I say I’m wrapped here. Moving on he’s going to call me and talk about the show, I’ve already had a text about how much he loved it. But at the same point of time, it is what it is. There’s been a lot of chatter about what happens when NXT goes to USA because now its a TV product. It’s the same thing. Trust me, as much as he will deny it, he’s still a human being and live Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays? He’s good with Mondays and Fridays and he’s gunna let the NXT crew handle NXT and do what we do because it’s working, clearly!