In 2021, NXT shifted its focus from independent talent to more talent coming out of college. Recent tryouts have been tailored to finding college or recently graduated athletes to join the WWE Performance Center.
The change in focus coincided with Triple H stepping away from the NXT brand following a health scare and NXT rebranding to NXT 2.0. Triple H is now in charge of all of WWE creative and Shawn Michaels, who led NXT during his absence and was part of the brand alongside him before the health scare, remains entrenched in overseeing NXT.
Speaking to My San Antonio, Michaels said NXT will continue to focus on independent wrestlers while also looking at college athletes.
"We are still reaching out to other people with experience that have wrestled on the independent scene or been out in Japan or in other companies. That is something NXT will continue to do in the future. Nothing is off the table. We simply want to continue to find people that are just as passionate about the WWE product as we are," he said.
When asked about the changes NXT underwent in 2021, Michaels said, "It was all very sudden for all of us. I’ve been with the WWE for 35 years and doing live television for almost 30 of them. When it comes to live television it is always a learning process because anything can happen, and a lot of things have happened that we had to adjust to and that is what this was. It was an event where we had to quickly make a lot of changes and get a lot of things accomplished. Getting trained for the fire drill is what working in the WWE is from a live television standpoint. It was a good opportunity for us to come together as a team and learn and grow together. I will say one of the greatest things I had is the phenomenal team that Hunter had put together previously, and I have a lot of great people around me, Matt Bloom, Johnny Russo and numerous others. But with everything you learn to do your best and take it in stride and learn from your mistakes and we have done that here was a team and done that with the young talent. I think the thing I am most proud of is that we are starting to be on the other side of that and we are starting to see the hard work paying off and are very excited for what the future holds for NXT and the WWE as a whole.”
The rebrand to NXT 2.0 introduced many new characters like Bron Breakker, Grayson Waller, and Tony D'Angelo who didn't have as much television time as long-standing NXT talents like Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa.
Michaels said about the challenges of introducing new wrestlers with limited to no TV time, "Unfortunately there are times to where the world is a little desensitized to what actually happened here in the last 12 months. We had 75 percent of the roster who had just graduated college the year before and had never stepped foot inside wrestling ring. These are young men and women who had to learn on live television for the last 12 months and that is unheard of in any generation. They all stepped up the challenge and took a lot of hits on the way. A lot of us did. But I am proud of the Bron Breakkers, the Tony D’Angleos, the Tiffany Strattons, and so many people. We continue to improve, but that is what this job is – it’s reps just like any athletic endeavor. A lot of people don’t start out great at something, they learn, and they get there. And that is what we are doing here. I’ve dealt with good and bad press and up and downs, but these are inexperienced young men and women that really got tossed into a tough and challenging situation and did a good job. I am extremely proud of them and this crew. What we have accomplished here in the last year is nothing short of a miracle in my opinion.”
Michaels had a presence on NXT TV in recent weeks, showing up to strip Solo Sikoa of the NXT North American Championship.
A new NXT North American Champion will be crowned at NXT Halloween Havoc in a ladder match. Fans can check out the current lineup for NXT Halloween Havoc by clicking here.