Shawn Michaels: One Of The Big Challenges For NXT 2.0 Was Dealing With Fan Reaction To The Change

Shawn Michaels discusses the biggest changes and challenges as NXT transitioned into NXT 2.0

In September 2021, NXT changed completely from the black and gold gritty brand to a very colorful and very new NXT 2.0 which highlighted new stars. Leading the charge, due to Triple H having a cardiac event, is Shawn Michaels, the new WWE Vice President of Talent Development.

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Discussing his role in a new interview with Instinct Culture by Denise Salcedo, HBK spoke about the difficulty in transitioning to NXT 2.0 because of the fan aversion to the change in the brand.

"It's dealing with the reaction from that change. To be perfectly honest it's like ripping a band-aid off, it was very sudden and to your fanbase that's very tough. It's like anything, change isn't easy, when it's your normal and you're comfortable with it and then there's an abrupt change that's difficult. For me that was the hardest part, to at least let your fanbase know 'we're going to do everything we can to make this your NXT again, it's just we're having to do it all over and different.' I will say, I have to be honest. I think a lot of the blowback is because I feel like people are angry, {laughs}, people are angry at us sometimes and there's not much we can do about that. I understand that. It's a very emotional type business and we have that sincerity with our fanbase. There is a closeness there and you get comfortable with things the way they are and then going about a change that you're not prepared for and you don't know if you like it, I think they took it out, they don't mean to, but I think they took it out on the brand, and then, of course, the new and young talent. They are just sitting there going like 'hey we just want to be in this line of work too, is that so bad?' {laughs}. That was the hardest thing, is having to help everybody through that. I've had a lot of people say a lot of bad stuff about me for a long time {laughs} but for this brand to have to go through that was new and I think that was the one thing that at least having me steering the boat in the respect is something I can help everybody understand, not take it personally.... I've been fortunate enough to be part of this fanbase for a long time and they just want to know that they can count on you and that once again you will try to take pride in the product, go out there and give them the best. That's what these young men and women are doing, as you've seen, 10-12 weeks in they are starting to embrace these young men and women... That abrupt change was a little rough at first but it's settling in now and it really is, at the heart, it's still the same people behind the scenes, that care about giving our fanbase the best that we can give them."

As for the shift in his personal role, Shawn Michaels says the biggest thing he looks forward to now is the freshness of the talent in the new NXT. He equates his shift in role to his change from a tag team competitor alongside Marty Jannetty to transitioning into the Heartbreak Kid character.

"I've now stepped out of the physical coaching aspect and into the Vice President of Talent Development and focusing more on television, the live show, and creative. The {talent} pool has gotten very big. To me, the biggest advantage of all of that is the freshness, the newness... When I went from a tag team to a single's competitor, I wasn't given a cookie-cutter 'this is your character, this is what you're gonna do,' I was able to have some time to find 'The Heartbreak Kid.' I didn't know who he was at the time but I had an opportunity to evolve this character and make it mine. That's the one thing we're allowed to do now with these new athletes coming in; is have time to sit down, to talk with them, to find out who they are, to get their insight, it really is a collaboration. It's all of the stuff that I feel like people loved about NXT is that we're not forcing things on people, we're having them find it themselves... We really got a nice little system, a nice little organization going on to where we are allowed to go through these different steps. But then it comes to getting them ready, in-ring ready, and sometimes it's trial by fire, I have to be honest but the fact that they are former athletes that have been challenged before that have to worry about discipline, focus, going in there on game time, pressure situations, that is something that at least they come into the WWE having done a little bit...even at a young age they've had opportunities doing that so it's amazing how disciplined and focused they can be and the athlete in them doesn't like to fail. People like Hunter and I, we're sort of the same way {laughs} we love being put in the toughest spot possible and see if we can succeed."

Elsewhere in the interview, Shawn Michaels talked about Triple H’s health following his cardiac event and why he feels that the current break he has been on has been healthy for him. Read more here.

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