One of the most discussed topics surrounding NXT's growth in recent times has been their usage of the more seasoned talent that goes through the once developmental brand. With next week's TakeOver event being headlined by proven stars Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura, it's understandable why some question the product's true purpose. However, WWE's Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative Triple H has no doubts about the system's validity.
"I have talent telling me all the time who have come from different organizations, who have come from other promotions that you would consider to be big — and they get here and see what we do and they’re like, ‘Oh my god I had no idea.’ That period of time, whether long or short, is a crash course in what we do and how we create our television product. And without it, yeah you might be decent in the ring, yes you might be good on the microphone," HHH told FOX Sports. "Without [understanding] the production side of it — where the cameras are, how to face them, how to utilize those things. Every aspect of it, whether that’s social media or media, camera placement. Whatever production technique it is, without going through the PC and developmental and NXT and learning that system, you’re at a disadvantage when you walk through the door."
Though many often scoff at the idea of experienced talent learning this aspect, Triple H says he's seen it's effect first hand, “I’ll give you an example. Finn Balor had come from Japan, he was a big star in Japan with a massive following, had wrestled all over the globe. A lot of television coverage in Japan and everywhere else. There was a day when he came in, we were at the PC and then we had gone over to Full Sail, and we were putting together his entrance. He hadn’t yet debuted on TV and we were putting his entrance together. Later that day we were outside Full Sail, and he was leaning against the wall, he looked like he had been shot out of a cannon. He was just kind of frazzled. I said, ‘Are you alright?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, this is just overwhelming … I have never once thought in my career about where a camera is, and now I realize that’s why they sometimes miss the cool stuff I would do. And now I’m realizing that if the camera doesn’t see it, people don’t see it. I’ve got to work the camera and I’ve got to manipulate this, but it’s overwhelming to me.’
"No place else teaches that. No place else in our environment, the sports entertainment world. There’s nobody else working with it that way. For most other places, they just put camera there and cover it like a sporting event. We’re not covering a sporting event, we’re making a television show. We want the emotion, we want the carryover, we want all of it. Same with interviews, same with backstage, all of it. You want storytelling to be done a particular way, you want them to be seen in a particular way. There are certain facial reactions that you want to make sure are done in a particular manner in a certain direction so they can be picked up by the camera. That’s the difference for me, the details in the art form."
As far as why some talents stay in NXT longer than others, 'The Game' says that there's multiple factors, "People stay in NXT because it’s not the right time or the right fit to bring them in. People being impatient that there’s somebody they want to see . . . I understand that feeling, but if we have a plan that six months from now we have an idea to do this that’s going to debut this person in a bigger way … that six months might seem like forever to a fan who doesn’t know what the plan is. To us, it’s just around the corner. Some of these guys come in the door and it’s not a question of ‘I’m just waiting to get to the main roster, I just want to move up.’ When [Samoa] Joe came in, Joe came in because he wanted to be a part of NXT, and that was the conversation we had. Is there an opportunity on the main roster maybe down the line? Yeah, but that wasn’t his intent walking in the door.
"I think everybody in their mind at the end of the day wants to compete at WrestleMania and be on Raw or SmackDown, but there’s a lot of people right now clamoring to get in the door and just be on NXT. If you want to look at it as something different from Raw and SmackDown, it’s the second-hottest promotion there is. A lot of people want to just get there. And the money you can make and the living you can make here on NXT doing well is very, very, very good.”
With more and more talent coming up from NXT in the last year, it's clear that some talent has translated to the main roster better than others, sometimes surprisingly so. It seems that the difference in product isn't lost on Triple H though and has almost become under constant consideration, “There are some guys and girls that I can tell you in NXT that I look at this person and say, ‘This is a perfect style and gimmick for NXT, not sure about the main roster.’ Or ‘this gimmick and this style is better suited for the main roster, less suited for NXT. Because there’s a difference in the style of the programming and in the product. So I’m trying to give them the exposure and the reps to be experienced enough — no matter what level of experience they’re at — so they have an understanding to be able to swim when they get into the ocean of the main rosters. There are some guys and girls you know you’re going to bring in and they’re going to do well. How well? We’ll see.There’s others that you know: ’This one is going right to the top. This one is special is going right to the top. There’s magic here.’ But that’s not going to be everybody. And there are some that you think, ‘This one will go in the middle somewhere, it’ll be good,’ and then all of a sudden, the next thing you know they’re huge and it’s better than you ever thought.
So it really depends. It depends on how much effort they put into it and what they want to get out of it. The ones that really take advantage of everything at the PC and NXT and really use that time to hone their skills for television, they do much better. To me, that whole thing is just 101 for WWE. The time you spend there, the more you study, the better you get at it, the better your chances of making it.”
Either way, NXT is certainly still a popular product even if it's slightly dimmed since the brand split for a variety of reasons. With WrestleMania and more potential call-ups looming though, it's going to be very interesting to see how NXT transitions into a new crop of talent.
The full interview with Triple H can be found at foxsports.com