Paul “Triple H” Levesque’s voice is gravelly as introduces his Tuesday conference call on talent development in for World Wrestling Entertainment.
The former WWE champion doesn’t wrestle much in recent years, but he stays on the road with the show portraying an evil hyperbolized version of himself in addition to his job as Executive Vice President (Talent/Live Events/Creative) for the company. Being in three times zones in the past three days hasn’t done any favours for his sinuses.
“I sound like Dusty,” he says, referring to classic wrestling superstar Dusty Rhodes, who currently works with the WWE training up and coming wrestlers.
The purpose of the call is for Levesque to update us on the future of NXT, WWE’s developmental wrestling promotion where he is the primary booker (writer). Since its inception as a stand alone promotion in 2012, NXT was been the incubator for all of the WWE’s upcoming talent while also garnering a growing fan-base of its own on the streaming WWE network.
NXT is Levesque’s baby. While most of the shots for the WWE main roster itself are still made by Levesque’s father-in-law and long-time WWE CEO Vince McMahon, NXT is where he’s able to create a show of his own imagining. NXT is surging as it’s own brand with it’s own identity, and Levesque says that it was his plan all along to make NXT it’s own thing in addition to being a developmental league.
“I wanted to do that from day one,” he says. “The question was ‘could I do it,’ so I didn’t say that to everyone.”
One of the key aspects that differentiates the NXT style from that of the main WWE roster is the way women are treated as performers.
On the main roster, women battle in three to five minute matches over the “Divas Championship” and the show seemingly can’t breeze by them fast enough. On NXT, women challenge for the “NXT Women’s Championship” and battle in much longer matches further up on the night’s card. Women in NXT aren’t limited to one storyline and there are often multiple women’s feuds played out at any given time.
And the NXT fans eat it up.
This increased prominence is something that Levesque feels is an important proof of concept for the future of wrestling.
“I’m proud that the show in Philly was headlined by women,” Levesque says. “I think that what we are doing in NXT is changing the perception of what women do in the industry.”
On Wednesday night, the NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks will take on Becky Lynch on the pay-per-view-like “Unstoppable,” and Levesque is bullish on the quality of the match.
“If I was on the same card as Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks, I would be worried that they’d steal the show right out from under me,” Levesque says.
However, the main idea with NXT is still to graduate wrestlers to the main WWE roster. And that’s something that can be an issue with the women’s division. In 2014, NXT wrestler Emma was sent up to the WWE main roster, and performed in various limited capacities for a year before returning to NXT. Simply: there wasn’t a whole lot of airtime made available for women on the WWE’s main shows, doubly so for actual women’s matches.
We’re creating change. We’re creating a different playing field. I’m happy about what that means for everybody
Yet Emma is able to thrive in NXT and had a match at “Unstoppable” that’s totally separate from the Banks/Lynch title match. The two unrelated women’s matches on the same card essentially never happens in the main WWE.
Levesque’s plans for NXT are grand and include continuous cross-country tours like the main roster. Yet, he still fundamentally sees NXT as a feeder promotion for the WWE, despite issues performers such as Emma have when they are ready to be called up.
Ultimately, he wants the success of the women’s division in NXT not to stand apart from the main WWE, but to provide an example of how it could work there as well.
“I know some times they look at what we do down here and there’s a little bit of a friction here,” Levesque says. “It’s bubbling up and it’s happening. We’re creating change. We’re creating a different playing field. I’m happy about what that means for everybody.”