Triple H recently spoke with Brian Fritz of Sporting News to promote WWE Premiere Week on the USA Network and FOX.
Triple H agreed that it does feel like a new era in the company with WWE RAW and WWE NXT airing on the USA Network, and WWE SmackDown premiering on FOX. He talked about a new spark that is coming.
“I think it does,” he said of the new era feel. “It’s a funny thing. I was thinking about this the other day that over the last year, year-and-a-half, I almost feel like as the FOX deal went through and that shift was waiting to happen in this last year, it almost started to take on this haze of like, this season is coming to an end. I don’t know how to put that the right way, but this era of WWE is kind of rolling to this close and, all of a sudden, there’s gonna be this new spark. I think you even saw that in the wild card stuff. You see talent all over the place and different things happening, but it was all sort of on this slow build setup to where we are right now, which is the draft happening.
‘RAW’ will have its own unique look, feel, setup. Everything about it should feel unique. Its got its own dedicated writing team and crew and talent roster. And ‘SmackDown’ on FOX will have the same. While new partners for us, we have our family of USA that we’ve been with and are comfortable with and continue to grow with. It’s almost like a relaunch there of everybody in that family doubling down on what “RAW” is. And then on FOX, you have this new relationship, this dynamic of broadcast television and a roster that will sit there and its own dedicated team, writing team, and everything else. It will be very separate. And in the middle, you have with our family partners, you have NXT. Over time, people ask what the goal is. The goal is to have these three, equally important brands where people aren’t saying this is the “A” brand or that’s the flagship. It’s these three, equally important brands and they just have different feels and flavors and a different kind of overall vibe to them that they feel like separate entities. If a talent moves from one to the other over a draft or how ever there’s actually a feeling of ‘I wonder how that person will work in that environment’ ? not just, ‘Oh, there’s different talent there but the environment itself, it’s different.'”
He continued, “When I was younger and I would watch WCW and WWE, even before the heyday of the Attitude Era and the Monday Night Wars. Prior to that, when a (Ric) Flair would move to WWE, I wonder how he’s going to work out in that environment? There was a different feel and tenor and vibe to what that brand was. And I think you’re getting back into that feel, that period of time where across the seven hours of live programming that WWE will have between USA, the number one cable channel, and FOX broadcast, between those seven hours, there’s a difference in the product that makes each one its own interesting entity.”
A big topic of NXT discussion has been how the company is keeping the weekly TV show at Full Sail Live, a much smaller venue than your traditional arena. Triple H was asked how he weighs the decision of keeping NXT at Full Sail instead of taking it to bigger buildings.
“I’m of the opinion that if you are tuning into a live event like what we do and you’re counting the people in the crowd, you’ve missed the plot,” he responded. “The entertainment aspect doesn’t change. The in-ring, bell-to-bell product is as good as anything else on the planet, bar none. The crowd there is crazy hot and they built this. And sometimes people say they do their own business, they do their own entertaining things. I think that’s fun and I think that’s fun for people watching. But I think even if you looked at it and said it’s a little smaller than I would have thought, five seconds later, once that match starts, you forget all about that. It doesn’t matter. I almost feel like that is part of the magic of it. It feels more intimate. It feels grittier. It feels more in-your-face. It feels a bit more exclusive to me and I love that difference.
“To me, I’m a fan from day one. That’s how I got into this and I look at it this way: If I’m a music fan, do I want to see Metallica in a stadium or does it really matter to me if they’re playing at the theater down the road? It’s the same. And that intensity … it’s almost crazier at the theater. I’d almost rather go to it there. It’s intimate and tight. I’d rather it be that. There’s something that spreads it out and it loses that special, underground, sort of vibe, that a little more dangerous vibe. I’ve had people from outside our business come, even say WrestleMania weekends when we’ve been in slightly smaller venues with NXT, and say that they went to the stadium show for WrestleMania and it was crazy and epic and everything about it. It’s the Super Bowl. The grandeur and the spectacle is unbelievable. And they went to NXT and they came back to me and, not that one is better than the other, but NXT felt like you were sitting on the ground in a riot.”
He continued, “To me, there’s a couple of cool things that you can brag around. One is going to the Super Bowl and seeing that there was 100,000 people there. It was sold out. I couldn’t hear. Oh my god, the spectacle, the stadium, that’s grandiose and all those things. And then there’s also the feeling of being in that riot environment that puts your adrenaline through the roof. They’re both incredible, but they’re different. I want to embrace that difference. I’m not trying to be the 100,000 people spectacle; I’m trying to be that intense feeling of sitting on the ground in a riot.”
Triple H also addressed talk of a “Wednesday Night War” with AEW. He reiterated comments on how NXT has been on Wednesdays, and touted the ratings for last Wednesday on the USA Network. Triple H said it doesn’t matter if AEW has a show on the same night as NXT as he’s not concerned with them, especially with the fact that they’ve held just a handful of shows. He did say the AEW shows have “been great” but they’re “one-off shows.”
“It’s a funny thing. I don’t hear anybody going the Tuesday night sitcom wars are off the chart,” he said. “It’s just a genre of entertainment in a way and to say there’s this war, first of all, for me, it comes down to putting on the best show and I’ve been saying this over and over. Since day one, we’ve been on Wednesdays on the network. Since day one, I have thought about trying to make each show better than the one before, trying to raise talent to another level, trying to make this product the best product it can be while embracing its difference from “RAW” and from “SmackDown” and everything else that’s out there.
“We have the opportunity five years, in or whatever it is, to stay in our time slot, go to the No. 1 cable channel on television and expand it so there’s more opportunity for everybody, but the goal is the same. It doesn’t matter to me if there’s another show on that night. It doesn’t matter to me if there’s somebody else in the space. I’m not concerned with that, especially not yet given the fact that so far, they’ve held four, five shows. And they’ve been great. But they’re one-off shows. Fifty-two weeks a year, two hours live every week is a different animal. Totally different animal. So, until that’s started happening and happened for a while, because an immediate splash … People have asked me right now, we had tremendous success last week (the Wednesday, Sept. 18 edition) with the rating for NXT, over a million people watching. The rating was great. A 200 percent increase in the 18-34 demo. On every level. I’m happy with that, but to me, this is a marathon. It’s not a sprint.”
He continued, “When we got this opportunity on USA, it was an opportunity to stand at the starting line of a marathon. I’m interested in the long haul. I’m interested in what this company has done for 50 years, with that they’ve done for 30 (years) with “RAW, what they’ve done for 20 (years) with “SmackDown” which is what this company does better than anybody else on the planet: week in, week out, live sports entertainment and doing what we do. And it doesn’t matter what’s out there.
“There’s competition that we’ve dealt with for years. You can look back and say a brief period with WCW, but the competition we’ve dealt with for years is the NFL, is Major League Baseball. It’s large scale sporting events. It’s political debates. It’s everything that is out there and that’s what we deal with. So, my goal is to put on the best show possible every single week and we’ll see what the future brings because right now, it’s just a bunch of speculation over two-week programming that hasn’t even started yet and there’s no track record of success long-term of a two-hour, weekly live event in any way, shape, or form.”
Triple H was also asked if he gets irked by comments made by people with AEW, mainly the recent comments made by AEW Executive Vice President Kenny Omega. As noted, Omega said if there was just one promotion, the NXT talents would be working the dark matches to his main events. He also said NXT only has developmental talents while AEW has real stars.
“It doesn’t matter to me. I’m not sure if you’re aware of social media and that landscape. It’s a fairly negative place (laughs). If you’re going to get thin-skinned and read into stuff and get angry about stuff that people say, it’s gonna be a rough life. There’s a statement about opinions over the years I’ve heard. Everybody it entitled to their opinion. Everybody is entitled to put an executive tag on the front of their name and think that’s a cool thing. Whatever. It’s all good. Bring your best show. If that’s how you want to look at it, bring your best show. I’ll bring my best show. We’re all good and the winners are the fans and they’ll choose what they want to watch and how. It doesn’t matter to me. It really doesn’t and it’s not my interest and my interest is the best show possible.
“I’m going to take the talent roster that we have, I’m going to take the in-ring product that NXT has that I would put up against anything in the world, bar none, and I’m going to put on the best show possible every single week for two hours. My competition is everything else out, but the truth is for our fans, I just want to deliver the best product that I can to them. That’s as far as it goes.”