Sports Illustrated’s Justin Barrasso made his WWE NXT panel debut during Sunday’s “Takeover: In Your House” Pre-show, with Sam Roberts and Arash Markazi. Barrasso wrote about the experience in his latest SI.com article.
Barrasso noted that he did not accept any compensation from WWE in the interest of maintaining his impartiality. He was contacted a few weeks back by the WWE PR department, asking if he’d like to be a part of the Takeover Pre-show.
“My on-screen history is limited, but having covered the overwhelming majority of the roster either before or during their NXT run, I thought I could add a unique perspective,” he wrote on accepting the gig. “For full disclosure, I did not accept any compensation from WWE in the interest of maintaining my impartiality. But there were other enticing reasons to take on the opportunity. It immediately struck me as a better way to gauge the product, seeing elements of NXT that I typically wouldn’t, and the access was phenomenal. I was also able to interview a number of talents (I’m particularly looking forward to writing a feature story on Taya Valkyrie, who is now starring in NXT as Franky Monet), and my Sunday at the Performance Center allowed me a very unique perspective.”
Barrasso said he arrived on Sunday for production meetings and additional preparation. He commented on how the people he worked with were gracious hosts, and how the behind-the-scenes machine worked.
Barrasso recalled seeing Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Sara Amato, and Matt Bloom work, and how Triple H congratulated NXT Champion Karrion Kross, Kyle O’Reilly, Adam Cole, Pete Dunne and Johnny Gargano after the Fatal 5 Way main event.
“For as many WWE shows as I’ve watched and covered, I have never seen the behind-the-scenes machine at work during a pay-per-view, which I was able to do at TakeOver,” he wrote. “I saw so many different components that went into the development of this show. I watched the hands-on nature of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Matt Bloom and Sara Amato throughout the day.
“At the end of the night, I also caught a glimpse of Triple H congratulating members of the five-way main event as they headed backstage, and it was easy to see how passionate (and spent) all five wrestlers were trying to create something memorable.”
Barrasso noted how Xia Li spent almost two hours in the makeup chair for her look in the win over Mercedes Martinez.
Barrasso also wrote about how he tried WWE’s “famed catering” and found that space to eat was limited, but he was privileged to sit in a conference room while WWE Hall of Famer Ted DiBiase Sr. told stories about working for Vince McMahon Sr. Catering included salmon and vegetables, grilled chicken and crab.
Cesaro and Reginald were among the non-NXT talents at the Capitol Wrestling Center to watch the show and support their co-workers.
Barrasso also commented on working with Roberts and Markazi.
“I love to write, but television is an entirely different animal,” he wrote. “I’m a fairly calm person off camera, so I didn’t want to be someone I wasn’t when the red light was on. The preshow is incredibly quick, and it feels as if you’re speaking in sound bites, so it took some time for me to get comfortable. While on-air, I tried to stay relaxed and hit my points, and I hope I succeeded.
“I can’t stress enough how much of a pleasure it was to work with Sam Roberts. We met Sunday morning at the Orlando Airport Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of coffee, and he was patient, encouraging and understanding as he walked me through the entire process. I also thought he did an outstanding job leading myself and Arash Markazi (another extremely talented individual) on the air. I sincerely hope NXT continues to bring in more members of the media to be part of the TakeOver kickoff shows. It really provides a unique lens of NXT, and there are so many talented people who would thrive in that position.”
My first takeaway of many: television is very different from writing! But I hope everyone enjoys the show (and there will be interviews to follow throughout the evening)
— Justin Barrasso (@JustinBarrasso) June 13, 2021