WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels sat down with Denise Salcedo to discuss NXT 2.0 and the changes that have gone into overhauling it from its original incarnation earlier this year. For Shawn Michaels, the hardest challenge wasn’t changing the brand, but dealing with the fan reaction to the changing of the brand.
“It’s dealing with the reaction from that change,” Michaels said. “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.’
“And look, I will say, I have to be honest. I think a lot of the blowback is because I feel like people are angry, 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 of 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?’
“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, 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.”
Since NXT 2.0’s formation, Shawn Michaels has taken a larger role behind the scenes as Triple H has taken time off recovering from a serious cardiac event. Shawn Michaels clarified to Salcedo just what his role in NXT currently is.
“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,” Michaels revealed. “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 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, we love being put in the toughest spot possible and see if we can succeed.”
You can watch the full interview below.
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