After each of the two nights (reviews here and here) of NXT TakeOver: Stand And Deliver, Triple H and Shawn Michaels took the time to talk to the media and give their thoughts on the show, the talent involved, but also to promote a future that means being live on Tuesdays starting next week. Here are some quotes from those two calls.
On Io Shirai’s future
Triple H: “I think there’s always more to achieve. I think, first of all, Io Shirai has the right to do what she wants to do. So to me, if she wants to take time off, she takes time off. If she wants to come back and go after Raquel Gonzalez, she’s earned that right. If she wants to do something else for a bit or any of that, she’s earned the right to do all of it. But it’s an interesting thing here where whenever somebody loses in NXT, they’re so dominant, they’re so big, they’re so whatever, and they have this incredible run. And then all of a sudden there’s a bump in the road. They lose a match. And everybody’s like, ‘well, clearly they’re going someplace else.’ Like, why is that? It’s just a funny thing. Like if somebody loses any place else in the world, nobody goes ‘well they’re going someplace else.’ There’s always more to do, there’s always more to prove that you’re the best. There’s the next challenge, the next competitor, the next all of those things. So for me, it’s whatever Io wants to do. But I don’t see that as she lost one match over the last, I don’t know, whatever, three hundred and something days that she’s been champion and all of a sudden she’s just moving on.”
On Raquel Gonzalez becoming Champion
Shawn Michaels: “For me, why Raquel Gonzalez? Right woman, right time. She’s got a presence. When you see her, it’s hard not to think she’s a star. It’s interesting that that’s all been in within the last year, year and a half. When you look at the transition from her debuting with Dakota Kai to where she is right now, I mean, from stature to look to physique, to just everything. She has capitalised on every second of every moment, transformed herself into an absolute star. And I think she’s just nicking the surface. So I think, “Why her?” Because she put herself in the position for it to be her, for sure.
“It was two and a half years ago, and I just happened to stroll into a coconut show in St. Petersburg. And there was this… I mean, two unbelievably beautiful, tall, strong women in all black. It was Raquel Gonzalez and Rhea Ripley standing there together, and I remember just sitting there and looking at them and going, ‘Oh, my goodness, those two are going to be stars.’ And it’s happened. Watching Rhea Ripley – homegrown. Right? I mean, she’s NXT through and through, and I’ve had the opportunity to watch her grow into an incredible performer. And the work ethic of Raquel Gonzalez is unparalleled. And so that’s why, from a personal standpoint, to watch her journey has been one of the most impressive and honestly feel-good stories. You know, you love to watch people that work that hard get recognized for that.”
On Walter’s reign
Triple H: “Everybody wants to face WALTER until he chops them the first time, I’ll tell you that. It’s the old Mike Tyson, ‘Everybody’s got a plan until you get punched in the mouth.’ That chop sounds good on TV until you take the first one, and then you start thinking, ‘Why did I come here again?’ WALTER’s a machine. Different level. Different focus. If you were to say, ‘What is it he does that’s special?’ Everything. But what’s special about it? He just does it so well. It’s not a particular thing or some kind of crazy move or some type of special effect or anything else, he makes the simplest things mean everything. He gets the most mileage out of everything. He has created an aura and importance to who he is and what he does that very few people can do. To me, he is straight money, and he’s going to travel back home for a little bit, but I’ll be honest with you, NXT UK, he’s excited to be there, he’s excited to be doing all the stuff he is, but I can’t wait to get him back here. There’s a lot of matchups I’d like to see, and realistically, when you just put WALTER’s name next to a lot of people, you just go, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to see that.’ There isn’t anybody that doesn’t want to be in the ring with WALTER.”
Shawn Michaels: “Personally, what I love most about WALTER is he loves NXT UK. He is faithful to NXT UK… and he’s that champion, I think like we saw tonight, he’s gonna be our champion for a long, long time.”
On what MSK bring to the Tag Team Division
Triple H: “Energy. If you put Grizzled Young Veterans and their style, and Legado and their style and some of the other tag teams that we have, and their styles, and you take MSK out of the equation, the division feels different. MSK came in here, and it was like this firecracker team that was just bright and speed and fast and exciting. Their energy is palpable. They bring different energy, so when you put them into the equation, they change the dynamic. I think very few of the other teams, and that’s not a knock, it’s a compliment to them, but not a knock to anybody else, but the other teams don’t necessarily have that. They’re definitely there, they definitely bring something to the table, the precision, the grit, all those things. They’re all phenomenal teams, but MSK just brings something different and intangible. This little light that came in, and it just changed the division.”
On Adam Cole’s future in NXT
Triple H: “I would advise you to watch it on Tuesday. I don’t know if you’ve heard or not, but this Tuesday we start on USA, and it’s a new night, and it will be a spectacular show. I think all things will be revealed then, but it’s just a funny thing when you succeed here and do well here for a fairly long period of time, there are moments in time where you’re telling stories, and then something definitive happens like tonight, and people think ‘Well, that’s the end of it. Certainly, it’s the end of the book, the end of the chapter’ and move on. That’s not the case at all. If that were the case, then half of this roster would be leaving tonight, and it’s not the case at all. It’s a chapter in the story, a chapter in the saga that they’re telling. Kyle O’Reilly proving himself against the man that said he was the leader of the Undisputed Era and was dragging them along, and were just his lackeys, and proving he’s not so much of a lackey anymore. If I’m Adam Cole, I can’t imagine that that sits very well with him, so I would imagine that it’s not the end of the story.”
On Pete Dunne performing in NXT and producing in NXT UK
Triple H: “That backstage production work is not necessarily for everybody, right? There are certain people… I don’t know. It’s something, for me, that when I first started, and I was always fascinated with that other side of it, I think there are certain people that gravitate towards that, and then there are certain people that have zero interest in that whatsoever. For me, the ones that have an interest in it, like Pete, he’s just a sponge. He will dig into every single aspect of this business and engage in it in every single way you allow him to. Like, he’s just incredible, and to be honest, especially at such young age, has an incredible mind for it. Johnny Gargano produces matches sometimes, especially with the younger guys for other shows, and when we were on the live tours doing what they would call the coconut shows in Florida, a lot of those talents, Johnny, Tommaso Ciampa, Candice LeRae has done it before. People like that, where they would produce matches for younger talent coming up and work with them and sort of, mentoring them to that next level. Pete Dunne does it, Damian Priest has done it, different people. Finn Balor has an interest in it. I think Walter’s done some of that with you guys in the UK. So, any time you can do that, I think it’s no different than being an actor and then dabbling in directing a little. It just makes you think about it from the other side of the camera a bit differently, and then it makes you a better performer because of it.”
Shawn Michaels: “We’ve had a number of guys who have just asked and the people who show interest in it – yeah, we give it a whirl if they want to listen on the headsets, and it does, it helps them. Every one of those comments gives them a little bit of a better understanding from a performance standpoint of how they can accentuate everything that it is that they’re doing. Clearly, when we were in the UK, Pete was one of the people that showed interest in that lately, Walter has as well, and we’re always more than happy to certainly give them the opportunity to do that.”
On what each other bring to the NXT table
Triple H: “From my standpoint of Shawn, somebody that I sat next to for the last 25 plus years of us working together and me just looking at him from a mental standpoint of the business, the understanding of it, the psychology of it — there’s a lot of guys that can do what we do. There’s not a lot of guys that understand what we do. Shawn has that and then some. If you had said to me a few years ago, who’s the guy that I think could be the biggest game-changer here if they were to come here and be able to participate with people, it would be Shawn because of that level of knowledge, and I’m sort of struggling to say it because he’s sitting right next to me, and usually I just make fun of him at this point in time. I’m almost ruining my whole schtick here, but he really does, and it’s just one of those things.
“When somebody has that much experience, that much knowledge, that much passion, and then explains it to you where you go, “Oh yeah, right. I get that, and I never saw it that way.” And I know because look, as a young guy coming in in 1995, I was sitting under the learning tree of guys like Shawn Michaels. Whether I was in the ring with him or not, I sat under that learning tree, and then I got to sit under so many of them, and then Vince McMahon after that. So what he brings to the table from an in-ring, from psychology — I worked with him for 25 years. He and I think so much alike, and once we start riffing together, I don’t know. I’ve seen a lot of people work together. I don’t know that there’s a better combo when he and I start gelling and working on things together and just start riffing off of each other. It goes to a whole other level. So to me, he’s the best asset we could possibly have here.”
Shawn Michaels: “For me, I got to be honest, to sit with my best friend and doing creative, and enjoying that time together like we used to in the car and getting to do it on a whole other level, and I did it tonight, and I do it darn near every Wednesday, I do every TakeOver where I lean over, and I say, “Hey, thanks for letting me continue to call this my job.” Getting to do this with you every night, to help be a part of these shows and these unbelievable performances, and honestly, now learning from him from a production standpoint has been one of the greatest learning aspects of my life.
“I’m learning an entirely new genre to the wrestling business that I didn’t know before, and it is, I make fun of him by calling Scorsese all the time because of the level at which he goes to production, and I’m taking notes and stuff like that and understanding these different camera shots. Just some of the unbelievable shots, and camera angles and stuff like that, and that all comes from Hunter. And that’s something that I don’t have that much experience in. And over the last several years, him teaching me that and trying to glean as much as I can from that, it grows from there. Both of us just continue to build on this, obviously, the friendship that we’ve had, but then being able to extend that to the NXT brand has been an awesome process. Like I said, every now and then, I do have to lean over and go, “Dude, this is my job. This is freaking awesome.”
All pics courtesy of WWE