Paul Levesque covers new roles in WWE, NXT changes & expansion, AEW as competition & more

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Paul Levesque spoke at length with BT Sport on his ascension within WWE, the changes at NXT 2.0, and adjustments to the main roster presentation.

Ariel Helwani of BT Sport sat down with Levesque to promote Clash at the Castle and discussed the transition following Vince McMahon’s resignation and removal from the creative oversight of the company.

Levesque noted there had been discussions for years with succession plans and “what if?” scenarios but it was a different mindset once it was actually put into place and he took the role.

He noted how it was a “tough situation” for McMahon to no longer be in the position he’s held for so much of his life and that McMahon isn’t in the equation “in any way, shape, or form” but later acknowledged that as his father-in-law if Levesque needed advice on an issue he could always go to McMahon.

Levesque was very mindful of respecting all of McMahon’s past decision-making and elements he implemented including ones Levesque has changed such as bringing back first names, the emphasis on secondary championships, and using “wrestling” more broadly to describe their product. Levesque said he prefers “WWE superstar” because anyone can be a pro wrestler and it designates those that perform at the elite level within the industry.

Regarding NXT 2.0, he said he didn’t agree with all of the creative direction over the past year but there were ideas he did like including some wouldn’t assume. He said NXT had to change after it got away from its original goals and was a result of its own success when the brand grew, and the pandemic played a factor.

Levesque said during the pandemic they couldn’t train new talent and the Performance Center was turned into a television studio and there were restrictions regarding talent training in the gym. The truth is, Raw and SmackDown operated out of the PC until August 2020 when the ThunderDome was created and the shows moved to various arenas and stadiums throughout Florida over the next year while NXT moved from Full Sail University to the Performance Center. Talent was back training full-time at the PC by early 2021 – however, it’s hard to state that a lack of training was part of NXT’s demise running head-to-head with AEW, who had the same limitations and NXT had a strong roster of talent throughout the pandemic at their disposal weekly.

Helwani brought up AEW winning on Wednesday nights and whether NXT was punished. Levesque denied that belief and downplayed the competition between the two that AEW beat their developmental promotion, which he had just contradicted about the brand getting away from its original goal of developing new talent and thus, was using more experienced talent and bigger names to compete including Finn Balor being moved from the main roster to NXT.

Levesque focused on the renewed plans to expand the NXT brand beginning with NXT Europe, which he noted was always the plan prior to the pandemic. They continued with NXT UK because BT Sport was airing the product but they hope to expand NXT into various versions around the world and possibly do a World Cup style of promotion eventually.

He went through all the details of his heart issues that took him completely out of the business where he didn’t take calls or follow the shows. It was very grim, and he has no problem with his in-ring career being over with the understanding he went as long as he could and had a great career. He noted there were plans for him to do something involving Gable Steveson at WrestleMania prior to the heart issues.

Levesque said the loss of Scott Hall was a tough one and believes of all the people, he learned the most from Hall.

Helwani closed out the interviewing asking about the potential returns of Sasha Banks, Braun Strowman, and Bray Wyatt. Levesque wouldn’t confirm any of them but had positive comments about each one. For Banks, he said it comes down to what she wants and has passions beyond just pro wrestling. He said Strowman has a huge personality and is very fast for a man that size and was sold on him the first time they met. On Bray, he said he thinks about creative ideas non-stop and just needs someone to channel it in the right direction and explained he likes working with people with quirks and differences and that’s part of the fun of the job.

Levesque is very savvy when he is in these settings and it puts a positive face on WWE whereas Vince McMahon stopped doing media years ago. It seems like Levesque will have a significantly larger public profile which was evident in NXT with his regular calls with the media.

The area that will receive the most scrutiny is the downplaying of why NXT changed and the impact AEW played, which is expected from someone in Levesque’s spot. WWE is riding the momentum now but there were plenty of metrics where AEW was competitive over the past year with Raw and SmackDown rather than just AEW. Both sides had to contend with the pandemic and lack of fans, no live events (not a factor for AEW), and AEW adapted better than NXT did during the early months of the pandemic. WWE adopted the ThunderDome for Raw and SmackDown and that stopped the erosion of television viewership, but it was still a tough go for both shows with the differences in the creative direction strongly on AEW’s side. Fans returned to buildings last summer and led to AEW having its strongest month ever last September with the arrivals of CM Punk and Bryan Danielson and peaked with the Grand Slam event at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Now, it’s AEW and Tony Khan that are in the role of reacting to the competition after WWE gained sizable buzz, especially for Raw on Mondays as the buzz has not translated to a bump in SmackDown viewership.

Reminded of Ariel’s consistent characterization of Rousey “playing pro wrestler”. More and more since the BT move, he strikes me as “playing hard-hitting journalist”.

At least with people with Satin or Dangoor, there’s no pretense, they’re access journalists who parrot the company line, but they don’t paint themselves as “asking the tough questions” and then fail to even touch on the corporate culture that allowed Vince’s behavior to exist for decades. If you listened to this interview, you’d imagine Vince just decided to retire because he felt the time was right to do so.

Not to mention zero pushback when (as John points out) Levesque now characterizes NXT as a developmental brand, when the consistent line he took in 2019 was that he didn’t see it as such, and saw it as a “third brand”.

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There are going to be WWE fanboys repeating this “It was never a competition, NXT was just a developmental brand” revisionist bullshit for years to come.


Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint

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As a PR flak myself, sometimes you have to deliver the company line even when you know it’s BS. But I’m still glad Jericho has enough IDGAF in him to just call it out.

WWE was in a no-lose situation and they still lost. All they had to do was not compete and just let Dynamite beat NXT. Even though it’s obviously not “just developmental”, it was still AEW’s flagship vs. one of their secondary shows. But WWE/Vince had too much ego for that.


I just feel whatever they try to paint it as, when as a WWE product come in second place to another wrestling company at any time in the last 22 years?

So whatever they’re going to try and paint it as now in hindsight, that’s the thing that should always be focused on.

I don’t get why so may fans get so upset over these interviews. Whether it’s Hunter or Tony Khan, who cares what they say. Sure it can get annoying when they take their little pathetic pot shots at the competition, but honestly, who gives a shit. They both do it, and when they do, they look stupid.

I’m not going to sit here and name call WWE fans, or name call AEW fans like I see all over social media and a little bit here….at the end of the day we’re all wrestling fans, let’s just root for both and stop with this lame tribalism. Or, if you really hate one company, don’t watch them and don’t waste your breathe on them.

There isn’t even a debate here….Everyone knows NXT was NOT “just developmental” they treated it like a legit 3rd brand. Was it the A show, no, but it was a legit brand that they cared about.

I mean, Triple H knew exactly what he was saying. And we all fall for it every time.

You’re very right. But then what fun is online discourse/ message boards!? Haha

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For me, my issue is not with triple h (or tony khan) really; i expect promoters to act like promoters. My issue was with ariel and the combination of avoiding certain subjects, and not following up on some answers that clearly called for it.

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I’d be interested to hear from John and Wai in this. What is the process for getting a one-on-one interview (especially a recorded one) with a WWE or AEW higher-up or prominent wrestler? And what would happen if they actually asked them all of the questions that we as fans would like for them to ask?

Obviously, AEW has shown itself to be more media friendly than WWE, granted largely just with wrestling media, plus we’ve never really seen them in crisis mode yet. But I know that WWE only pretends they want media coverage. They want the mainstream media (term not intended in the pejorative way) to work for them when needed but enjoy being under the radar as “just wrestling“ when it suits them.


Absolutely, plus ariel is working for their uk broadcast partner, which adds a furher layer to the interview, making hard questions or follow ups less likely.

I want to bring this thread up because what @RWOB said aged so well. Ariel was on his show ranting about his interview with Tony Khan. I get it, but I’m just completely disappointed in the obvious double standard here. Genuine question - Why didn’t Ariel ask Triple H about the sexual harassment and misconduct allegations that made Vince to step down? It seemed far more pertinent and close to his Triple H interview than this. If he wants to be asking tough questions. I can understand it being frustrating not getting any answers about that weekend but Ariel had to know Tony wasn’t going to say anything while litigation is being threatened. Dude just comes off mad he couldn’t break news.


Does he have a point? Yes. Is it hypocritical when he doesn’t filter the same way he does for Triple H? Also yes.

I don’t think it’s the same. One instance is asking a person about a situation they were directly involved in within the past few weeks. The other is asking a person a question about a situation regarding another person (who is also his father in law) that has legal ramifications on many levels which means he can’t give an answer. Not tk mention, it’s a situation that Hunter wasn’t involved in. What kind of answer outside of “we are doing an investigation” are you going to get.

From the complaints I saw about Tony avoiding answering absolutely anything regarding All Out, it seems very silly. Ariel should know that legally, Tony likely can’t speak at all about it.

I strongly recommend listening to the latest Wrestlenomics episode. Brandon speaks to a lawyer, and it’s clear that CM Punk or anything about that night hasn’t been mentioned due to possible and likely lawsuits.

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That’s fair….I forgot about the rumour of punk threatening to sue.

Yeah he should be treating both interview subjects the same. The Vince stuff was huge and deciding to ignore it is a clear decision. Helwani works for BT Sports who work with WWE so it’s not surprising but his dramatic acting to Khan not answering is lame

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I don’t think it’s the same. One interview was done under the BT Sports banner, an official partner of WWE. And the other was on Helwani’s podcast. Also Triple H at least have some answers. He could given the ‘no comment’ answer to The Rock question for example. But he didn’t.

Having said that, it is still double standards. Because at the end of the day, Ariel Helwani is a wrestling fan. And to most wrestling fans, Tony Khan is billionaire owner of AEW. Whereas Paul Levesque will always be The Game Triple H. If I met Triple H tomorrow, my first thought would be of the wrestler Triple H, not the corporate Triple H. However that might change with time.

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