POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: Paul Levesque speaks on changes to NXT, AEW as competitors

Originally published at POLLOCK'S NEWS UPDATE: Paul Levesque speaks on changes to NXT, AEW as competitors


**We have a Q&A on the site with Guy Evans, author of NITRO: The Incredible Rise and Inevitable Collapse of Ted Turner’s WCW. The book came out in 2018 and features interviews with many executives from AOL Time Warner discussing the business end of the promotion and the causes behind its collapse and going out of business in 2001. Evans has just released an expanded version of the book with four additional chapters and other bonus material. Evans is offering POST readers a 20 percent discount if they use the code ‘20’ when purchasing the book.

**Rewind-A-Raw is live tonight at 11:05 p.m. ET and I will be joined by John Siino to review the show from Buffalo and go over any other news going on. Plus, we will take feedback from the POST Wrestling Forum.

**Andrew Thompson will have an interview with Nick Wayne on the site on Tuesday.

**Brandon Thurston and Chris Gullo had a great discussion on Wrestlenomics Radio about the Warner-Discovery merger with notes on the key players to keep tabs on, how AEW fits into the equation, and why this is different from the AOL Time Warner merger in 2000-01 involving WCW.

**Karen Peterson will join me on the POST Daily News Show on Tuesday to share her live experience at New Japan’s Windy City Riot this past weekend.

**On Tuesday night, we will release the latest Rewind-A-Wai #108 covering Elite XC’s Primetime event on CBS in May 2008 with Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson. This event was chosen by Espresso Executive Producer Jason Hagholm and I’ll be joined by Phil Chertok and Eric Marcotte to review the promotion’s debut on CBS. This show will be exclusive to POST Wrestling Café members.

**The full POST schedule for this week is on the site.


John Pollock is joined by Bruce Lord to chat about NJPW’s Windy City Riot, the streaming issues on FITE TV, AEW’s Battle of the Belts, Sammy Guevara regaining the TNT title, spot during Texas Death Match on Friday, Paul Levesque’s comments on NXT 2.0, WWE Raw in Buffalo & more.


**WWE Raw takes place from the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York tonight and will include the double wedding involving Reggie & Dana Brooke and Akira Tozawa & Tamina. They have also announced a lie detector test involving Kevin Owens and Ezekiel, which is totally reliant on the performers to pull off. In 2003, they did a similar segment with Vince McMahon and Mr. America, and was actually tremendous but that involved McMahon at the height of his over-the-top caricature. Granted, even today, Owens hosting a lie detector test with McMahon would be riveting television by asking him about bot farms, Oliver Luck’s firing, and why didn’t Crown Jewel start on time in Saudi Arabia in 2019?

Below are the announced segments and matches:
*United States Championship: Finn Balor (champion) vs. Theory
*Women’s Tag Team Championships: Sasha Banks & Naomi (champions) vs. Liv Morgan & Rhea Ripley
*Double wedding segment
*Lie Detector test with Kevin Owens & Ezekiel

**The NBA playoffs have begun and will play a factor in viewership for both WWE and AEW over the next two months. Raw will go against the Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers, Utah Jazz vs. Dallas Mavericks, and Denver Nuggets vs. Golden State Warriors tonight. There will be multiple games on both Tuesday and Wednesday airing against NXT 2.0 and AEW Dynamite.

**Paul Levesque spoke with Chris Vannini of The Athletic during the recent tryouts in Dallas over WrestleMania Weekend. During the chat, Levesque spoke about the changes to NXT with the 2.0 concept and going in a different direction regarding its recruitment.

People like Bron Breakker, he’s been training for a year. Half the women, they’ve been here a year maybe. There’s a lot that’s just so fresh and new. People used to say the constant churn of NXT was a negative. The churn is what’s great about it. The people here now, hopefully a year and a half from now, none of them are even in NXT anymore, and the ones that make it will be on to “Raw” and “SmackDown. That’s the magic. It truly is the developmental league, the college football, Triple-A baseball. Yeah, they’re not all quite ready to be in that major-league role yet, but you’re discovering them before they become household names.

It was noteworthy that there are no longer any illusions of NXT being “a third brand” as they tried to trumpet over the past several years and actively worked against the label of being developmental. Now, it’s a much clearer slotting of the brand within the WWE ecosystem with a strict mandate of creating talent that can seamlessly move to Raw and SmackDown.

Levesque added that the window is smaller for making evaluations on talent. The days of talent sitting in NXT or the Performance Center for years appear to be a thing of the past. Levesque pegged it at six months of knowing if a talent is going to make it or not. That suggests a rigorous process when it comes to collegiate athletes with no pro wrestling background being adept at this industry and showing the staff enough within six months that they are worth the continued investment. Not only is the window smaller to judge the viability of talent but comes during a time where everyone is learning on live television during shorter matches with no live events on the schedule, so your experiences are limited to television and working in a gym without fans during practice.

It will also be interesting to see what veteran presence will remain at the NXT level that can assume the roles of outgoing talent like Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Kyle O’Reilly, WALTER/Gunther, and Pete Dunne. It seems the formula is to rotate a main roster performer into the NXT system for a short time as we’ve seen with Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode and now with Natalya. Ultimately, most wrestlers will say the best way to improve is working with people better than you would desire a system that has a wide range of experience levels.

On AEW as a competitor to WWE:

As far as the competition aspect goes, it’s great. It makes everybody sharper. You get lazy if you’re all there is and everybody goes about their business. The end of the day, it’ll make us better, and we’ll all be better for it. All those things have forced us to be in a better place right now. Not that we wouldn’t have gotten there anyway, but we had to do it quicker in some manner. That’s an important piece of it, right?”

As long as there aren’t things hurting the business overall, I think any of that stuff is good. If you’re a 6-year-old kid, you turn on the TV, wrestling is on and you like it. Now you’re caught up in it. Then you start sampling all of it. You get to where you’re a huge fan. That’s the money. There’s room for everybody to do it.

There is a lot you could go into regarding AEW/NXT and the impact on NXT, which doesn’t even resemble its prior model. In some ways, the current presentation of NXT is infinitely better suited for its goal – to supply the top brands with talent. The other side is that NXT at its peak better resembled a forward-thinking brand that was able to draw in several major venues. It succumbed to a more narrow viewpoint on who can be stars and placing talent back into a box based on the whims of the ultimate decision-maker and head of creative in the company.

While everyone says competition is great for the industry, the end result for NXT led to an overhaul of its system and is far less of an option for independent talent to aspire to work at as compared to years past. There are many wrestling promotions out there but limited full-time positions as seen by all the WWE cuts over the past two years and some being signed and others seeing their careers in limbo. Not everyone can be signed by AEW, New Japan has worked with their hands tied regarding bringing foreign talent over (although it’s easing up), IMPACT has signed a few, and Ring of Honor remains a question mark until the distribution is sorted out for its future.

You can play the game of ‘what if?’ regarding NXT never moving to the USA Network but it’s a pointless exercise. WWE was never going to stand on the sidelines and watch a competitor gobble up any market share without resistance and NXT was the ready-made shield to combat the new company in 2019 and came out the loser.

The NXT 2.0 concept will be assessed a year from now when we see where some of the talents are in the system that began at the beginner or novice level. Since September, it’s appeared the big projects have been Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, and Cora Jade with many others featured but those would be the key ones from the start they have built a lot around. It’s a sink-or-swim for many of these performers and the water will only get rougher when they have been deemed a success at the developmental level and are thrown to the main roster.

**NXT 2.0 has added a match between Carmelo Hayes and Santos Escobar for Tuesday’s episode.

**Here are the matches for tonight’s edition of AEW Dark: Elevation at 7 p.m. ET on YouTube:
*The Hardys & Top Flight vs. Private Party, The Blade & Angelico
*Ruby Soho, Hikaru Shida & Anna Jay vs. Emi Sakura, The Bunny & Raychell Rose
*Trent Beretta & Rocky Romero vs. Nick Comoroto & Aaron Solo
*John Silver, Alex Reynolds, Evil Uno & Stu Grayson vs. Dale Springs, Allen Russell, Izaiah Zane & Kameron Russell
*Tony Nese vs. J. Spade
*Alan “5” Angels vs. Andrade El Idolo
*Kris Statlander vs. Ashley D’Amboise

**Cody Rhodes was a guest on Out of Character with Ryan Satin on Fox Sports.

**Two of the top females in WWE and AEW will be in front of their hometowns over the next week. This Wednesday, Dr. Britt Baker returns to AEW programming in Pittsburgh for an Owen Hart Cup qualifying match against Danielle Kamela. Next Monday, Raw is in Knoxville, which is the hometown of Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair.

**WWE held live events over the weekend in Erie, Pennsylvania, and Syracuse, New York. On both nights, Roman Reigns defeated Drew McIntyre to retain the Undisputed Universal Championship. Cody Rhodes beat Seth Rollins on both nights as they continue their program through Backlash in a few weeks. On the women’s side, Aliyah worked against Charlotte Flair on both nights losing to the women’s champion. These events were marketed under the new live events branding of Saturday Night’s Main Event and Sunday Stunner, which they are using for the domestic weekend live events.

**This weekend, WWE will have split crews with shows on Saturday in Montgomery, Alabama, and Reading, Pennsylvania. On Sunday, they will be in Augusta, Georgia, and Binghamton, New York.

**New Japan kicked off its latest tour on Monday that climaxes with Wrestling Dontaku on May 1st at the Pay Pay Dome in Fukuoka. Monday’s card in Nagoya drew 834 fans with Ryohei Oiwa over Kosei Fujita, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru over Master Wato & Yuto Nakashima, Zack Sabre Jr. & DOUKI over Togi Makabe & Ryusuke Taguchi, Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI & Tiger Mask over Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale, Taiji Ishimori & Gedo, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Guerrillas of Destiny & Jado over EVIL, Yujiro, SHO & Dick Togo, Shingo Takagi & BUSHI over Taichi & Taka Michinoku, and Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi over Kazuchika Okada & YOH when Takahashi pinned YOH after hitting the Time Bomb. (Courtesy: Purolove.com)

**New Japan continues its tour with shows at Korakuen Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tomorrow’s card is headlined by Kazuchika Okada & YOH vs. Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI and the following night has Okada & YOH against Naito & Hiromu Takahashi on top.

**Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito will be part of a contract signing on April 30th Canal City Hakata in Fukuoka just days before their match at Wrestling Dontaku.

**PWinsider.com reported that the NXT U.K. brand is taping this Wednesday at BT Studios with Lash Legend, Damon Kemp (Bobby Steveson), and Ivy Nile as part of the tapings.

**Stardom’s Cinderella tournament is down to its final four with the winner to be determined on April 29th at Ota Ward Gymnasium. The semi-finals on that show will feature MIRAI vs. Natsupoi and Koguma vs. Saya Iida with the winners facing off that night to determine this year’s winner. The same show will include a High-Speed Championship match with AZM defending against Mei Suruga.

**This Friday will mark 600-days since Roman Reigns won the WWE Universal Championship from The Fiend Bray Wyatt at Payback on August 30, 2020. The longest combined days as Universal champion is Brock Lesnar’s 688 days but that was a cumulative amount over three title reigns.

**The top WWE YouTube videos from SmackDown on Friday were Riddle vs. Jimmy Uso highlights (1.1 million as of Monday morning), The Usos and RK-Bro set up title unification (978,000), and Charlotte Flair makes Drew Gulak say ‘I Quit’ (542,000).

**Mick Foley recently visited Dr. Beau Hightower for a spine adjustment. Hightower has performed adjustments on many MMA fighters and professional wrestlers on his YouTube channel.

**The WWE Network is bringing back ‘Table for 3’ this Friday with a new episode featuring Kurt Angle, Chad Gable, and Otis.

**Progress Wrestling has announced a match between Cara Noir and Spike Trivet for its Chapter 134 ‘No Mountain High Enough’ show at The Electric Ballroom on Sunday, May 15th.

**New Japan World’s free match that they released on Monday is the IWGP world heavyweight championship match between Will Ospreay and Shingo Takagi from Wrestling Dontaku last year. This was among the best matches of 2021.

**Being the Elite Ep. 303: “Being Brandon Cutler”.

**New Japan World has added AEW’s Battle of the Belts II but only for subscribers in Japan.


**Belal Muhammad avenged a 2016 loss to Vicente Luque in the main event of this past Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card. All three judges scored the fight 49-46 for Muhammad (on the broadcast, Bruce Buffer stated one score was 49-47 but was later corrected by broadcaster Brendan Fitzgerald). Muhammad called out Colby Covington after the fight stating he’s running from real welterweights and seeking fights in other weight divisions and fighters coming off losses. With the win, Muhammad is 7-1 with one no-contest over the past three years and places himself among the top-tier of the division. There are several fights at play, the main one is champion Kamaru Usman, who is expected to fight Leon Edwards, although that fight has not been officially announced. Covington has two losses to Usman but just beat Jorge Masvidal and many believe he is still the #2 welterweight in the division. Khamzat Chimaev beat Gilbert Burns last weekend and is the biggest fight for Usman from a marquee standpoint. The risk of putting Chamaev against Covington is that it’s a very winnable fight for Covington and it’s unlikely they put Covington against Usman for the third time. Muhammad is a fresh opponent for Usman and would also be a sizable test for Chimaev but those are the five welterweights to watch this year.

**Jake Paul is angling for a boxing match with Michael Bisping that sounds ludicrous on several fronts. Bisping is 43-years old and has not competed since 2017 but the bigger issue is his eye. The state of vision in that damaged eye should automatically disqualify the notion of Bisping ever fighting again and would be the grandest indictment of a commission to even give a second thought to it. On top of that, Bisping has never boxed professionally and this grandstand challenge sounds silly but this is an era of creating spectacle fights, and no one can rule out the lowest level of commissions giving credence to a fight like this.

**The PFL starts its season this Wednesday with a card on ESPN and ESPN+ from Arlington, Texas. The main card begins at 9 p.m. ET and will feature Jeremy Stephens (28-19) vs. Clay Collard (20-9), Raush Manfio (15-3) vs. Don Madge (10-3-1), Delan Monte (8-1) vs. Antonio Carlos Junior (13-5), and Olivier Aubin-Mercier (13-5) vs. Natan Schulte (21-4-1). The prelims will stream on ESPN+ beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET with six fights scheduled.

**Bellator is in the middle of a crazy stretch of events following this past Friday’s card in San Jose. This weekend they have back-to-back cards at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Hawaii with Bellator 278 on Friday night featuring Juliana Velasquez defending the 125-pound title against Liz Carmouche in the main event. The big card is Saturday night with Cris Cyborg defending the 145-pound title against Arlene Blencowe, Juan Archuleta vs. Raufeon Stots, Ilimi-Lei Macfarlane (in her hometown of Honolulu) vs. Justine Kish, and Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Patchy Mix, which is a very strong main card of fights.

**UFC heavyweight Tanner Boser has stated he is injured and will be unable to fight Alexander Romanov this Saturday on the Fight Night card at the Apex. This weekend’s card is headlined by a strawweight fight between Jessica Andrade and Amanda Lemos.


The finals of the Champion Carnival in 1998 between Triple Crown holder Mitsuharu Misawa and Jun Akiyama:

Kurt Angle takes on Mr. Anderson in a Six Sides of Steel Cage match at Lockdown in 2010:

Shane McMahon appears on ‘The Ambrose Asylum’ in 2016:

POST DAILY NEWS: NJPW Windy City Riot, Battle of the Belts II
John Pollock is joined by Bruce Lord to chat NJPW’s Windy City Riot and all the latest news coming out of the weekend.
WRESTLENOMICS: Warner-Discovery merger’s effect on AEW
Brandon Thurston and Chris Gullo talk about the week’s wrestling business news, including how the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery could affect AEW, and why this probably isn’t AOL-TimeWarner/WCW in 2001 all over again.
John Pollock & Kate from MTL review AEW Rampage featuring a Texas Death Match and SmackDown with an Intercontinental Championship match.
MCU L8R: Moon Knight Ep. 8 (Patreon)
WH Park is joined by JP Houlihan (GRAPPL Spotlight) to discuss Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight Episode 3: “The Friendly Type” starring Oscar Isaac.
Martin Bushby is back with Benno & Andy Ogden to look back at the past month in European wrestling including the SD debut of Gunther, WWE announcing a stadium show in Wales, and Progress Ch. 130.

REWIND-A-DYNAMITE: Minoru Suzuki vs. Samoa Joe
John Pollock is joined by Bruce Lord to review AEW Dynamite featuring Minoru Suzuki defending the ROH Television title against Samoa Joe.

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Thanks for this little tidbit, as I’ve received emails for Saturday Night’s Main Event happening May 7 in Trenton, NJ and was thinking, “What the hell? Are they streaming this?”

Also thanks for the extensive analysis of NXT 2.0 and the rundown of that Triple H interview.

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