Triple H recently spoke with Ryan Satin of FOX Sports to promote Sunday’s WWE NXT “Takeover: WarGames 2020” event. Below are highlights from the interview:
Can you talk a little bit about Pat Patterson’s legacy for anyone who maybe doesn’t know?
TRIPLE H: Yeah, man, yesterday was a tough day. Pat could be, you know, if you made a list of the most influential people in this business, and I’m not just talking about your in-ring career. Everything. Soup to nuts. From the moment you get into it to the time you’re not in it. Most influential people: probably, Vince is top of the list, right? I don’t know how you could have anybody be higher than that. But, Pat would be… man, he’s in there as a tight second to me on that. Because I don’t know anybody, the longevity of it, the contributions to it. Not only as a worker. Sometimes Pat is kind of an afterthought a little bit on the work rate side.
But, when you think about a guy that was in the San Fransisco territory for fourteen years as a top guy, in a time when you went to the same clubs every week. Man, that just doesn’t happen. To a guy that could come here and go four sell outs back-to-backs with Backlund, that was unheard of in the moment. When Bob was kinda just getting rolling. Then to be able to come here with Vince, Sr. and then to connect with Vince, then be sort of one of those sole driving creative forces behind all of that in the explosion of the business and of WWE becoming the global brand and everything else. His creative contributions … even then, people talk about the Rumble all the time. Just that alone. But, all the way through to the end.
There isn’t a day that goes by, for me, at the Performance Center whether I’m talking to talent or producing television or that we’re writing something, or that I’m doing anything that has to do with WWE, that there isn’t some piece of Pat that is attached to it. A learning that I got from him. Something. It’s always there. I said it yesterday as we were all lining up to get onto the stage for the tribute to him. I said, ‘Everybody that wants to be a part of this, from crew to across the board, should come up here,’ and they all ran up there. I said, ‘I know there’s a lot of you that maybe never even met him, but trust me, this could be the most influential guy to your career that you will have an opportunity to make a tribute for.’ Because even if you never met him and you believe that, ‘Oh, I never really met Pat, he didn’t have anything to do with me,’ he does. ‘Cause everybody that came before you that’s teaching on any level, something that they had came from Pat’s learning tree. That’s not an exaggerated statement in anyway.
This is the fourth NXT Takeover: War Games event. This year we’ll be seeing Undisputed Era as the babyface team heading into the show. How have you felt about their progression as a faction as of late?
TRIPLE H: It’s been great. It’s interesting to see when you shift people from one side, so to speak, to the other. And it’s funny that you say they’re in there as babyfaces this time. I don’t know, like even as bad guys sometimes they were getting cheered as much as the good guys, right? Darth Vader was a bad guy, but they loved the character and I think that always resonates within our business. But, how you handle that transition of, ‘Yeah, but now I’m supposed to be a good guy.’ Or, ‘Yeah, but now I’m supposed to be a bad guy,’ so you wholesale shift.
That’s why it’s bad to tell somebody, ‘Hey, we’re going to turn you here.’ Because then they get it in their heads, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be a bad guy,’ and now they just start doing different stuff and you’re like, ‘None of this is working now.’ There’s that shift. But, they’re all so talented. Roddy, Bobby, Kyle and Adam are just so talented and the thing that works for me with them, whether they’re good guys or bad guys, is the authenticity of it. The realness of it. That unit is that unit. They get along. We shoot stuff with them at a restaurant, where they’re doing toasts and all this stuff and it’s kind of like, well, you just put cameras there and let them go do their thing because they just go be them. In a way, I always feel like that stuff resonates the most when you can see a bunch of people that are on some level legitimately have that connection to where as a viewer watching, you think to yourself, ‘Man. I’d just like want to hang out with those dudes. I’d like to be at that dinner and just have dinner with them and hang out with them because it looks like it’s so much fun.’
I feel like that’s the magic even for things like pre-game shows for football and all those things. The magic when FOX does that is it’s not the analysts and the football talk, it’s the camaraderie they have. You just want to go sit on a couch with Terry Bradshaw and with those other guys and just sit there and talk football and have a beer and hang out with them. That’s the fun of it and I want to tune in to see that because if you said, ‘Hey, you wanna come over to my house and watch a bunch of boring analysts break something down for you?’ Like, ‘No, I don’t.’ But, if you go like, ‘Hey, wanna come over to my house and listen to Terry Bradshaw tell some crazy stories with football people and talk about football?’ ‘Yeah, I do.’ And I don’t even like football! So, that to me is the magic of it. When that magic is there, it’s next level. They have that magic. It’s real to them. There’s no show. I think that’s what worked with DX. It wasn’t a show. We were just us. We all got along in that manner. When it’s magic like that, it really works.
Now that Pat McAfee is a more permanent fixture of the weekly show, has he signed any sort of new deal as a performer that’s gonna keep him there as much as possible? Or does he still the same relationship that he had before when he was doing the pre-shows?
TRIPLE H: Pat has a deal with us. He’s had a deal with us for a while. Pat has a lot going on in his life. It’s a funny thing. Everybody’s busy and stuff, but even this week he’s down there prepping for everything and we have to find him studio space and everything else so he can continue to do all his other lines of things because those are all of the things he’s doing on the front side of this and this is sort of the additional thing.
But it’s a cool, I don’t want to say cross-promotional thing, because in some mind Pat just is a WWE superstar. But, he has that crossover appeal and whether it’s the FanDuel stuff or his college game day stuff or his show or all of it. He brings a lot across the board. He’s a busy dude, but he makes it all work. When it comes to being on the microphone and being a little heat seeking missile, Pat, he doesn’t have to go out and put on a performance, cause that’s just him. But it’s magic. He’s the kind of guy, again, I think you just want to be around him if you’re friends with him and if you’re not friends with him you wanna kill him. And that’s kind of the magic, right?
Another thing that I have loved on NXT lately are these vignettes that you’ve been showing for Shotzi building her War Games team. I thought they were very cool looking, very unique. And a lot of the stuff that you’ve been doing with Shotzi has really been showcasing her amazing on-screen presence lately. How impressed have you been with her work as of late?
TRIPLE H: She’s amazing, as an in-ring performer, as all those things. But, there are certain people that their personalities that resonate in a different way. When you see them, you go like, ‘Eh,’ then you take a picture and you’re like, ‘Holy cow.’ On-screen it just changes, right?
She just has an it-factor and I think that shines through when you just allow her to go out there and do her things. There are those things she does, I don’t think she can tell you that she does or why she did them or that she even meant to do them. But, there are just little things that she does in little ways that she does stuff that resonate. It’s a feeling you get.
When we were talking about Hallowee Havoc, as you’re talking to it months in advance, you’re like, ‘You know who would be a good host for that? Shotzi.’ Like, just, ‘Oh, man. I can just picture her doing this stuff.’ Then, as you’re getting into War Games, these little bits and pieces of things that you can do where it’s about showcasing the personality. You go back to pre-Halloween Havoc, Shotzi’s a different performer on a different level from where she is right now. She’s worked a few times in that period of time, it’s mostly been based on her just on-screen presence and personality. And that’s awesome, because you don’t find very many talent that can deliver it like that, with that skill set, you know?
Shifting topics, WWE announced a new batch of signings and I wanted to get your opinion on two of them: Dezmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz.
TRIPLE H: When you’re looking at talent – there’s always talent that are out there – and you have to look past where they are, what they’re doing, how they’ve gotten to where they are, what sort of exposure or kind of information they’ve been given. Did they just figure it out on their own? Or is someone helping guide them? All those things. So, you look at all these talents. These are two kids are, I think, I’m very impressed with the things that they’ve done, but I don’t know that they really had a lot of helping hand to help have them get to where they are.
They just sort of figured it out on their own. They’ve figured out personality and charisma. They’ve figured out the in-ring style they have and made it their own. I’m a big fan of that. I’m excited to see what they can do now and when you meet them, they’re really great guys that are humble and hungry and looking for that opportunity. It’s a funny thing to me that when you’re at the level where they ar,e or kind of sort of in that mix of that time frame, if you’re just going, ‘It’s just about the money,’ and there’s nothing wrong with that, but to me the mindset shows a difference in how you think about the business. For me, in those moments, like when I left WCW to come to WWE, I had a guaranteed money deal that was for a lot more and a position and all those things. I left for the opportunity to do something bigger and become great. I gambled on myself. Not because there was a, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this with you.’ There was no guarantee here and all those things. But, I looked at a track record. I looked at a company that was bigger. I looked at a visionary that ran it and I thought, ‘That can be a long term that makes me something.’ And it wasn’t about that moment, it was about the future and investing in you and gambling on you.
When I meet kids like them where they are so passionate about this and want it so bad. Man, they just want that opportunity and then if you give them that opportunity, ‘I’m gonna run through a brick wall and I’m going to prove to you.’ It’s not about do you believe in me in this moment? It’s about, ‘Give me the ball for a second, I’m gonna make you believe in me where you can’t have any other choice but to do this with me.’ Man, that just makes me want to run through a brick wall for them and they’re those kinds of kids. I want to run through a brick wall for them to try to make them have the opportunity to live their dream.
Can you give us any sort of update on the status of Karrion Kross?
TRIPLE H: Yeah. To quote him, ‘Tick tock, any second.’ Yeah, he’s there. He had one of those tricky injuries where you don’t know, and that was the difficult process for us. The separation was to a degree of like questionable. Does he get surgery, does he not get surgery? If he doesn’t get the surgery, how does it heal? Does it heal better? Does it take longer?
There were a lot of questions there. But, he is a machine and that’s the one thing. The moment that he was injured and the moment the assessments were done, he was like, ‘Alright. Here’s what I’m going to do.’ When I say left no stone unturned everything he could conceivably do to make himself better during that period of time, he was doing on a moment-by-moment basis. Connecting with us at all times. Trying to work on every aspect of even the stuff he couldn’t be doing. In-ring. Everything. Just all in and he’s a sponge.
He’s one of those guys that, again, you want to run through a brick wall for. But, he’ll run through the brick wall for himself. That’s the other thing. He’s not here to sit back and go, ‘Man, I hope this heals well.’ He’s going to. If it doesn’t heal well, it’s not on him. It’s not on lack of effort. He did everything conceivable to get there and he’s ready to rock and roll. It’s just a timing thing now.
Look at where NXT is right now and when you take in the last few months, there was a moment there where we were snakebitten by a bunch of things. Keith Lee transitions, and Karrion gets the title but he gets injured at the same time. You’ve gotta take the title off of him. Finn gets the title. I don’t even think everybody knows this, but Finn gets the title and in that match blows his ear drum out and as he comes out of that, ‘Okay, he’s good on that,’ right on the flip-side of that he breaks his jaw. And then he’s out. Then it goes from, again, when you get into the specialists, different opinions and it’s just hard to predict some of these things. And the Tegan Nox injury. Man, it just seemed like one thing after another. You talk about COVID on top of that. But, now we’re kinda getting into position to where a lot of those variables are coming back to the table.
What I’m excited about is the fact that we’ve made all this and now, where all these – you look at this War Games card and then you go, ‘Yeah, and on the other side of this, you’re getting Balor, you’re getting Kross, you’re getting Bronson Reed.’ All these people begin to come back into the mix. It’s big and it’s all there. Now it’s just a matter of time of figuring out how you put all the pieces back in there, you know?