The pro-wrestling promotion’s minor-league brand jumped from streaming platform WWE Network to USA Network. For the first two weeks, it’s only airing the first hour on USA, while it wraps up the final season of “Suits” which airs at 9 p.m. “Suits” has one more episode on Sept. 25. So that means that, again, the 9 p.m. hour of “NXT” will shift over to WWE’s SVOD service.
Ive been wrestling for years now. Its been a pleasure and an incredible expert for me but this. This is a commercial folks. Im one of the lucky few to make a couple appearances on the commercial. Im truly honored for this. #AEWonTNT #AEW pic.twitter.com/tTxrWBUrGI
Also Read: WWE's 'NXT' Series to Shift to USA Network, Go Head to Head With AEW on TNT
Beginning Oct. 2, “NXT” will air live on USA Network from 8-10 p.m. That’s the same day when All Elite Wrestling will premiere its two-hour show — officially titled “All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite” — on TNT. That week is big one for WWE: It also features the Fox debut of “SmackDown” (which is changing its name to “Friday Night Smackdown”) on Oct. 4.
Video: Triple H rejoices with NXT crowd following live premiere: NXT Exclusive, Sept. 18, 2019
“NXT” launched in 2010 with its primary purpose being to serve as a platform for talent to get exposure in front of a televised audience and ultimately (hopefully) make their way onto the bigger WWE brands “Raw” and “SmackDown.” According to WWE, 80% of its current main-roster talent came through NXT.
NXT has only run once before on USA — as a one-hour special in 2017. Airing at 7 p.m., that show earned a 351,ooo viewers in the demo and 841,000 total viewers.
The Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events, and Creative for WWE, “The King of Kings” Triple H, spoke on a media call after this weeks debut episode of NXT live on the USA Network that Wrestling Inc. partook in. Hunter opened up about the direct line of communication that he had with Vince McMahon throughout the day leading up to 8 PM EST. Overall, Hunter believes that Vince was pleased with the different product that the NXT stars provide.
“I received a bunch of texts from [Vince McMahon] throughout the day excited, and excited to see it, and wishing us luck especially as it got close,” Triple H said. “He was sending me little texts counting me down, 20 minutes! You know? Which I thought was great because it was just fun. And then he sent me a few texts throughout the show. He watched the entire thing. Im sure hes at the office, probably at a meeting while he was doing it, but he enjoyed it, he loved it, he thought the talent did a hell of a job, thought they knocked it out of the park.
“He was excited. He sent me a massive congratulations after it was over and was thrilled with the product,” Hunter continued. “Its a funny thing because people dont give him the credit – he embraces the difference! He embraces the difference; the products should be different and he embraces that difference and is all into that difference. Its like liking different types of music, and one thing might be somebodys cup of tea and something else may be another but you appreciate all of it. And I think thats the best way of saying it, he absolutely appreciates it and thought it was great. He sent me a congrats to us, the crew, and all the talent.”
Triple H described the process it took to decide which matches, segments, and stars to feature on their very first episode of NXT on the USA Network. After the content was established, Hunters main concern was getting the pacing around the commercial breaks just right.
“You look through a million different options, and ways, and opportunities; whats the first thing you want them to see? Whats the most exciting thing they can see coming out the shoot? How do you balance an hour show of action as much as possible, but yet still knowing this is the first shot at this bigger audience?” Hunter asked. “How do you get them to give you the character development and that storyline movement, but yet, bigger than that is the characters and the personalities of these performers? Thats really what you need to get across in these first episodes but by also making this as action-packed as possible. So, its a ton of going back and forth about what do we want to get to. And then once you make a commitment to it, now you know whats within the show and now you have to figure out how to format it all.
“The biggest thing that I was concerned with, tonight for me, was the pacing of it. Given bell to bell, I know that we can do what we do. I feel like we do that as well or better than anybody on the planet but how do you pace that out now differently with commercials and those commercial timings? These are things that we dont have control over in a lot of ways – the lengths of times of commercials or how many commercials you need to have in a show,” Triple H continued. “So working all that together, I feel like we did a really good job with the pacing, and making things feel right, and it didnt feel like it lagged in any points or got bogged out. I was really happy with that. That will be the consistent ebb and flow for me. Im confident that the talent will do what the talent will do here, and Im confident with the team here from a tech standpoint about how we do it. So, for me, its more the forethought and the pacing with how you run this than it is anything else.”
Despite this debut episode being packed with entertaining match-ups, Triple H believes that the format of the episodes going forward will be different. He foresees the staff adjusting each week to make sure that the episode that airs is the right balance of action and character development. He used Cameron Grimes as a specific example of a character who could have been utilized in a different way, however, Hunter stands by their decisions on how to feature his character and garner more interest.
“I think we will approach things differently at all times, but we did spend – if you went back and you broke this apart in that first USA hour, and you broke that apart, theres a lot of character development that actually happened within those segments,” Hunter said. “Theyd have to be quick and its got to be hits. You dont have a whole segment for somebody to go out there and cut a promo and build a character in that manner. For me, Cameron Grimes, yeah I could have had him go out there and talk. I think I built more intrigue with him tonight with what we did and now I am interested to hear more about him. I think though that when we get into those two hours, theres going to be those opportunities.
“To build storylines, you have to do that stuff; you have to give the information not just in the ring, and not just physical, but how do you get to those matches? How do you build those characters and those character arcs, and those storyline arcs to get to where the matches themselves mean the most they can mean,” Hunter added. “You have to do that stuff but the way that you do it, to me, my opinions is that you constantly have to be giving me fresh, new something – information, Ive got to learn something new. I think peoples short attention span with theatre is if its the same thing theyve seen. If youre giving me a new piece of information, if youre giving it to me in a different way whether thats a new look or its something more, Im intrigued by that and I want to watch it. So, those are things well work on as we move forward. Tonight was clearly a particular type of show for a particular reason. Going forward, they will all be particular types of shows for particular reasons, theyll just be different.”
Triple H commented on the decision for NXT to remain at Full Sail University while airing live each week on the USA Network, saying how the audience itself has become an integral part of the show. He sees this as a version of thank you to the devoted audience, and Hunter mentioned how much he loves the “crazy vibe” the crowd gives off.
“I think that the decision to stay here was many thoughts and different components that went into it. Business-wise, our partnership here. But for me, also too, when we say, We are NXT, this is a part of it, this crowd thats here, a lot of them have been coming to this since day one,” Hunter said. “And they come to the shows, and they support the shows around Florida, and theyre a part of this. People travel in from all over the place and come to Florida on their vacations or whatever, and part of what they do while theyre here, theyre looking for an NXT event to go to. And thats a really cool thing, and theyve been such an integral part of that. When I say, We are NXT, I mean them – all of us. The talent, the crew, the everybody, theyre a part of this team that made this thing work, and [the audience] is as well.
“Theres a part of it, for me emotionally, that I go, Yeah, I dont want to do this anywhere else. I want to do it right here and I want these people that are here every single show that weve done, I want them to be able to stand up on the USA Network, the #1 network on cable television, and be able to stand up and let their voices be heard, and to show who they are, and how proud they are of it. They got it to where it is. As much as we did, the talent did, the crew did, the everybody else did, [the fans] were there for it,” Triple H continued. “And this is the thank you, right? This is the moment in time that they get to come on the ride with us and they get to experience this as well, and be a part of this live. So, when this building here at Full Sail University, Full Sail Live that might as well be called The NXT Arena, when theyre live and something is good, there is no more energetic environment than here. Its a crazy vibe here and I love it, and to me, this is the thank you. Thank you for helping us get to where we are, and thank you for coming along for the ride, and continuing to come along with us because were just getting started.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please include a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription. The full audio from Triple Hs post-NXT on USA media call aired as part of a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post.