Even the best-laid plans can often change at the last minute in WWE and that may be the case yet again for WWE executive Paul “Triple H” Levesque as he heads into NXT Takeover: Chicago.
Levesque fielded questions from the wrestling media Friday morning during his usual conference call ahead of an NXT Takeover, but was in the tenuous position of not fully knowing the status of one of the event’s main attractions, which is a ladder match for the NXT Tag Team titles between the Authors of Pain and DIY.
One half of DIY, Tommaso Ciampa, suffered an apparent injury during an NXT live event in Highland Heights, Ky. Thursday night.
Levesque confirmed Friday that Ciampa had turned his ankle, causing the match to end prematurely as a precaution. Levesque said that he Ciampa went in for x-rays Thursday night and they did not reveal any breaks or fractures. Ciampa walked away with only a sprain.
Levesque revealed that Ciampa told him via text that he was feeling much better and was able to move around. While that is good news, Ciampa is not completely in the clear just yet, as Levesque said that WWE’s medical staff will make the final call on whether or not Ciampa will participate in the ladder match at Takeover.
“As of right now, he’s in, but we’ll see where that goes,” Levesque said. “It’ll be an interesting day and hopefully he can hang in there. I’d hate for him to lose that opportunity.”
Levesque opened his most recent conference call by reminding everyone that the WWE United Kingdom championship special was set to air Friday night on the WWE Network.
“I’m looking forward to fans having a chance to further invest in our U.K. efforts and the talent that we have and it’s just one more step in the process of localizing content and putting something strong on the ground in the U.K. and around the globe,” he said. “This is just getting started.”
“It takes a little while to get these things going,” he added. “We want to make sure we do it in the right way. We’re not looking to do something super fast. We’re looking to do it so that we know we made the right decisions going down the road two, three, five years from now.”
Levesque then moved on to NXT Takeover: Chicago, which will emanate from what he called one of his favorite arenas in the world, the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.
He was later asked about whether NXT Takeover: Chicago could mean that more Takeover events are on the horizon.
Levesque said that the main reason why there is a Takeover so soon after the one in Orlando was because it was going to be tough creatively to wait until SummerSlam weekend in August.
It just so happened that he wanted to do something in Chicago, too, and the timing just worked out that Backlash was emanating from the area in between WrestleMania and SummerSlam.
“It was a little bit soon, but it actually worked out great,” Levesque said.
The main event for NXT Takeover: Chicago will be an NXT championship match between Bobby Roode and Hideo Itami.
According to Levesque, the match means a lot to Itami in a number of ways.
“He’s had to sit back and watch a lot of people come in and make a name for themselves and make a way for themselves and he’s had setback after setback after setback and I really feel like he is really looking to make a statement Saturday and get himself moving in a positive direction,” Levesque said.
When Levesque opened the call up to questions, he was asked about what a subpar showing could do to Itami’s stock within the company.
Levesque said that he didn’t know and that he would have to deal with that when it comes, but also made sure to say that he has faith in Itami that he will rise to the occasion and reaffirm why WWE signed him to begin with.
“I have nothing but respect for Hideo and everything that he’s gone through,” he said. “It’s difficult to leave a place that you’re a big star and a big name, be one of the first guys to take that big gamble and come over and be presented in a big way and then have setback after setback after setback.”
“Hopefully, he will rise to this occasion and we won’t have to worry about that conversation, but if it doesn’t then he and I will discuss it and see what he wants to do next and what those next steps are and we would go from there,” he added.
Another match Levesque said he was excited for was the WWE United Kingdom championship match between Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne.
“This should be something special,” Levesque said. “Completely different styles, completely different presentation of the European style, but just two amazingly talented guys.”
The last thing Levesque mentioned before opening up the call to questions was that there would be more info about the WWE Women’s Tournament coming in the “next few weeks.”
“That is something that has been a significant passion project for me that I have been working on for a long time and everybody here have been working extremely hard on it,” Levesque said.
“I’m really excited about this,” he added. “I think this is going to be another one of those really magical things that is going to I think take women in our industry in a whole other trajectory level and just really increase the viewing of what they do and people’s acceptance of what they do and everything about it. It’s just going to be a positive in every way.”
When asked about the selection process for the tournament, Levesque said, “One of the interesting things with the women’s tournament was that when we first started to think about this we weren’t sure how high-end we could make it and how many women we could get to make it high-end. It’s a funny thing. By nature of what it is there’s just less women that do what we do out there.”
“But man, as we started to dig, especially much like we did with the cruiserweights, when we started to dig around these countries, we started to find these little hidden gems everywhere that we went and all of a sudden those numbers started to creep and we were like, ‘Well, we went from maybe a 16-woman tournament to a 32-woman tournament,’” he added. “Now, we actually have a lot of talent. The question is for us now is becoming who do we put in this.”
“There are a lot of women that probably should be in it and won’t be in it based on the fact that we’re trying to make it internationally diverse, we’re trying to make it culturally diverse. We want it to be representative of as much of the globe as possible. We’re looking for veterans, we’re looking for young and new and athletic, we’re looking for veterans that can help lead that, we’re looking for all of it. We’re trying to find the best balance much like we did when we did the cruiserweight tournament.”
During the question-and-answer portion of the call, Levesque was asked about Drew McIntyre, who made his return to the company during WrestleMania weekend.
Levesque said that he thought parting ways with WWE back in 2014 was the best thing that ever happened for McIntyre’s career.
“He’s always been an immensely talented guy,” he said of McIntyre. “Sometimes it’s just too much, too soon, too young, not mature enough, a lot of things, right? Then it goes the way it goes and the best thing you can do is to walk away from it and go prove yourself someplace else.”
“Guys that do that, that’s what it is and I respect that,” he added. “I respect that a lot.”
To further his point about McIntyre, Levesque pointed to Jinder Mahal, who is challenging Randy Orton for the WWE championship at Backlash Sunday night.
“Sometimes you get in a rut with WWE and it’s tough to take that gamble on yourself,” Levesque said. “When you’re making good money and you’re not in the position you want to be in, but the money’s good and you’re traveling and you’re working every night and you want to give that up and go try to hustle and struggle and do all of those things, but if you take that time and invest in yourself, you take that opportunity to gamble on you and make yourself into something, it can pay off.”
Levesque was also asked about his thoughts on Jim Ross being the play-by-play voice on the WWE United Kingdom championship special.
Levesque said that Ross coming back to the company in some capacity has been in the works for a while and that he’s happy to have him back in the company not only because he’s among the best announcers in the history of professional wrestling, but also because it allows him to focus on work instead of the tragic passing of his wife.
“I know he will add so much to that product, so much to the brand in general,” Levesque said about Ross. “He lends it much credibility. His emotion, his style, he was the voice of my era. He put that kind of backdrop to everything that we did in a way that nobody else could have and he made it great.”
“I look forward to him doing the same with this and I look forward to working with him very closely on it,” he added.
Levesque was then asked about his thoughts on the progress of Roderick Strong.
“Roderick is a phenomenal talent and an incredibly hard worker and just a great guy, but he’s not the biggest character,” Levesque said. “He’s not the most out-there character wise. You need to find ways for people to connect with talent and who they are and what they’re struggles are.”
“Could you create a character for him? Yeah, but am I going to write anything better than his real life story? Probably not,” he added. “He’s got an incredible story.”
Levesque wrapped up the call by saying that WWE Hall of Famers Alundra Blayze/Madusa will visit the WWE Performance Center and Ricky Morton will be guest coach there soon.