Shawn Michaels Talks Big Plans and Future of WWE NXT Ahead of ‘Halloween Havoc’

Shawn Michaels
Q&A
WWE

It was 25 years ago when Shawn Michaels and Triple H helped spur change in WWE as founding members of D-Generation X. The rebellious superstars were among those who brought a shift on television to what became the more adult-oriented “Attitude Era.” Despite retiring from the ring, they remain influential forces.

Triple H took lead on creative from Vince McMahon earlier this year. Michaels remains his righthand man under the title of senior vice president of talent development creative. The Hall of Famer took the reins of the NXT, which had undergone quite an evolution. We caught up with Michaels hours before last week’s DX reunion on Raw and ahead of Halloween Havoc to discuss the future of the brand.

The story goes, guys like you and Triple H went to Vince McMahon 25 years ago explaining that WWE needed a change. Fast-forward to now and you’re in these top positions at the company at the dawn of a new era. How does it feel?

Shawn Michaels: I have to say, for the past several years of him and I working together, we’ve gotten used to it. It is pretty wild to fast-forward to all these years later. It is quite amazing that these two guys who were innovative and creative and who really wanted to grow the business from a performance standpoint and a creative standpoint and a television standpoint are still doing that. Back then, I think it was seen behind-the-scenes as troublesome, political — things like that. Now, when you are in the position to be able to use that innovativeness and creativeness in a professional and executive manner, it’s really come full circle. We’re thrilled. It’s one of the things that keeps him and me young — the passion and love we have for this business as we continue to grow it and make WWE better and take it into the future.

How would you describe NXT’s identity today?

We don’t want it to be seen as anyone’s anything. It’s not black and gold. It’s not 2.0. It’s NXT. It’s the original NXT and what we believe NXT has always been about: providing and securing the future of WWE for years to come. That is developmental. That is the stars of Raw and SmackDown early in their career. I want this NXT to belong to the men and women who come through. I want it to belong to the people who have supported it for so many years. I would prefer the ownership to be that of the people in it and the people viewing it. There is this idea that it has to be classified as something. I think this business continually changes, and NXT has to change with it. It’s about the future and not standing still. We want to continue to grow and expand and get better and learn new things. It sounds cliché, but we want it to be everyone’s NXT.

shawn michaels -nxt

WWE

NXT has begun touring throughout Florida. It’s great to see. I’ve gotten to take in a show or two. I think it’s necessary when bringing up new talent. Yet the weekly USA Network show broadcasts from the Performance Center. As we move more and more out of the COVID bubble, do you see more NXT shows like a Halloween Havoc in traditional arenas?

Absolutely. As you mentioned, we started with the Florida loop, or the coconut loop, as we call them. We’ve briefly discussed getting out for our premium live events. Do we want to do that at the end of the year or start at the beginning of the new year? We had Stand & Deliver for WrestleMania weekend, which is the first time many of our talents were out of the Performance Center. It’s certainly something we want to get back to. We have every intention of doing that. We’re actually having talks on how we want to go about executing that. This will go beyond shows in the state of Florida for certainly premium live events but regular live events. As you know, that is part of the developmental process. They have to get out there and perform on the main roster all around the world. They might as well get their feet wet in NXT.

Halloween Havoc is filled with young talent given a big platform to shine, like a Roxanne Perez or Julius Creed. We’re even seeing big NXT U.K. representation as they have assimilated into the flagship NXT. What do you think of this card?

We’re excited about Halloween Havoc being a premium live event now. We have a hybrid of our NXT faithful, but also a number of our new talent that has grown and turned into superstars in the last year, like Julius and Damon Kemp. We also have guys like Wes Lee, Von Wagner, Oro Mensah, Carmelo [Hayes], and Nathan [Frazier] — all those guys in that ladder match for the North American championship. It’s going to be off-the-charts fantastic. Roxanne [Perez] and Cora Jade is a fantastic match. With the help of our experienced guys like JD McDonagh and Ilja Dragunov in the championship match with Bron Breakker, we have a little bit of something for everyone. Halloween Havoc is going to have some special moments, to say the least. We’re going to have a great deal of fun at this show.

Shawn Michaels

WWE/Andrea Kellaway

It has felt like a new era in WWE in recent months including NXT, especially when you see its connection to Raw and SmackDown. How is it working with Triple H at this stage as these long-term plans take shape? What can we look forward to?

The synergy between the main roster and NXT is better than it has ever been. We’re excited about October 18. It’s going to be a big show with a number of special guests, shall we say. That synergy is going to be upfront on NXT on Tuesday, October 18. The transition from NXT to the main roster now is going to be smooth and seamless. The relationship between Raw and SmackDown with NXT is always going to be there. Clearly, the end goal for all of our talent is going to be full-time on the main roster. If you look at the main roster, it is 98 percent alums. Over the years, a number of them have expressed interest, wanting to come back and give back. That wasn’t always a possibility. Now it is, in the [present] and future. Some of that has already happened, as we’ve seen.

We’re sincerely focused on bringing back joy and fun and entertainment to the WWE and to this business in general. I think if anything, that is what we’re doing with this new awakening in WWE. This new regime, as some people have called it. We’re all looking forward to the future.

WWE NXT Halloween Havoc, Saturday, Oct. 22, 8/7c, Peacock

WWE NXT, Tuesdays, 8/7c, USA Network

WWE NXT - USA Network

WWE NXT where to stream