The New England Patriots continued their winning ways on Sunday, traveling to Buffalo to deliver the first loss of the season to the previously undefeated Bills. Despite a horrendous outing from NFL icon Tom Brady, the Patriots had a game plan in place designed to outlast and endure their opponent. Among those watching the game was Paul “Triple H” Levesque.
“I learn from Bill Belichick every time I watch him,” said NXT boss Levesque, who has a new competitor this Wednesday night in AEW. “I’m not sure you can find a better example of someone who can build a team, keep that team together, and never allows internal conflicts to stop everyone from running in the same direction.”
As head coach of the Patriots, Belichick has laid a foundation of staying true to the tenets of a philosophy while also building a culture and community where members of the organization take pride in contributing to the team.
“Belichick’s built a team that will run through a wall for him, and he’s built something that will last,” said Levesque. “There is something remarkable there, and that’s why he’s been as successful as he is. I do try not to mimic his fashion sense. I’m not sure the short sleeve jacket over the sweatshirt is working, but that’s not my call.”
Like Belichick, the New England-born Levesque has always embraced competition. He honed his craft wrestling in the heat of the “Monday Night Wars” between WWE and WCW, then created as much internal competition as possible after WWE bought out their competitors.
“To be truly great at something, you make the competition in and of yourself,” said Levesque. “For me, the competitive juices are always flowing, but the greats don’t just rise to the occasion. If you’re truly great, you deliver all the time. The competitive nature of it, for me, is internal. As NXT has grown in the past five years, we’ve been on Wednesday nights and we’ve been doing TakeOvers. The challenge is competing among ourselves.”
NXT has faced challenges before—stars like Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura have departed—and there is constant internal pressure to exceed expectations at each TakeOver. But never has NXT had direct opposition during its run airing Wednesday nights on the WWE Network, which they will now from the Cody Rhodes, Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega-led AEW.
“That’s a challenge, but I love creating the competition amongst ourselves,” said Levesque. “I want Wednesday to be the best NXT no matter what, whether there is another show on against us or not. I want to put on the absolute best show every time we’re on the air.”
The move to live television is a massive change for the NXT talent, and viewers will see, in real time, who shrinks and those who step up.
“Especially for the less experienced talent, the challenge is making mistakes and being able to move on for them,” said Levesque. “If you let a mistake weigh on you, and you can’t move on and you are constantly feeling the weight of your mistakes, then it becomes a problem. It’s a whole new challenge for us, but our talent have an amazing support system around them. There is Shawn Michaels, Road Dogg, Sara D’Amato, Matt Bloom—people who are here to help.”
NXT’s champion is Adam Cole, and its women’s division has been utterly dominated by reigning champ Shayna Baszler. Tommaso Ciampa, Io Shirai, Matt Riddle, Velveteen Dream, Pete Dunne, Keith Lee, and Johnny Gargano also populate the roster, providing a versatile array of talent as they look to claim the ratings battle every Wednesday against AEW.
“There isn’t a distinct, singular face of NXT,” said Levesque. “The brand is the face, and I challenge all of our talents to be leaders. The great thing about NXT is our diversity from an athletic standpoint.”
Rumors have circulated that Vince McMahon will be more involved with NXT now that it is airing on live television, and Levesque was asked whether McMahon’s influence in NXT is a positive or a negative.
“Everything that happens within WWE has Vince’s fingerprints on it,” said Levesque. “There is no NXT without Vince. It wouldn’t exist without him. He wants NXT to be different, something for the more passionate fan base. It’s a darker, grittier feel, it’s different. He totally understands that. But he has no desire to be in the day-to-day operations. Vince has a lot of other things on his plate.”
Levesque noted that the part that excites him most about NXT’s move to live television is the opportunity it provides for the NXT talent to grow as performers.
“This is the next step in our growth,” said Levesque. “I don’t even think the word ‘developmental’ works for us anymore because we are WWE’s third touring brand. This is a place where talent can work their entire career, across the world with NXT UK and soon other places, too, and have a long-lasting, meaningful career in a global brand.
“There is the chance for growth that can come from appearing on the USA Network, and I am excited for them to have this opportunity.”