When the NXT brand was changed, one of the main creative minds behind the brand was Shawn Michaels, who recently spoke about how challenging the change was.
Prior to September 2021, the NXT brand had a decade-long as the beloved “black & gold” developmental show that also had a mix of great wrestlers. Some of those wrestlers may have been on the short side or just be veterans in the business that wouldn’t get a major on WWE’s main shows that were booked by Vince McMahon.
A change was made by Vince and his team to rebrand NXT to 2.0 while choosing to put some younger, fresher talent on the show. That meant that the focus of the show was on people like Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, The Creed Brothers, Grayson Waller, Cora Jade and others. Many of them were never on NXT prior to the 2.0 change in the fall of 2021.
Those changes in NXT took place around the time when Triple H had a heart issue that required surgery. Instead of running NXT like he had done for nearly a decade before, Hunter had to take a step back while two-time WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels (who is Triple H’s best friend) had to step up to help run the show.
With Triple H running Raw/Smackdown and Premium Live Events as WWE’s Chief Content Officer, Michaels has the official job title of Senior Vice President of Talent Development Creative. That means he’s the guy running NXT right now while he’ll also have a big role when WWE launches NXT Europe in 2023.
The legendary “Heartbreak Kid” Michaels talked to Ariel Helwani of The MMA Hour about how tough it was to transition to the 2.0 due to not knowing who to answer to at different times.
“Nothing sucks more than to have to follow in those footsteps and then have all these abrupt changes that you have to take over. I will say this, for my knowledge at the time, for instance, the logo that came at the last minute, even from Hunter’s standpoint, from the best of my understanding, it was ‘this is what it is.’ That’s maybe something that, I saw the interview you did with Hunter where he said there were a lot of things that people thought that he wouldn’t have done or decisions he didn’t make, but they actually were.”
“There were some things that he did know about, but then there were others, especially as it started going and he wasn’t there, that were very different and difficult to deal with.”
“Me, having stepped in from the outside, you can be in Orlando, but not have any idea what’s going on from a corporate standpoint in Stamford. That’s where it was difficult for me. I stepped in and was no longer answering to Hunter, I was answering to other people, and quite honestly, I wasn’t sure who that was because it was different people at different times. It was very challenging.”
Michaels added that while Triple H had visions of changing what NXT was in 2021, the changes that were implemented were definitely more drastic than what Hunter had planned.
“The one thing in this company you must adjust to is change. Things can change overnight, but it was my understanding that Hunter did want to get back to the developmental. I don’t think we would have done it as drastically, for instance, starting out on the first shows with 75% new people, we wouldn’t have put anybody out there before we were ready.”
“There were some things sort of insisted upon that we couldn’t control, I certainly couldn’t control, and Hunter because he wasn’t here had no say. It was challenging and it wasn’t fun trying to be that guy to balance both sides. Putting on a two-hour live wrestling event with people who have never done it before is not easy. What this crew has been through over the last year really brought us closer together and the fans got to watch the progression of these young men and women over the last year and over time, I think you respect what they went up against because it wasn’t easy for any of us.”
“You do what you’re told, you take that hill whether you should be taking it, and that’s what we’ve certainly tried to do. When everything is said and done, I think we’re all better for it, going through the challenge. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it was rough.”
The 2.0 name for NXT is no longer a thing in WWE while the color scheme is back to a white/gold/black format that is much more familiar to WWE fans.
Michaels and Triple H were together again on the October 10th edition of Raw for a 25-Year reunion of D-Generation X.