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WWE: How Alexa Bliss Found Her Voice

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Before Alexa Bliss defends her Raw Women’s Championship at the Tables, Ladders and Chairs Pay-Per-View (this Sunday live at 8 p.m. ET on WWE Network) I had the chance to talk with her about the process of developing the Alexa Bliss character, what it was like to have cameras around her house for “Total Divas” and of course, the world famous Larry-Steve

Me: “So what game did Larry-Steve pick for you to download on the [Nintendo] Switch?”

Alexa: “Mario! The Rabbit Kingdom. I was trying to find a game and all of a sudden Larry-Steve jumped on my lap and just started moving the Switch, so I was like I have to get this on video. He was doing it for a lot longer, but I only caught a couple seconds on video.”

@larry_steve_ helping me figure out which game to download next on my @nintendo #switch

A post shared by Alexa_Bliss (@alexa_bliss_wwe_) on

“Are you a big gamer, or did you see someone else with the Switch and said to yourself “I need one of those”?

“No, I love video games. So my fiancé and I went through this phase recently where we got all of the older gaming systems. We have this box that plays old Sega and Nintendo games. We have the original Playstation, recently just got a Game Boy. We have an Xbox a PS4 Pro and the Super Nintendo that just came out.”

“I got the Switch back in March and it’s a life-saver on my commute”

“Oh it’s the best. It seriously saves my life when it comes to traveling because I get so bored so easily, especially when a plane doesn’t have WiFi … ughhhh I die.”

“When you did an interview with ESPN a few months back you mentioned that you got Larry-Steve because of Total Divas, which made me wonder if getting a pig was something you’ve always wanted to do, or if this was a spur of the moment decision because of the show?”

“I’ve always wanted a pig. I grew up in Ohio, in Grove City, which is a farmy place. A lot of people there have farm animals and I’ve always wanted a pig because they’re super cute and I know they have a risk of getting up to 500 pounds, but whatever.

I actually pitched the storyline for Total Divas of me getting a pig and then my fiancé telling me that I can’t have it and then I’d have to give him back. You know, this whole drama thing.

So I get Larry-Steve and I have him for like two days and then I called Matt and said I’m not giving this pig back. I was like I can’t, he’s too cute and he’s deaf!

I was like he won’t hear the dogs barking at him. He was like what if he gets really big, I was like that’s 500 pounds of love. So I did the whole pouty thing and then he was like it’s your call, you make the decision. The whole I don’t want you to, so you probably shouldn’t, but I’m going to tell you that you can. And I totally took it as OK, I’m going to get him.

They get along so well. Matt loves him. He’s become the baby of the family. He knows it.

He’s like a child. He’s on a schedule. He wakes up every morning at 7. He sleeps in a Pack ‘n Play [crib]. He eats at 7:30. He naps at 2 and if you don’t put him in his crib to nap at 2, he will go lay by his bed. He wakes up, gets more food, will walk around the house, play for an hour to an hour and a half and then he’ll go back to bed.

“He sounds really easy to take care of”

“He’s so easy to take care of. As long as you can get his schedule down, because if not, he gets really grumpy.”

“Grumpy! How do you know that he’s grumpy?”

“Yeah because he’ll go “oink, oink, oink” all of the time and start pushing you. When he gets grumpy you know and then he’ll try to bite your toe, but that’s only if he’s grumpy.”

“Because [spoiler alert] Total Divas is a pseudo-reality, did you find yourself having to adjust to how you acted in front of the camera because you’re so used to playing a specific type of character in front of one?”

“I had a little bit of an adjustment period for sure because I’m so used to when the camera is on, I turn into Alexa Bliss, this mean, attitudy character. So I had to get out of that because our first filming was at TV. So I’m in a work environment and it was just a different camera, so as soon as the camera came on I was thinking ‘wait I can’t be that way, I have to be me.’

There were times where we’re at home making breakfast and there’s cameras there and I feel so weird because you have to open up to the cameras, but still act natural.

It was very different, but I had a lot of fun with it.”

*** Season 7 of Total Divas Premieres Wednesday, November 1 at 9 p.m. ET on E! ***

“You’ve talked about your transition from NXT to the main roster before and how you needed to turn up the persona that you found in NXT, but what helped you find the character’s voice? Was there a light bulb moment where you realized that this is it when you were with Blake and Murphy?

“I watched back our first few NXT matches together when I was managing them and realized that I was just silent. I wasn’t doing anything, I wasn’t saying anything. I was just looking at them in silence. And I was like hmmm, well that’s nothing.

I remember specifically trying more and more to be mean and I was trying to think of a character that’s relatable and I was like oh my gosh, a mean girl from high school. Everyone knows her. Everyone had one. Some people were her and no matter how mean she was, you still voted for her for homecoming queen.

I was like I want to be that girl because I knew that girl in high school. I knew a few of those girls in high school. I knew that everyone did. So that was my main motivation was to be that girl.

I get my inspiration from movies and a lot of the time I’ll actually people-watch when I’m at the airport. William Regal told us to people-watch because you can get your best motivation from them. I’ll notice little mannerisms that irritate me and I know they will irritate other people.

“How long did it take you to be comfortable in front of the camera as that character? Was it something you had to workshop a lot to get to that point?

“To get it started was a long process, but once it clicked, it was super easy. It’s just another part of me now and it’s been so much fun to play around with.”

“The saying is the best characters in this business are an extension of who the actual person is, but turned up to an 11, so is there any part of your actual personality in the character?”

“Oh god, none of it (laughs).”

“See that’s really interesting because you’re so comfortable playing the character, but it’s not you at all.”

“So I remember watching ‘My Date with Marilyn’ and watching the scene where she’s just super shy and super timid and then she asks somebody ‘do you want me to become her?’ And then she goes into Marilyn [Monroe]-mode and people start swarming her. She becomes this confident, sexy woman and I feel like it’s pretty much the same kind of thing. It’s something that you just switch into.

I’ve always wanted to do acting and wanted to explore that route and I feel like this has been the most fun part of doing what I get to do. Being able to transition into a completely different character.”

“So your match coming up with Mickie James this weekend; in another era this probably would have been a depends on a pole match …”

“(laughs)”

“But it’s just going to be a normal one-on-one match, even though in the build-up for it, you’ve been so aggressive in promos and backstage segments that it could have warranted a stipulation in storyline. Would you prefer a stipulation match, or are you OK with it being a regular match?”

“I’m OK with it being a normal one-on-one [match]. Of course stipulations are always cooler and more fun, but I feel like if we were to do a stipulation match it would have to be something that was driven towards the storyline that we’re doing right now.

I’m talking about her being old, so it should be like a walker match.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque opens up about WarGames and returning to the ring at Survivor Series

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This weekend is going to be a busy one for Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque.

On Saturday night he will be behind the scenes producing a match that hasn’t been seen in 19 years at NXT TakeOver: WarGames, which will stream live around the world on WWE Network at 8 p.m. ET.

And then on Sunday he’ll make his televised return at Survivor Series as a member of Team Raw in the five-on-five elimination match against Team SmackDown. (You can stream his return live around the world on the WWE Network starting at 7 p.m. ET.)

I had the chance to chat with HHH about how the return of WarGames came about, what makes the Undisputed Era special, and how long it took him to get comfortable in the ring again during his recent stretch of matches overseas.

Me: There have been rumors of a ‘WarGames’ match under the WWE umbrella for a long time now and after almost two decades we’re now just three days away from witnessing one. Walk me through the process of how we got here.

HHH: “For me ‘WarGames’ has always been a very viable concept. It wasn’t just a name, it was a branding of a match that was meaningful in WCW. It’s something I’ve always had interest in. I’ve always liked the concept as a fan.

As we move forward with NXT, it’s really started to become its own brand. We’ve had opportunities to do different things, whether that is ladder matches, or cage matches. But there was an opportunity that came along, given the weekend with Survivor Series and given the position [NXT] is in to brand something out and create something that NXT could own.

It seemed like the perfect time to bring it out, so I dusted it off. Throughout the years, I was aware of Vince’s feelings about it. There were some things about that match that he liked and there were some things about the concept that he didn’t necessarily think worked, especially in today’s world.

So I brought it back up to him and we walked through the process and I said here’s the way I think we can make this match work for us and he liked it, agreed with it, thought it worked great for NXT and was real happy to do it. So here we are.

When you do this, the goal is not to go backwards. My goal isn’t to make people go, ‘oh is this as good as it was back then?’ I want to put a slightly different spin on it, so that it begins again and takes a life of its own because it can’t be what it was.

I grew up watching it in the Dusty [Rhodes], [Ric] Flair, Four Horseman vs. the world sort of iteration of it and this cannot be that. It has to be today’s version of it. Hopefully it’ll be something that our fan base really enjoys.

I think the NXT fans are going to love it. I know the talent is very excited about it. When we announced the match and word began to spread on the Internet, a bunch of main roster talent came to me and said, ‘oh my God, you’re doing WarGames? Anyway I can do something in that?’

For me, it’s also a cool nod to Dream [‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes]. It’s cool that his vision is able to continue.”

How long did it take you nail down the format of this iteration of ‘WarGames’?

“In terms of creative or …”

More the structure. It’s one of the more complicated matches in the industry in terms of laying it out, so how did you get to a point where you felt comfortable with how the match will work?

“There is some complexity to it, even though there are some people saying, ‘But it’s three teams, it isn’t the same as it originally was.’ The thing is we don’t have the Four Horseman, with a manger, to make a five-man team. It convoluted the concept to me if you hogedpodge things together.

When the stories logically go to the next place and they just kind of connect together, that’s when they’re the best and I feel like that’s how this happened. Once we knew we were going to do it, it organically started to come together. You have Authors of Pain, you have Sanity, you have the Undisputed Era. There’s a three-way thing that is combustible and needs to be solved inside a double cage … what other way would you solve it? (Laughs)

So you organically get there and then there were some logistical ways to figure out the issues that were created by the concept. For example, someone could say, ‘well, why doesn’t the rest of the team just run out and try to get into the cage?’ Well they can’t because they’re in this other cage.

Hopefully this becomes a yearly event. Is this exact iteration of what we’ll see in the future? I don’t know. I hope so, but if there’s something in this that doesn’t work, then we’ll tweak it a little and try to perfect it.

Everything goes through its little changes in the beginning and then where it ends up you just kind of naturally end up and you forget about those little changes that happen over time. When you go back and look at them 10 years later you might go, ‘oh my God, I forgot that they started it that way.’

I’m really excited. I know the NXT locker room is really excited about doing this. There’s something really cool about being a part of something that’s historic, but making it new and making it the future. I think it’s a good opportunity. I think everyone is feeling the weight of that.

The TakeOver events are always kind of special for the NXT talent because they’re not often and they really encompass the storylines together, but this one seems to have more weight than normal, even for the people who aren’t in the ‘WarGames’ match itself.”

And that’s going to make them want to step up their game.

“Absolutely. Fan excitement combined with their excitement all leads to making magic. There’s been a lot of greatness surrounding this match in the past and they want to make sure that they not only live up to that, but also make it their own.”

What have been some of the production challenges that you’ve faced with the unique setup of a show with a ‘WarGames’ match on it due to the presence of the second ring?

“There’s a difficulty to everything because it doesn’t line up the same way. You set up your lighting rig, you set up your ring and it’s all based on centers and everything is structured a certain way and now you add in a second ring to that and you add in a cage that is going to hang and lower around two rings.

We had to build a whole new cage setup. We have to light differently. We had to arrange our ticketing differently. All of it is slightly different that require some logistic challenges.

The great thing about WWE and our team … I’ll go out on a limb here and say … that we have the best live event team anywhere. They see something like this as a challenge and they just go for it.”

The Undisputed Era has been the focal point of NXT since the ‘TakeOver: Brooklyn III’ show. What gave you the confidence in Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, and Kyle O’Reilly to ‘give them the ball and see where it goes?’

“I think they’re talented guys. You’re never 100 percent sure with anybody who walks in the door, but there are certain talent that you see come in who have an innate ability right away.

Are there things we have to work on with them? Absolutely, they’re learning every day.

The one thing I liked about those guys and why I was confident in ‘giving them the ball right off of the bat’ is because when we spoke and talked about things, they absorbed it. They’re sponges. They’re students of this. They want to learn.

They’re not walking in the door going, ‘I know, I know how to do this.’ They’re walking in the door going ‘Wow, I have this opportunity to work with Shawn Michaels at the Performance Center, or with Terry Taylor, or this person, or that person.’ They can learn TV production from all of these different people. They are wide open to it.

To me, that’s what makes you successful. It’s the guys that walk in going ‘ah, I got this’ that make it difficult. When you have someone who just wants to be a student, wants to learn and wants to, no matter how good they are, just take their ability to a whole other level.

In this business, you constantly have to be willing to morph, grow, and think differently because it’s the nature of the beast. There are guys who have that hunger and desire to constantly evolve and you can see it from the first time you speak to them.”

Shifting gears a bit; you’re back in the ring and have worked quite a bit over the last month. It made me think about the adjustment period athletes, who have been away from their sport for a while, deal with when the bright lights are shining on them again.

How was your adjustment period while working on the overseas tour? Did it hit you as you walked through the curtain after hearing the first few beats of your music, or was it after the bell rang and all of the eyes were on you again?

“When I went to Santiago, Chile to do the first show, I hadn’t stepped in the ring to do anything since WrestleMania. That’s a long time. You think that you remember how to do everything and in your mind, you’re the same as you were the last time you were there.

Just taking that first bump in ring is jarring. It’s like riding a bike, you don’t really forget how to do it and if anything in your mind you go, ‘oh yeah, I still remember how to do this’ and then you get back into your groove. That’s not to say there isn’t rust, but the positive thing for me as opposed to some of the years when I haven’t done this for six, eight, 10 months and is that my first match back wasn’t at WrestleMania in front of the biggest audience that we’re going to have. That’s a whole different world of pressure.

I’m not saying Santiago, Chile isn’t important, but it wasn’t a televised event. There’s a lot less pressure, so you can relax a bit and be yourself a little bit more. If the opportunity arises you can twerk, you can do whatever.”

Or you can work with The Shield and give the fans a once in a lifetime experience.

“Yeah … and I can tell you the one thing that has happened to me this time is that I’m having a different level of fun.

Sometimes when you’re in the throes of getting ready for WrestleMania, it’s fun, but it’s so much pressure. You’ve got the world leaning on you and you’re leaning on yourself. You’re putting the pressure of, ‘man, I hope I can still do this.’

People forget at the end of the day that we’re just people. We’re human beings. No matter what persona you put on, when you go to that ring, you have doubts and fears just like everyone else. Anyone who says they don’t have those things is lying to themselves.

When you can go do it in this environment, it makes you go like, ‘yeah man, this is the coolest gig in the world.’ Yeah, you get beat up and it sucks to knock the rust off, but it’s a lot of fun.”

The five-on-five Raw vs. SmackDown match at Survivor Series has a throwback feel in the sense that there are a lot of fantasy matchups that can be teased. 

What does it feel like knowing you’re going to step in the ring again with Shane McMahon, Kurt Angle and John Cena, and alao have the opportunity to work with Bobby Roode and Shinsuke Nakamura for the first time?

“There’s this crazy part of me that goes through the past few years and thinks about stepping into the ring with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, someone who came through the [development] system when I was beginning to take it over. And then I think about Seth [Rollins] and now doing this at Survivor Series.

I haven’t been in the ring with Kurt Angle in a long time. Same goes for Shane and even Cena.

I think about the phone conversations with [Finn] Balor about coming in. It’s a crazy thing to think about and it’s something I’m very excited about. You go back to the whole having fun part of the job and this is just cool.

Whenever I’m looking at talent, even when I’m developing NXT guys, I can’t help but look at it from a performer’s point of view. I did an interview a few years ago when Nakamura was first coming in and they asked me if there were guys I would like to wrestle and I was like yeah, I’d like to wrestle him. Am I planning to do it? No, but it would be awesome if I could just fantasy book it in my head. Now I’m going to be able to actually get in the ring with him.

I’m going to get to step into the ring with Bobby [Roode], which I think for a lot of fans there could be some cool moments there, but I think there are also some cool moments for us.

I have a bond with any of the guys and girls who came through our system and to be able to step into what we actually do with them is like a whole other level of cool.”

So, I would say one of the more anticipated matches in a long time is taking place this Sunday when AJ Styles and Brock Lesnar square off. 

The build for the match has taken me back to the root of my fandom as I feel like a little kid again who is excited to see these two meet for the first time. I was wondering if there was a match, and it could be this one, that gets you excited to just sit back and watch it as a fan and not as the vice president of WWE.

“Sometimes people ask me about when we’re booking and writing NXT and in a lot of ways I just book stuff that I want to see [as a fan]. 

Like I go, ‘man that match really intrigues me, how am I going to get there and how am I going to make it even more interesting. Like how cool would that be. Ooh those two will really go at it and stylistically they’ll tear it up.’ This is one of those matches to me.

Brock Lesnar is a once in a lifetime athlete and it’s hard to not say the same about AJ Styles in some ways. With AJ, you go back five years ago and some people never thought he would even be here.

When you ask me about going back to being a fan, I think about a lot of this card that way. I’m excited to watch Cesaro and Sheamus vs. The Usos. I know it’s not the first time ever, but man they always awe me with something new and different.

You go back to the WarGames show, I’m looking forward to Drew McIntyre vs. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas for the NXT championship. I can’t wait to see that match! I know the level both guys are going to take it to.

I look at the Kairi Sane vs. Peyton Royce vs. Ember Moon vs. Nikki Cross four-way match for the NXT women’s title and even though I’m writing it, as a fan I’m like ‘I can’t call that one.’

In some ways you get into that fantasy booking thing in your head and you just put it on paper and try to make it the best you can make it. To me, it all comes from being a fan.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis

WWE Will Celebrate Raw’s 25th Anniversary on January 22nd

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Monday Night Raw is turning 25 next year and on January 22nd, WWE is going to have one hell (yeah!) of a celebration.

Raw will air live on the USA Network from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and also from the Manhattan Center, the venue where Raw debuted way back on January 11th, 1993.

Superstars from Raw and SmackDown will appear at both sites, with Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and other WWE legends scheduled to appear at the Manhattan Center. It should be noted here that the Undertaker and HBK appeared on the very first episode of Raw.

“We look forward to celebrating this unmatched milestone with our fans around the world, but 25 years only marks the beginning of WWE surprising, delighting and entertaining generations to come,” said WWE Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon.

Raw is the longest-running, weekly episodic program in U.S. primetime TV history.

Tickets for both venues will go on sale starting this Friday through all Ticketmaster outlets.