Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque on the future of NXT and his match with Jinder Mahal

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For the first time ever, USA will air a special one-hour NXT special tonight at 7 p.m. ET and the head honcho of NXT, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, took some time to talk with me about how some of the brand’s biggest stars have upped their game in 2017, the three-to-five year plan for NXT and his match with Jinder Mahal in New Delhi.  

Let’s keep this first one simple, is this the most important night in the history of NXT?

“It’s one of them. I think it’s a pretty cool opportunity when you think about the original concept of what it was. This small developmental thing in Florida that has grown and evolved over the last few years to where NBC Universal, one of the largest television and entertainment companies in the world is willing to give up a primetime slot on a Wednesday night to air an hour of NXT programming. That’s pretty cool to me.

I’m really proud of everything that it has accomplished. No matter how it does, I see it as an opportunity to expose a lot of people to NXT who haven’t seen it yet because as much as people talk about it, or you hear about it on Raw like ‘this person was an NXT champion or this person came from there,’ there’s a lot of people who have never seen it because it just airs on the network. Hopefully this is their chance to sample it.”

How did this special airing of NXT on USA come about? Was this an idea that NBCU came to you about, or was this something that you pitched to them?

“They approached us with it as far as I know, I wasn’t there when it happened. Every year we do ‘WWE week’ on the USA Network and with Raw being on Monday, SmackDown now being live on Tuesdays and now there’s the content that they can fill the rest of the week with. Tribute to the Troops on Thursday is the signature event of the week.

Wednesday was the perfect opportunity for us. They presented it to us this year as an opportunity and I was asked if I would be interested in creating a show for that and I was like absolutely. Is that a trick question?

I’m really excited about the show. Coming out of the last TakeOver that we did, there’s a new champion, but there was also an injury to Drew McIntyre and it forced us to reboot a little bit and come up with a new number one contender, but it allowed us to put on an excellent show for USA, which includes the NXT champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas against Fabian Aichner, who some fans saw in the Cruiserweight Classic. He’s just a phenomenal performer.

The Authors of Pain will be on there as well and then in the main event Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole in a match that will help determine the eventual number one contender to the NXT champion. It’s a really strong show.”

It’s fair to say that Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas’ first few months in NXT were rough to say the least and now I feel like with Zelina Vega, he’s really starting to find his stride. What have you seen from him in the past few months that gave you the confidence to put the title on him?

“I’ve seen the same thing you have.

There’s a curve to doing what we do when you walk in the door for the first time, no matter where you’ve been. People talk about other promotions around the globe, but I haven’t seen anyone who doesn’t come in the door that doesn’t feel a difference when they walk in. That can lead to a lot of things. Intimidation, loss of confidence. You can take a step back.

It’s also a different style for him. There’s a lot of factors and I think when he first came in … and I’ve seen this with a lot of talent, whether that be Hideo Itami, Ember Moon, really, really talented people walk in the door and it takes them awhile to get their feet under them. It takes them awhile to get used to the style change. It takes them awhile to get used to how we shoot television. To have that confidence is really what it comes down to.

If you look back to where he started to where he is right now with us, it’s a completely different performer. As I saw that taking place over time I thought, now he’s starting to get it, how do I give him the platform to regroup?

It’s hard to have a guy all of a sudden go from being not good to being really good. So what’s that shift? What’s that platform that allows him to grow even more?

That was Zelina Vega. With the way we presented it, she came in, gave him the confidence and put him back on track. It all led him to changing who he is as a performer. I think you see that now. The swagger that he has. He comes off like the cocky, arrogant guy who knows he’s that good and he is.”

Well yeah and it gave him essentially the mouthpiece he needed because obviously English is still a challenge for him, but having her there and having her express his confidence gives him the ability to just focus on being a standout in-ring performer.

“My goal … and I try to combat this with NXT all of the time, as we’re putting performers out there people will come to me and say like ‘well we shouldn’t have Andrade do this promo because it’s not his strong suit’ and it’s like well he has to learn to do it right?

You have to put them out there and you have to give them the ball. Sometimes you have to throw the guy the ball, while understanding that he might fumble it, or he might fall down, but he has to get used to catching it and then eventually he’s going to run for a touchdown.

We run that fine line of what their performances are. Putting the spotlight on their strengths, but not hiding the weaknesses to a point where they’re covered up. They’ll never grow that way.

I want to make him a well-rounded performer. I want him to continue to get better at English. I want him to continue to grow as a performer to a point where he doesn’t need those other things, but that’s not where he’s at yet, so we try to do the best we can with him right now.

To your point, she brings a totally different dynamic to him that allows him to just be that cocky, arrogant champion.”

So NXT has gone through a lot of changes since you created it. What’s your vision for what’s next? Is it a weekly spot in primetime on USA? Is it presenting the brand as a legitimate alternative to Raw and SmackDown, where it doesn’t act as developmental for those brands? Where do you see this product going in the next three-to-five years?

“It’s funny the terms people put on things. Like a ‘legitimate alternative.’ Well if you don’t like one and you watch the other it’s an alternative right?”

Sure.

It’s an alternative now. I think that the more variety you can give the better. Raw is presented a certain way. SmackDown is presented a certain way. NXT is presented a certain way and there are markets for all of those products.

Do I see it not being developmental? Look in some ways the brands are just the brands and as talent improve and move up, where they end up, whether that’s Raw, whether that’s Smackdown, or if that’s NXT at some point in time, they’re all just going to be part of a brand.

I think there’s going to be a learning curve where NXT will always sort of be developmental for some, but I think we’re going to reach a point where we’ll say, ‘Well clearly this guy or girl isn’t developmental, he or she has been on the main roster. They’ve done this or this on the main roster and now they’re back down doing this in NXT.’

I think there’s going to be that shift back and forth. I think you’ll see, as you said earlier, a more legitimate alternative brand, although, I think on the lower and middle end of the roster, you’re going to have talent who have only been in the business for two years. The first time you’ll see them perform anywhere will be on NXT.

As talent come in from other places who have not yet had that experience to be on Raw or SmackDown, I don’t care where they’ve been, they’ll need the learning curve.

In some sense it will continue to be developmental, but it’ll be different from where it is today because I think you’re going to see talent move up and move down. I don’t think it should be seen as a demotion when they go to NXT. I think it should be seen as they’re competing in a different environment.”

Outside of Braun Strowman, I don’t know if there’s anyone who has impressed me more this year than Johnny Gargano. His performances stick with me every time I watch him. When I think about the five best matches I’ve seen this year, his name pops up multiple times. What has he done to up his game this year?

“I think he’s become a storyteller. There’s a lot of emotion in Johnny Gargano’s matches.

He knows his role. He’s the underdog who will never quit. You’re not going to beat him easily and he can always pull it out. He’s willing to tell a phenomenal story.

It’s the hardest thing sometimes … we have this conversation in the Performance Center a lot, Shawn [Michaels] will have it with guys, Matt [Bloom] will have it with guys, it’s about storytelling and that’s truly is what we do. The spots are the spots, but the storytelling is key.

When guys learn that and then they get in the ring with guys who are in the process of learning it, the difficult part is to try and get them to do what you’ve learned and not reverting back to doing what they do.

Johnny is one of those guys who has begun to learn that process really well and then brings everybody up with him and that’s a really impressive thing. He just gets it, but he’s also one of those guys that is 24/7. There are a lot of people who are that way, but it’s different with him.

You can be having a conversation with somebody else about their angle, or their match and you see him two feet away listening to the conversation trying to help figure it out, or give his point of view. He’s in the pocket all of the time. Those are the type of guys you love to work with because it’s passion. He’s passionate about the business, which is why he’s successful and will continue to be successful.”

I have to ask about the match with Jinder Mahal in New Delhi. Were you surprised at all by the reaction you got there? From what I read and watched on YouTube you got the biggest reaction of the night.

“It’s funny, you see a lot of comments to the reaction of the fans there. India is totally different market and WWE is huge there. One thing that people forget is the first time I went to India to perform was in 1996. I’ve been on their TV for a really long period of time.

There are certain guys there, in that market, who transcend the business for them. When we were talking to our television partners there about the marketing for the event, it was one of the things that kept coming up. It’s why I was put on the card.

I haven’t been there in a long time. I was excited and really happy to hear the reaction. It’s sort of what we expected. We know what resonates in markets and we can see it in our numbers and see it in the research that are partners have done as well as on social media.”

I think a lot of people were just assuming and this is a short-sighted thought that Jinder was going to get the biggest reaction. The fact that you’ve been on television for so long, combined with the attraction of seeing you for the first time created the reaction. Those fans have a longer emotional investment with you.

“I often think it’s funny to me that people in America, who have never been to India, put their thoughts and their beliefs onto other people, ‘like clearly that’s the truth.’ (Laughs). It’s totally different there!

The way they see things and react to things is very different. There are certain guys that once they reach a level there, it’s a whole different ballgame; Undertaker, [John] Cena. It’s just a different level of stardom.

When we were over there a few months ago having business meetings, to hear the people who are running television studios or Internet companies say to me ‘I watched you when I was a teenager. You were like the biggest guy in the world.’

I met a massive Bollywood star the other day who told me that I was his entire childhood. He got suspended from school for telling someone to ‘suck it.’ At a time in ’96 when there were like three channels there, we were on one of them all of the time.

It’s not to say Jinder wasn’t ‘over’ there. He was! You have to understand the market. It’s not like everyone just went, ‘Oh my God he’s Indian! He looks like us so we love him.’ They are a savvy market. They understand that he’s [playing] a bad guy [on television].

Even though he got a massive reaction, he still needs to earn their respect. He’s still growing and still new. You know what I mean?”

Well back to the storytelling point from earlier, that’s the emotional attachment right?

“Yeah.”

Jinder still new in many ways, especially in this role. The audience has to grow with him in order for him to reach that level of stardom you mentioned.

“Absolutely. Just even being on this tour will help him. The reaction he got at the beginning of the night was much different than the reaction he got at the end of the night. It just grew. Their appreciation of him grew. It was all handled in the right way and done in the right manner.

Over time he’s going to grow and become a cultural icon for them.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Q&A: Natalya on WWE’s Mixed Match Challenge, Nakamura, and why she didn’t want Sami Zayn as her partner

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WWE’s Mixed Match Challenge debuts tonight and will stream live in the U.S. exclusively on Facebook Watch at 10 p.m. ET.

The first match of the inaugural Mixed Match Challenge will be Shinsuke Nakamura and Natalya vs. Finn Balor and Sasha Banks. I had the chance to chat with Natalya about why she’s so excited to team with Nakamura, the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble and why she was thrilled that Sami Zayn wasn’t her teammate.

How is your relationship with Shinsuke Nakamura? This is someone who you haven’t worked with on television before, so I imagine you have to be excited to have the opportunity to share some on-screen time with him.

“I’m so excited to be working with him. When we first found out that there was a group of girls and a group of guys who were going to be competing in the Mixed Match Challenge concept, he was one of the first people I wanted to team with because he’s very quirky, he’s very unusual, he’s very different.

It’s hard to explain exactly what Nakamura is like. His persona on TV is kind of like how he is backstage. He has this mystique about him. He’s very, very charismatic. He leaves people talking and guessing and wondering.

He’ll walk through an airport and grab attention in a different way than say somebody like Braun Strowman. Obviously their proportions are different (laughs).

He’s really cool. He’ll wear like really weird shoes, or a really cool hat, or a really big scarf and you’re like he’s so cool.

Nakamura embraces his own unique eccentricities and that’s what we, at WWE, want to express, especially when we’re talking to kids about bullying and having goals and being different in this crazy thing called life.

We talk to kids about being different and embracing it and Nakamura totally embraces that. It’s very important to be different. I don’t want to be like the person next to me and nor should anyone. When I see Nakamura, he loves to be unique. He is proud of it.

It’s so funny, we’ve been filming a lot of these backstage vignettes on my phone and yesterday I showed him a gift I got for Finn [Balor] and Sasha [Banks] when they lose to us because I don’t want them to feel sad.

So I was explaining this to Nakamura and he’s like ‘a present? Why did you get them a present?’ And I was like, when they lose, they’re going to be sad, and we don’t want that. So I showed him the present was and it was magnets with cats’ bottoms. I saw them at the dollar store and thought they were so stupid and funny at the same time.

I showed them to Nakamura and he was like ‘I want them!’ And I was like no you can’t have them, they’re for Finn and Sasha when they lose. He was fighting with me about wanting to keep the magnets for himself. We got it on tape and I was like Nakamura these are presents for them! And he was like ‘oh yes, yes, yes, yes, we will give them presents.’ He just cracks me up. That’s why I think partnering with him will be so great.

The charity aspect of the Mixed Match Challenge is the cherry on top of this whole thing. Yeah we’re doing this for fun and it’s a great thing for the superstars, a great dynamic for us backstage, and a great way for us to perform. It’s a great way for the WWE Universe to see a different concept because you don’t always see girl and guy tag teams and it’s so cool to see inter-branded tag teams matches.

But then you throw in the charity aspect and there are so many charities the WWE is working with from Connor’s Cure, to Make-A-Wish [Foundation], to Rescue Dogs Rock and so many more. It’s really cool.

Make-A-Wish is the charity that Nakamura and I are representing and it’s one that is really close to my heart because I have granted wishes. And when you can change a kid’s perspective or change their quality of life, even if it’s for a few moments, you realize what the worth of your actual career is. I want to make people happy and lift kids up who don’t have that much time left.”

The use of cats in the promos you’ve done with Nakamura has been hilarious. Was there any thought of having 2pawz as the manager for your team?

“I thought about it and then I thought well, I don’t want PETA coming after me because 10,000 people are yelling as I walk down to the ring with my cat (laughs).

You know, 2pawz doesn’t get out of bed for just anyone or anything. I truly had thought about it because that would be so cool if he came down with us. My mom actually made him a costume that matches Nakamura’s ring costume.

We will reign victorious in the first ever #WWE #mixedmatchchallenge! #NAKAMEOWA

A post shared by 2pawz (@2pawz) on

We filmed some videos and posted them on my account. 2pawz has posted them on his Instagram account. He’s very into Nakamura’s music, his costume and Japanese culture. He’s very ready to do this!

But like I said, I thought about him, but I just think it might be too much for him. I don’t want to traumatize the cat.”

Nakamura does strike me as someone who would have a cat.

“Yes. Now I know he has a dog, but he definitely has cat-owner-like qualities because cats are … Cesaro is a cat owner and he’s kind of like a cat. My husband, TJ, is kind of snippy. They’re like cats. Everything is on their terms.

Whereas dog people … dog people are like Mojo Rawley and Bayley and Becky Lynch. They’re happy. They want to hug you. They want to play and jump. They want attention (laughs). But us cat people, we make you work for it.

Your reaction to Nakamura being revealed as your teammate for the Mixed Match Challenge was noteworthy because of how excited you were that Sami Zayn wasn’t your partner. Why were you so excited that Sami wasn’t standing behind you in the selfie?

“What’s so funny about this is that I actually forgot I said that because I have such spontaneous reactions. The WWE producers were like we need to film a video for you because soon you’re going to find out who your partner is, but it’s not today. So I was doing this interview and then all of a sudden they were like do you want to take a selfie because you’re going to need a selfie for the Mixed Match Challenge and all of a sudden I see these red teeth behind me and it was Nakamura wearing a mouthguard and I was like oh my God, Nakamura is my partner! Like it just clicked to me that this was the reveal.

 

I was so excited, but I had this feeling that I was going to get Sami because he and I were both bad guys on TV. I was like I’m going to get Sami and I don’t know if I have chemistry with Sami, I don’t know if it’s there. It wasn’t that I don’t like Sami, I just couldn’t see us gelling together in the ring. In order to have really compelling and great matches, you need to be able to gel with your partner.

So my first reaction was to jump up and down and yell ‘I didn’t get Sami!’ And then later on that day Sami walks up to me and goes ‘are you and I OK?’ And I go yeah, why? And he goes, ‘because you jumped up and down and said you were so happy that I wasn’t your partner and WWE aired that on Twitter to like 12 million people.’ I was like, ‘I don’t recall doing that (laughs).’ Of course it was like the first thing I did (laughs).

It was so funny because Sami thought I was mad at him. He was like I love you and TJ so much that I didn’t know if I ticked you off and I was like, ‘No!’ I just wanted Nakamura.”

With the first women’s Royal Rumble coming up quickly, I was wondering how much you’ve thought about the potential impact of the match on the division as a whole.

“The WWE is really putting their money where their mouth is. They’re really pulling out all of the stops for this. It’s not just 20 girls in this Royal Rumble. They’re trying to, as much as humanly possible, make it as equal to the guys as they can.

We can try to be as equal to the men as we possibly can, but there are some things that … look you’re not going to have girl who is the same height as Braun (6’8”). There are reasons why different is good. There are a lot of things that the women bring to the table that the men can’t do and there’s a lot of things the men bring to the table that the girls can’t do.

WWE has gone above and beyond in every way, shape, and form to make this first-ever women’s Royal Rumble feel equal and that to me is huge. We have 30 women competing and it’s over-the-top-rope.

It’s all about us girls standing out and showing that we’re equal and WWE has been awesome about embracing that.

I have thought a lot about what I’m going to do in the Royal Rumble. I’ve thought a lot about who could possibly be in the match. There has been a lot of speculation and that’s really the fun part. Who is going to be a part of this? Am I going to see Trish Stratus? Am I going to see Michelle McCool? Is there going to be someone who isn’t even a female superstar come and be a part of it?

I was thinking about the girls from G.L.O.W. like what a shock that would be to see one of the girls from the show because it’s so popular. Anything and everything can happen and there’s this huge element of surprise.

The crowd in Philadelphia will let you know … they’re one of those renegade, rowdy, wild, awesome, amazing powerhouse of a crowd. They’re going to let us know what they love and they’re going to let us know what they hate and they’re going to put the pressure on us more than ever.

I think you’re going to see some magic for sure.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Mick Foley on advice he gave to Braun Strowman, Raw’s 25th anniversary, Jericho vs. Omega

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The 25th anniversary of Raw will be celebrated on January 22nd with a special broadcast from the Barclays Center and the Manhattan Center live at 8 p.m. ET on USA.

I had the chance to chat with Mick Foley about the event, the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match, the advice he gave to Braun Strowman and what he thought of the build for Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega.

Is December 26th the saddest day of the year for you, or does Christmas never end for you?

“As long as I’ve got my Hallmark movie stockpile, I can continue in the season for the next few weeks.”

Those don’t get old for you?

“Nah, we know how they end. It’s a nice way to escape the real world. I also made it a point to see a great production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ on December 30th. I love the season, but it’s nice to get a little break from it. I’m looking out of my window and a foot of snow is mounting and so it still feels like the holiday season.”

You joined WWE after Raw left the Manhattan Center, do you have any memories of working in the building, or have you never had the chance to work there?

“Is it still called the Manhattan Center?”

Yeah it is.

“I guess not. I wrestled in the Penta Hotel in 1990, but I guess I never worked the Manhattan Center.”

The Raw 25th anniversary show is another chance for WWE to celebrate their past by bringing back some of the all-time greats, but when thinking ahead to the future, I don’t know if something like this will be possible when say, the Raw 50th anniversary show happens, because none of the stars on today’s roster, besides John Cena, seem to be able to break through the glass ceiling and reach that next level of super-stardom. What has to change in order for there to be more household names like there were during the Attitude Era?

“Well that’s more of a societal change. I don’t think we can go back there. I think WWE did what they had to do to become more successful than ever on a global basis. I would love to say, ‘Hey, things were much better back in my day,’ but the company just turned its biggest profit ever. They knew that we were in a wave, so you can either let the wave subside and complain about the way things used to be, or move forward in every area possible and that’s what they did.

So I’d say that on a global basis, the superstars are just as big, if not bigger, with the exception of you know, a Rock or a Stone Cold. I think they’re doing just fine.”

As a huge advocate for women’s wrestling, I’m sure you were thrilled to find out about the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble. What are some challenges that the women will face in having to do that match for the first time?

“I guess it depends on the positioning of the match on the card. I’m guessing that it’s going to be first.

Just trying to live up to the lure of rumbles in the past will be a challenge. It is almost always the highlight of the show. The match really gains due to the anticipation during it.

I’ll be rooting for the women. I’ll be glued to my TV set and just hoping that it goes as well as possible for everybody. I hope they have a couple of surprise entrees. Both from the past and a couple of new names.

The women are so determined. Through sheer force of will, they’re going to have a very good match, but the one thing you can’t ever … you can’t book magic. I hope there’s that element of magic in the air when they take to the ring.”

Outside of working with Stephanie McMahon on screen during your time as the general manager of Raw, what were some of your favorite moments during your run last year?

“I loved doing work with The Bar (Sheamus and Cesaro), especially putting them together and then interacting with them after they teamed up.

I loved interactions with guys like Sami [Zayn]. Anyone who I was able to kind of get in and try to make a difference with, I really enjoyed.

I tried to bring a certain element of fear to the way I handled Braun Strowman. I had a major talk with him about the importance of throwing things backstage. [laughs] I told him about a legendary basketball game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977, when Darryl Dawkins was ejected. I never saw the dressing room after he was done with it, but I heard about it and it was legendary in my mind and I said to him that he had a chance to be Darryl Dawkins after that game.

He had the physical presence to do it. He was the one guy who had the strength to throw things around in a way that would be meaningful and I think he really took that lesson to heart. Anytime I see Braun Strowman throwing items backstage, I smile.”

His growth last year was one of the more shocking developments in the past few years. Obviously you see the potential based on his look, but it seemed like he really sunk his teeth into the advice he was given and understood how to use it to his advantage.

“Yeah, I put out a post one day on Facebook and I don’t think I quite hit it on the sweet spot of the bat, but it was basically Baron von Frankenstein saying, ‘Oh, that’s how you build a monster.’

I think it’s one of the most impressive builds I’ve seen a long time. Everybody has benefited.”

For sure. He’s one of the few guys on the roster who feels “protected,” and that’s something I was trying to hit at earlier about the lack of superstars on the roster. So many characters just don’t feel like they’re being protected. He’s someone who has been and the crowd understands that and is reacting to him as a top level star.

“Well, the guys go out there and do their thing with the great matches they have and there’s a feeling that the fans respect that and any guy can win at any given time.

Believe me, it’s tough when you have to have good, competitive matches for three hours [every week]. It was much easier in the days of ‘WWE Superstars’ or before that with the wrestling I saw once or twice a week where a decent match every six weeks was considered a treat.

It’s really difficult to have dominant characters when they have to be competitive so often. When you have a chance to build someone like Braun in a different way, it really stands out.”

And that’s why I feel like whoever can show their personality using the microphone or in a backstage segment, will standout even more so than in the past because we see 20 minute matches every week with extensive selling from both guys. I look at someone like Adam Cole, who can get himself over by just using facial expressions, and think that’s someone who will immediately standout to the audience because he’s expressing his character without selling a body part for 60 percent of a match or making a move look cool.

“There’s a guy who came up in an airport, almost combatively saying, ‘I’ll tell you what’s wrong with Raw these days!’

Oh boy.

“And I’m like all right, what is it? And he goes ‘How can you have a three hour show without someone like The Miz?’

And he’s right. When someone is that entertaining that regularly, you miss him when he’s gone. So it shows that there’s room for someone else to step up.

It’s like hey guess what, Jason Jordan is entertaining. Now Drew Gulak is entertaining. Now Rusev is on the other show, but he’s entertaining. Guys find ways to step up and they find a way to make the best out of mediocre situations. They show what they can do and then they get a couple key people believing in them and then they get the ball.”

You’ve said people always come up to you and ask about Hell in the Cell with The Undertaker, but what are some of the more underappreciated moments/matches from your career that you wish people would ask you about more often?

“I was thrilled to be on Edge and Christian’s podcast where Shawn Michaels and I talked about our match at ‘In Your House: Mind Games’ for over an hour. It was amazing how vividly both of us remembered that match.

Some of my matches tend to blend together, but that was really different. A lot of outside of the box stuff.

The stuff that I did to set up the matches with The Rock that resulted in I think five consecutive Pay-Per-View matches, all of which were good.

The non-cell matches with The Undertaker, including the first-ever Buried Alive match.

Every once in a while someone will show the clip of the Big Show throwing me from the stage into a grave on a short hop.

I forget about a lot of the things I’ve done over the years, but I think I was fully appreciated.”

I assume based off of this media tour you’ve done this morning that you haven’t had a chance to watch Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega yet.

“No! It’s shame because last night I was going to put a post out wishing those guys luck and I guess I confused the time zone changes and thought it would be taking place later today. I hear they did a tremendous job though.”

Oh, it was excellent. A great blend of new school and old school. I was not expecting it to go over 40 minutes …

“Woah!”

It was fantastic. What did you think of the build for that match?

“I thought it was great. I’ve been a big fan of Kenny’s work for a long time. During the beginning of their feud, I reached out to him and was like, is this something you guys are working on? Is everything OK between you two? And he was like don’t worry about me, just having some fun.

I thought Jericho isn’t just going to go after a phenomenal athlete like Kenny Omega and reduce him to being a curiosity. And then as soon as the match was announced I was like, ah that Jericho, he knows what he’s doing.

The article that I was going to write last night … I just happened to find a cool photo of Chris and I backstage and I was going to point out that for all of the fun and shenanigans, Jericho is a very competitive guy. Very driven. Stands up for stuff that he believes in. He wants everything he does to be the best and I had no doubt that when this thing was announced that they were going to steal the show.”

Twitter: @ScottDargis