With NXT TakeOver: San Antonio taking place this Saturday, Paul "Triple H" Levesque held his regular quarterly conference call ahead of the show with members of the pro wrestling media on Thursday afternoon.
Despite TakeOver being the purpose of the call, much of the agenda was focused on WWE's United Kingdom Championship tournament and what restrictions contracted talents are facing.
Levesque said that you can't say enough good things about the wrestlers in the tournament. He noted that working with them was a wonderful experience, and said he looks forward to working with them in a bigger way in the future, reiterating that a weekly show from the UK is WWE's goal.
The topic of conversation quickly turned to what restrictions the newly signed wrestlers face after some have been pulled from appearances in recent weeks.
"There's a lot of confusion based on that." Levesque said. "A lot of the confusion is based on people's refusal to acknowledge the reality of the situation. We signed talent as a part of this UK tournament and are looking forward to doing hopefully what will become a weekly show over there. The talent knew going in what the deal was, they knew what the restrictions were, and they knew what the restrictions weren't. We're not restricting them from working for anybody, as long as it's not distributed. As long as there is no distribution outside of the live event."
Levesque said that some promotions came in after the fact to add a distribution component to their shows, which wasn't what their wrestlers signed up for.
"We're not heavy-handing anybody," Levesque said. "We're asking them to approve. We're asking them to work with us, to work with the groups that are, and I was very clear about this when I was over there, we want to work with groups that are cultivating talent, not groups that are just coming in and one-offing talent."
"Is there a period of time right now we're allowing guys to work for people? Absolutely. Every single one of these talent knew the deal, they knew the deal going into it, they knew what the ask was and they knew what the restrictions were, so coming out of the other side of it there's a lot of confusion but it's not on our side, and it's not on the talent side I believe, it's on the promoter's side, who just kind of change things and do things however they feel like they want to do things."
When asked about the differences in format between the UK tournament and Cruiserweight Classic, Levesque said that what works best depends on the goal of the tournament and what they're trying to accomplish. He expressed optimism in 205 Live, but noted that incorporating the cruiserweights has been a work in progress. He said that he still believes in the show and has high hopes for it, and likes the synergy between 205 Live and Raw.
Our Dave Meltzer asked Levesque about whether they'd run live events in the UK, to which Levesque answered that they want guys to work because the only way you get great at professional wrestling is by doing it.
"The idea for me is to be able to take a weekly show in the UK and be able to run live events off of it, but to also be able to support some of the other groups that are over there as well through that process, and to be able to have these guys work," Levesque said. "But they have to be quality places for guys to work, you know what I mean? And I've said this, and I'll say it again, I want to work with guys that cultivate talent, not use talent, and there is a difference."
"Cultivating talent means these guys work with them, they have regular shows where they work with the same talent or they have storylines, and they're progressing talent's careers, and trying to help them progress in those careers, helping them become better at cutting promos, helping them become better at storytelling, progressing them."
Levesque responded to a question from Meltzer about EVOLVE star Matt Riddle by noting that they saw Riddle's talent when he previously tried out for the company. He referenced the issues that led to Riddle's exit from the UFC by saying that he believes in second chances, but said that people have to go through a period of time where they prove themselves.
Without getting into the details, Levesque said that he helped nudge along the process to get Riddle taken care of and to a place where he could be cultivated as a wrestler. He said that Riddle was just promise during his tryout, but he's a talented kid and is doing very well.
Levesque noted in the opening of the call that the build to this TakeOver was unique because of challenges presented by WWE's strategic changes that affected NXT's schedule.
While previewing the TakeOver card, Levesque had praise for everyone on the show. He said that you can't say enough about Shinsuke Nakamura's talent and charisma, while Bobby Roode is hell-bent on proving that he's the star he's always said he is.
The full conference call audio is available to listen to below: