WWE Q&A: Triple H On WarGames, Kross & NXT
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE analyst
With NXT TakeOver: WarGames taking place this Sunday, we went straight to the source for insight into the buildup and more.
NXT’s fourth WarGames offering will this time see Undisputed Era enter the dual-ring cage match as a babyface unit looking to teach a lesson to former NFL player Pat McAfee.
McAfee, who received high-praise for his wrestling debut in August at NXT TakeOver: XXX, has been a thorn in the side of the group ever since losing there to Adam Cole.
This has included enlisting the services of Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, who won the NXT Tag Team titles with his assistance, as well as former NXT UK Champion Pete Dunne, who returned by his side shredded beyond belief.
Sunday’s event will additionally be headlined by a women’s WarGames match spotlighting the impressive female roster at NXT’s disposal.
On one side, Shotzi Blackheart captains her team of Ember Moon, Rhea Ripley and Io Shirai. On the other, Candice LeRae leads her team of Dakota Kai, Raquel Gonzalez and Toni Storm.
Before all of these teams collide, however, Triple H joined me via Zoom this week to chat about a variety of topics heading into the event.
This includes Undisputed Era transitioning from being heels to babyfaces, the status of Karrion Kross’ injury, NXT being snakebitten by injuries for a period of time, the legacy of Pat Patterson and more.
Watch the interview below or scroll on for the full transcript.
RS: Before we get into all the War Games talk, I first just want to bring up the unfortunate passing of Pat Patterson this week.
Can you talk a little bit about Pat’s legacy for anyone who maybe doesn’t know?
TRIPLE H: Yeah, man, yesterday was a tough day.
Pat could be, you know, if you made a list of the most influential people in this business, and I’m not just talking about your in-ring career. Everything. Soup to nuts.
From the moment you get into it to the time you’re not in it.
Most influential people: probably, Vince is top of the list, right? I don’t know how you could have anybody be higher than that.
But, Pat would be… man, he’s in there as a tight second to me on that. Because I don’t know anybody, the longevity of it, the contributions to it. Not only as a worker. Sometimes Pat is kind of an afterthought a little bit on the work rate side.
But, when you think about a guy that was in the San Fransisco territory for fourteen years as a top guy, in a time when you went to the same clubs every week. Man, that just doesn’t happen.
To a guy that could come here and go four sell outs back-to-backs with Backlund, that was unheard of in the moment. When Bob was kinda just getting rolling.
Then to be able to come here with Vince, Sr. and then to connect with Vince, then be sort of one of those sole driving creative forces behind all of that in the explosion of the business and of WWE becoming the global brand and everything else.
His creative contributions … even then, people talk about the Rumble all the time. Just that alone. But, all the way through to the end.
There isn’t a day that goes by, for me, at the Performance Center whether I’m talking to talent or producing television or that we’re writing something, or that I’m doing anything that has to do with WWE, that there isn’t some piece of Pat that is attached to it.
A learning that I got from him. Something. It’s always there.
I said it yesterday as we were all lining up to get onto the stage for the tribute to him. I said, ‘Everybody that wants to be a part of this, from crew to across the board, should come up here,’ and they all ran up there.
I said, ‘I know there’s a lot of you that maybe never even met him, but trust me, this could be the most influential guy to your career that you will have an opportunity to make a tribute for.’
Because even if you never met him and you believe that, ‘Oh, I never really met Pat, he didn’t have anything to do with me,’ he does. ‘Cause everybody that came before you that’s teaching on any level, something that they had came from Pat’s learning tree.
That’s not an exaggerated statement in anyway.
RS: I even felt that way as a fan yesterday. I’ve never met Pat Patterson in my entire life, but his passing affected me as such a long time fan.
I was just thinking, like, ‘Man, it’s crazy to think that this person has had such an impact on my life with just his creativity.’
As someone who has worked in TV as well, I’m in awe of someone who can have that much creativity for as long as he was able to have. I think that that is an amazing ability.
TRIPLE H: Yeah. One of a kind.
RS: I know he was also at NXT often as well. He was there when Sami Zayn won the NXT title in the ring. You mentioned in the call that he was in gorilla sometimes. Is there any talent in particular at NXT that he helped you with? Or any specific advice he gave you that really helped you when it came to building talent?
TRIPLE H: Oh, boy. All of them.
Pat would just… He’s one of those guys that he would just sit there and he’d just watch somebody and he’d throw out a little pearl of wisdom at you where you’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s genius.’
It’s just how he was.
But, you know, for me, all the people that are in there, and there’s so many of them – Matt Bloom, Shawn [Michaels] – we learned so much in our careers from Pat.
Now, it’s like when you talk about as you get older you find yourself becoming your parents and the lessons they taught you, you find yourself saying them to your kids and going, ‘Oh, man, I’m now my dad.’ You find yourself saying stuff to these talent.
If you reflect back on it, like, where did I learn that? Pat.
There were moments in time where Pat would tell you, ‘You guys went out there tonight and you did this and you did that. Do this tomorrow. Trust me.’
And we would all—sometimes you’d get in that place in your head where you’re like, ‘Eh, that seems so antiquated’ or whatever it is, and he’d be like, ‘Please, just try it,’ and you’d go out there and do it and it’s like the light bulb moment where you’re like, ‘Oh, my God. That’s the greatest thing ever.’
Every talent that I’ve ever been around through that, especially the generation from ’95, when I came to WWE, through that dozen, put Pat on the top of that list of people that helped them the most, gave them the most support creatively, all those things.
I was lucky enough to get to work with him day in, day out whether as a talent and then as I was coming up and being in production meetings.
There was a lot of times when Vince would look at Pat and I and go like, ‘Can you guys try to go to make this better?’ And where it wasn’t my stuff, it’d be a show I wasn’t even on or whatever, and Pat and I would go off in the stands and sit for a long time and try to think of different ways to do it.
Man, those times for me were so valuable. I can’t state it enough. I think so many of us wouldn’t be anywhere without his help and our success in the business.
RS: I’m sure we could talk about Pat all day, but let’s also discuss WarGames this weekend.
This is the fourth NXT Takeover: War Games event. This year we’ll be seeing Undisputed Era as the babyface team heading into the show.
How have you felt about their progression as a faction as of late?
TRIPLE H: It’s been great. It’s interesting to see when you shift people from one side, so to speak, to the other.
And it’s funny that you say they’re in there as babyfaces this time. I don’t know, like even as bad guys sometimes they were getting cheered as much as the good guys, right?
Darth Vader was a bad guy, but they loved the character and I think that always resonates within our business.
But, how you handle that transition of, ‘Yeah, but now I’m supposed to be a good guy.’ Or, ‘Yeah, but now I’m supposed to be a bad guy,’ so you wholesale shift.
That’s why it’s bad to tell somebody, ‘Hey, we’re going to turn you here.’ Because then they get it in their heads, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be a bad guy,’ and now they just start doing different stuff and you’re like, ‘None of this is working now.’ There’s that shift.
But, they’re all so talented. Roddy, Bobby, Kyle and Adam are just so talented and the thing that works for me with them, whether they’re good guys or bad guys, is the authenticity of it.
The realness of it. That unit is that unit. They get along.
We shoot stuff with them at a restaurant, where they’re doing toasts and all this stuff and it’s kind of like, well, you just put cameras there and let them go do their thing because they just go be them.
In a way, I always feel like that stuff resonates the most when you can see a bunch of people that are on some level legitimately have that connection to where as a viewer watching, you think to yourself, ‘Man. I’d just like want to hang out with those dudes. I’d like to be at that dinner and just have dinner with them and hang out with them because it looks like it’s so much fun.’
I feel like that’s the magic even for things like pre-game shows for football and all those things.
The magic when FOX does that is it’s not the analysts and the football talk, it’s the camaraderie they have. You just want to go sit on a couch with Terry Bradshaw and with those other guys and just sit there and talk football and have a beer and hang out with them.
That’s the fun of it and I want to tune in to see that because if you said, ‘Hey, you wanna come over to my house and watch a bunch of boring analysts break something down for you?’
Like, ‘No, I don’t.’ But, if you go like, ‘Hey, wanna come over to my house and listen to Terry Bradshaw tell some crazy stories with football people and talk about football?’ ‘Yeah, I do.’ And I don’t even like football!
So, that to me is the magic of it. When that magic is there, it’s next level. They have that magic. It’s real to them.
There’s no show. I think that’s what worked with DX. It wasn’t a show. We were just us. We all got along in that manner.
When it’s magic like that, it really works.
RS: You can just tell they’re friends when you’re watching it. So, it really doesn’t matter how they’re positioned when you’re watching them.
But, I will say with everything – I shouldn’t say everything – but, one of the biggest disappoints to me without fans is not being able to see how fans would react to their babyface turn so far.
I feel like that moment when they came back to confront Pat McAfee and his crew would have got such a huge pop.
TRIPLE H: It’s hard when you’re putting it together and you’re envisioning that moment – and even when we’re all talking about it and you’re envisioning that moment – it’s hard to then, when it happens, not be disappointed because in your mind it’s, ‘Raaah!’ Right?
Like, it’s the roar of that crowd, no matter how big that crowd is and it’s hard to not have that.
My hat’s off to every performer that’s doing this right now in these small or non-existent crowd atmospheres, because I don’t know that I could do it.
The reaction is so much of everything that we do. To be able to go out there and do it at the level that they do it without that, my hat’s off to them.
But, yeah, I say it all the time. I can’t express how much I miss people and our fans and the WWE Universe and all of them being a part of it, their passion. It’s what makes what we do.
RS: Pat McAfee was involved in that angle I just referenced. Now that he’s a more permanent fixture of the weekly show, has he signed any sort of new deal as a performer that’s gonna keep him there as much as possible?
Or does he still the same relationship that he had before when he was doing the pre-shows?
TRIPLE H: Pat has a deal with us. He’s had a deal with us for a while. Pat has a lot going on in his life.
It’s a funny thing. Everybody’s busy and stuff, but even this week he’s down there prepping for everything and we have to find him studio space and everything else so he can continue to do all his other lines of things because those are all of the things he’s doing on the front side of this and this is sort of the additional thing.
But it’s a cool, I don’t want to say cross-promotional thing, because in some mind Pat just is a WWE superstar. But, he has that crossover appeal and whether it’s the FanDuel stuff or his college game day stuff or his show or all of it. He brings a lot across the board.
He’s a busy dude, but he makes it all work. When it comes to being on the microphone and being a little heat seeking missile, Pat, he doesn’t have to go out and put on a performance, cause that’s just him.
But it’s magic.
He’s the kind of guy, again, I think you just want to be around him if you’re friends with him and if you’re not friends with him you wanna kill him. And that’s kind of the magic, right?
RS: Absolutely. Were you hesitant at all, though, to put him in a War Games match for his second match ever?
TRIPLE H: Yeah. Look, I’m hesitant about all of it with him at first.
It’s a funny thing with Pat, but like no different than any talent. I don’t care how good of talent is. If you’ve never worked with them, first time you put them on live TV, you’re like, ‘Oof.’ [Shirt tugging.] All of it.
But, when you give Pat the ball, every time, it seems like every time you give it to him, you try to eliminate all the variables you can to make it as failsafe as possible, but then he makes it magic and he over delivers and everything else.
The great part in War Games, while it’s War Games, you’re trapped inside those cages and the two rings and all that stuff, but you have seven other talent out there that are the best in the world to help every aspect of it.
So, I think it’ll be great and when you look at the other guys in there from Pete, to Kyle, to Adam, the whole crew, Oney, Danny, Bobby and Roddy, it doesn’t get much better than that from a talent perspective. So, it’ll be off the charts.
No different than the women will be.
RS: Another thing that I have loved on NXT lately are these vignettes that you’ve been showing for Shotzi building her War Games team.
I thought they were very cool looking, very unique. And a lot of the stuff that you’ve been doing with Shotzi has really been showcasing her amazing on-screen presence lately.
How impressed have you been with her work as of late?
TRIPLE H: She’s amazing, as an in-ring performer, as all those things.
But, there are certain people that their personalities that resonate in a different way. When you see them, you go like, ‘Eh,’ then you take a picture and you’re like, ‘Holy cow.’
On-screen it just changes, right?
She just has an it-factor and I think that shines through when you just allow her to go out there and do her things.
There are those things she does, I don’t think she can tell you that she does or why she did them or that she even meant to do them. But, there are just little things that she does in little ways that she does stuff that resonate. It’s a feeling you get.
When we were talking about Hallowee Havoc, as you’re talking to it months in advance, you’re like, ‘You know who would be a good host for that? Shotzi.’ Like, just, ‘Oh, man. I can just picture her doing this stuff.’
Then, as you’re getting into War Games, these little bits and pieces of things that you can do where it’s about showcasing the personality.
You go back to pre-Halloween Havoc, Shotzi’s a different performer on a different level from where she is right now.
She’s worked a few times in that period of time, it’s mostly been based on her just on-screen presence and personality. And that’s awesome, because you don’t find very many talent that can deliver it like that, with that skill set, you know?
RS: I was already a fan of Shotzi and you’re right. 100%. When Halloween Havoc happened, it clicked for me. I was like, ‘Oh! Now I see the it-factor.’ Before I was a fan, but now I’m like, ‘This girl is gonna have a huge career in this business.’
So, I totally agree that just a slight little shift of showcasing someone’s personality more can really make a huge difference.
Shifting topics, WWE announced a new batch of signings and I wanted to get your opinion on two of them: Dezmond Xavier and Zachary Wentz.
TRIPLE H: When you’re looking at talent – there’s always talent that are out there – and you have to look past where they are, what they’re doing, how they’ve gotten to where they are, what sort of exposure or kind of information they’ve been given.
Did they just figure it out on their own? Or is someone helping guide them? All those things.
So, you look at all these talents. These are two kids are, I think, I’m very impressed with the things that they’ve done, but I don’t know that they really had a lot of helping hand to help have them get to where they are.
They just sort of figured it out on their own.
They’ve figured out personality and charisma. They’ve figured out the in-ring style they have and made it their own. I’m a big fan of that.
I’m excited to see what they can do now and when you meet them, they’re really great guys that are humble and hungry and looking for that opportunity.
It’s a funny thing to me that when you’re at the level where they ar,e or kind of sort of in that mix of that time frame, if you’re just going, ‘It’s just about the money,’ and there’s nothing wrong with that, but to me the mindset shows a difference in how you think about the business.
For me, in those moments, like when I left WCW to come to WWE, I had a guaranteed money deal that was for a lot more and a position and all those things. I left for the opportunity to do something bigger and become great. I gambled on myself.
Not because there was a, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this with you.’ There was no guarantee here and all those things. But, I looked at a track record. I looked at a company that was bigger. I looked at a visionary that ran it and I thought, ‘That can be a long term that makes me something.’
And it wasn’t about that moment, it was about the future and investing in you and gambling on you.
When I meet kids like them where they are so passionate about this and want it so bad. Man, they just want that opportunity and then if you give them that opportunity, ‘I’m gonna run through a brick wall and I’m going to prove to you.’
It’s not about do you believe in me in this moment? It’s about, ‘Give me the ball for a second, I’m gonna make you believe in me where you can’t have any other choice but to do this with me.’
Man, that just makes me want to run through a brick wall for them and they’re those kinds of kids. I want to run through a brick wall for them to try to make them have the opportunity to live their dream.
RS: Can you give us any sort of update on the status of Karrion Kross?
TRIPLE H: Yeah. To quote him, ‘Tick tock, any second.’
Yeah, he’s there. He had one of those tricky injuries where you don’t know, and that was the difficult process for us.
The separation was to a degree of like questionable. Does he get surgery, does he not get surgery? If he doesn’t get the surgery, how does it heal? Does it heal better? Does it take longer?
There were a lot of questions there.
But, he is a machine and that’s the one thing. The moment that he was injured and the moment the assessments were done, he was like, ‘Alright. Here’s what I’m going to do.’
When I say left no stone unturned everything he could conceivably do to make himself better during that period of time, he was doing on a moment-by-moment basis. Connecting with us at all times. Trying to work on every aspect of even the stuff he couldn’t be doing.
In-ring. Everything. Just all in and he’s a sponge.
He’s one of those guys that, again, you want to run through a brick wall for. But, he’ll run through the brick wall for himself. That’s the other thing. He’s not here to sit back and go, ‘Man, I hope this heals well.’ He’s going to. If it doesn’t heal well, it’s not on him. It’s not on lack of effort.
He did everything conceivable to get there and he’s ready to rock and roll. It’s just a timing thing now.
Look at where NXT is right now and when you take in the last few months, there was a moment there where we were snakebitten by a bunch of things.
Keith Lee transitions, and Karrion gets the title but he gets injured at the same time. You’ve gotta take the title off of him. Finn gets the title.
I don’t even think everybody knows this, but Finn gets the title and in that match blows his ear drum out and as he comes out of that, ‘Okay, he’s good on that,’ right on the flip-side of that he breaks his jaw. And then he’s out.
Then it goes from, again, when you get into the specialists, different opinions and it’s just hard to predict some of these things.
And the Tegan Nox injury. Man, it just seemed like one thing after another. You talk about COVID on top of that.
But, now we’re kinda getting into position to where a lot of those variables are coming back to the table.
What I’m excited about is the fact that we’ve made all this and now, where all these – you look at this War Games card and then you go, ‘Yeah, and on the other side of this, you’re getting Balor, you’re getting Kross, you’re getting Bronson Reed.’
All these people begin to come back into the mix.
It’s big and it’s all there. Now it’s just a matter of time of figuring out how you put all the pieces back in there, you know?
RS: Well, I can’t wait to see how you do that. I’m gonna be watching obviously. But, last thing before I let you go here. I kinda heard you do it on the media call, but it was a kinda half-assed version. I want to hear your best William Regal/War Games announcement.
The people want to see this.
TRIPLE H: At this point in time, I don’t know if I’m more enamored in the William Regal/War Games announcement or seeing him say, ‘Playa’ with the eye roll.
Like, I’m not sure which one I’m a bigger fan of in the moment.
That, to me, speaks volumes of him as a performer because he can do anything. It’s funny that people look at his character sometimes and they forget the entertainment that he has done, from one of the best technical, scientific wrestlers and serious guys in the business, to complete other end of the spectrum.
He can do it all. He’s amazing.
But, if I had to do it. The build up is the thing. He kinda gives you the little hair flip, which doesn’t really work for me, but he gives you a little hair flip and then, ‘War Games!’
RS: That was great. That was perfect. I love it.
Thank you so much. Everyone, make sure you go check out War Games this weekend. It’s going to be an awesome show. I guarantee you won’t want to miss it. Paul, thank you for taking the time to do this. I appreciate it.
TRIPLE H: Thank you, man.
NXT TakeOver: WarGames airs LIVE on WWE Network this Sunday at 7pm Eastern / 4pm Pacific time.