Kevin Owens on WWE Creative; HBK Talks Relationship with The Rock; Latest NXT Rumors

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVOctober 26, 2022

MARCO POLO ORTIGAS, PASIG CITY, METRO MANILA, PHILIPPINES - 2019/09/20: WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens had a meet and greet session with the members of the media in Manila last September 20 to promote the upcoming WWE Live Event at the Araneta Coliseum later that night. (Photo by Dennis Jerome Acosta/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Dennis Jerome Acosta/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Bleacher Report catches you up on the latest news from the WWE Universe.

Owens Praises WWE's New Creative Philosophy

WWE is about three months into a new regime following the retirement of Vince McMahon, and Kevin Owens is among those who have enjoyed the changes implemented since then.

Appearing Monday on Fox Sports' The Happy Hour (h/t H Jenkins of Ringside News), Owens expressed his belief that there is a different feel to the product, which has resonated with the performers:

"Just the presentation of the show has been different, and the matches and the mentality behind them, and the perspective … I don't know if that makes a whole lot of sense to somebody that's just watching at home, but to us in the locker room and the Performance Center, I think it's just kind of a different way of thinking about what we do now.

"But it's been fun, and it's been energizing in a way as well because this brings a different energy, and everyone's kind of excited to do their part to make the show as good as possible, so it's been pretty exciting for sure."

When McMahon retired from his positions as chairman, CEO and head of creative, it became a collaborative effort to replace him.

His daughter, Stephanie McMahon, was named chairwoman and co-CEO along with Nick Khan. Stephanie's husband, Triple H, was then promoted to head of creative and vice president of talent relations.

Triple H already had plenty of experience as a booker in NXT, which made him a natural fit for the job, and he hasn't wasted any time in putting his stamp on the company.

In addition to changing the overall essence of the product, Triple H has brought back several Superstars who were released in 2020 and 2021, plus he has established new and exciting ideas, such as WarGames being part of Survivor Series next month.

One of Triple H's first orders of business was to reestablish Owens as a force to be reckoned with and as a babyface, and it seems likely that he will be a big part of the storyline involving Sami Zayn and The Bloodline in the near future.

While WWE is far from perfect with Triple H at the helm, he has made some major improvements in a short amount of time and made WWE a hot brand again.

Michaels Downplays Apparent Past Issues with The Rock

There have long been rumors that Shawn Michaels treated The Rock poorly in the early days of his WWE run, but The Heartbreak Kid believes the speculation has been overblown.

Appearing this week on the Impaulsive podcast with new WWE Superstar Logan Paul (h/t Subhojeet Mukherjee of Ringside News), Michaels gave some insight into his relationship with The Rock in the past and more recently:

"I've never worked with him. His daughter [Ava Raine] is here [in NXT]. The times I've seen him, we've always gotten along okay. I don't think it was as bad as everyone made it out to be. I know that I gave everybody a hard time back when I was younger.

"When I came back, I made sure I went up to everybody and was at least like, 'Sorry.' That's the best that I could do. When I came back in 2002, and I knew there was going to be, 'We'll see.' It was important to me to go around and make amends and at least tell everyone, 'Sorry about the way I was. I have no excuse, I'm willing to earn back whatever. If you never talk to me again, I'm cool with that too."

Any talk of Michaels' mistreatment of The Rock has been secondhand, as neither he nor The Rock have gone on record as saying that they have ever had personal issues with each other.

Ahmed Johnson, who was in WWE when The Rock debuted and Michaels was at the top of the company in 1996, appeared on the UnSKripted podcast last year and said Michaels and other members of The Kliq attempted to hold The Rock back.

If there were any attempts to prevent The Rock from becoming a top star, they failed miserably, as he has gone on to become one of the biggest stars of all time in both wrestling and Hollywood.

Michaels himself has admitted that he wasn't a particularly good person in the mid-1990s and didn't treat people with proper respect, but he has seemingly changed significantly since then and made amends with some of those who he wronged.

Now, in an intriguing twist of fate, Michaels is the head of NXT and the person most responsible for shaping the early career of The Rock's daughter, who made her televised debut on Tuesday's episode of NXT.

NBCUniversal Reportedly Happy with NXT's Recent Progress

Over the past year, NXT has gone back to being a true developmental brand for WWE, with the primary focus being on younger and less-experienced wrestlers.

That is in stark contrast to what it had become under Triple H's guidance, as experienced wrestlers from the independent scene largely dominated the scene.

The swift and sudden change to NXT rubbed part of the fanbase the wrong way, but NXT has seemingly hit its stride, and its television partner is reportedly happy with the progress.

According to Andrew Zarian of F4WOnline, NBCUniversal has had a positive attitude toward NXT in recent weeks, and much of that is because of the success of the Halloween Havoc premium live event.

Zarian noted that last weekend's Halloween Havoc show was NXT's most-viewed standalone premium live event since WWE Network first shifted to Peacock.

NXT's television ratings on USA Network have remained stable as well, even when going head-to-head against AEW Dynamite last week.

Despite NXT having a roster largely made up of lesser-known talent and AEW advertising a world title match between Jon Moxley and "Hangman" Adam Page, Dynamite averaged 752,000 viewers to NXT's 676,000.

A difference of less than 80,000 was an impressive performance on NXT's part, considering there were far bigger blowouts on AEW's part when it went head-to-head with NXT weekly, even when NXT had far more recognizable talent than it does now.

Ultimately, talent development is more important for NXT than television ratings now, but it is a positive sign that fans are seemingly becoming interested and engaged with the product and the young talent it features.

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