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Matter of Time Before Indus Sher go on to Win Hearts of People World Over: Triple H

By: Vineet Ramakrishnan

Last Updated: September 08, 2020, 15:16 IST

Matter of Time Before Indus Sher go on to Win Hearts of People World Over: Triple H

News18.com caught up with Levesque to talk about the challenges during the pandemic, tapping the huge India market, about Indus Sher and his pet project, WWE NXT.

When the entire sporting parlance came to a standstill with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic earlier this year, pro-wrestling’s biggest promotion WWE went about their business. Not exactly in the usual manner, but they not only aired their weekly programmes uninterrupted but even managed to pull off their biggest PPV of the year, Wrestlemania 36. Paul Michael Levesque, Executive Vice President of Global Talent Strategy & Development, also popularly known as Triple H, puts the effort down to WWE’s ultimate goal to entertain their audience. And as live sports returns to normality, WWE leads the way. News18.com caught up with Levesque to talk about the challenges during the pandemic, tapping the huge India market, about Indus Sher and his pet project, WWE NXT.

Excerpts:

It has been one tough year with everything around us coming to a standstill for a majority of the year so far in terms of sports/ sports entertainment, but one thing that has kept going is WWE. How did you manage to pull off going practically uninterrupted all these months, how big of a challenge was it?

Really big challenge. It was tough initially. But, we are here to entertain and we want to provide our audience with an escape even during this time. Limited crew, talent safety, and precautions, keeping people motivated without a live audience, but we’ve managed to keep it going and hope to be back to normal soon.

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India is a big market for WWE and from 2017 there’s been a big push in this direction. How successful has this been and how big is India’s role in WWE’s global plans in the future?

You are right. India is a huge market for WWE. We love India and the passion the fans have for the sport is something else. We love hosting events there and interacting with the fans and while we’re unable to do this given the situation, we can’t wait to be back. We have one of the largest fan followings for the brand from India so it is an important market for us. We’ve got some amazing talent from India in the form of Rinku (Singh), Saurav (Gurjar), Kavita (Devi), and the new recruits from the Tryouts last year. We look forward to having more people from India join WWE and want to give our fans there more reasons to engage with the brand.

And you recently inked a broadcasting deal with Sony – how significant is that, considering you also have a platform like WWE Network?

Of course, the WWE Network is huge and we want to keep encouraging fans to tune in, but there’s nothing bigger than having it on TV. Having Sony as our exclusive broadcaster has been fantastic to be able to really expand our fanbase, get people from all parts of India to watch us. The channels are also in regional dialects I believe which breaks the language barrier. They are a great and important partner for WWE in India.

There’s been a constant influx of Indian/Indian origin talents to the developmental program. Can you talk a bit about these recruits, how receptive they have been to rigors of pro-wrestling so far. Is there someone who stands out and you see making the ranks quickly?

We’ve had some great talent from India and of Indian origin. The recent tryouts have also been very successful in recruiting talent from India. We had some strong people join in 2017 from Dubai and three more from last year in India. They are superior athletes and have been coping well with the training at the PC. Kavita Devi has been great and is a strong contender. Jinder Mahal has done well so far. Even Saurav and Rinku are doing great. Their debut on TV as Indus Sher was very well received and I’m confident they will go a long way.

Indus Sher Debuted on NXT TV this year, who are these guys, what are your expectations from the team and individually what makes them stand out from the other Indian recruits and developmental talent you have?

Saurav and Rinku have been a fabulous addition to NXT. They are both from an athletic background and have a strong understanding of the entertainment business. With Saurav having done shows on TV in the past and Rinku playing to a live audience, they understand how to put on a show. They have stood out to me right from the Tryouts in Dubai and have done really well at the Performance Center as well as now on NXT. I think they have a lot to showcase to their fans in India and the world over and I can’t wait to see how their amazing journey with WWE pans out.

How important you think it is for WWE to build a superstar who not only has roots in India but has a considerable connect with the region/demographic; something that Great Khali had and something that one half of Indus Sher - Saurav Gurjar - has having the visibility as a mainstream actor here in India?

Superstars are global icons – John Cena is just John Cena, so is Roman Reigns, Becky, Seth, Charlotte. No one talks about where they are from. People resonate with the world over. While initially when people are starting out they do have a stronger regional connection, it’s only a matter of time that they go on to win the hearts of people the world over. I have the same thoughts about Indus Sher. Saurav does have a lot of fans but I think together as Indus Sher it’s only a matter of time for them.

NXT’s success has been unprecedented in the last few years and TakeOvers are fast becoming one of the most anticipated PPVs in WWE programming and you been at the helm of it. What has made NXT stand apart and if I may, more popular and followed than the flagship brands RAW and SmackDown?

Oh that’s easy … it’s passion. One thing that NXT has that makes it so amazing is the passion the talent have. This is not to say that passion does not exist in RAW and SmackDown but it’s different. At NXT, the talent have so much to prove, to achieve. They are willing to push themselves, to learn, to really go above and beyond to be the best. You can really see this passion and I believe fans relate with that.

Finally, a message for the Indian fans…

India we miss you! We hope you are safe and well. These are challenging times for us all, but there is hope to come back stronger and better than ever. Request you all to be safe, take care of your loved ones, and not to lose that positive spirit! We will be back soon, I promise.

first published:September 07, 2020, 18:19 IST
last updated:September 08, 2020, 15:16 IST