New Delhi: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar Triple H (real name - Paul Michael Levesque) recently touched down in the country to announce the dates of the much-anticipated India Tour of the WWE.
New Delhi is all set to host two WWE LIVE shows, which is scheduled to take place on December 8 and 9. The two RAW brand house shows which will feature WWE Champion Jinder Mahal and RAW superstars Roman Reigns, Finn Balor, Braun Strowman, Alexa Bliss, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, The Miz, Sasha Banks and Bayley.
CNN-News18's Yash Bhati caught up with Triple H and here is the transcript of the interview, where he talks about the rise of Jinder Mahal and also India's female wrestler Kavita Devi — who recently signed with the WWE.
Q) We have seen that WWE has tried to grow its hold in India recently. So what has brought WWE's level of interest increasing in India?
A) WWE has always seen India as a really important market for us. We've always had a huge fan base here, the WWE universe in India has been very very engaged and it's been very important for us. But the infrastructure hasn't always been here to make it easy for us. It's a large world but the recent advances on the internet, the social media and mobile phones in India have made it much more accessible to us. The infrastructure is much better right now. It's made it much easier to get message out there and come into the market. So it is an important market for us and we really want to come here and put on the best shows we possibly can to serve the WWE universe out here in India. Hopefully that will include finding Indian talent here recruiting and training them to be the next gen of WWE or NXT superstars that you will be watching week after week and that you'll be watching here in India.
Q) Jinder Mahal was in India recently and has been champion for over 4 months. He has even beaten celebrated wrestlers like Shinsuke Nakamura and Randy Orton. So how would Triple H describe his reign as champion? And please answer this from a Wrestlers perspective and a from a Business point of view.
A)You're right Jinder has been champion for 3 months here I think you know there's different ways to look at it. If I'm going to answer that from a wrestler's point or a WWE superstar standpoint, sometimes people are looking at Jinder and saying maybe he doesn't deserve the championship, it's too early for him. They fail to see that Jinder was here before and yes he did not succeed the first time he was here and he went away and he left but they don't see the hard work they don’t see the dedication he's put in he has worked really hard and if I can say one thing from my point of view, Jinder has earned my respect. As not only a WWE superstar but as a champion I think the jury is out. I think it takes time to establish yourself as a champion you know superstars like Stone Cold Steve Austin or Myself or The Rock or John Cena weren't built overnight. They take time. It takes time to earn the respect of a fan base and I think that's what Jinder will do if he continues to put on the performance he does. He will continue to earn their respect over time. If he doesn't then he clearly won't be champion for long.
Q) You even brought back the Great Khali. I know we can never say never in WWE. But can we expect more appearances from him or was it a one-off thing only?
A) Great Khali is a legend in the industry and he is always welcome to the WWE and we look forward to appearances by him in the future if that is something he wants to do. I know right now he is here in India and he is enjoying and kind of helping to train the next generation of superstars as well and being very successful at that. But you know, Great Khali is always going to be a legendary figure to the WWE and that means he is welcome at any time he wants to.
Q) Kavita Devi is signed with WWE now. She participated in the Mae Young Classic and created quite a stir in the Indian market. So how happy were you with her performance?
A) I was very excited to see how well Kavita Devi did. In the Mae Young classic, I was excited as a, you know, putting that show on. Trying to find talent from all over the world. It was wonderful to be able to come here to India and find an athlete with the caliber of Kavita and being able to invite her into being in the Mae Young Classic. I thought she did exceptionally well. Given the experience level she has, I think she did exceptionally well. It created a lot of buzz here in India and that is a good thing. And Kavita is signed with the WWE and we will be starting with the performances very soon.
Q) So can we expect more wrestlers from India in the WWE?
A) I really hope so. That is my goal as the person within the WWE, from the corporate side thinking about the future. And where we recruit and train athletes from, India is on top of my mind. I would like to further recruit here. Hopefully we will be finding some of the best athletes in the world here whether that be from Kabaddi, or Kushti or various other sports. There are some amazing athletes here and probably by the end of the year, we will probably have 11 with us at the Performance Centre in Orlando. But in the long term, I would love to be recruiting from India more and being on the ground here, in India on a recruiting level. Whether that is building a performance center here in India, whether that is creating another brand, here in India that can tour on a country wide level here. And really make an impact in a localised way. That would be my goal and hopefully that will happen in the short term.
Q) You are one of the best the business has ever seen and one of the most famous wrestlers in the world. Now you have transitioned into the backroom aspect of things. So how has this transition been for you?
A) Sometimes it is difficult, you know, in my past performance job, if I did not like something, I hit somebody with a chair or grab a sledge hammer. It was easy. You know, it is easy to get people to do want you want. In the boardroom, they get kind of upset if I do that so it is a little bit more difficult but you know I really enjoy trying to find that next generation of talent, trying to find that next generation of athlete that will be the future of NXT, Raw, Smackdown, WrestleMania and will be a superstar that people, all around the world not just India, everywhere will look up to. And see as the great WWE superstar that they have seen over the years. That is really the goal, to create that future.
Q) NXT has been one of the hottest brands in the world. It was earlier seen as only a developmental organization of the WWE. Now it is yet another successful brand. You are seen as the creator of NXT. So how happy are you to see it grow exponentially?
A) I’m very excited to see the growth of NXT when you look at the success that NXT has had. The first NXT champion was Seth Rollins. From a superstar standpoint it doesn't get a whole lot bigger than that. The success of Finn balor, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke nakamura… I can go on and on. Charlotte, Bailey, Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss — the amount of talent that has come through the NXT to become the stars of RAW and Smackdown. You see them in WrestleMania's, it's been awesome. It's also along the way become its own brand you know touring globally 200 events a year. I can't wait to bring NXT to India and show the fans in the WWE universe here what NXT really can do. When I say we are the NXT I really mean everybody and I think there's a lot of those fans here as well.