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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 February 2019

Shawn Michaels, Pete Dunne and Trent Seven on why the future is bright for WWE's NXT UK brand

The WWE's newest brand is already making an instant impact and there is more to come according to its leading superstars

NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool proved to be a big success for the WWE in January. Image courtesy of WWE
NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool proved to be a big success for the WWE in January. Image courtesy of WWE

"Shawn Michaels. Work colleague."

The words from Trent Seven sum up the game changing environment that WWE have brought to British wrestling.

Journalists are sat in a side room at the WWE's new Performance Centre in London listening to four-time WWE world champion Shawn Michaels talk about his role as a trainer and how he sees the business involving and how he can help the next generation.

Severn happens to be walking through the room as the interview as Michaels finishes talking and he appears to say the words about having a working relationship with one of the biggest stars in WWE history as much as to convince himself it is happening as to highlight the new situation he and the rest of WWE NXT UK are now operating in.

It has been an exciting start to 2019 for the WWE in Britain. The Performance Centre, the first one outside the United States, was launched in London last month by Paul 'Triple H' Levesque, WWE's executive vice president of talent, live events and creative.

The facility, which has two training rings, strength and conditioning equipment, as well as various technical areas to allow talent to develop their characters, is the home for more then 30 WWE talent.

After holding a WWE United Kingdom Championship tournament, shown on the WWE Network, in Blackpool in 2017, the organisation continued to hold events under the brand NXT UK, before launching its own show last summer, which appears weekly on the network.

To cap a memorable weekend for NXT UK in January they returned to Blackpool to hold their first network special for the brand: NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool.

The sold out show at the Empress Ballroom were treated to a strong event, featuring five matches on the main card, headlined by Pete Dunne successfully retaining his WWE United Kingdom Championship against Joe Coffey.

The delighted crowd playfully sang "Are you watching Vince McMahon?" post-event in the direction of the WWE's chairman and CEO of the company.

McMahon, to his credit, quickly replied on social media "Yes, I watched #NXTUKTakeOver. Yes, it was awesome."

Considerable thumbs up indeed and Dunne, who has been champion since May 2017, is excited by the potential for the brand and believes the chance for so much of the roster to show what they can do can only help push things forward.

"When you have something like a UK tournament it's hard for more than two to five people to sort of build that brand around," said Dunne. "Obviously there was a bit of buzz there but that is what's really kicked it over the edge and now we have the performance center and all that ready to go. So there's the chance now where we can start building this brand around other people."

Pete Dunne retained his WWE United Kingdom Championship title in Blackpool. Image courtesy of WWE
Pete Dunne retained his WWE United Kingdom Championship title in Blackpool. Image courtesy of WWE

Dave Mastiff was another winner in Blackpool, beating Eddie Dennis is a no disqualification match, and he echoed Dunne's view.

"What we have to do is keep building on this," he said. Blackpool was great but it is about keeping the momentum.

"We have the facilities and support behind us with the performance centre so it is just a case of continuing to work hard and seeing where we can go with this."

Michaels is part of the coaching staff at the performance centre, alongside the likes of Robbie Brookside and Matt Bloom.

For Michaels he is thrilled to be along for the ride, passing on his expertise after being brought on board.

"Hunter and I have got to live that dream and it is cool and it's a blast and you want another people to have it. And, again if you'd have told he and I 20 years ago that we'd be living lives we're living it'd been crazy, we wouldn't have believed you and so again you want that for all these other people that are putting their time and effort into this.

"And he's (Triple H) beginning to build all these facilities that are going to help make that happen. So for me it's just something that's fun to be a part of."

As to what he is looking to pass on in his training, Michaels says it is as much encouraging them to show their true personality to fans as any in-ring skills.

"People say all that nice stuff about me and I was just a dude out there living my dream and a lot of it was just really me going out there," he said. "And somehow that seemed to make a difference. So don't be afraid to give a little or a lot of yourself out there, because again, you guys seem to notice the difference when somebody's yanking your chain or when somebody's sincerely going out there performing and giving their all for you. And so, don't be afraid to forego the show part and show them who you really are."

When asked who he has his eye of the current crop of UK talent, Michaels picks out Jordan Devlin, who highlighted his promise with an excellent performance in losing to surprise opponent Finn Balor in Blackpool.

"I didn't know Jordan and it's a short amount of time, and he was good when he came in, but just as comfortable as he looked he is really starting to feel it and you can begin to see it," Michaels said.

"Just oozing that confidence in him and he's growing so fast. And I hate just to pinpoint one person, so many people doing well but I've just watched him exponentially grow in a very short amount of time and he's unbelievably talented kid, so I just feel like his ceiling is pretty darn good."

Seven believes it is important he and the current generation make the most of this opportunity and leave something for the next generation of superstars to follow.

"There's gonna be this constant list that, things we check off and like I said we just need to leave a legacy behind us that when you know the next performance and tour Europe of South America or Saudi Arabia or India or Japan," he said.

"When that's supposed to happen, we can then look to them as the firsts and the firsts. That's what we need to do, we need to represent the brand as strongly and as positively as we can and leave a trial of legacies."

Since the launch of the TV show, a women's championship and a men's tag team have both been created.

Dunne echoes the view of Severn that it is not about reflecting on what has been achieved now but instead looking forward to the next target.

"I don't even get time to think or sort of step back and go, look at how far we've gone from there to there because it's always right, next thing, next thing, next thing," he said.

"So it's a case of making those conscious efforts, even if we are sitting there on a train doing media going, 'This is another cool think I guess, so we'll just tick that off the list'. So it's been a great two years and let's keep it moving. "

Updated: February 21, 2019 09:25 AM

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