For the last couple of years WWE’s backup plan for creating new NXT pay-per-view events that aren’t labeled “TakeOver” has been to dip into its library of old WCW pay-per-view’s and pull a name out of the hat. We’ve already seen Starrcade and WarGames revived, now they’ve done it again with The Great American Bash.
The Great American Bash was recently held across two episodes of NXT on July 1 and 8.
It’s been eight years since WWE last used The Great American Bash during a special episode of SmackDown in 2012. The pay-per-view was created by the late great Dusty Rhodes under NWA’s Jim Crockett Promotions, and was carried over with him to WCW from 1989 to 2000, and then finally landed in WWE’s lap in 2004 after WCW had already been sold to Vince McMahon. The event ran annually until 2009, had one brief appearance in 2012, and hasn’t been seen until now.
WWE’s strategy of counter programming AEW’s Fyter Fest pay-per-view with The Great American Bash appeared to have paid off handsomely as for the third week in a row NXT beat Dynamite in the Wednesday Night Wars (ratings).
Triple H, WWE’s executive vice president of global talent strategy & development, sat down with Yahoo Sports to discuss the branding decision, how it factors into the ongoing Wednesday Night Wars with their chief rival All Elite Wrestling (AEW), and NXT alumni that have been involved with the brand even after being called up to the main roster.
YS: What was the reasoning behind having “Great American Bash” be two nights on USA instead of maybe a “TakeOver” or just a single night event on cable?
Levesque: This kind of morphed over time. People will talk about the competition of Wednesday night and obviously there is something to that as well, but the truth is that the booking decisions that were made have been in place for a long period of time. Because there was a long gap between the “In Your House TakeOver” and “SummerSlam” — I wasn’t even sure there was going to be an “In Your House TakeOver” — we had things blocked out in chunks where we wanted to get for SummerSlam. When you started to look at it, there were a lot of big, epic moments that were going to happen and a lot of things that could be made an even bigger deal out of. Our partners at USA suggested that we brand it out to help them to be able to do business with it, which they did by bringing in some great partners for it. For us — and I know it’s hard for people to deal with or swallow — it comes down to doing what’s best for our business, not anybody else’s.
I was really happy, I thought the first night was really spectacular. Sasha Banks and Io Shirai was a dream match for many people and I think that showed in the numbers. Dexter Lumis and Roderick Strong was a story that had been building for a very long time. Rhea and Aliyah was just a lot of fun, Timothy Thatcher against Oney Lorcan was just a wrestler’s dream from a technical standpoint. Tegan Nox picking up a win to eventually face Io Shirai. It was a great first night and I expect the second to be even bigger.
YS: And one of the advantages of the two nights getting to feature more talent and storylines than a normal TakeOver or NXT episode.
Levesque: It’s funny. I think if we had just put out two or three big matches, people just say “Oh, the show is pretty big this week,” but if you brand it, it immediately becomes a bigger, more special event. That’s what we did here. While the plans were already in place to do what we were doing, branding it made it must-see television. I think it worked, I think that if you look back at the majority of these stories, these were long-term storylines that had been coming along the way. When you get to the Io Shirai and Sasha Banks one, you cannot promote that or advertise that because there are three brands to consider and other matches that have to take place. You can’t give away those finishes, you have to wait on those, unfortunately. I wish we had more time, but it is what it is.
There was actually a proposal on the table recently in the midst of coronavirus that didn’t happen because of everything going on. There was a lot of excitement around the use of the name so we picked up on it and used it because it was there.
YS: Last week’s main event saw three NXT legends come back into the fold. How does bringing those three back help elevate that first night as well as someone like Io Shirai, who if you’ve seen her you know she’s impressive in her own right, but for fans who haven’t?
Levesque: One of the things that I love about NXT is that there’s a bond and a family feel about it. It’s something special when people are a part of it. It always reminds me of the pride people have in their college. When you graduate from college you have spent four years of your life there, that’s always your school, you’re proud of it, you wear the sweatshirts, you support the teams, still go to games. I think NXT is like that for a lot of talent. Sasha and Bayley call all of the time asking if they can come down [to Florida] and work. They’re on different brands, so I have to work within the creative components of what they already have, but I see it all the time.
When all of this went down, a lot of the stuff that was happening was Charlotte’s idea, her being a part of the brand, being there on a regular basis. Kevin Owens competing for NXT last year in “WarGames” was something he had been on me about forever, about wanting to come down and do something. Almost everyone who comes through the door and then leaves is asking if they can come back and be a part of it again. You can see it and feel it in the afternoon when they walk in. It’s like going back in time for them, the excitement level is high even though at its best it’s a smaller building and crowd then they are used to. It’s really cool to see.
AIPT’s official wrestling podcast PTW releases new episodes every week that include The Great American Bash and Fyter Fest predictions and reviews.
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