Triple H: “Download Festival Is Like My Childhood Come To Life!”
Words: Ryan Cooper
Donington. The home of heavy metal. And now, the home of WWE NXT.
For once, your struggle of overcoming a hangover while sleeping in a field isn’t going to be the biggest battle of Download. Because, for the first time ever, WWE will be bringing NXT Live! to Donington. The main arena will play host to superstars including Finn Bálor, Bayley, Baron Corbin and loads more. After that, NXT Live! will tour the UK!
We sat down with NXT founder and WWE legend Triple H to talk all things NXT at Download, the NXT UK Tour, NXT: LOUD bands and, of course, Black Sabbath!
After NXT’s success at U.S. festivals, was Download a no-brainer?
“Yeah, I mean, it’s something that’s been talked about for over a year. It was first mentioned to me that there was some interest probably over a year ago, I think, before we even did the San Jose show at last year’s WrestleMania. I think the connection point is great. I think, with our NXT: LOUD initiative, where we work with these hard rock and heavy metal bands to kind of create a soundtrack of what we do, it’s sort of a no-brainer. The fanbase is very similar and I think music makes you feel a certain way. To me, WWE and NXT, it makes you feel a certain way, so the connection point is the same, that feeling is the same. I think that’s what’s such a strong binding unit for people that are going to come to Download and be part of this amazing weekend and see Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, but also in between go and see NXT. And either there’s going to be some fans there who used to love WWE that are going to reconnect with us, some that have never seen it that are going to find out how awesome it is and some that already know. And hopefully some of our fans that are coming now to Download to see NXT are going to go, ‘Oh my god, there’s this new band who are phenomenal. I really want to go buy their album!’ and hopefully that’s going to be good for everyone.”
So, all the people watching NXT over the weekend at Download, what can they expect? Which superstars should they be keeping an eye on?
“I really pride myself on trying to bring in the best from around the world, whether that’s somebody you know who’s like a Baron Corbin – who you see on WWE now but that is coming from outside of the wrestling world and making a name for himself – or a Finn Bálor, or Shinsuke Nakamura. Or Samoa Joe, somebody that’s been in the industry for a long time and is now getting the platform to shine. We put on this amazing athletic event and I think that if you’ve never seen WWE, we will turn you into a fan, or if you’ve been a fan and you’ve for whatever reason stopped watching, I think this is the connection point that makes you go, ‘Yeah, man, I just love that. It’s so much fun and I want to start watching again!’ NXT has that edge; it’s younger, it’s really passionate, there’s a hardcore, strong fanbase that has a totally different vibe. I say all the time: WWE is like pop music, there’s a totally different vibe. I went to Katy Perry concert last year with my kids, my daughter loves her, and it was awesome, an unbelievable show. But then I went to see Sabbath at Madison Square Garden… totally different vibe, you know what I mean? But it was phenomenal. Obviously, Sabbath for me, I’m a bigger fan, but the shows were phenomenal, both of them, both sold out, both amazing shows but totally different vibes. That’s WWE and NXT. NXT has that heavy metal vibe. Download will be no different, this is going to be an opportunity for us to get in front of a lot of people that maybe have never heard of us. Finn Bálor, Samoa Joe, Nakamura, Bayley, Asuka… they’re all hell-bent on going there and making sure all those people leave as fans.”
So, you mentioned NXT: LOUD. There’s a few bands playing Download who have been recent NXT: LOUD bands, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Halestorm… how do you guys pick who you want the bands?
“I have a guy that works with me that is very connected to the music industry, and we start to get close to the special or whatever it is that we’re using the music for and we start to connect on it. I start to talk about the vibe of what I’m looking for for that show, and sometimes it’s one band, sometimes it’s multiple bands. For [NXT TakeOver: Dallas] there were three different songs that we used and, to be honest, I loved all three. There was a list of 50 bands and 50 different songs that I went through, and I was looking for this vibe – there were three that really stuck to me and they all work for different reasons for different things within the show. What’s great is that we get the feel of the music and the bands get a platform on which to expand their reach to a fanbase that maybe hasn’t heard of them. Because I’m connected so closely to it, I see the social media on it all the time, and it’s people asking us all the time, ‘Oh my god, Halestorm, I’d never heard of them,’ like, ‘Oh my god, I just downloaded their album, it’s awesome. I’m a huge fan now!’ And you see that all the time and I think that’s a really cool thing for us to be able to turn people onto that genre of music!”
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes played our Kerrang! tour this year, and seeing Frank Carter being one of your NXT loud bands was phenomenal.
“Yeah, and again, the Frank Carter song was one of those ones, Devil Inside Me, I was like, ‘I don’t know how I don’t use this for Finn Bálor and Samoa Joe!’ you know what I mean? It’s such a perfect song for that. It’s so cool for us to be able to work with these bands and now all of these bands are connected to us and, you know, connecting with us. All of the time I get fans connecting with me on social media, fans connecting with NXT: LOUD. WWE and NXT, we’re one of the largest social media followings in the world; we’re the number one thing on YouTube. Our social media and our digital presence is just massive, and even if you just look at it from that alone, the exposure that these bands get can’t be touched. Then for us to share what they do and the vibe that they create helps us create an atmosphere and image for the product that we put out there, that just can’t be touched.”
Iron Maiden, Rammstein, Black Sabbath – all headlining Download. You’ve mentioned you’re a huge Sabbath fan, but how do you feel about the others playing this weekend?
“Oh my god, it’s just like my childhood come to life! As a kid growing up, Sabbath and Iron Maiden were two of my biggest bands that I followed religiously – I still have every album on vinyl, you know, all of that. And then slightly later when Rammstein came in, that was a totally different sound for me that I was really into and still listen to to this day. So, you know, I’ve been fortunate in my career also to be able to connect to these people and a lot of these bands in some way over the years. I had a close friendship with Lemmy, and Motörhead playing my music. I’ve done everything from press days to having Ozzy on RAW. It’s a great relationship and I look forward to doing more and more, and it’s great to see these guys still on top of the world.”
Finally, with the last tour doing so well – selling out Wembley Arena way in advance and how well it went down – with this UK tour straight after Download, what’s to be expected this time around?
“I hope it kicks ass like the first one did! Coming out of Download Festival, where people come from all over the region and that side of the world, if you will, to see Download… what we’re going to do is come over for Download, then we’re gonna go to Dublin and we’re gonna go to Belfast, and we’re gonna come to Liverpool, and we’re gonna go to Bournemouth and we’re gonna go to Plymouth – you know, we’re gonna hit all those places that we couldn’t get to the first time around. There was just only so many places that we could get to and only so many buildings that were available that we could work in to, but NXT was so big the first time we came over. We were like, ‘We’re going back, we’re gonna hit it in a big way!’ and as we were trying to figure out the timing, that was when the opportunity for Download came up. For us with Live Nation, and partnering with them on this, it’s just such a great connection for us and they’re working on the whole tour with us, promoting the whole tour for us, so it’s a great opportunity. Download is the perfect opportunity to just come in, do the festival and run from there, and I think it’s gonna be phenomenal. And trust me, as good as Download will be, it’s one thing in a tent, in a music festival, it’s another thing in an enclosed arena. When you get there, inside that building, there’s almost no way to describe it – the vibe and the energy in the place when Finn Bálor comes to the ring, or when Nakamura comes out, will be mindboggling. It’s one of those things that you have to experience!”
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