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Shawn Michaels: Dealing With The Fan Reaction Was The Hardest Part Of WWE NXT's Rebrand

Big changes came to NXT earlier this year

While NXT had a darker, more grungy feel for the past several years, the developmental brand underwent a revamp in September of 2021, introducing brighter colours and a more open set at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. More emphasis has also been placed on new Superstars like Von Wagner, Bron Breakker, Tiffany Stratton, Grayson Waller and Carmelo Hayes. 

The reaction to the rebrand from fans was largely negative and Shawn Michaels believes that reaction was the hardest part of the former black and gold brand's revamp.  

"It's dealing with the reaction from that change. To be perfectly honest it's like ripping a band-aid off, it was very sudden and to your fanbase that's very tough. It's like anything, change isn't easy when it's your normal and you're comfortable with it and then there's an abrupt change that's difficult. For me, that was the hardest part, to at least let your fanbase know 'We're going to do everything we can to make this your NXT again, it's just we're having to do it all over and different,'" he told Instinct Culture's Denise Salcedo.

"I will say, I have to be honest. I think a lot of the blowback is because I feel like people are angry, {laughs}, people are angry at us sometimes and there's not much we can do about that. I understand that. It's a very emotional type of business and we have that sincerity with our fanbase. There is a closeness there and you get comfortable with things the way they are and then going about a change that you're not prepared for and you don't know if you like it, I think they took it out, they don't mean to, but I think they took it out on the brand, and then, of course, the new and young talent. They are just sitting there going like 'Hey we just want to be in this line of work too, is that so bad?' {laughs}. That was the hardest thing, is having to help everybody through that," Michaels continued. 

"I've had a lot of people say a lot of bad stuff about me for a long time {laughs} but for this brand to have to go through that was new and I think that was the one thing that at least having me steering the boat in the respect is something I can help everybody understand, not take it personally.... I've been fortunate enough to be part of this fanbase for a long time and they just want to know that they can count on you and that once again you will try to take pride in the product, go out there and give them the best. 

"That's what these young men and women are doing, as you've seen, 10-12 weeks in they are starting to embrace these young men and women... That abrupt change was a little rough at first but it's settling in now and it really is, at the heart, it's still the same people behind the scenes, that care about giving our fanbase the best that we can give them."

While the overall vision of NXT is now provided by Vince McMahon and Bruce Prichard, the day-to-day operations have primarily been handled by Michaels in his role as Vice President of Talent Development. 

Triple H had previously been heavily involved with NXT but he stepped away from those duties after a cardiac event earlier this year. Michaels provided an update on his friend elsewhere in the interview, joking that Triple H is almost starting to enjoy having time off. 

H/T to Fightful

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Aidan Gibbons

Written by Aidan Gibbons

Journalist/Editor-in-Chief of Cultaholic.com Twitter: @theaidangibbons