Prior to NXT No Mercy, Shawn Michaels held his regular media availability and spoke on the state of the program while asked about several specific performers.
At the start of the call, Michaels confirmed that the brand will hold its final special of the year on December 9 with Deadline from Bridgeport, Connecticut. It will be the second consecutive year that Deadline closes out the year for NXT.
The subject of CM Punk was brought up and Michaels said he would welcome Punk returning to the company, stating that the performer draws numbers, but that decision is above him. He also understood that Punk would be unlikely to wind up on the NXT brand. Punk was terminated from the dual contracts with AEW in September and alluded to having “two months” of free time recently on a CFFC broadcast.
Michaels stated he was surprised at the releases of Mustafa Ali and Dana Brooke, who had been working on the brand for the past several months and were both involved in ongoing stories. Ali was originally set to challenge Dominik Mysterio for the NXT North American Championship at No Mercy and has been replaced by Trick Williams. Dana Brooke was linked with Kelani Jordan in a mentor role with Brooke pushing Jordan to start acting more heelish to gain success and was dropped abruptly with her release.
One of the performers with plenty of questions surrounding them is Gable Steveson, who qualified for the World Championships in Serbia this month but withdrew prior to the tournament. Steveson made his in-ring debut at the Great American Bash-themed show in July against Baron Corbin, which was negatively received, and the audience booed Steveson. Since then, he has been limited to a handful of live event matches and has not appeared on television since the match with Corbin. Michaels stated that Steveson is a “busy, young man” and has a lot of outside commitments and doesn’t want to get in the way of his “personal goals”.
Michaels stated that new signee Jade Cargill is “tailor-made” for WWE and selfishly, would love to have her on NXT but said the performer will be successful wherever she ends up. Cargill reported to the WWE Performance Center earlier this week with a big promotion around her signing after her contract ended with AEW.
Regarding television numbers, Michaels shared a story that when he took over the day-to-day duties for NXT, he was told by Vince McMahon that the 18-34 demographic was a focus for the brand.
This past week, NXT averaged 99,000 viewers in the 18-34 demo and 119,000 in the month of September compared with 73,000 in September 2022. The big surge in viewers in that demo this year can be attributed to two big weeks for NXT featuring Becky Lynch wrestling on the show.
Michaels also complimented the progress made by Trick Williams and called him “one of the top 2-3 hardest workers in this place right now” as he goes into the North American Championship match with Dominik Mysterio this Saturday.