E:60 Pictures premieres WWE: Behind-The-Curtain, a new one-hour documentary film featuring unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to Vince McMahon’s billion-dollar global empire tonight (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET). The show will follow three potential superstars on their grueling, high-stakes climb with dreams of making it to the big show, complemented by candid interviews with WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, his Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative, Paul Levesque (a.k.a. “Triple H”) as well as former WWE talents Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock – Dwayne Johnson and Hulk Hogan. Coordinating Producer Ben Houser shares his own story of a production two years in the making:
After seeing the final product after such an investment of time and energy, what are you most proud of?
Growing up as a fan of WWE, the process behind the scenes is something I was always curious about. In order for us to tell the stories of our main characters, we needed access to their personal lives as well as capture moments before and immediately after their in-ring performances. Paul Levesque is the man who made that happen for us. I am most proud that we stayed the course, filmed periodically over two years, and waited for the real life story lines to develop and wrap up organically before airing this show.
What can you tell us about the hour-long doc that we can’t glean from the trailer?
The initial concept was to do a 10-15 minute feature, although once I started filming with WWE, their talent development system, NXT and Levesque, it was evident that the content we captured was far more than we anticipated. We filmed with five NXT wrestlers: Xavier Woods, Corey Graves, Adam Rose, Tyler Breeze and Colin Cassady. Austin Watson, aka Xavier Woods, was my first choice. He was charismatic, intelligent and we were left with a strong impression he would advance. We wanted performers at different ends of the spectrum as far as their WWE status and worked with them to select performers that fit the criteria. Although we were only able to include three stories in the show, we also produced two separate digital features chronicling two more journeys, one of which will run (on ESPN.com) directly following tonight’s show.
What do you think will surprise viewers the most?
From what I witnessed behind the scenes, the WWE universe’s reaction to characters is vital to their success or failure. The night that Ray Leppan debuted in NXT as ‘Adam Rose’ was an authentic moment for a man fighting for his livelihood. Currently, his character isn’t doing much. I think that may change based on viewer response. Lastly, I’d suggest staying through the credits for an interesting exchange with Vince McMahon and our award winning reporter Jeremy Schaap.