I was never a very big fan of Triple H. In fact, for a long time I held him accountable for why WWE had become so stale in the mid-2000s. He seemed to be consistently on top, smothering the rest of the roster as champ, and being fed megastar after megastar to put himself over. Guys like Goldberg, who were brought in as if to put one more nail in WCW’s coffin, were hyped just to lose to Triple H. Not that I was ever high on Goldberg, either, but it seemed like a waste of such a big name. Vince McMahon notoriously didn’t like making talent from rival companies look good, and there was no bigger rival than WCW.
It was hard for WCW guys to get over in WWE. If they hadn’t jumped ship and came to WWE, hat in hand, and maybe waited out whatever guaranteed contract they had from WCW, they were already worthless to Vince. To make it in WWE, you have to prove that you want to be there. Otherwise, you’ll be fodder for guys like Cena or Triple H and made an example of.
Unfortunately, this is also what likely happened to Sting. The biggest name in professional wrestling to never set foot a WWE ring lost his debut match at WrestleMania to none other than Triple H. There was no reason for it either. With interference after interference by D-Generation X, nWo, and finally, Shawn Michaels, they gave Triple H all the excuses in the world to put over Sting and give him his WrestleMania moment. HHH’s character would be preserved, even if it didn’t need to be. Both guys were at the tail end of their active careers, so it’s not like Triple H needed the push. It was a legends match. Let the Stinger win.
Triple H is also the man who CM Punk blames for his departure. Sending a man a pink slip on his wedding day doesn’t look too good on WWE. There is much more to that story, of course, as told by Punk on Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast. It will also be interesting to see if Punk delves into that experience once more in his UFC documentary: The Evolution of Punk which premieres Monday at 9:30p.m., which coincidentally airs during Raw about as coincidentally as that termination notice was sent on Punk’s wedding day.
But the Triple H we’ve seen lately is a much more benevolent King of Kings. I take no issue with him more or less booking himself to win the Royal Rumble and the WWE World Championship. There was really no other option with the myriad of injuries in the past year. That WrestleMania build-up was just a series of unfortunate events.
And as far as the Daniel Bryan story, where a lot of people thought that Triple H and the McMahons were legitimately holding Bryan down and not giving him the push he deserved, it was actually brilliant. Taking that underdog story and running with it for as long as they did was the perfect way to make fans buy into their preconceived notions that the WWE buried smaller wrestlers no matter how talented. The more they seemingly held Daniel Bryan down, the more the fans loved him. That’s where Triple H’s brilliance shines through.
One of CM Punk’s major gripes before he left was that WWE was pushing the wrong talent. They seemed to revert back to the old WWE model of promoting the bigger, bodybuilder type rather than the more athletic performers on the roster. Kevin Nash, a good friend of Triple H, used to call these wrestlers, “vanilla midgets,” a knock to both their stature and lack of personality. But Punk saw that the future in wrestling was in the ring and on the mic. Sadly, Punk left before this indie invasion could come to fruition.
Sadly? Or was it calculated. It is a little convenient that after Punk’s departure, Triple H suddenly pushes Daniel Bryan. Shortly thereafter, NXT blows up on the WWE Network and they begin to sign indie star after indie star, many of whom were friends of CM Punk in Ring of Honor. The Cruiserweight Classic is an incredible diversion from the typical WWE model and shows how focused Triple H has been these past few years in changing what it takes to be a superstar in the current climate. But it does make one wonder what really changed?
Was it Triple H’s plan all along to literally get in bed with the McMahon family and change the business from within? It’s possible that the only way he saw possible to truly change the industry was to bide his time until he was in a position of power. Or did CM Punk’s defiance strike such a chord with the WWE that they knew they had to change their ways? Punk did cut maybe the most influential promo of the past decade and the entire wrestling world took notice.
Or maybe Triple H created NXT and the CWC in sheer spite of CM Punk, creating the ideal atmosphere for a guy like Punk to prosper. One might not think that Triple H could be so cutthroat and petty, but hey, it’s change for the better, regardless. As much as Punk says that he doesn’t love the wrestling business anymore, he has to have felt an itch to get back in the ring with some of the great international talent they’ve acquired. And the fans would be dying to see it. Let’s just hope that Triple H answers the door if CM Punk comes knocking, and doesn’t maliciously force him to watch through the window as The Game enjoys his spoils of war.
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston. He hosts the comedy podcast, "So Now I'm the Asshole" on Fans.FM and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke