Triple H has had to put up with critics for the last 18 years, accusations of playing politics backstage, sucking up to those in power and even jeopardising other people’s careers to protect his own spot.
Paul Lévesque has long accepted he can’t change perception, no matter what he says or does there will be those who will always think he was only ever pushed because he was best mates with Vince McMahon’s golden boy Shawn Michaels and perhaps most harshly he was only ever a former 13 time WWE/Word Champion because of his marriage to the bosses daughter.
As ever there is no smoke without fire. HHH was the first ever WWE World Champion but his reign is remembered for squashing red hot babyfaces who lost serious momentum after being in the ring with ‘The Game’. The hit list included Rob Van Dam, Kane, Scott Steiner, Booker T and Goldberg. Even when no longer a full time member of the roster he found time to come out of the office to cleanly beat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania as well as defeating CM Punk when Punk was at his hottest.
It’s not just in the ring where the ‘King of Kings’ used his influence. His connections guaranteed HBK a route back to the WWE once he had found god. While no one would argue with that decision, former clique members, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Sean Waltman were only ever given second chances due to who they knew, never justifying their rehiring.
Even when nearly everyone in wrestling felt Ric Flair’s time had passed, HHH would find roles to keep the financially hard up Nature Boy on the payroll, a man he idolised growing up.
Billy Gunn has a job as a trainer on NXT, X Pac has been given a Legends contract (as did Nash) and Road Dog is on the cherished Creative team because of their association with DX more than because they qualify for their respective roles. Indeed out of all of his buddies only Scot Hall has failed to benefit from the perks of having a friend who is the future leader of WWE.
Then of course there are the embarrassing stories which are so egotistical they are laughable, like the deal WWE struck with THQ that they were not to show HHH’s likeness in a weakened state in any type of advertisement of the Smackdown vs Raw game.
Over the years as his responsibilities have grown he has been smart enough to know he has had to mellow. His current official title is Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events but it is the world’s worst secret that he will run the company when Vince McMahon either dies or retires from the sport. For years now he and wife Stephanie have been only second to the boss himself in creative decisions, a position which forced Shane McMahon to walk away from the family business when it became clear that the roles/responsibilities of the company were not simply going to be passed to Vince’s first child.
Both on and off screen HHH it seems is being prepared as the future of the WWE Universe for the past few years and so far has run with the ball. Where once he didn’t care about what his jealous peers thought, they are now his employees who need to respect him. The days of Edge happy to be on Smackdown to avoid HHH or Umaga laughing at Randy Orton because he was drafted to Raw meant wrestling on a political minefield cannot exist for the sake of the business.
So far most have been impressed. Lévesque is largely credited for the number of younger talent being pushed, most notably the whole concept of NXT. The likes of Sheamus, Ryback, The Shield and The Wyatt Family are all believed to be his ‘pet projects’. While it is arguable that the likes of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan would never have been former WWE Champions in the old regime.
Most importantly his ‘old school’ wrestling mentality ensures that WWE post Vince will stick to the values that so many fans care about, there won’t be a radical change with a ‘wrestling person’ overseeing the transition.
As already mentioned his friendship with Ric Flair grew out of respecting those who contributed before him. He formed Evolution, a version of the Four Horsemen who he admired when breaking into the industry. It is hard to argue that few made the WWE/ World title have more value than when it was held/ being chased by ‘The Cerebral Assassin’
While many have been impressed a few felt it was only a matter of time before his ego got in the way, he couldn’t help himself. When he announced that for the second out of the last three SummerSlams he would be the Special Referee in the main event many rolled their eyes. They had the WWE title match they wanted to see, John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan, one of the most anticipated matches for years, it didn’t need HHH. It was clear by all the ‘ Yes’ and ‘ No’ chants that the WWE Universe wanted Bryan to break the glass ceiling, he was more over then even CM Punk. The fans had made their choice on who should replace Cena as the number one babyface (at least while he is out injured or the Rock comes out of semi-retirement again). Most cynics felt that Lévesque’s arrogance couldn’t sit back and let the torch be passed, that the competitiveness in him couldn’t take someone’s star shining brighter than his. Some claimed while costing Bryan the title was obviously part of the storyline, comments of him being, ‘A solid B+ not an A’ or a ‘Good Little worker’ were in fact a very public burial.
They are wrong. It is in fact the opposite.
While I can’t defend him giving his friends jobs being anything else than abusing his power, the booking of SummerSlam is in fact HHH’s best decision since he traded his wrestling trunks for a suit. Many fans were angered that after winning such a thrilling match against Cena (contender for match of the year) that Bryan’s dream would only last a few minutes. Bryan’s efforts over the last few months had left fans emotionally drained, having him screwed out of his goal was too much to take even in this fictional world. No heels have been able to garner the hate and frustration of live audiences over the past few weeks like HHH and all those involved in the Corporation have in years. Which is kind of the point.
Yes fans were overjoyed to see their underdog WWE champion and it would still have been a match talked about for years. However if he had walked out on Raw the next night as champion he would of just been another new champion ready to face the same old heels with the same recycled angles. By losing to Orton, Bryan strangely was put over more then he would have been had he beaten Mr Money in the Bank. Clearly popular, HHH’s actions poured so much sympathy onto Bryan, which grows weekly as he continues to be beaten down, by the time he does have his moment (as all babyfaces eventually do) it will be the biggest pop in years for a title change. It’s HHH’s ‘old school’ fan coming into play, make the title the focal point and give the fans the thrill of chase (it’s the same logic he used when he continually beat Jeff Hardy for the title, resulting in a unforgettable moment when the beloved enigma finally did win the’ big one’). So instead of burying Bryan, HHH has actually realised this man is loved by the fans so is going to make his first serious reign as WWE Champion as dramatic as possible. That’s why Bryan can’t win at Night of Champions. Overcoming the odds so soon would dilute the brilliant work done so far and affect all that so many involved can gain out of the Corporation angle. That’s the most impressive thing about this! So many are looking like a million dollars because of one storyline that no one is mentioning John Cena’s absence, something that would have been unheard of a year ago.
Bryan is in the odd position of gaining more momentum with the fans with the extra beatings he takes (although they do need to spice things up a bit). The Shield look like main event players again, regaining their confidence and swagger after lacking direction since winning their titles while babyfaces. The Miz, Dolph Ziggler and Big Show have been brilliant in their roles as unhappy workers forced to sit back and accept the abuse of power (did you think you would get a Big Show chant in 2013?).
Then of course there is WWE Champion Randy Orton. He is so good as a heel you wonder why they ever thought he should have turned babyface. Quite simply this man does things that no one else can do. Mannerisms that just come naturally, like the way he tilted his head at SummerSlam, the cold eyes he gave Bryan when he was being beaten by The Shield, the smirk he gave the watching locker room when welcomed as the ‘face of the WWE’ or just the way he instructed The Shield to show Bryans face to the audience as he pummelled him.
Of course with or without this latest storyline we knew all this about Orton already, he is after all a former 10 time WWE/ World Champion. But he hasn’t looked this good since 2004/2009. In 2004 he was in Evolution led by a certain HHH, in 2009 he was a cold calculated heel who was rivals with HHH. So in reality Paul Lévesque clearly knows how to get the very best out of Orton, he is after all The Game’s very first pet project, someone who was generally viewed as the future of the business.
Meanwhile the possibilities are endless. The logical next step is a Bryan vs. HHH match at some point but there are so many ways this story could grow. When finished with Heyman, CM Punk would be the perfect choice to join Bryan in rebelling against the hierarchy, one could then sell out, setting up that dream WrestleMania match being touted around.
But what about The Rock, Brock Lesnar or even HHH’s best friend Shawn Michaels, how will they react to how WWE is being run. How will this lead to a HHH vs McMahon challenge rumoured to happen with the control of the company at stake. There is room for drama, tears, joy, surprises, returns, swerves and great matches. WWE has wasted great storylines before but not this time. Not with HHH at the helm. He will do, what’s right for business.