Since Triple H, or Paul Levesque as he’s know in the office, gained a considerable amount of power in the WWE a couple of years ago, there has been many a critic. Many feel that he has politicked his way to the top, married the right person, schmoozed the correct groups and kept a clique around him as tight as any we’ve seen in wrestling. A smaller, less vocal group, feel that he could be the best thing to happen to the business. How many times do we want to see another Vince approved ‘ass segment’ or the televisual humiliation of a long-standing employee with an illness? Either way, we’re at a crossroads with the WWE, and by that very nature, with wrestling, and it is Triple H that has found his way to the centre point. That point between old skool wrestling and new shoot brawling. He can look back at a past he was heavily involved in and a future he can help mould.
You only need to look back at some of my columns on this site or others to know that I’m not a huge fan of the on-air persona on Triple H. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t mention this early on. I feel his on-air segments often take too long (right back to D-X and Evolution days) and at no time could he be realistically be labelled one of the top ten wrestlers in the industry. Also, the backstage politicking has grown less subtle in recent months to the point where Randy Orton was WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Dave Batista Number One Contender and Royal Rumble Winner and The New Age Outlaws were the Tag-Team Champions. If this was for storyline purposes, then fair enough, but it was never really mentioned, it was the backstage friendships brought to the fore.
There are a lot of positives to Triple H though to the point where, if there was to be a ‘non-McMahon’ to take the company forward, best it’s him. Really, did we want John Laurinaitis to develop the company for a new generation? Promote Michael Hayes along with his humorous jokes on Rosa Mendes’ alcohol problems? Bring back Shane who has been away from the business for several years? Paul Levesque is the man for the job. He is a wrestler who has been involved in the some huge storylines for many years, knows a huge amount of people and also knows how a live audience works from first-hand experience.
Watching him on RAW this week was refreshing. Not only did we have Stephanie develop her uber-bitch character which we first saw during the #yesmovement takeover but we also know that , historically, it is her ‘best’ character, we also saw Triple H confront Daniel Bryan ‘man to man’. It was an interesting segment. Yes, we saw the double-cross, complete with the brilliantly delivered ‘come on guys, you aren’t even real cops’, we also saw the violent beat-down which, in true Trips style, went on five minutes too long. We also saw something very interesting, we saw Triple H, or was it Paul Levesque, begin the promo by saying that he respected Daniel Bryan. He respected how he has kept on fighting no matter what has been thrown his way. He respected his resilience and his tenacity. It was, for TV, all part of the con trick, but it also smacked of Paul Levesque talking to Bryan Danielson.
For years, Triple H has worked with the big men. He is great friends with Kevin Nash and Dave Batista. His most recent storied feud was a nine month angle with Brock Lesnar. He is a fan of the big men and, as has been pointed out many times, 2014 will see a major return of these monsters after the independent experiment which has had a seriously blurred full stop next to it with CM Punk ‘taking his toys and going home’. Why trust another former indie guy to get to the top when you have NXT trained guys like Roman Reigns, Big E and Bray Wyatt to rely on?
In Daniel Bryan though, maybe Trips has seen something new, something different. This is a guy that won’t give up. Hell, he was even allegedly fired within a few months after the tie-strangling Nexus debut. Then he came back at SummerSlam to a huge pop and he has gone from strength to strength ever since. To be honest, they give his coal and he turns it into diamonds. The nine second loss at WrestleMania in a way made him. They threw him into a hugging tag-team with Kane and both men made it work. They threw some awful booking decisions at him at the end of 2013 and yet, here we are today with the #yesmovement chanting at sports events and TV award shows. Triple H, as hard a worker as he has been throughout his career must see this and, in his segment with Bryan on Monday, he acknowledged this. Heck, there was even a moment where they both appeared to genuinely smile at each other before the camera quickly cut away.
Why would Paul Levesque look at Bryan Danielson this way? Well, beyond what we all think of Triple H, he hasn’t had it all easy either. It’s all too easy to look at the last two thirds of his in-ring career and think that he’s simply married the boss’s daughter and shook hands with the right people. Yes, he has a huge reach in wrestling but initially, he was just another big guy trying to catch a break and it was the fans, the same fans that chant for Bryan, that made him.
After an initial interest in body-building, Levesque signed for WCW in 1994. The company was barely into the first year of Eric Bischoff’s tenure and, after the initial arguments with Dusty Rhodes and Ole Anderson, the Executive Vice President took full creative control. This resulted in the full on war with WWF which has been so well documented. Unfortunately for the lower-card wrestlers, Bischoff really didn’t give a damn. He’d signed Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Triple H’s hero, was a mainstay and the title was to be passed around the big names. In the midst of this came Terror Risin’, or the future Triple H, if you will. Within six months he’d gone from the aforementioned Terror Risin’ to Terra Ryzing to Jean Paul-Levesque, a French nobleman no less. None of these worked and after a brief tag run with William, nay Lord Steven, Regal, he asked to become a singles competitor. His request was denied. He didn’t have the right material to become a Hogan or a Savage or a Flair. It was then that he left for the WWF.
Even at the start of his career, he was given coal but, try as he might, succeeded only in making dust. He was the ‘Connecticut Blueblood’ Hunter Hearst Helmsley, essentially a privileged Americana version of his WCW French persona. Nothing was going right. Poor booking, bad creative decisions and terrible feuds. Not a great start. Backstage though, Levesque was on fire. He was part of a clique, or ‘Kliq’ if you will, with Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Shawn Waltman and Scott Hall. Although several of these would move over to the WCW/NWO, Triple H and Shawn Michaels stuck together essentially through thick and thin. From there D-X, Evolution and an Executive of the Corporation.
Through it all, through his outrageous fortune, he’s had many slings and arrows thrown at him. His relationship with Chyna, the out of character goodbye Kliq hug, the ensuing relationship with Stephanie, but the fans loved him. The D-X segments arguably, along with Rock, Stone Cold and Mankind’s title win, saved the WWE and consigned the WCW to the garbage bins. He has been part of two of the best stables in recent years and he has fought back from career threatening injuries. In 2001 he suffered a quad tear that saw the muscle tear right off the bone. In front of the fans, did he give up, Sin Cara style, disappointing the live crowd? Did he hell, he completed the match and was even put in the Walls of Jericho. From there, he was out for eight months but returned to one of the biggest ever pops at Madison Square Garden before winning the Royal Rumble and beating Chris Jericho for the undisputed title. The crowd loved him. The fans. The fans that cheer Bryan now. He even got the same injury on the other leg a few years later but still saw out the match and returned in record time.
The poor booking that Daniel Bryan has had to endure recently is similar to that Paul Levesque himself had to tolerate. When Hell-No was a success, management might have left Bryan as a tag-team specialist, just like Levesque and Regal, but it was not in their DNA. Those two men, as different as they are, are too similar for the storyline to cloud the reality. They will go out there every night and put on a show. Do we hate Corporate Trips? Like you wouldn’t believe. Do we love the little goat? Like you wouldn’t believe. Does the trust in Bryan come from Triple H? Maybe. Vince? Maybe again? Bryan’s former trainer and Triple H’s best friend Shawn Michaels? More than likely.
At WrestleMania it all comes to a head. There is a small chance that Triple H will win the match and leave with the title but, realistically, Paul Levesque, Executive Vice President of Talent & Live Events, knows this isn’t good for business. If it happens, he’ll be the most hated heel in years though, and you can be sure that Daniel Bryan will have something to say about that at Extreme Rules. If Daniel Bryan makes the Executive part-timer tap out before entering into the main event at the big one, he’ll have been put over by a man who knows the business inside out.
On Monday night, those two men looked at each other. Triple H and Daniel Bryan. Paul Levesque and Bryan Danielson. They look at each other. The former names hate each other. They despise what they represent. The latter names looked, and smiled as they knew that, between them, they’ve caught lighting in a bottle. Then the VT Editors panicked and cut away...because that’s what’s good for business.
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Ta ta for now and hopefully see you next week.