Happy Monday TJR faithful! I hope that everyone had a good weekend, and is ready to continue down the road to Summerslam tonight on Raw. On paper it looks as though this year’s Summerslam is going to be a packed show, with several matches to look forward to. While it’s true that the show should be pretty great, on a week-to-week basis there are actually only a few superstars I am wholly interested in. For instance, Brock vs. Cena will be a good match, but I’m not really into either guy as a week-to-week character if I’m being honest.
In fact, if I’m being honest I only have a passing interest in most of the stuff that happens on Raw. I’m intrigued by Xavier Woods teaming up with Kofi and Big E but am wary about ho seriously this grouping will be taken, I don’t care for Fandango who finds his way onto Raw each week, and I find the Dolph Ziggler character boring despite enjoying his ring work and finding the wrestler to be incredibly talented. I’d say about 80% of what happens on Raw these days doesn’t really make a connection with me. Most of the show and the superstars feel flat.
All that said, there are a few things in the WWE narrative that keep me coming back for more. I can’t get enough of the Ambrose/Rollins rivalry, particularly Dean Ambrose who I think is mostly great and entirely enthralling (I still don’t love his ring gear being the exact same as Luke Harper’s, or his music, or the fact that Cole insists on calling him the Lunatic Fringe. What is he the fringe of now Cole?). I absolutely love Bo Dallas and everything that he does. Bray is still captivating despite losing me a little in recent weeks (I couldn’t get enough of the guy a couple months ago), but Triple H might be the most interesting character for me in the WWE narrative right now.
I know, it sounds crazy to even say that, but everybody’s got to admit that Triple H has been stellar since becoming the heel Authority figure. Steph’s been really good too, but Triple H has been on another level as far being the ultimate villainous boss. I’d even venture to say that he’s been better than Vince ever was in the role (at the very least more intriguing).
The Triple H character has always been a fascinating one, on and off screen. Say what you will about the man behind the persona, but he is a genius. Through decades of work, and various incarnations, he has built the ultimate WWE villain. He is a beast of a man, regarded as a conqueror, a king of kings, despite most of history rendering those sentiments moot. Sure he’s a more than worthy foil, a formidable challenge to anybody he’s ever locked horns with, but much like the Joker to Batman, or Lex Luthor to Superman, he always comes up just short. How many of the big matches in his career has he won?
Through his entire run with the WWE, Triple H peaked at second best. Whether it was Austin, or The Rock, or John Cena, Triple H was never the guy. He was the guy that wrestled the guy, and that is part of what makes him such a great villain. He accomplished many things in that time; he won titles, he gathered accolades, but none of what he did changed the fact that he was at best the second best guy in the WWE. That career of being second best heavily influences the character we see on TV every week as the Chief Operating Officer of the WWE.
Pair the on air history of the character with the perception many fans have of the man behind the character, and it makes the character we see even more detestable. Most fans believe Triple H is a political mastermind who positioned himself at the right hand of the most powerful man in wrestling by marrying Stephanie. It is widely speculated that he uses his influence and political savvy to maintain a position near the top of the card by either working with the top guys or holding down guys that he thinks could become better than him.
In many respects this is utter B.S. Triple H has lost most of the big matches of his career, solidifying the ascent of others. He did the honors for Batista and John Cena, cementing both their places atop the WWE landscape (particularly John's). He lost to the Undertaker in every big match that they had, seemed prepared to lose to CM Punk at Wrestlemania 30 before Punk left and ultimately did lose to Daniel Bryan on the biggest night of Bryan’s career. Furthermore he seems set to do the same for Roman Reigns. Yes some of the criticism levied toward him is warranted, as he is not perfect, but to say he hasn’t accepted his role behind the scenes, as the guy that gets other guys over is ludicrous. That said Triple H’s reputation precedes him, and unlike anybody in the WWE, he uses that reputation to his advantage.
Never before have I seen a performer take their on air character’s history of coming up short and being second best, and marry it so seamlessly with the rumors of his behind the scenes exploits. His promos since becoming the heel authority figure have been laced with references to what the Internet wrestling community thinks about him and what he’s done. He constantly alludes to online chatter about the company at large, trolling smarks, and it’s been absolutely brilliant.
Triple H is an old school guy at heart, but has fully embraced new media, and the prying nature of dirt sheets. He uses new media and the watching eyes of dirt sheets to aid him in presenting his old school philosophies on wrestling to a new generation, rather than rejecting the advancements in access and technology and lamenting the world evolving around him. His ability to manipulate new media, and re-implement old school philosophy in new ways is what makes him a genius. People don’t believe wrestling is real anymore, but partially due to Triple H, it’s becoming harder to discern what is completely fabricated and what has a kernel of truth.
After Wrestlemania 30, I wrote about how we were headed into a new chapter of the WWE (as I see every decade as a chapter in the WWE’s history). When I see Triple H on TV today, I know what his role in the next chapter of the WWE’s story is. The next chapter is about youth rising up, and changing the entire landscape. The former members of The Shield, Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, Barrett, the recently signed Kenta and Prince Devitt, the possible addition of Kevin Steen, and of course fan favorite Daniel Bryan; these are the new guard. They are the future of the business, and Triple H is the grizzled vet, having seen and done it all, clinging to the past, and trying his best to delay the arrival of the future by either controlling or squashing the youth movement.
Triple H’s on screen character is bitter that he was never the man, and is using his current executive power to do whatever he can to make sure that none of the young guys pass him and his legacy by. His accomplishments are all he has to legitimize his place in history and if these guys overtake him, he may fade into obscurity. It’s a compelling narrative and a truly enthralling theme for the next decade in the WWE, if that is indeed the macro direction they are heading in. Furthermore it’s the perfect use of a talent like Triple H; one that melds both his in ring history and his behind the scenes exploits, making him the ultimate villain that will get each of these young guys over in one way or another.
Vince may have been the first on air heel authority figure, but Triple H just might be the best when all is said and done. Mr. McMahon was a cartoon character, larger than life, but there is a depth, a level of intrigue to Triple H’s take on the role, that Mr. McMahon never had.
There you have it, but I want to know what you think! How great has Triple H been over the last year? Is he or can he be better than Vince McMahon in his role as the boss (on and off screen)? Is the way that Triple H has blended old school philosophy and new media borderline genius? Do you agree with my assessment of the new chapter in the WWE? And are you okay with Triple H playing such a crucial role in it?
Until next time folks, I’m Matty J. Douglas saying it’s getting tough to put together my TIFF itinerary. So many movies, so little time. Have a great week everybody!