On one side, Steph, the FrenchNygma, with 35 years of wrestling, and a viper tongue when she’s decided. On the other side, John “Deathman”, the Deathmatch specialist, a fan of Japanese wrestling, with more than 15 years of wrestling-viewing experience. We may be the strongest team when it comes to news, we have decided to confront our opinions on past events, past wrestlers… but with the 2020 look. Well, we decide to collide, just for the pleasure of it…
Triple H wrestled his first match in WWF twenty-five years ago. From Hunter Hearst-Hemsley to the WWE COO and the NXT father-founder, which character strikes us the most? We’ll try to answer this question, our very own way, in the third edition of our unique collision…
The Intro – Some Memories
Deathman: Love him or loathe him, HHH is one of the biggest stars of WWE. Now after 25 years, we have a wealth of different faces, characters and clashes to comment on. So that’s just what we’re going to do here. From snobby Blue Blood to the Daddy of NXT and provider of WWE’s future stars, HHH has been everywhere and done almost everything there is to do. So join us for this celebration of the man, the character and most importantly the Game. This is the Many Faces of Triple H.
Nygma: Triple H is obviously not the first wrestler who can say he has spent the quarter of a century in a ring, and mostly in the same company. In our current days, it has become something pretty rare. Paul Levesque has played his game and crossed the times and eras with a unique wit. Instead of being just a wrestler, he took the time to understand what this business was about to fit it. Love him or hate him, and I’m honestly not his biggest fan, The Game is one hell of a Man.
Hunter Hearst-Hemsley – The Snobby Blueblood
Nygma: Let’s go back to 1996. WWF Superstars was airing 3 months after the USA but on Wednesday afternoons in France, so I could watch while doing my homework. Well, that week, Ray Rougeau and Jean Brassard announced the debut of Hunter Hearst-Hemsley on the show. His entrance was long, his attitude was of another age, the girl at his arm was a pure cliché. He was bowing down after winning a match. That was a time for characters. Levesque wanted to be booed so he created a character that was fitting that mould. A man everyone could envy. That was his opening door to success.
Deathman: The first instance I can remember of HHH was one Hunter Hearst-Hemsley, a snobby, arrogant man with a silver spoon jammed so far up his ass he could stir his own thoughts. He lived to annoy and he lived to make people hate him since it was the time when everyone wanted larger than life. HHH managed to capitalise on this perfectly by taking a pompous jerk and making it work for him. There isn’t too much more to say on this time period, HHH was a great example of a late 90s character work and the first example of a man with endless creativity and drive to make himself memorable.
DX – If you’re not down for that, suck it
Deathman: To pick a match of DX history would be impossible. The group was the rebellious spirit of the attitude era at the time and fronted by two of the most charismatic men in WWE. Shawn Michaels and HHH were the epitome of a WWE wrestler and were the perfect caricatures to be played against Vince and his corporate army. This was a new face of HHH as until then he’d mostly been a series wrestler with serious angles. Here he was telling people to suck it, crotch chopping like a madman and generating some of the most hilarious jokes of the time period. Not all of it landed and DX have been dredged up multiple times for future runs against groups like Legacy and The Brothers of Destruction in a main-event we still question but overall, this was one of the most prosperous times for HHH. He was one of the top good guys with a gang of misfits at the forefront of the Monday Night Wars. HHH got the chance to show new depths to the charisma he had shown traces of in previous iterations.
Nygma: Everything I know about DX is what I saw way later. At that time, WWF was not airing anymore on French TV (WCW time). Shawn Michaels, Helmsley, Chyna and Rick Rude formed D-Generation X (DX). This stable that pushed every possible envelope. Like we say here, it was “osé”. WWF was on war mode and decided to do absolutely everything to win it. Even to let some of his best wrestlers behave like stupid teenagers, like showing their asses to wish Merry Xmas. The sad thing with the first version of DX is it will be remembered for the pranks more than the matches and feuds the guys were involved in. The second version of DX with Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and Sean Waltman is something I prefer to forget, but when the “true” DX revived in 2010 or so, that was it. The pranks were still there, but Michaels and Helmsley have become men. Their war against the McMahons and The Spirit Squad is unforgettable. It was all fun, but it was all wrestling too.
The Evolution’s Leader – Triple H vs Batista – Hell in a Cell – Vengeance 2005
Deathman: Evolution was a powerful stable. Ric Flair, Randy Orton, Batista and our man HHH. During this time period, the group made HHH the king of Monday Night Raw. He continuously had the World Heavyweight Title and was considered untouchable until one man won the Royal Rumble, Batista. From here HHH showed his true colours, trying to talk Batista out of pursuing him. It failed and he found himself embroiled in one of the hottest feuds of the era. HHH helped make Batista a star in both the stable and the feud. Through a series of captivating matches, HHH made himself the ultimate petty villain. He temporarily quit RAW and used Ric Flair as a cypher to deal with Batista in his stead. Here we really saw the star power H had and his ability to create a champion people really wanted to see. This wouldn’t be the last time it would be on display but this is one of the first times I really remember seeing it. HHH became something monstrous to try and tackle the Beast, leaving a trail of destruction in the ring. It never went his way but overall, it was the hottest feud of the time period. He was a star-maker in his own elitist group of stars.
Nygma: From a stable to another, HHH has definitely been a team or faction man. When he was not the originator of DX, this time, Evolution was his baby. He and Ric Flair opened the doors to two young talents, at that time, to show what they worth. Evolution was built on the cliché of the rich and famous, with girls, limos and planes. But what was happening in the ring at that time was way more interesting. They all stole the show week after week. HHH was 35 but he already understood he had to bet on the future. Saying Batista and Randy Orton exceeded all expectations is below the truth. As a stable, Evolution was successful, a winning machine, a belt collecting industry, a weapon of mass destruction in the ring. But it was also a success in building a new generation of talents. Both Orton and Batista became World Champions what, of course, infuriated The Game and signed the end of the faction.
The End of An Era and The COO – Triple H vs Undertaker – Career vs Streak Match – WrestleMania 28
Nygma: After 2010, Triple H was 40 and feeling the blow of the multiple injuries he sustained and started to wrestle on more rare occasions. At the end of the July 18 episode of Raw, Triple H returned on behalf of WWE’s board of directors to relieve his father-in-law Vince McMahon of his duties and become the COO of WWE. That didn’t prevent him from challenging The Undertaker at WrestleMania 27. A monumental match that left stigmata on bodies and souls. Triple H became an authority figure, more than a wrestler, despite a complex feud with Kevin Nash. As Triple H was evaluating John Laurinaitis’ performance as RAW general manager, he was interrupted by the Undertaker. After initially refusing the rematch, Triple H accepted the challenge. WrestleMania 28, Hell in a Cell, Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. Triple H lost once again but the image of these 3 men standing together would make History. We were closing a chapter on an Era of Legends.
Deathman: As HHH got older, his body started to betray him. He cut his schedule and started working as COO of the company and used this to show a new strain of charisma. He had some weird feuds in this point but also gave us two of the most dramatic Mania matches in his war with The Undertaker at WrestleMania’s 27 and 28 as he started to obsess with ending the legendary streak. It was one of the last gasps of greatness from a man that had done almost everything in a career. He was starting to fade more into the behind the scenes life of WWE and needed a shot of greatness. The photo above really illustrates the end of an era. The Game was no more. He had given it everything alongside his best friend Shawn Michaels and lost. It was a powerful match to watch at the time and really felt like it meant the end for HHH. Instead, it just led on to a new era for the COO of WWE.
The Authority Man – Triple H vs Daniel Bryan – WrestleMania 30
Deathman: Do I really need to discuss the impact of this WrestleMania? This was the crowning glory of Daniel Bryan brought about by the bullying ways of a top tier authority heel HHH. The Authority, spearheaded by H and Stephanie McMahon had been merciless in bullying Bryan for his size and looks. He was in full-on arrogant mode. It was an amplified version of the snob mixed with the manpower of Evolution. Ironically enough, this pretty much was the evolution of multiple faces of H and showed him at his villainous best and worst, depending on who you ask. There’s not too much to add to this one, we know how this turned out and we know just how deeply entrenched HHH was in bringing the Authority to life and the stars born of them.
Nygma: It’s not my favourite moment of the career of Triple H. A cocky, family-business man took the helms of the company. Once again, I look at this moment as a passing of the torch one. The henchmen of The Authority were The Shield, Ambrose, Rollins, and Reigns. The “Miracle of Bourbon Street,” to quote Michael Cole, was the incarnation of WWE listening to its fandom. The fans wanted Daniel Bryan as a Champion, as the anti-Authority man. He embodied that role and became the World Champion. Another man was the great winner of The Authority “era”, Roman Reigns. As Daniel Bryan was injured, WWE put its faith in Reigns and HHH helped him become a Champion.
The Man Who Created NXT
Nygma: Let’s rewind. After The End of an Era match, Triple H took more time to work behind the scenes and decided to focus on the WWE talent development system. FCW was a kind of warehouse with only a few people attending the shows. HHH made of NXT, a hybrid between WWE’s scripted live event shows and reality television, in which talent from WWE’s developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) participated in a competition to become WWE’s next “breakout star”, a real brand. In June 2012, WWE ceased operating FCW, running instead all of its developmental events and operations at Full Sail University under the WWE NXT banner. A year later, the talents were graced with the Performance Center, a place custom-made for success. I won’t tell you again the history of NXT, as we all know it and live it every week, but Triple H has been the blood that runs in the veins of the brand and allows it to become the third brand of WWE, beyond the developmental aspect.
Deathman: Now we come to the latest face of HHH. The creator of the future and the man trying to ensure WWE has future stars for generations to come. NXT has come from a reality show to a full-on dominant brand competing with RAW and SmackDown. Never was this felt more than when NXT declared war on the “main roster.” After a dodgy time elsewhere, NXT took advantage of an opening spurred on by HHH and made a bigger name for themselves than ever before by coming out, seeing the competition and conquering. HHH was like a proud father as his brand came along and made a mess of WWE’s main roster. He has proven time and time again that he wants to look to the future and ensure WWE runs for years to come whilst making it fun and enjoyable to watch. He has a hand in shaping the future of the brands and will continue to do so for as long as he can. At least that’s how I see him.
Overall – A Man Who Shaped Our Wrestling Memories
Deathman: So there you have it, the rundown of some of HHH’s greatest hits. Again, whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying just how powerful HHH has been in WWE. He has been a stable leader, a rebel, a snob, the domineering heel of the Authority and most importantly, the face leading a future generation. I have a lot of respect for what HHH has done. Plus since he’s a massive metalhead, I already like him. When he appeared at the first-ever NXT Download, I was starstruck. He was one of the few people the crowd didn’t jeer. I grew up a fan of HHH and that has never really changed as time has gone on. Seeing how NXT is treated, I do hope to see the day that HHH gets a hand in booking the future of WWE.
Nygma: A longevity like Triple H’s in WWF/WWE is absolutely unique in our time. I have witnessed almost all the eras of his career. Like I told you in the intro, I’ve never really been a fan of him as a wrestler. But if you read this piece carefully, one thing is coming pretty often. Very soon in his career, HHH tried to understand the business he was in. Very soon, he gave a chance to younger talents to shine. When the time came, he spent less time in the ring to leave it to other talents and take care of the talents in the making. “The future is now,” was one of NXT catchphrases, probably because Triple H has always looked ahead of his time while being a man of the moment. And that’s how you “play The Game”.
All pics and videos courtesy of WWE