Greetings. It would seem my largesse regarding all things grappling was destined to last but one week. To refresh: Last time out, I ran the rule over the health and well-being of the WWE main event crew leading up to the forthcoming Wrestlemania. I had been highly critical of the powers-that-be and their collective failure to adequately prepare for life beyond the next three years. However, my purpose last week was to temper such fears for the future by lauding the good work and steady consistency of the present. Despite my undeniable concerns regarding the lack of new stars, there exists at this moment a number of outstanding performers in both WWE and TNA who, despite the frequent inability of said organizations to utilise them properly, deserve credit. I included in that pantheon of note a certain ?Son-in-Law? who despite his versatility and tenacity as an in-ring performer, warrants constant vigilance and study. I think you all know to whom I am referring.
They say everyone has an opinion, and wrestling fans conform to this notion with a frequency rivaling the English rain clouds. After the posting of last week’s piece, a young lady got in touch and courteously posed some interesting queries/retorts to several remarks/observations I had made over the course of said piece. Chief among these various whimsies was a polite rebuke to me for a perceived over-exaggeration regarding the villain of the piece in last week’s focus, (and for those of you haven?t guessed) the reigning 13-time WWE/World heavyweight champion Paul ?Triple H? Levesque.
Apparently, I was overstating the issue by referring to him as a continued threat to the stability and future of the industry and, alongside his otherwise talentless wife, a cancerous drain on the attempted artistic endeavors of both the talent and the office. Truth be told, I wasn?t looking to start a moral and/or intellectual debate surrounding the issues of influence, positive or negative, in the modern wrestling business. I was simply stating what I consider to be an immutable fact. The aforementioned gruesome twosome have between them hampered countless careers, and together they further the same dangerously selfish two pronged agenda of maintaining the illusion of Triple H on WWE TV and cementing their on and off-screen power base.
Examples of their behavior, commencing in 2000, are legion. The first victim of their drive was Andrew ?Test? Martin. After the excellent (and highly amusing) revelation of HHH’s pseudo-date rape/ventriloquist marriage ceremony to the blushing Stephanie, the idea was to elevate Test to a top level programme. He had very nearly got the nod the month before to win the WWF Title at the bloody awful 1999 Survivor Series (The same show that hosted the ?Steve Austin hit with a car? angle.) Alas, Survivor’s ended with the risible sight of Paul ?Big Show? Wight dribbling all over the most celebrated championship in all of sports entertainment, whilst Test sat there twiddling his thumbs. Better luck next time. Or perhaps not?
Fast forward to December and Triple H is facing not the young, over, talented, actual wrestler groom, but the groom’s 56 year-old non-wrestler father-in-law (Vince McMahon) in an over baked no-disqualification match. Stephanie’s swerve (and new found allegiance to HHH) marked the beginning of their on-screen alliance. Meanwhile (and despite receiving a phenomenal babyface ovation at the 2000 Royal Rumble) Test is smashed in rapid order by Triple H’s D-Generation X lackeys, unceremoniously turned heel (destroying all his momentum) and dumped into the earth-shatteringly crap T&A tag-team with the then useless Matt ?Albert? Bloom, and highly sexy (yet disarmingly clueless) Trish Stratus. Triple H, on the other hand, goes on to win the WWF title f rom the man who replaced Test at Survivor Series, the Big Show. Circumstance, happenstance, whatever you choose to believe, this marked the first sorry narrative of any performer who swam too close to the waters marked: ?Danger: Hunter on patrol??
The apologist rhetoric amongst the Helmsley acolytes is always along the lines of: ?Because he is that damn good?. Granted, in the year 2000 Triple H had one superb match after another with a litany of equally superb performers. In 2009, he is still one of the most consistent in-ring performers in the business. However, as good as he may be, his unnatural survival and avoidance of the true cyclical imperative of the business i.e. character evolution is not arbitrary Darwinism, but Darwinism as a considered and pre-meditated mantra and stratagem.
In fact, the closest Hunter has come to slipping off his throne came as a result of his own well-oiled arrogance in 2003. If you recall, he took his fascination with emulating the buff, chiseled, sculpted, molded and toned physiques of his body-building idols to an absurd degree and, forgetting all these men do is pose, oil and jerk, his body began falling apart. He?d already received stark warning the previous year when, after gaining an additional twenty pounds in muscle mass, the extra stress prompted his first quadriceps tear in 2001. Far f rom heeding this, he responded to his injury by piling on more muscle until he looked, as the venerable English Wrestling magazine Power Slam put it: ?Like he?d been bitten by a radioactive triceratops.? Triple H circa 2003 was typified by two things: Sluggish, yawn-inducing crapola masquerading as wrestling matches, and repeated small muscle tears and haematomas as a result of too much muscle mass. In order to maintain the illusion, he had to sacrifice his precious physique and become a wrestler again.
The Triple H apologists (wrestling’s equivalent of Holocaust deniers) like to cite the good work he has done in elevating others. Okay, let’s consider that. I?m disqualifying right now the nonsensical argument along the lines of: ?It doesn?t matter if I cream you in seconds, you?ll be elevated by just being in the ring with me.? True elevation is achieved in a certain way and is proven to benefit all involved if done properly. Wrestling is a work, and in the ring a performer, no matter how talented, is only as good as his last match and opponent. In recent years, Hunter has elevated and/or lost to hand-picked opponents. In 2004 he properly elevated Chris Benoit, as did Shawn Michaels. He did this because, like Hulk Hogan before him, he?d sussed Benoit out. He knew Benoit would ultimately fail because of his personality shortcomings, and thus would pose no legitimate long term threat. Just for good measure, he blagged himself two World Title cracks at Benoit over the course of a five month reign, before attaching himself to the summer’s hottest act (Eugene); soaking up the heel heat that could have benefited any number of performers, wiping the floor with him in the ring and then moving on. Along the lines of a virus, actually. Another man elevated by Triple H (in an admittedly big way) was the limited, maladroit and injury-prone Batista who, despite getting over in a big way, lacked the tools to ever threaten Triple H in the long-term. Thus, Triple H’s pattern of elevation in a nutshell?
Some people like to claim Triple H was responsible for Randy Orton’s development. Granted, Orton’s association with Evolution did wonders for him, and any in-ring tutelage he received would most certainly have helped. However, Evolution was a collective rub, and Orton succeeded because he possessed all the tools in the first place. Triple H wasn?t holding his hand, so-to-speak, when he was out there restoring the prestige of the Intercontinental Title, cutting killer promos and otherwise becoming the hottest new heel in WWE. What Triple H did do, however, was ensure that the gradual disharmony storyline, which would have culminated in a new leader and World Champion of Evolution in Randy Orton, and a face turn for Helmsley as his vengeful rival, was binned in favour of turning the hard to love Orton face (dissipating all his hard-earned heel heat) and thrusting the World Title on him in an arbitrary and abrupt fashion. He was then caned and tossed aside in quick succession, which alongside Orton’s own failings meant three long years of recovery. Batista landed the aforementioned gig and became a star of the back of it. Just like the memorable Kurt Angle/Stephanie/HHH love triangle f rom 2000, Hunter had perceived a threat and dealt with it in an efficient and eye-wateringly ruthless manner. Batista was simply the grateful beneficiary of a seven-figure sized Brucey-bonus. Hardly a sportsmanlike scenario, but papa Machiavelli must be proud?
In closing, I can?t make you believe in Hunter’s guilt if you don?t want to, and I?m sure many will label me paranoid. So be it. To them, I pledge the following. I will discuss any part of my overall supposition with you by email, and I will begin my address next week by listing no less than twenty separate examples of political, artistic and unprofessional acts, be it sabotage, petulance or selfish behavior, perpetrated by or directly involving Triple H. In his own words, game on?
Daniel R. Browne.