Playing or Saving “The Game”
For many, many years now, the internet wrestling community has had a faction of fans that absolutely hate Triple H. While, admittedly, this faction has dwindled in size over the years, it is still a loud and vocal group of fans who have risen again with Triple H’s latest WWE Championship win at No Way Out a few weeks ago.
The hate stems from several circumstances. One is the well-documented fact that Triple H is married to Stephanie McMahon, thereby making him son-in-law to ?the boss?. This does give him direct access to the powers that be in the WWE, including Vince McMahon himself. However, was Triple H’s connection to the McMahon family really the reason why he’s been in the main event for so long?
Triple H is a 13-time World Champion, with 8 WWF/E Championship and 5 World Heavyweight Championship reigns. One would think that this is nepotism by marriage, but lets not forget?not all of these reigns came while Triple H was involved with Stephanie McMahon. We know they started dating in 2000, but not exactly when?but it safe to say that the first 3 or 4 WWF/E Championship reigns occurred before he started dating the boss’s daughter. Therefore, he was already a main event talent by the time he would?ve been ?welcomed into the family? by Vince and Linda McMahon.
Not only that, but since then, the WWF/E saw main event talent fall by the wayside. Mick Foley semi-retired, The Rock went to Hollywood, and Austin became a once-or-twice a year ‘special occasion?. Also, Kurt Angle went crazy and then to TNA, and Brock Lesnar went to the UFC by way of the NFL.
Throw in the fact that the WWE had become two ?brands?, and Triple H really had no choice but to carry the torch for the Raw brand, as main event talent (which had thinned itself out) was now split for the two brands.
The second argument is that Triple H held back talent and used backstage politics beyond his relationship with Stephanie to keep himself on the top. I imagine that part of this comes from Triple H’s affiliation with ?The Kliq?, who used backstage politics (and influence with Vince McMahon) to keep themselves well-promoted, well-paid, and on top back in the mid-90’s.
I also believe that another part of this comes from the fact that Triple H was ?presented? the World Heavyweight Championship in September of 2002, instead of winning it in a tournament or a battle royal. While this was probably a missed opportunity for wrestling fans and the WWE, it did put a LOT of heat on Triple H as a character and a person?which did nothing but further whet the appetite of fans to see Trips get his comeuppance.
However, to say Triple H ?held back? talent is a bit of an overstatement. Let’s take a look at his challengers from when he first won the title in September of 2002 until 2005, the period most fans point to when making the case against Triple H.
I remember fans being completely up in arms about Rob Van Dam, who was very hot at the time, not getting a title run in 2002. Triple H and RVD had a match at Unforgiven that year, only weeks after Trips won the title. This was not a fair time to do a title switch, as the title had not been fully established as of yet. Secondly, RVD had a bad reputation for being a bit sloppy at the time and had hurt/injured several wrestlers since coming to the WWE, albeit not too seriously. However, RVD was transitioning from the ECW style to the WWE style, and by hurting some of his fellow workers (accidentally, I?m aware of this), he probably cost himself a title run and I believe this is why he did not get another push until the reformation of ECW as a third brand.
Then you had Kane challenging for the title with the horrendous ?Katie Vick? storyline. The less said about the storyline, the better. However, Kane was more or less holding the Intercontinental title so that they could unify it with Triple H’s World Heavyweight Championship at No Mercy (a stupid move, but one you cannot blame on Trips). Kane was not garnering great reactions from the crowd during this time period.
Triple H finally dropped the title to Shawn Michaels inside the first Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002. However, I believe the jury was still out on whether or not HBK was completely ready for full-time competition, and he dropped the title back to his former Kliq partner at Armageddon the following month. However, HBK would feud with Trips off-and-on again through 2004.
Next, Scott Steiner was brought in to face Triple H. This was a massive failure for many reasons. First, Steiner, who was underrated by many for some of his matches in the last years of WCW, had not wrestled a full schedule in 2 years and was out of shape, cardiovascular-wise. Secondly, Steiner was diagnosed with what is known as Drop Foot Syndrome, which causes coordination issues and forces the person afflicted to walk and move with odd motions.
This would explain why Steiner had such horrible matches with Triple H. After having a match that was so horrible at the Royal Rumble, it actually elicited boos and laughter towards Steiner?Steiner was given a second shot a Triple H in another stinker of a match. Can you blame the WWE for not taking the title from a reliable champ in Triple H and putting on a man who was recently diagnosed with a problem that affects coordination and had not had time to be treated for it?
Now, if there was any time for Triple H to d rop a title (and he didn?t), it was at Wrestlemania XIX against Booker T. This is proven by Booker’s incredible performance that night. In fact, the original booking plan was for Booker to defeat Triple H. However, when Goldberg signed with the WWE, the booking team (not Triple H) decided to keep the title on Trips, de-push Booker, and build Goldberg (through a feud with The Rock) to be the next champion. While hindsight is 20/20 and we see how bad of a decision that was (Goldberg was in the WWE for less than a year), at the time it was seen as the long-term way to go as Goldberg had been so popular for so long in the WCW.
Triple H would feud with Kevin Nash while Goldberg handled business with The Rock. There is not a person on this planet who can convince me that Triple H dropping the title to Kevin Nash would?ve been a good thing.
After shocking fans by retaining at SummerSlam 2003 (and further building anticipation for him to d rop the title), He?d finally drop the title to Goldberg at Unforgiven. He would then lose a rematch at Survivor Series before winning the title back in a triple threat match that also featured Kane. Why? Simply put, Goldberg was not generating the excitement amongst the fans like he had done during his initial WCW run. So, the title went back to ?old reliable?, Triple H.
Then, Triple H (the scourge of wrestling fans, eternal holder of the title) dropped the title to Chris Benoit at Wrestlemania XX. He wouldn?t see the title again until taking it off of Randy Orton’s hands at Unforgiven later in 2004. Honestly, not a bad decision in hindsight, either. Orton’s face run was so god-awful that you had to go with Triple H to rebuild the Evolution break-up angle, this time with Batista playing the role of taking down the Evolution faction. Triple H would drop the title to Batista at Wrestlemania 21, and has only held the World Heavyweight Championship once since then?for 2 hours at No Mercy in 2007.
Meanwhile, since 2004, Triple H has really put over many wrestlers. In 2004, he lost to Chris Benoit at Wrestlemania XX, and then lost in subsequent rematches. He also lost 3 matches to Shelton Benjamin, who was only known for playing second fiddle in Team Angle and being a tag team specialist until he was put over by Triple H. In 2005, Triple H put over Batista at Wrestlemania 21 and in subsequent rematches, just like he had done with Benoit the previous year. In 2006, he did the same for John Cena, as well.
Realistically, looking at who Triple H had to work with from late 2002 to early 2004, one can fairly easily justify why he was champion as often as he was. In fact, with the exception of Booker T at Wrestlemania XIX, there aren?t many cases where one can say ?no, he should have put this guy over and let him run with the title for a while?.
So, on second thought, I?d say we can cut the Triple Hate on Triple H, and appreciate the fact that he attempted to carry the Raw brand without much of a supporting cast in the main event.
Agree, disagree, don?t care? You can let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, this is ?Dr. Phil? Chroniger, giving you a second opinion.