For more than one generation of wrestling fans, Vince McMahon has defined what professional wrestling is. In the 1980s, he was the lead figure in breaking down the traditional territorial system in which different promoters ran different segments of the US and typically avoided competition one another. McMahon’s national expansion led to him acquiring a lot of promotions, putting others out of business, and inspiring a handful of others to expand in their own right. There was no question that he came out ahead in this situation, and he wouldn’t meaningfully be rivaled until the Monday Night War. Despite taking his lumps during that era, his company won out then as well, remaining the most watched, most famous, most profitable wrestling enterprise in the world.
McMahon is only mortal, though, and at over seventy years of age it is time to begin considering just how long he’ll carry on working full time as the head of WWE or, if he doesn’t choose to retire, what will happen after he passes. The general consensus is that his daughter and son in law, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, will be handed the reins of the company, and that Helmesley in particular will take the lead on WWE’s creative direction given the significant influence he already has, the task of booking NXT that is widely regarded as a training ground to get him ready.
So what happens if Triple H takes over, and particularly if he does so in the immediate future? There are all manner of considerations, ranging from WWE’s business, to its booking, to how talent is managed. While we won’t know what’s going to happen for sure until it comes to pass, we can make some educated guesses now, and some of the changes may well be startling.
15. WWE Might Be Sold
While the prevailing theory is that Triple H would follow in Vince McMahon’s footsteps in running WWE for a very long time, there is another possibility. What if he and Stephanie McMahon sold?
No, this outcome isn’t a probable outcome, or at least not in the immediate future. WWE has removed itself from the wrestling tradition, though, to become a mainstream, corporate entity. It’s not beyond possibility that a major network or corporation could make the next generation of McMahons an offer Vince might not have taken, and that they cannot refuse. Moreover, as a family friendly property that has collaborated with The Muppets, certain circles of the Internet have even speculated that a company like Disney might even have some interest, and be uniquely suited to preserve the promotion’s identity the way they’ve done with properties like the aforementioned Muppets and the Star Wars franchise.
14. Shane McMahon May Be Out
Shane is a McMahon, but he’s a McMahon who left WWE for a period of years when he read the writing on the wall that Stephanie and Triple H were likely to come into power in the company over him. He’s still family, and he did eventually come home, but today he’s working almost exclusively as an on-screen talent, as opposed to a backstage player.
While Shane seems to be on reasonable terms now with his sister and brother in law, questions do remain about exactly how he’d fit in in WWE after Vince is no longer in power. Would his generation of the family maintain room for him? And would he want to stay indefinitely while working in a minimized role with the company. It’s tough to say now, but if or when Triple H takes over, Shane may be on his way out.
13. WWE’s Stock Would Take a Nose Dive
When the McMahon family made the choice to make WWE a publicly traded company in 1999, they did so under the publicized rationale that they wanted to let fans own a piece of the company and have a more meaningful stake. There are all sorts of financial implications that go along with this choice, including the opportunity for more money to flow into the company, as well as a responsibility to make financially responsible decisions in the interest of the investors.
For the 18 years WWE has been publicly traded, Vince McMahon has been the corporate face of the organization. More than a figurehead, he’s been the unrivaled leader of the whole enterprise from business, marketing, and financial perspectives. If McMahon were to pass the torch to Triple H, it’s about as stable of a transition of leadership as there could be. However, the sheer shakeup of the long time owner and chairman stepping down would almost certainly rattle the confidence of stockholders. In the long term, WWE may be just fine, but it’s likely the stock would take a hit when the news first broke.
12. Vince Would Remain A Consultant
If Triple H takes over from Vince McMahon, but not because McMahon died, one would have to assume that McMahon would still stay involved to some extent with the company he dedicated his life to. It’s difficult to say exactly how that would look, but in particular from a creative standpoint, no one has the track record or longevity of worldwide success of McMahon, and you have to believe he’d stay on as at least a consultant.
Such a role is not without precedent. McMahon himself had veterans assisting him when he took over WWE, and Pat Patterson was a particularly steady right hand man who contributed no lesser ideas than the concept of the Royal Rumble match, laying out many high profile matches, and advocating for talents may have otherwise overlooked (most notably Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels).
11. WWE Might Go Even More Indie
For years, it was generally agreed that WWE wanted to grow and develop its own talent, focusing on training their own prospects so they’d be fully indoctrinated into the WWE style. That model broke down a bit with a lull in new stars WWE had truly created and a surge of truly excellent independent talent. A shift occurred as NXT and the Performance Center became a home to not only rookies WWE was molding, but also talent that was indie proven and used NXT as a place to transition into the WWE structure, rings, camera set up, ramps, and stages.
It’s widely agreed that Triple H advocated for more indie talent and has particularly taken ownership over bringing up guys like Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, and Shinsuke Nakamura who had great track records outside WWE, and ensuring they were set up for success when they made their way to the main roster. If Triple H were to take over fully, there’s every reason to think he’d steer the company even harder in this direction, advocating for indie-proven talent to get big opportunities in WWE.
10. Jeff Jarrett May Return To WWE
Vince McMahon has always been clear that he’s willing to put aside personal differences to do what’s right for business. It’s what allowed for guys like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior to have multiple chances, despite severe fallings out with Vince at different times. There are some talents, however, who got blacklisted and stayed blacklisted. One of the biggest names on that list? Jeff Jarrett.
Jarrett purportedly held up Vince for money to drop the Intercontinental Championship before leaving for WCW. That choice, in addition to being a career mid carder with WWE may have made Vince reluctant to bring him back. Add on Jarrett founding TNA and then GFW in attempts to compete with WWE and you have a guy Vince may never forgive.
With Triple H’s openness to independent talent, however, it’s entirely possible he would see value in a partnership with Jarrett, arguably the most successful post-Monday Night War wrestling businessman not affiliated with WWE, with his hands in the indies and Japan. Jarrett might be a surprisingly strategic partner after the changing of the guard in WWE.
9. We’d Hear More From Jim Ross
While Jim Ross is on the shortlist of most iconic commentators in wrestling history, it’s no secret that Vince McMahon wasn’t a huge fan of him. A variety of parties have spoken to Vince being critical of Ross’s southern drawl, and later the way his face looked after his struggles with Bell’s palsy. This led to him being in and out of his lead commentator role over the years at Vince’s whims, with a long-term agenda of replacing Ross with Michael Cole.
Triple H, however, is an open fan of Ross’s work who purportedly went so far as to campaign for Ross to call his matches on more than one occasion after Ross had been transitioned out of his lead play-by-play role. This most famously including his Hell in a Cell Match at WrestleMania XXVIII opposite The Undertaker.
While Ross isn’t getting any younger, if Triple H were to take over imminently, there’s a very real chance that Triple H would do everything in his power get Ross featured more prominently, more regularly.
8. Talking Smack Lives
Talking Smack was an interesting show for the WWE Network, for featuring an unusual kayfabe, but nonetheless unscripted format. The show provided a particularly engaging platform for The Miz to further his character and issues with Daniel Bryan by pushing his character to its extremes, not to mention an outlet for Renee Young’s engaging personality.
The show got canceled. While one of the reasons for discontinuing the series was as a cost cutting measure as WWE scaled back in a variety of areas to maximize profits. There was also, however, information leaked about Vince being uncomfortable with the unscripted nature of the show, and perhaps specifically taking issue with the uncomfortable verbal altercation between Miz and Daniel Bryan that drew the most attention to the show.
While Triple H doesn’t have a vested interest in Talking Smack per se, he is known to be a bit less of control freak than Vince who got himself over in the first place based on outlandish antics with D-Generation X. There’s reason to believe he might give this show more of a chance than Vince was willing to.
7. Roman Reigns May Not Be The Guy
It’s no secret that Roman Reigns was handpicked to be “the guy” in WWE, and that he was Vince McMahon’s personal chosen one. On a recent visit to Edge and Christian’s podcast, Daniel Bryan went so far as to discuss Vince talking to him directly about the master plan and wanting Bryan to help Reigns get there.
But if Triple H came into fuller power, would Reigns still be the guy?
There’s no clear indication that Triple H has anything against Reigns, and he went so far as to put him over in both the Shield vs. Evolution program, and one on one at WrestleMania 32. Just the same Triple H seems to have a soft spot for indie talents and for guys who are more polished as in ring performers. Thus, it’s not unreasonable to imagine Reigns become one of a few top guys, but perhaps secondary to some someone like Seth Rollins or Finn Balor as the top star in the company.
6. The Return Of War Games
Rumors abounded post Monday Night War that Triple H wanted to bring back the old Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW staple gimmick match of War Games. It’s further widely agreed that Elimination Chamber was inspired by War Games. It’s a violent match with a big cage and staggered entries, but a modernized concept to freshen things and make them more uniquely WWE’s own without having to pay homage to WCW’s tradition.
If Triple H were to take over, however, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he’d lean in fully to his personal preferences and finally bring War Games to WWE. The match may not become an annual tradition—though the traditional structure would probably warrant using the double cage more than once—but could rather be used sporadically, or condensed down to a single ring and single cage and perhaps lightly modified rules to incorporate some eliminations.
5. Less Emphasis On New York
When Vince McMahon took over his father’s business, he inherited a New York tradition. The company’s biggest shows went down at Madison Square Garden, and heading to WWE was colloquially known as heading to New York.
Since that time, WWE expanded nationally and internationally. As the next generation of leadership takes over it’s possible WWE will become an even more global brand, and even less beholden to the New York tradition, honoring other big market cities on more equal footing. There’s also the persistent rumors that WWE might try a non-North American PPV again. While time zones make the project challenging, in an increasingly global society, airing a live PPV form overseas could work and help add further legitimacy to WWE’s international business partnerships around the world.
4. New Folk Heroes
WWE has its folk heroes. Despite having ups and downs in their relationships with WWE, Bruno Sammartino and Hulk Hogan have each more often than not ben celebrated as not only top stars of the past, but legends of the company’s mythology. Take Andre the Giant for another example—the first inductee to WWE’s Hall of Fame, and the subject of consistent reverence when the company looks back on its history.
With a transition to a new leader, we may well see new folk heroes celebrated by the company. Maybe it’ll be guys like Billy Graham or Ric Flair whom Triple H has cited as inspirations and all time greats. Maybe it’ll be Shawn Michaels, who the company already often portrays as the best of all time, but has yet to quite crossover for WWE to celebrate as a mythical figure on the scale of preceding legends. As more time goes on, more recent stars become viable as celebrated figures of the past, and how history gets molded will follow Triple H’s lead.
3. A New Succession Plan For The Next Generation
For the last 20 years, WWE has had a succession plan of sorts. As Shane and then Stephanie transitioned to working full time with the company, they were each groomed for longer term leadership. Shane was on the ring crew, and later worked as a referee to learn the business from the ground up. Stephanie worked in a variety of office roles to the lay foundation for her eventual run as an executive. Each grew into positions of greater power and influence both on screen and off. When Triple H married Stephane, the two took the lead as heirs to Vince’s empire.
But who would succeed Triple H? He and Stephanie have children (as does Shane) and so a fifth generation of McMahon promoter could conceivably take over the family business in 20 or so years. But what about now? What if life of circumstances or a tragic loss meant that Triple H and Stephanie needed to pass along the business more immediately, and even Shane wasn’t able or willing to hop in? While some form of intra-family transition plan has been in place since at least the late 1990s, there’s no clear path now and a new kind of succession plan, that would probably involve looking outside the family, is the next logical step.
2. More Heel Champions
One of the distinctive elements of WWE storytelling has always been a tendency to book around face champions like Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and John Cena. This runs contrary to wrestling tradition which tends to dictate that the money is in the chase—that heels ought to reign so fans can drink in the excitement of faces pursuing the title.
There are very few heels WWE has really built around for any extended period of time. While Brock Lesnar is arguably the modern day example, he’s done so as a part timer who the company isn’t necessarily built around for his irregular role on screen. Randy Orton has dipped in and out of the role, and guys like Edge, CM Punk, Seth Rollins and Yokozuna filled the role for bits of time. But the longest reigning, most dominant, and most hated top heel whom the company really focused on for several sustained periods of time? That’s Triple H.
1. Vince Would Go In The Hall Of Fame
The WWE Hall of Fame is chock full of legends who made big contributions to WWE history, but of all of the people, living and dead, in the Hall, the biggest contributor not inducted would have to be Vince McMahon himself. By a variety of accounts, Vince has no intentions of inducting himself.
The choice makes sense enough, given that, as much as Vince deserves it, it’s more than a little tawdry to select oneself for induction. But if Vince were to hand over management to Triple H—either via retirement or even death—the time would come for someone else to finally give Vince his just due and let him to say farewell to WWE and celebrate his own legacy the way he surely deserves after decades of changing the business.
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