The landscape of WWE is rather interesting to watch unfold. Triple H’s work in NXT has influenced the brand split and created new stars ready for the “new era” of WWE. Vince McMahon is still the person in charge of the company at the end of the day and everything has to be approved by him before it hits television. There have been rumors of a power struggle brewing between Triple H and Vince due to differing viewpoints. Both have their specific favorites on the roster. The clash in opinions could lead to issues in the future but right now, everything appears to be going well.
Triple H’s success with NXT has made the young developmental projects his “kids.” The success of NXT leads to him seeing what they can do when given the opportunity and he campaigns for them. McMahon still favors the aesthetic aspect of the business with favouritism towards the bigger guys and female models. That isn’t as prevalent as it has been in the past but it still exists. We’ll take a look at the favorites of each of the two men running WWE. These are eight of the current WWE stars Vince McMahon loves and eight that Triple H loves.
16 Vince Loves: John Cena
The first pick is obvious. John Cena has to be among Vince McMahon’s favorite employees in WWE history. WWE requires a lot out of their superstars and Cena is one of the very few to do it for years at the highest of levels without faltering. Cena's in-ring work has provided classics through the years but his amazing efforts outside of the squared circle are what matters most to McMahon.
Cena does more promotional work than any other top guy in WWE history. Between holding the record for most wishes granted with the Make a Wish Foundation and traveling all around the world to get the WWE name out there, Cena is the prototypical superstar Vince McMahon wants. Cena actually learned Mandarin for WWE’s press conference to promote their branching out into the China market. Cena's career has been a dream for McMahon and he is desperately hoping to find someone that can fill his shoes to become the next top star.
15 Triple H Loves: Seth Rollins
The ascension of Seth Rollins has been one of the top stories in WWE in recent years. Everyone expected Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose to become the stars from The Shield, but Rollins has been at least equal to his former teammates. Most would argue he’s the top star from the trio given his track record. Triple H has mentored Rollins on and off screen in recent years, playing a key role in his progression.
NXT was a huge project for Triple H from the inception of the brand being a developmental program. Rollins would become the first man to win the NXT Championship and there’s no coincidence there. Triple H believed in the talent of Rollins enough to make him the first face of NXT. His main roster run has proven Triple H’s theory correct. WWE paired them together on television leading into Rollins’ first WWE Championship win. Rollins will remain a big player in the future of WWE and Triple H will support him for many more years.
14 Vince Loves: Eva Marie
Wrestling fans absolutely despise Eva Marie, but she remains a valued commodity in the WWE world. Eva shows no ability to perform at a high level in the ring. Fans realize she is getting more opportunities than her peers due to her great looks and shower her with resentment. The fact that she debuted instantly as one of the members of the Total Divas cast proved Vince McMahon absolutely loves her potential.
Eva was sent back down to NXT and given personal in-ring training sessions with Brian Kendrick. Her improvement has been quite minimal, but WWE called her back up for Smackdown following the brand split. Eva received a big push before violating the wellness policy. The way she was written off claiming she needed time to recover from fans harassing her just added to her character. It proved she’ll get another crack at success and many more if McMahon has his way.
13 Triple H Loves: Shinsuke Nakamura
Shinsuke Nakamura has been in NXT for less than four months, but is already the biggest star in the promotion. TakeOver: Brooklyn is NXT’s biggest show of the year and Triple H already pulled the trigger to make Nakamura his NXT Champion. The Japanese legend took a huge leap of faith to leave New Japan for the test in WWE. Fans have treated him like a superstar and he’s already in a position to make the main roster any time WWE wants him to.
Triple H does not mess around when it comes to NXT being credible. The fact that he didn’t wait at all to make Nakamura the top guy shows his faith. Nakamura’s rare weaknesses come from having to acclimate himself to the North American world. The language barrier, new surroundings and completely different wrestling landscape could easily overwhelm him. However, Triple H has gone above and beyond to ensure Nakamura’s strengths are exhibited any time he is on NXT television.
12 Vince McMahon Loves: Brock Lesnar
The attraction of Brock Lesnar is definitely there. People care about The Beast’s actions. No one is as intimidating as Lesnar and he has been a massive PPV draw in the past. The window for Brock’s success in WWE may be closing. Ratings and WWE Network numbers don’t see noticeable rises with Lesnar’s appearances. The big WWE shows always sell out before the card is even announced, so you can’t credit his presence for the attendance.
Vince McMahon’s love for Lesnar and his legitimacy has led to the push of Lesnar continuing. Brock destroyed Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 31 and Randy Orton at SummerSlam. Both matches lacked the special feel that used to be associated with Lesnar matches. Ambrose accused Lesnar of being creatively lazy and you can’t really argue with it. McMahon is sticking with his overpriced attraction and protecting him big time. The fact that Brock was the one to end The Undertaker’s legendary WrestleMania streak says everything you need to know about McMahon’s feelings.
11 Triple H Loves: Bray Wyatt
Most of the top stars to come from NXT were big names in other promotions before getting signed by WWE. One of the rare instances of a star being created in NXT was the evolution of Bray Wyatt. Triple H helped get him out of his shell and put the horrible past of Husky Harris behind him. His unique character is unlike anyone else on the roster today. That wouldn’t have happened without Triple H allowing him to take the risk.
Wyatt has not been able to get to the top level in WWE, but still has a great position in the company. WWE always positions him in the lower level of the upper card. Wyatt may have taken the loss every time but he has worked with The Undertaker, John Cena and The Rock at the past three WrestleMania events. Triple H definitely argues for him to have a role in segments people will watch. Various interviews have also shown Triple H name Wyatt among the top stars in WWE and top names made from NXT.
10 Vince McMahon Loves: Nia Jax
If you’re The Rock’s cousin, Vince McMahon will likely love you. Nia Jax entered WWE’s Performance Center with a world of expectations. Both Triple H and McMahon are supporters of Jax, but the call-ups usually come from Vince. Jax is one of the few wrestlers to get called up relatively shortly into her NXT stint. Most would agree Nia is still quite inexperienced and nowhere near ready for big feuds in the booming women’s division.
WWE is trying to hide her flaws by having her only participate in enhancement matches against unknown local talents. Jax does have the potential to become a star for WWE, but she’s getting too much too early. The booking of Jax shows more faith in her than most of the superior female talents. McMahon is going to push her to the moon and it is mostly due to her being The Rock’s cousin. Similar to Roman Reigns, Vince views the pedigree and look of Jax to be something special.
9 Triple H Loves: Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn is arguably the MVP of NXT. No one cared about the show due to the lack of accessibility or star power. That was until Zayn started to rise as the face of the developmental brand. Zayn delivered outstanding matches on a weekly basis against the likes of Cesaro, Jack Swagger and Bo Dallas. Fans started to tune in due to the buzz around Sami Zayn's “must see” matches. Triple H started to gain trust and faith in the work of Zayn as his new star.
The praise shown by Triple H just added to the momentum of Zayn, as the promotion started to rise. Triple H named Zayn among the wrestlers in NXT he would have loved to wrestle in his prime. The huge compliment showed Triple H’s respect for the talented young man. WWE actually debuting Zayn as the rival of Kevin Owens and giving them a long feud definitely was the work of Triple H looking out for one of his favorites.
8 Vince McMahon Loves: Big Cass
Most of the NXT selections on this list are on the love list of Triple H, but Big Cass is someone Vince McMahon clearly is fond of. The debut of Big Cass and partner Enzo Amore made them instant fan favorites. WWE fans absolutely adore the duo, but Cass is obviously more beloved by McMahon due to his size. An injury to Enzo quickly into their run forced Cass to work alone for a couple of weeks.
Despite being new to the main roster, Cass was showcased fairly well as a singles talent in his few episodes of Raw without Enzo. The big man had the show booked around him and Chris Jericho one night. Cass would end up beating both Bubba Ray Dudley and D-Von Dudley on his own without his partner. These were all signs that McMahon loves his potential. The chances of Big Cass becoming a big singles star in the future are highly likely with McMahon at the helm.
7 Triple H Loves: Sasha Banks
The women’s revolution started in NXT and Sasha Banks may very well be the MVP of the movement. Banks delivered classic matches against Becky Lynch and Bayley that made her one of the top names in the promotion. The first call-up saw Charlotte become the first pushed star but Banks was the fan favorite. Triple H is one person that was not surprised based off her work in NXT, as she dazzled the NXT fans and it carried over to her WWE career.
Rumors have circulated that Vince McMahon isn’t high on the work of Banks and her injury history likely is continuing his opinion. Triple H is Banks’ biggest supporter. Every edition of WWE 24 focusing on the NXT women or women’s revolution on the main roster showcases Triple H expressing pride for Banks. His reputation of being a proud dad for the top women in NXT especially stands out for Sasha. Triple H had tears in his eyes when Banks won the Women’s Championship and he’ll still be her supporter when she returns from injury.
6 Vince McMahon Loves: Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns has been the chosen one for quite some time in WWE. From day one, Reigns was booked to be the top star from The Shield. CM Punk even went on the record to say WWE management told him to “make Roman look strong” and that was the main purpose for the faction. Reigns has the look Vince McMahon loves and his family history with WWE just adds another facet for him to be trusted.
WWE pushed Reigns harder than anyone since the days of John Cena and Batista. His in-ring work isn’t bad by any means, but fans rejected him due to WWE sacrificing all of their other favorites for one man. The violation of the wellness policy by Reigns has put him on the backburner for the time being, but it is obvious McMahon still views him as “the guy.” Reigns will likely be back in the WWE Universal Championship main event picture by WrestleMania 33.
5 Triple H Loves: Kevin Owens
The great relationship between Triple H and Kevin Owens is one nobody would have predicted years ago. Triple H had the reputation of being superficial when looking at wrestlers and Owens' look is not one that would have been accepted. The opposite has occurred with Triple H embracing the unique nature of Owens and wanting to embrace who he is. Owens signed with WWE, but was allowed to keep his independent wrestling look of basketball shorts and a t-shirt.
Triple H pushed Owens to the top of NXT on his first night by having him turn on Sami Zayn to continue their feud from other promotions. Owens won the NXT Championship and was called up to the main roster within a couple of months. Triple H definitely influenced the booking of Owens by having him debut by defeating John Cena in his first main roster match. Owens has become a fixture in WWE defying all odds and Triple H’s confidence in him is a major reason why.
4 Vince McMahon Loves: Charlotte
Vince McMahon has been hesitant to push women’s wrestling as a credible genre. He is the mastermind of the gimmick matches, where women would show skin and be relegated to comedic fluff. The movement of women being treated equally in sports has led to WWE embracing it. This is mostly due to the ideologies of Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. Vince does appear to have faith in one woman more than the others.
Charlotte has been positioned as the top star in the women’s division with a dominant heel run. As a close friend of Ric Flair, McMahon likely views Charlotte with more bias than the other women. It also helps that she is one of the more athletic performers on the roster and of a larger size. Charlotte has yet to suffer a singles loss on PPV since debuting. The fact that she won the triple threat match at WrestleMania 32 rather than one of the two faces made no sense on paper. Once your realize McMahon values her higher than the other women in the division, it all makes sense.
3 Triple H Loves: Bayley
Bayley completely changed the game of women’s wrestling in NXT. Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch may have been given pushes earlier and were called up to the main roster first. However, Bayley has a special connection with the fans unlike any of her peers. Her extra year in NXT only helped her shine on her own without the rest of the Four Horsewomen. Bayley put the NXT women’s division on her back and Triple H went all in on his big star.
NXT has various minds adding input, but Triple H is the one to make the big decisions. The fact that Bayley faced Banks in the first Iron Woman Match proved he valued her tremendously as a performer. Bayley became a massive star connection to audiences of all ages and she has the potential to reach new heights on the main roster. Triple H allowed Bayley to develop this character and you can bet he will do his best to keep the momentum going for his star.
2 Vince McMahon Loves: Braun Strowman
We’ve all heard the rumors. Vince McMahon absolutely adores Braun Strowman and wants him to become the next big monster heel. Shortly after his debut, there were rumors out there that McMahon wanted Strowman to become credible enough to face The Undertaker or Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32. Strowman was way too inexperienced for the role, but we have seen Vince’s love for him on display following the brand split.
Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan were separated from Strowman to split The Wyatt Family in the draft. The main reason for this is McMahon wanting Strowman to become a singles star on Raw. WWE has brought in enhancement talents for the behemoth to squash in impressive fashion. Strowman is bound for big things in WWE going forward and likely will have a noteworthy match at WrestleMania 33. McMahon sees a special entity in Strowman. It will be interesting to see how Strowman progresses with support from the most powerful man in the business.
1 Triple H Loves: Finn Balor
The bitter news of Finn Balor relinquishing the WWE Universal Championship is depressing, but it is wonderful that the company believes in him. The person likely behind that is Triple H. Balor became the face of NXT for over a year. Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and many others were called up but Balor remained in NXT as the top name leading the touring brand as it grew. Triple H enjoyed working with Balor and states that Finn is one of the biggest reasons that NXT has become highly successful.
They developed a great relationship working together and Balor received a massive push during his long awaited main roster debut. WWE gave him the honor of being the first Universal Champion and you have to imagine Triple H argued for him. The cute greeting of Balor and Triple H “too sweet-ing” in person tells you everything you need to know about the two. Balor’s injury is a huge bummer but Triple H’s support means he’ll have a high profile spot when he’s ready to return.