“It’s what’s best for business.” It’s one of the most overused catchphrases in WWE today. Triple H started saying it way too much after he took over as COO and later in The Authority angle to the point of it becoming completely meaningless, especially as WWE started possibly the single most rejected push in the company’s history. We’re looking at you, Roman Reigns.
The one thing it has been good for is sparking debate about Triple H’s legacy and whether or not he really has been “what’s best for business”. If you asked most hardcore fans in the internet wrestling community, they’d say “Of course not you idiot! He buries everyone!” or something like that. But for all the criticism Triple H gets (and probably deserves, let’s be honest), he often doesn’t get enough credit for what he does well. He’s insanely over with NXT crowds as the man behind the curtain making WWE’s developmental brand one of the hottest products the company puts out. But he’s done far more than just that in giving back to the business.
For every career that The Game’s backstage politicking may have ruined, he’s also been instrumental in making many other stars. Whether his transgressions on the business outweigh his contributions is certainly still a matter of debate, but it’s at least much closer than most hardcore fans would have you believe.
Only time will tell if Triple H will be remembered as a shining star of professional wrestling or just a cancer that could have killed it. But for now, here’s our two cents: The 8 best and worst things Triple H has done for professional wrestling.
16 Good – Overhauling NXT
Might as well start with the one we already briefly mentioned. In the past, WWE’s developmental territories like Ohio Valley Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling have always been ways to acclimate new talents to the WWE style and test out gimmicks for when they debut on RAW or SmackDown. But one thing they never really did was get WWE fans excited for the new waves of talent. That all changed when FCW was closed and re-branded as NXT.
The combination of being broadcast on the WWE Network and having Triple H at the helm of the developmental brand led to NXT becoming many fans’ favorite thing about WWE. Though the wrestling itself is understandably of lesser quality most of the time, Triple H has shown to be quite savvy as the creative lead in NXT, able to often get vast majorities of the roster insanely over with the fans. He’s run NXT so well that when talents have run their course in developmental, even the more casual fans can’t wait for their main roster debuts.
The only thing you can be more sure of than that Triple H will get people excited for a new talent, is that Vince McMahon will probably screw it up when they do hit the main roster.
15 Bad – Going Over Sting at WrestleMania 31
One of the most appalling things WWE has done in recent memory is the complete waste of such a legendary talent as Sting. The man that fans had waited to see in WWE for the better part of 25 years finally debuted at Survivor Series 2014. By his retirement the next year, WWE had left fans almost criminally disappointed. The biggest example of this was Sting losing to Triple H in his very first match.
It was actually Sting’s own decision to lose at WrestleMania 31, because he’s an old school wrestler and he assumed it’d be his last match. But if that was going to be the case, then Triple H taking the victory over him was one of the worst things WWE could have done. If Triple H really did care about what was best for business, he would’ve known it would be much better to let someone else do the honors of retiring Sting. Namely, The Undertaker.
Sting vs The Undertaker was perhaps the single dream match that wrestling fans wanted to see happen the most. Having that match headline WrestleMania might well have shattered records as the most watched WWE event ever. But because Triple H couldn’t put his ego aside, all we got was a nonsensical nWo vs DX tease half-way down the card.
14 Good – Signing Top Talents from Other Promotions
Proving yet again that Triple H is far better than Vince McMahon at actually running a wrestling promotion, the WWE has possibly the most talented roster in its entire history right now, and most of the credit for that goes to Triple H. The influx of new talent over the past few years, especially names from New Japan Pro Wrestling, has mostly been The Game’s doing.
As Executive Vice President of Talent, Triple H has been responsible for such signings as Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, Asuka, Kalisto, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, and the list goes on. I would include AJ Styles in there, but it’s undeniable that they waited way too long to pursue him. Still, the fact of the matter is that Triple H is embracing what Vince McMahon hasn’t been willing to do since WCW folded, and that is to actually pay attention to their competition to find the best talents.
13 Bad – Not Putting Booker T Over
We could easily have just said the entire Reign of Terror here, but that would go on for ages, so let’s just stick to the crowning jewel of how awful it was. It’s well documented that Triple H’s 2003 feud with Booker T was, how do you say, uncomfortably racist.
Booker T had all the momentum on his side after an entertaining feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin and a surprisingly popular team with Goldust. After winning a battle royal to face Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania by last eliminating The Rock, the two came out the next week on Raw to hype the match. Or so we thought.
Instead, Triple H came out for seemingly no purpose other than to bury Booker T, highlighting his criminal past and saying such things as “Somebody like you doesn’t get to be a world champion" and “You’re here to make people like me laugh.” And the cherry on top of the burial: Triple H won at WrestleMania, after waiting half a minute to cover him after hitting the Pedigree. Are you starting to see where his reputation comes from?
12 Good – Helping Put Daniel Bryan Over at WrestleMania XXX
For as much of a reputation Triple H has as someone who refuses to job, he has actually done it occasionally at just the right time. The moment that immediately comes to mind with regard to that is taking the fall for Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXX.
The climax of the “Yes” movement around Daniel Bryan came when the Pittsburgh crowd booed Batista right out of the building after winning the 2014 Royal Rumble. They didn’t want to see some guy who just returned after almost four years away from the WWE suddenly get pushed to the main event of WrestleMania. They wanted to see the pluckiest of plucky underdogs get his moment at the grandest stage of them all. And they made themselves heard.
The immense backlash by the fans meant WWE had no choice but to change their plans for WrestleMania. And to his credit, Triple H really did do what was best for business that night. He put Bryan over in the first match of the main card both to justify letting him join the main event and to make his improbable victory in the end that much more exciting.
11 Bad – Killing CM Punk’s Momentum after the Pipe Bomb
Okay, okay. I promise this is the last story of Triple H winning when he shouldn’t. CM Punk, whatever you think about him now, was the hottest thing in wrestling back in the summer of 2011. Set to leave the company after the Money In The Bank pay-per-view when his contract expired, Punk got the entire world talking about WWE with his worked shoot promo at a Las Vegas RAW show now known as “The Pipe Bomb”. WWE gave CM Punk a chance to air his grievances on-air, and suddenly Money In The Bank became a must-see event.
The angle got even hotter when CM Punk actually did win the title off of John Cena at the pay-per-view. And then he came back after teasing that he had left the company after all, and beat Cena again at SummerSlam. But then he lost the title to a cashing in Alberto Del Rio, creating even more excitement to see Punk trying to get his title back. So what happened with one of the hottest angles in WWE history? Triple H happened.
The mini-feud with Triple H and Kevin Nash wasn’t inherently bad. It was a good way to justify keeping Punk out of the title picture so that Del Rio could have his run. But CM Punk losing to Triple H at Night of Champions was a surefire way to kill off all the excitement that had built up around him. People were excited about Punk because he was an amazing talker who had shown he could actually back it up in the ring. Losing to Triple H killed that in an instant.
10 Good – The Original D-Generation X
D-Generation X was basically WWE’s answer to WCW’s New World Order, and was one of the most popular and successful stables in the company’s history. The true mark of a great stable is to help everyone associated with it get over. D-Generation X more than accomplished this. Triple H and to a lesser degree Shawn Michaels helped get over one of the best female wrestlers of all time, one of the most memorable tag teams of all time, and X-Pac…sort of.
DX became insanely popular with memorable moments such as a feud with The Hart Foundation that turned a little too real, segments where they invaded WCW that we wished were more real, and just plain great, if sometimes confusing feuds with The Nation of Domination and The Corporation. A testament to how successful it was is how popular The New Age Outlaws Road Dogg and Billy Gunn remained even after Triple H left the stable as it started to fade out.
9 Bad – DX Returns
If only they hadn’t tarnished the legacy of one of WWE’s greatest stables ever by bringing it back without the edginess that made it fun. In early 2006, Shawn Michaels and Triple H teased a DX reunion by occasionally doing the signature crotch chops during their matches. This was incredibly well received, getting fans excited to the see the return of one of the greatest stables ever. And then it happened. And it flopped.
Instead of being ruthless anti-authoritarians and savagely tearing apart their enemies on the mic like fans loved about them back in their first run, DX was relegated to genitalia and poop jokes. And what about the type of feuds that truly got them over back in the day? Well they had a pretty good feud with Edge and Randy Orton, but spent most of their run fighting a team of…cheerleaders? Yeah, when the height of your stable is dumping feces on the McMahons and The Spirit Squad, you’re just making a mockery of something that was once great.
Their 2009 return didn’t fare much better either. One word: Hornswoggle.
8 Good – Bringing Shawn Michaels Out of Retirement
Shawn Michaels retired in 2010 as one of the greatest wrestlers in WWE history. He may not be the most decorated champion ever, but he put on more than his fair share of classic matches and feuds throughout his career: Razor Ramon, Bret Hart, John Cena, and The Undertaker all come to mind. But we would be rash to forget that his legacy would not be nearly what it is had he not had a close friend in Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
The story goes that after a few years of his retirement in 1998 and reforming himself through religion, Michaels contacted the WWE to see if there was any way he could come back in some capacity. He did end up coming back as a member of the nWo, but when Kevin Nash tore his quad, leaving Triple H without an opponent for SummerSlam 2002, Michaels stepped up to have a one match return to in-ring action just to see how it would go. And Triple H was able to help him through a great match. This brought back confidence in Michaels’ wrestling ability, and even convinced Vince McMahon to let Michaels return as a full-time wrestler.
Michaels would go on to being a part of great feuds and matches until his retirement match at WrestleMania XXVI, cementing his legacy as an all-time great.
7 Bad – Driving Chyna Out of The WWE
From bringing one legend back to the company, to driving another one straight out of it. The late Joanie Laurer was once one of the greatest female wrestlers ever as Chyna. What was so unique about her? She was such a badass that she regularly feuded with male wrestlers, and often won. So whatever happened to her? An affair that WWE tries as hard as they can to keep quiet.
You see, Triple H and Chyna were in a romantic relationship for most of their run. But the McMahon-Helmsley marriage storyline was quickly turning into a reality. Basically, Triple H was cheating on Chyna with Stephanie McMahon. And when she caught word of it, Vince placed his daughter before business, telling Chyna to take time off and never bothered to re-sign her to a new contract. The WWE lost one of the greatest female wrestlers of all time because Triple H was a cheater.
6 Good – Evolution
Triple H has been a part of not one, but two of the best stables in WWE history. The group of Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Batista, known as Evolution, was the hottest thing on RAW in 2003-2005. While it may have taken place during a time when Triple H was way too happy with hogging the spotlight, seeing him use his influence to help get two newcomers over was undoubtedly a bright spot.
Though they didn’t embark in memorable stable vs. stable feuds like DX did, each member held compelling feuds with other individuals or tag teams, with the numbers advantage usually helping Evolution come out on top. And like any good stable, it primed its less-established members to embark on their own singles careers, with Orton and Batista each winning the World Heavyweight Championship multiple times. And as of last week they're now both two-time Royal Rumble winners.
5 Bad – Katie Vick
You knew it was gonna be here somewhere. You can’t pretend to have sex with a corpse and expect people to forget.
Triple H was feuding with Kane for the World Heavyweight Championship in late 2002 and in the buildup, Triple H tormented Kane with mentions of Katie Vick. According to kayfabe, Kane once loved a woman by the name of Katie Vick who died in a car accident while Kane was driving. Okay, a little strange for the demon Kane to be involved in a love angle, but that’s not the worst part.
Triple H also claimed that after Katie Vick died, Kane had sex with her dead body. You know, necrophilia. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Triple H dressed up as Kane and simulated sex with a mannequin for the sake of a video to frame Kane. It was easily the most tasteless angle WWE has ever done, and let me just casually remind you of the racist undertones of that Booker T feud we talked about earlier. Topping the insensitivity of that is saying something.
4 Good – Helping Build the Prestige of The Undertaker’s Streak
The Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak was perhaps the most anticipated thing every year in WWE for most of the new millennium. Once it grew to the point of people challenging The Undertaker for the specific purpose of trying to break his streak, his matches at WrestleMania became must-see events, seeing who would challenge him each year and whether or not they could finally fell The Phenom. Established stars going down to The Undertaker was necessary to make it such a prestigious feat. Just ask Triple H.
Triple H lost to the Phenom more times than anyone, taking the fall three different times. He lost by pinfall at WrestleMania X-Seven and WrestleMania XXVIII, and even tapped out to The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVII. The “End of an Era” Match at WrestleMania XXVIII in particular was seen as a classic match that built anticipation for when, or if, the streak would finally end. Speaking of which…
3 Bad – Beating Brock Lesnar the Year Before He Broke the Streak
I know I said no more about Triple H burying people, but two things: one, Brock Lesnar still won the feud with Triple H, and two, this was more a case of hindsight is 20/20. Brock Lesnar breaking The Undertaker’s streak at WrestleMania XXX by shock value alone was one of the most memorable moments in WWE history. But the actual effect of breaking the streak was dampened by Lesnar losing high-profile bouts in the years before. John Cena and Triple H are the guilty ones here.
Even though Lesnar won the blow-off match at Extreme Rules 2013, Triple H defeating him at WrestleMania XXIX was understandably the match people remember more easily. Had Lesnar not had such a blemish on his resume going into the match with The Undertaker, the moment when he broke the streak would have seemed much more believable. So for as much as Triple H built up the streak, he also had a part in making the payoff feel less special.
2 Good – Setting up Samoa Joe’s Debut
This one is technically up in the air since we still have to see whether Samoa Joe will become the instant star he should be or just another case of Vince not knowing what to do with an amazing talent. But for now, the air of excitement around Samoa Joe is undeniable. At the RAW after Royal Rumble 2017, Seth Rollins called out Triple H to continue their feud. Triple H showed up to confront him, with a bit of backup.
His enforcer showed up to attack Seth Rollins and it was none other than the first 2-time NXT Champion, Samoa Joe. The prospect of Rollins vs. Joe is awesome. (Even though it already happened once in Ring of Honor, but shut up and just let us enjoy this.) As long as WWE truly commits to Joe intensely feuding with Rollins instead of just being a useless crony for Triple H, this will be remembered as a great debut. Triple H will not only have made him a star in NXT, but he will also have brought him up to the main roster with all the momentum you could ask for.
Let’s all hope that WWE properly finishes what it started when Seth Rollins comes back from his injury.
1 Bad – Pushing Vince to Screw Bret Hart
The Montreal Screwjob: the most controversial match not just in WWE history, but possibly in the entire history of professional wrestling. In 1997, Bret Hart was getting ready to jump ship for WCW. But he was still the WWE Champion, so Vince McMahon wanted Hart to drop the title to Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series. Problem was, it was in Montreal, and Hart had no interest in dropping the title to Michaels in his home country. They initially agreed for the match to end in a no-contest and for Hart to drop the title at a later date. But the ending was changed without Hart’s knowledge. Vince was going to screw Bret Hart out of the title. And he may not have done it had Triple H not spoken up at a meeting.
According to Shawn Michaels on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast, the thought of screwing Hart out of the title was an idea already in everyone’s mind, but knowing how controversial it would be meant nobody wanted to be the one to openly suggest it. Triple H did the honors, supposedly speaking up at a meeting during the buildup “If he doesn’t want to do business with us, maybe we should do business for him.”
That’s right. Triple H had a part in the incident that nearly drove fans and wrestlers alike to boycott the WWE.