Triple H is one of the most influential figures in wrestling today. He’s the Vice President of Talent Relations, he’s the head of the NXT developmental brand, and he married into the McMahon family. Add onto all of that that he’s well respected legend of the ring in his own right and you have a guy with tremendous stroke. One could very fairly argue that he’s second only to Vince McMahon himself when it comes to control of the professional wrestling business today. In addition to being a powerful man, Hunter has also proven himself to have a good head on his shoulders. As a wrestler, he helped mastermind the white hot D-Generation X stable, and working with NXT, he was key to the development of talents like Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins.
For all of Triple H’s influence and how well he deserves it, there have been a number of times in his career as an executive, and all the more so earlier in life when he didn’t get his way. Whether it was choosing which talents to or not to sign, what kinds of matches to stage, what matches to push at the biggest show of the year, Triple H hasn’t always gotten what he wants. His father in law remains the op dog in the WWE Universe, and that’s not to mention that some things were simply outside anyone’s control. For whatever combination of reasons, this article looks back at fifteen things that would have happened differently if Triple H had gotten his way.
15 15. Alberto Del Rio Never Would Have Come Back
Alberto Del Rio left WWE abruptly and under the shroud of controversy following an incident when a backstage employee purportedly used a racist epithet and Del Rio responded by hitting him. In the aftermath, Del Rio enjoyed a high degree of success in Mexico and on the indies, and it was a shocking surprise when he suddenly reappeared in WWE, answering John Cena’s US Championship Open Challenge at Hell in a Cell 2015.
According to rumor. Triple H wasn’t very high on Del Rio, but Vince McMahon was, and in no small part to court Latino viewers in the absence of other prominent stars of that heritage. A chicken and egg situation followed. Was Del Rio poorly booked, under-utilized, and prone to partying because of Triple H’s biases against him? Or did Del Rio’s bad attitude and partying prove Triple H right, and justify a tepid second tenure with WWE?
No one denies that hard feelings have lingered since Del Rio left again, and if Triple H had gotten his way, that run never would have happened.
14 14. Triple H Wins His First World Championship At SummerSlam
In 1999, Triple H was a top-tier worker, a budding superstar, and right on the cusp of full-fledged main event status. The headline match for SummerSlam 1999 was a triple threat match for the WWE Championship, featuring Mankind and Triple H challenging Stone Cold Steve Austin, with special guest referee Jesse Ventura. According to a variety of accounts that match was to be Triple H’s crowning moment, winning his first world title.
While the details are sketchy, the consensus is that Austin at least campaigned not (or, by some accounts outright refused) to drop the title to Helmsley. So, WWE went a more circuitous route with Mankind winning the SummerSlam main event only to drop the title to Triple H the next night on RAW. This development puts a strange asterisk next to Triple H’s name as the overwhelming majority of stars of his caliber won their first world titles at least at PPVs, often at a big four show.
13 13. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan Main Events WrestleMania X8
WWE programming between WrestleManias X-Seven and X8 wasn’t always the best, as a result of a WCW/ECW InVasion angle that largely flopped. Just the same, WrestleMania X8 shaped up nicely with two headlining matches in particular that had a lot of promise—an intergenerational dream match between The Rock and Hulk Hogan and a world title match between newly minted main event heel Chris Jericho and hero returned from injury Triple H.
Triple H claims that he saw the writing on the wall and knew Rock-Hogan was going to blow the fans away and put on a spectacle he and Jericho couldn’t follow. Vince McMahon purportedly doubled down on tradition and the world title match going on last. Hindsight has shown Triple H’s way probably would have been better—his match with Jericho was fine, but they could not make up the deficit of a burned out crowd that had positively exploded for Hogan earlier on.
12 12. He Would Have Started His Current Heel Run Sooner
Triple H started working more behind the cameras than in front of them in the late 00s and early 2010s. When he did appear on screen, it was either as a special attraction wrestler or as an authority figure, and in either case he was ostensibly playing a good guy. By the logic of the day, Triple H was too over with the fans to play a good heel and he was better served to cater to the people who defaulted to cheering him.
Triple H made mention in a handful of interviews around that era that he was a more natural heel, or that it was more fun to play heel. Finally, he got his wish when he turned on Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam 2013 to kickstart the heel run he’s been on ever since.
11 11. Triple H vs. CM Punk At WrestleMania XXX
In his tell-all visit to Colt Cabana’s podcast, CM Punk discussed the plans pitched to him toward the end of his WWE run, and they included working with Triple H at WrestleMania XXX. Punk was committed to main eventing a ‘Mania and demanded to know if that match would be the main event. Triple H and company tried to convince the Straight Edge Superstar it was a main event, even though it probably wouldn’t go on last, and that wrestling The Game at the biggest show of the year should have been an honor regardless.
Punk balked at all of this and took this snub as one more in a laundry list of reasons to leave the company. Triple H reportedly felt personally insulted at the reaction and argued against the company even trying to get Punk back after things cooled off.
10 10. Jim Ross Would Have Been Featured Longer
Triple H has made it clear time and again that he’s a fan of Jim Ross’s play by play work. Once in power, Helmsley reportedly went out of his way to argue on behalf of Ross. Most memorably, he got WWE to book him for a one off appearance to call The Game’s Hell in a Cell showdown with The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVIII.
Maybe Ross appeals to Hunter's old school sensibilities, or maybe there’s a twinge of nostalgia for Ross being the voice of WWE when Hunter first ascended up the ranks. Regardless, if it were up to Triple H, it doesn’t seem likely Ross would have been shown the door multiple times over the year, or relegated to pre-taped SmackDown toward end of his full-time broadcast career. Vince McMahon reportedly has a very different view of Ross—not thinking kindly of his southern drawl or the way his face looks after an attack of Bell’s palsy.
9 9. Shawn Michaels Vs. The Undertaker Main Events WrestleMania XXV
Not so different from WrestleMania 18, Triple H claims that at WrestleMania 25 he had a world title match, but knew it wasn’t going to go over well after another big showdown earlier in the night.
The argument was a bit less obvious in 2009. There was little doubt HBK and The Deadman would put on a good-to-great match, but they had neither the star power Hogan-Rock had, nor a white hot storyline to guarantee they’d make the crowd lose its mind.
But then there was the match. Michaels and The Undertaker put on an all-time classic. To be fair, some of the fire in them may have been inspired by their placement on the card. In interviews, Michaels recalled The Phenom hearing they’d go on third from last, and feeling disrespected, muttering, “That takes this to a whole other level.” Regardless, Michaels-Undertaker was great and the crowd responded accordingly. Triple H vs. Randy Orton was too long and largely forgettable, which made the finish to the show feel flat.
8 8. No Connecticut Blue Blood Gimmick
In the Thy Kingdom Come documentary about Triple H’s career, he spoke about his early gimmicks. Hunter, first, didn’t like his snobby Frenchman gimmick in WCW, given he couldn’t speak French and felt no attachment to the character. That identity transitioned pretty directly to WWE, where he at least didn’t have to use the awful French accent anymore, but was nonetheless cast as a clean cut Connecticut Blue Blood. By all indications, the only good to come out of this run was the development of his iconic finisher The Pedigree. He probably would have settled on the move either way, though, and it simply might have been called something else.
Once Triple H proved himself and Shawn Michaels convinced management to let his real life friend become his on screen running buddy, he broke out with a rebellious attitude. Ironically, in his King of Kings gimmick today, there are some call backs to his old elitist mannerisms. Triple H is clearly more comfortable with himself as a character now, though.
7 7. War Games In WWE
Triple H has spoken at length about being a student of old school NWA Mid-Atlantic wrestling. In particular, he seems to have been heavily influenced by great heel champions like Harley Race and Ric Flair. It’s little surprise, then, that he’d be a fan of that territory’s hottest gimmick match—War Games.
While the War Games concept was too firmly attached to WCW for WWE to run it back in the day, in the years after WWE acquired WCW, Triple H reportedly tried to sell Vince McMahon on the match more than once. It never quite came together, and it’s widely hypothesized that the introduction of the Elimination Chamber was a compromise—not quite reintroducing War Games, but borrowing the cage, the staggered entries, and the sheer brutality for an updated match type.
6 6. KENTA Wouldn’t Be Called Hideo Itami
Triple H has, by all accounts, been very hands on in leading the NXT brand. His influence has included introducing major talent from the indies and abroad to the WWE audience. These are performers like Shinsuke Nakamura, Asuka, and Kevin Owens who may have been dismissed earlier for their English speaking skills or for not having the right look. Triple H reportedly pleaded their case, and is largely to thank for the more diverse WWE landscape we have today.
Relatively early in this process, Triple H championed WWE signing a Japanese star known as KENTA. It’s widely rumored that Hunter pushed for him to carry on under the name he’d made for himself in Japan, trusting that NXT’s hardcore fanbase would recognize and see value in the name. While Vince McMahon went along with signing the guy, he was reportedly adamant about changing the name so WWE could own the character—thus we wound up with Hideo Itami. WWE did the same with talents like Finn Balor and Sami Zayn, though guys like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Bobby Roode keeping their well-known ring names seem to suggest that Triple H is getting his way more often in similar cases.
5 5. Shane McMahon May Not Have Come Back
Shane McMahon left WWE in 2009. While he publicly claimed he wanted to go into succeed for himself in the business world, it was widely rumored that at least part of the reason he left was out of resentment for his sister Stephanie and his brother-in-law Triple H accelerating past him in the WWE food chain.
By all indications, things are cordial in the McMahon family now, but suspicions linger about some dissension beneath the surface. In particular, when Shane returned six and a half years later, rumor had it that Stephanie and Triple H were among those parties surprised at the news. Some suggested that Vince was even going so far as to consciously stoke the flames of a sibling rivalry in an effort to get the best out of everyone involved. It’s tough to say if that scheme worked. Regardless, when Shane got interviewed by Mick Foley for the WWE Network there still seemed to be a bit of tension when Shane talked about Triple H and his relationship with his sister. You have to suspect Triple H wasn’t entirely happy to see Shane back.
4 4. Cesaro Would Be A Top Guy
There’s a well documented history of Triple H championing independent wrestlers and international stars. On the flip side, every indication is that Vince McMahon favors home grown talent that fits the WWE mold—muscular men with charisma and showmanship over a complicated move set. For years, Cesaro seems to have been caught between these competing forces.
Cesaro’s had his moment. He got an undefeated streak and a U.S. Championship run when he debuted on the main roster, got to win the first Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, was briefly paired with Paul Heyman, and was a featured star in the tag ranks with Sheamus this past year. In between peaks, however, Cesaro has gone on losing streaks and, in general, never really threatened to break through to the main event level. Rumor has it Triple H is the reason The Swiss Superman has gotten the opportunities he has, despite McMahon feeling he can’t connect with the audience. Were it solely up to Triple H, Cesaro may already be a main eventer.
3 3. Bret Hart Would Have Lost More
In his book, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Bret Hart discusses the way in which Triple H gathered steam as an influencer in WWE. That included parlaying his close friendship with top star Shawn Michaels into a spot on the creative team. Hart suggests Hunter was gunning for him, in particular citing a time when he wanted for Hart to job out with little rhyme or reason on an episode of Raw. Hart went over Hunter's head to get the match outcome overturned, and implied that standing up for himself only deepened the rift between the two of them.
Hart certainly has his biases, given the grudge he clearly still held against Michaels and Hunter when the book was written. The professional rivalry between Michaels and Hart turned personal and boiled over into the Montreal Screwjob that Triple H was, allegedly, the first one to openly suggest it. It’s unclear if The Game was actually biased against The Hitman when they were on the same roster, but it doesn’t seem too far-fetched that, had Triple H gotten his way, Hart would have jobbed a lot more toward the end of his WWE run.
2 2. The Rock Wouldn’t Have Called CM Punk
The Rock is a producer for an upcoming biopic about WWE Superstar Paige. In this role, he came out in front of a live crowd in Los Angeles earlier this year to rile up the crowd and prepare them to play their part for a re-creation of Paige’s debut match against AJ Lee.
Lee, of course, is the real life spouse of CM Punk, and at the mention of her name, the audience began to chant the estranged Straight Edge Superstar’s name. In a decision Rock claims he made at the spur of the moment, he took out his cell phone and called Punk in front of the live crowd.
WWE management was reportedly upset at The Rock’s choice, given that the company is still wrapped up in legal disputes with Punk and doesn’t want anything to do with him. You have to imagine that Triple H, in particular, would have been livid given that Punk turned his nose up at the idea of wrestling The Game at WrestleMania being an honor, and given Punk has spoken negatively about Hunter since leaving the company.
1 1. Triple H Wouldn’t Have Become An Executive
Nowadays, Triple H seems settled in his role as an executive vice president for WWE. Moreover, the consensus seems to be that he’s good at his job. He balances Vince McMahon’s more mainstream aesthetic by championing indie talents and old school sensibilities. He has the credibility of his own in-ring career to back up his judgments when evaluating new talents. By all accounts he has a ridiculous work ethic, balancing office and on camera duties, while also being present as a father and maintaining a rigorous workout schedule.
But, if Triple H is to believe, he never intended to become an executive. In the Thy Kingdom Come documentary, he emphasizes that he went into wrestling so that he’d never have to wear a tie and report to an office. He claims that his father in law ushered him into a role that he had not sought out.
Some of Triple H’s critics, including CM Punk, suggest he is telling tales and absolutely politicked his way to the top of the business and into the boardroom. Triple H’s close friends like Kevin Nash seem to support Hunter's story, though, indicating that he was always hard working and industrious, and that winding up in an executive position was less strategic than a natural result of all of his hard work.
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