Although it may seem hard to believe, Paul Levesque has now been part of the WWE for 21 years. He’s grown from a newbie with a Connecticut blueblood gimmick, to a powerful veteran wrestler, to the current head of creative for the promotion. In addition to being Vince McMahon’s current right-hand man, Triple H is also lined up to be the boss’s eventual replacement, especially considering Levesque is McMahon’s real-life son-in-law. Along the way, Triple H has yielded his power to help numerous wrestlers, whether it’s by throwing his support behind someone in interviews, putting them over as a fellow competitor, or hand-picking or pushing them as an executive.
Of course, finding the next big wrestler isn’t an exact science and Levesque knows this as much as anyone. Wrestlers don’t catch on, they err, they stumble, and sometimes they fall flat on their faces. That isn’t to say all of the following wrestlers are failures though, especially since many are still young and some have experienced quite a bit of success already. It also isn’t an effort to blame Triple H, as many events were completely out of his control. Instead, this list is an evaluation of how certain decisions and wrestlers’ careers have fared under the guidance, support, and rule of Paul Levesque.
15 Roman Reigns
With three World Heavyweight Championships, one Tag Team Championship, and the most eliminations in a Royal Rumble match (12 in 2014), it’s hard to call Roman Reigns a failure at anything from a competition standpoint. But from the outside looking in, it’s a different story. WWE, Vince McMahon, and Triple H (both as head of creative and a guy who has personally put Reigns over) all clearly want or have wanted him to be the next face of the franchise, but the fan and critical reception has been cold thus far for a number of reasons. Some say he’s still too new or undeserving, some have been generally turned off by WWE’s obvious and relentless love of the guy (save for his 30-day suspension earlier this year), and others say his personality just isn’t appealing enough - as either a likable face or a hated heel.
14 Randy Orton
After Triple H became the World Heavyweight Champion in 2002, he decided to put together a stable that would rival the legendary Four Horsemen and create a new WWE superstar. He, Ric Flair, Batista, and Randy Orton formed Evolution the next year, and Raw pushed them throughout 2003 and 2004. The 23-year-old Orton was the chosen one, and he was active and integral in helping Triple H retain his title belt. Thus began Orton’s reign as the “Legend Killer,” as he took down the likes of Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley on his way to building a seven-month reign as Intercontinental Champion and becoming the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history at SummerSlam 2004.
12 Jeff Hardy
Triple H has almost always been in Jeff Hardy’s corner, along for a ride that has had as many downs as it has ups. The two started around the same time in the early-90s, but Hardy didn’t get his big break until forming the Hardy Boyz a few years later and getting put over by Triple H for the Intercontinental title in 2001. In fact, it may have been Levesque who lobbied for Shawn Michaels to team up with Hardy in 2003. Unfortunately, Jeff had to step away shortly afterward due to erratic behavior, drug use, and exhaustion. When he returned to the promotion in 2006, Triple H was right there waiting and put him over again, enlisting him as part of the D-Generation X stable and a also a tag team partner. Hardy eventually won the World Heavyweight Championship in December 2008 after defeating both Edge and Triple H at Armageddon.
11 Damien Sandow
Following Damien Sandow’s release from his original WWE contract in 2007, he signed again in 2010 and made some waves down in Florida Championship Wrestling. This grabbed the attention of Triple H, who guided the up-and-coming wrestler that, like himself, had also studied under Killer Kowalski. Soon after, Sandow got the call up to WWE’s main roster and adopted a character similar to Triple H’s original Hunter Hearst Helmsley gimmick from the mid-’90s. The persona registered well with audiences and Sandow won a Money in the Bank challenge, but went on a 1-12 run on SmackDown and Raw at this time and lost his eventual cash-in match for the World Heavyweight Championship. Sandow’s character became more generic after this loss and his career never fully recovered.
10 Curtis Axel
Given the fact that Michael McGillicutty (real name: Joseph Curtis Hennig) was the son of legendary wrestler “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig and grandson of Larry “The Axe” Hennig, it made a lot of sense when the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported in 2012 that Triple H was trying to push him with a new gimmick. He was dubbed Curtis Axel and paired with manager Paul Heyman, with Levesque as his first opponent. Of course Triple H put the new guy over (albeit by referee stoppage due to a concussion) and Axel went on a tear after this. He beat Cena twice, he bested Chris Jericho, and he even won two matches in a single night (one of which was against Triple H again). But then, after an Intercontinental Championship reign that lasted 155 days, the push suddenly stopped.
9 Drew McIntyre
8 Shelton Benjamin
After joining WWE’s SmackDown brand as a heel on January 2, 2003, Shelton Benjamin began making quite the name for himself as an athletic in-ring performer, nabbing a victory against the likes of Los Guerreros for the WWE Tag Team Championship and successfully defending the title in a Triple Threat match against Los Guerreros, Chris Benoit, and Rhyno. Despite suffering a legitimate knee injury, Benjamin still wrestled at WrestleMania XX and earned the support of Triple H, who lobbied for him to be drafted into Raw as part of the 2004 WWE Draft.
7 Chris Hero
6 His Handlebar Mustache
When Batista left the WWE in 2010 (later citing he didn’t like the direction of the company), WWE.com moved his profile to the alumni section and it was uncertain if he’d ever return. However, when Triple H became the promotion’s head of talent, he reached out to his friend and former colleague in 2014 to talk a comeback. Batista returned as a face for the main event of that year’s Royal Rumble and won, much to the chagrin of the clearly pro-Daniel Bryan arena audience who was upset Bryan wasn’t included. Due to the abundance of boos in this and subsequent matches, Batista executed a heel turn (for the first time since 2009) and eventually (and unsurprisingly) battled and lost to Bryan at WrestleMania XXX.
4 Sin Cara
3 His Acting Career
Pet projects don’t have to be limited to wrestling, although in Triple H’s case, maybe they should be. After all, just because someone is a good professional wrestler, it doesn’t mean they can necessarily act on TV shows or in films. And although Triple H has been fine in roles where he simply played himself, he hasn’t fared so well in others. Levesque’s first film role was in 2004’s Blade: Trinity, which was both a box office and critical disappointment. Maybe he’d do better as a leading man? No dice; 2011’s The Chaperone and Inside Out were both even bigger failures. In fact, despite a budget of $30 million, the funniest part of The Chaperone was that it only managed to bring in an embarrassing $14,400 in theaters. Inside Out fared even worse, and was described by the New York Post as “nonsensical, thickly plotted gumbo.”
2 Kevin Nash
Although Kevin Nash debuted in the WWE a year before Triple H, the latter stayed in the promotion from that point on, while the former bounced back and forth between there, WCW, and TNA. When Nash returned to the WWE in 2011 as a 51-year-old on a five-year Legends contract, Triple H decided to team up with him. The angle started with Nash attacking CM Punk at SummerSlam under the orders of Triple H. However, after a match between Nash and Punk was set up, Triple H ended up facing the latter instead. An enraged Nash turned on his former boss and there was a whole lot of back-and-forth before the duo’s rivalry culminated in a disappointing Sledgehammer match at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs - which Nash lost.
Kevin Nash’s return in 2011 didn’t work out well for him or Triple H, but perhaps the latter would have more luck with one of the Divas - a group that he was constantly pushing to Vince McMahon. This was also the year that Levesque took Kia Stevens (a.k.a. Kharma) under his wing after she spent eight years bouncing around various promotions from Japan to TNA. When she eventually signed with WWE, Kharma began by attacking various Divas on SmackDown and Raw, setting her up for a match of her own. However, Kharma soon announced that she was pregnant and had to leave the company. She attempted a return at the 2012 Royal Rumble, but it would turn out to be her first and only match with the promotion.
Kharma returned to Japan, the independent circuit, and TNA after this stint, but she was recently released following a real-life physical altercation with Rebecca Hardy.
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