Over the past few months, we’ve repeatedly heard Triple H and Stephanie McMahon tell Daniel Bryan that he’s not an “A+ player” in the WWE.
The assertion is that Hunter himself was an “A+ player”, though, who only had matches with other A+ players such as The Rock, Brock Lesnar, The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Triple H also referenced the likes of Chris Jericho, Edge and Rob Van Dam as being “B+ Players”.
Let it be known, Triple H was and has never been an A+ player in any age of the WWE, from the Attitude Era to the Ruthless Aggression Era and up to now. The contradiction in terms of his statements assumes that he was the equal of guys like Stone Cold and The Rock and drew as much money and attention to the promotionas they did, which is complete nonsense on his part.
Everybody who is, like me, in their mid-30s and who was around when the Attitude Era was in its prime and was going up against a fierce competitor in the WCW on Monday nights, remembers when Triple H was still using the Hunter Hearst Helmsley gimmick, which was as flimsy and ridiculous as Johnny Curtis’ Fandango gimmick today. He pranced around the ring and spoke in a faux aristocratic English accent, until eventually he was repackaged as Triple H.
Even when D-Generation X was at its peak, Triple H never really the main guy – it was Shawn Michaels. Chyna was more of a must-see character than Triple H at the time. If Michaels had never been there during the inception, DX would never have gone anywhere because Triple H certainly wasn’t anything close to being an A+ player. If anything, he was that day’s equivalent of Curtis Axel. A hanger-on who occasionally was given something to do.
Calling him a “hanger on” isn’t exactly too heavy a call either. Let’s go further back than DX and look at The Kliq incident. Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Shawn Michaels were all much bigger and more established performers than him in the squared circle at the time, and Triple H as we knew him then didn’t even exist.
It’s often said that Triple H was “The guy who worked with The Guy”, meaning he was the one who was around to make the A+ players look like formidable, strong and dominant opponents.
Let it be said that if it wasn’t for Triple H’s legendary matches with Mick Foley in his various incarnations as Mankind, Cactus Jack and Dude Love then Triple H would never have been coined “The Cerebral Assassin” or “The Game”. It was his despicable actions in those matches as a cruel and relentless heel who would take any route necessary to vanquish his opponent that really cemented those monikers. I defy anyone to tell me that Foley didn’t put over and raise Triple H to the level he got to in the WWE with the matches they had.
But was he ever a superstar who drew money or excitement in the same way The Rock or Stone Cold did at the time? Absolutely not.
I’m not saying that Triple H never had great matches because he undoubtedly did but he was never a superstar who would generate buzz and revenue in the same way The Rock and Stone Cold did, nor did his matches ever make people talk about them years later like Mankind and The Undertaker’s Hell In A Cell match did, or Mankind and The Rock’s “I Quit” match.
During the Attitude Era, Triple H was surrounded by a wealth of talent who were putting on better matches than him and garnering far more attention than him. He was, at best, what is probably referred to now in derogatory terms as a “jobber” to the bigger names and whose biggest achievement was winning an Intercontinental championship or a European championship.
Even during his time with Evolution, there was more focus on Randy Orton and Batista as emerging talents than there was on Triple H. Ric Flair was also far better on the mic than he was. Triple H could only dream of being a legend who could be mentioned in the same breath as Flair.
It’s often said that Triple H was “The guy who worked with The Guy”
Triple H was always good at looking like a solid performer in the ring who could take a decent bump, play the heel role extremely well (particularly on the mic with his condescending attitude) and sell a move adequately enough, but for any of us old enough to have seen him in matches against wrestlers who had superior talent and were of a much higher technical and athletic calibre than him (i.e. Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Shawn Michaels, Jeff Hardy, Rob Van Dam and Kurt Angle) then he didn’t come across like a wrestler but as a guy who his opponent had to work harder with to make him look good and look believable.
It’s patently obvious that Triple H makes the “A+ players” comments to generate heat from the crowd and enrage people but if you’re going to be playing a believable heel then surely you should make believable comments and not contradict yourself by insisting you were something you never were in the first place?
For those of us who have been watching WWE since it was still called the WWF, we have seen the progress of Paul Levesque from his time as Hunter Hearst Helmsley to Triple H and I can honestly say that at no time did I ever consider him to be a top money-making draw for the company. That’s not a slight on the guy himself, but there have always been more popular and more talented people around him.
I think we can all agree that Triple H can put on a decent match from time to time, and his matches at WrestleMania 27 and 28 against The Undertaker were great entertainment. His match for the title against Batista at WrestleMania 21 for the World Heavyweight title was also a very good match, but once again in those instances, Triple H was working with a guy who was far more popular and far more talented than him and he was putting them over.
At this year’s WrestleMania, he is playing the villain in the long and played out storyline that pitched the underdog Daniel Bryan against the might of The Authority and Triple H is the end-of-level boss he has to conquer to emerge to the next level – the WWE title picture.