Triple H has always been famous for looking after himself and his “Kliq” but after Raw last Monday he delivered a master class in self-preservation.
The Stone Cold podcast began with a discussion on kayfabe and the line between what is real and what isn't becoming more blurred than ever. The lines were certainly blurred for the next hour as Triple H delivered one of the greatest promos of his career.
Triple H has been at the centre of all WWE locker room politics since the beginning of the ‘Attitude era’ and has polished those skills to the point where he can now deliver the kind of interview a presidential candidate uses to humanise themselves prior to an election.
“A smart booker, a smart story-writer, reacts” he stated and react to the recent ‘WWE Universe’ backlash he most certainly did. The delivery was “Paul Michael Levesque, wrestling fan, family man and all round nice guy”. The content however was reminiscent of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff washing their hands of responsibility in a failing TNA (as Mark Moore documented in his brilliant read “Total Nonstop Attenuation”).
Like him or loathe him it is a fact Hogan has made himself millions by distancing himself from failure and associating himself only with success. It is clear that Mr Levesque intends on doing the very same and taking over the entire sports entertainment business with his growing expertise in the dark arts of boardroom politics.
They say no publicity is bad publicity but the cringe worthy scenes that unfolded at the Royal Rumble, subsequent #CancelWWENetwork social media protest and national media coverage have been a cause of great embarrassment at WWE HQ. There is nothing the mainstream media love to do more than jump on anything anti-pro wrestling and this was no exception.
On the podcast Triple H did all he could to absolve himself of any guilt with the revelation that all the decisions within WWE are still made by Vince McMahon. This is something I find incredibly hard to believe given ex-employees accounts of their time in WWE and their anecdotes involving Hunter.
It was a clever political move to distance himself from key decision making at a time when the fans have revolted en masse. Last week Roman Reigns won his first Royal Rumble, but his special night will be forever remembered for the hostile reception from the Philadelphia audience. Before his injury Roman Reigns was ‘cool’ and massively over with the fans but thanks in part to poor booking this is no longer the case.
Reigns stopped being ‘cool’ when he came back and started giving awful, contrived promos which were just a badly disguised way of trying to get WWE fans to accept him as the ‘main man’. These things happen much better when they happen organically. Just look at his cousin The Rock for a perfect example of how a fast, cheesy, premature push can fail miserably, but allowing the natural character of the person to grow can pay dividends long term.
In the podcast Triple H agreed with this and even jokingly remarked that the worst thing to do to a WWE superstar is to make him babyface. Beneath the joke was another hint he believes that McMahon is growing increasingly out of touch and that the fan reaction wasn't a surprise.
Compare this unwillingness to accept responsibility with his reaction to NXT receiving some extremely high (and deserved) praise from Austin. Many fans now see NXT as being the superior product and not surprisingly Triple H was all too happy to accept all the plaudits for its success. He emphasised that it was all his vision from the lighting to the promos to the in-ring action. Speaking passionately like a political speaker trying to win new voters, he certainly made a compelling case for being the man to replace an ageing and out of touch Vince and sooner rather than later.
There was a question everyone wanted to hear and Stone Cold did not disappoint when he brought up the curious case of CM Punk. Once again Triple H flexed his well-oiled political muscles and passed the buck back to Vince, claiming all decisions involving Punk’s career (including Triple H coming out of retirement to beat him right as his popularity was peaking) were made by McMahon. He described Punk as a “weird cat” and predictably didn't pass any comment on the European tour/movie incident or the wedding day sacking. Instead skirted round the matter with a non-specific cliché “never say never” investor friendly sound-bite when asked about him ever coming back.
Triple H went on to offer other criticisms of Raw, the running time, the amount of air-time granted to women, but nothing so controversial as to land him in hot water with his father-in-law. Instead he came across as someone who genuinely cares what is “best for business” and who fans, investors, shareholders can trust to lead the company in the present and future, a man of a certain ‘pedigree’. But most importantly of all Hunter has ensured that next time the fans revolt, he will not be the one hunted.