Part Two: A Degenerate’s Rise – 1998-99
Towards the middle of 1997, Triple H seemed to have thrown off the last vestiges of his preppy Connecticut Blue Blood persona and joined forces with Shawn Michaels, the talented, but very troubled, top guy in WWE and, along with Chyna, embarked on a campaign to cause as much havoc and break as many rules as they could, making a LOT of enemies along the way, in front of, and behind the camera.
Also, during these years, Triple H’s ambitions and role in WWE would change from being a sidekick to the leader of a legendary faction and from a mid-card champion to establishing himself as Main Event worthy.
Breaking the Black Hart - WrestleMania XIV: Owen Hart, European Championship Match
I don’t quite remember all that went into this feud, but what I’ve gathered is Trips and Owen were feuding over the European Championship and Hunter kept finding ways to retain the title by hook or by crook. So, in an effort to keep the match fair, Owen Hart demanded that Chyna, who constantly stuck her nose in the matches, be handcuffed to Sgt. Slaughter, the Commissioner of WWF at the time.
Triple H and Chyna were sung to the ring by the DX band. Trips was still wearing some vestiges of his previous Blue Blood gimmick, but it’s clear that those are the only vestiges of the Connecticut Blue Blood. JR and Jerry the King Lawler discussed the problems Slaughter was probably going to have being cuffed to Chyna. To be honest, I’m not sure just WHY they opted to have Chyna handcuffed to anything instead of just banning her from the ring or making it a cage match, or some combination thereof, but we’re doing this.
Owen Hart come to the ring with a lot of confidence, sure that nothing is going to stop him from kicking Triple H’s ass and getting back his European Championship, and it is on like Donkey Kong.
This was a really good match. Triple H and Owen had really great chemistry and the fight felt personal, especially coming a few months after the Montreal Screwjob, which DX was a part of.
I have to say that I’m not crazy about the whole thing about Chyna being cuffed to Slaughter. It just feels unnecessary.
One thing I really liked about this match was Triple H showing how ready he was to be the top guy, and the signs of the ring general he would become. It’s too bad Owen died before Hunter became Champ because that would’ve been a MONEY title feud.
Winner: Triple H retains with a Pedigree after Chyna cold cocks Slaughter and hits a low blow on Owen.
Comment: A really good match. I do kind of wish that if they were going to INSIST on having Chyna handcuffed, it would’ve lead to Triple H retaining on his own.
Burning Ambition - WrestleMania XV: Kane
This is another one where my exact memories of the run up aren’t great, but as I recall, Chyna had gotten tired of playing second fiddle/bodyguard to DX and had thrown her lot in with Vince McMahon’s Corporation, even becoming the first woman to compete in a Royal Rumble Match. She also forged a bond with Kane, the Undertaker’s twisted younger brother. Triple H, as the leader of DX, didn’t really appreciate losing his bodyguard to the Corporation, and that’s as far as my memory goes.
Kane came out to his old school entrance, as Cole and Lawler discuss Kane’s trauma of being burned as a child being recreated by Triple H burning him the previous week on RAW, dressed as Goldust no less, Kane is attacked by the San Diego Chicken. Turns out that the Chicken is Pete Rose, who had been tombstoned by Kane the previous year, and Kane gave him a second one and his exploding turnbuckles for good measure. Thanks for coming, Charley Hustle.
After that sideshow, Triple H makes his entrance by attacking Kane with a low blow and the fight’s on.
I really enjoyed this match. It was fun to watch Triple H show his more…romantic side and really, the same could be said for Kane.
This wasn’t Triple H’s most scientific match, this was a fight. Take these guys in a bar parking lot, and it would be very similar.
One highlight for me was Triple H being hung out to dry on the barricade, and then being ‘helped’ by the Mean Street Posse.
Another thing I liked about this match was Triple H proving that he could brawl. It’s something that often gets overlooked in the whole Cerebral Assassin gimmick. Triple H can do the scientific, technical stuff, but he can also brawl.
Chyna comes out and distracts Triple H, giving Kane a chance to get his wind back. She also helps by giving Kane some steel steps to play with. Just when it looked like Kane was about to be victorious, Chyna NAILED him with the chair, which he didn’t sell…until Triple H nailed him with another chair, getting himself DQ’d in the process, and then Pedigreeing him on the same chair. However, that didn’t matter, because he and Chyna were reunited, and the WWE Universe was both happy and very confused…or I was.
Winner: Kane by disqualification after Chyna hit him with a steel chair.
Comment: I really enjoyed this match. This was one of the few matches from this PPV that I enjoyed.
Post Script: This wasn’t the end of the shenanigans for Triple H and Chyna that night. After seemingly reuniting DX, Triple H would turn on his friends and join the Corporation, along with Chyna, in the name of getting ahead, which lead to trouble with DX and the Corporate Ministry, that would emerge in mid-1999. Later, he would reunite with DX and make a play towards becoming WWF Champion, which would lead to a feud with Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin, which would end up being a game-changing decision, no pun intended, and that story will be told in Part III.