“It’s all about The Game, and how you play it.”
The segment in which Daniel Bryan shepherded a couple hundred of his fans (well, a couple hundred actors moonlighting as t-shirt models) into the arena served to bring out a wholly necessary side of Triple H. By the time Bryan and his teeming mass of foot soldiers in “Yay Guevara” shirts were finished making demands, “The Game” sold blind rage better than he has in ages, being carried out by two security guards while thrashing about like a marmot in Jeff Bridges’ bathtub.
Forget the fact that Bryan is probably going to make it into the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania XXX and stand tall, leading 70,000 fans through a “YES” recital, clutching a belt in each hand. That’s merely an idea we got from the ‘Occupy’ segment. The actuality of it, the provided visual, was Paul Levesque blowing his stack, a beaten man with no trump card.
It was the best TV Triple H has done in a while.
It’s hard to believe that, for seven years running, Triple H played a babyface, permanently in the main event tier. It really goes against type, especially since his whole image of muscular, play-by-my-own-rules anti-hero jock was nullified by the common knowledge that is his marriage into the McMahon Family. It’d be like finding out Superman worked for Enron.
Thus, it was difficult to buy into him as any sort of an underdog. At last year’s Wrestlemania, there was no peril in him possibly retiring as a wrestler, should he lose to beastly Brock Lesnar. It wasn’t like Helmsley would’ve been on the street collecting cans; he’s a corporate officer! He could light a cigar with Action Comics No. 1, a la Krusty the Klown, using the company suggestion box as an ashtray.
For the most part in his WWE run, Triple H tends to show little weakness, aside from the occasional submission loss (admittedly, Helmsley’s tapped at WrestleMania three times, more than anyone else). As a heel, in the last 11 years, few men outside of pet projects like Batista and John Cena have done him in convincingly. As a face, his only clean jobs have gone to The Undertaker and Lesnar, neither of which needed the preferential booking.
For as much flak as Cena gets for the “SuperCena” routine, it’s more arguable that Triple H’s sheath of invulnerability is far more bullet-proof. At least in Cena’s case, he can use the “I’m the top merchandise draw here” excuse. When has Triple H ever been a major mover of wares, aside from buddying up with best friend Shawn Michaels to push DX glowsticks?
Some guys just shouldn’t be babyfaces, and Triple H is one of them. His best days were as a master manipulator, since it wasn’t an acting reach. Combining sinister tactics with concentrated sadism in the ring, Helmsley made for a superb heel. It helped that he complimented that dominance with playing the coward when he wasn’t holding the advantage.
Monday night was a welcome throwback, especially after months of Triple H tight-roping between, “I’m an unflappable heel that makes jokes” and “I play the babyface in some segments.” It was positively refreshing to see Triple H unable to gain the upper hand on Bryan, and was unable to stand tall with his standard defiant Neanderthal grimace and pose.
It reminded me of a tremendous run in 2004, shortly after Triple H dropped the World Heavyweight Title to Chris Benoit. For the next six months, Raw felt like a brand new show, complete with an emphasis on ‘different’. The previous year, with Helmsley going over titanium-strong on Booker T, main-eventing with practically-disabled buddy Kevin Nash, and scoring a pin on Goldberg while Hunter bloated and injured, was washed away.
Instead, Helmsley lost on a sort-of fluke, but still clean enough, to previous tag team wrestler Shelton Benjamin, making him in one fell swoop. Helmsley also put over Benoit in a handful of rematches, which was like Percocet for the jangled smark’s body. Topping it off, The Game had allowed himself to be embarrassed by the likes of Tajiri and Eugene in various segments, and nobody thought less of him. He wasn’t the supreme master and ruler of the world, but his long-held position as regarded schemester was unchallenged.
Triple H has nothing to gain in 2014 from booking himself to be infallible, but there’s much to reap from him being charitable. After Monday, the Bryan fans were no doubt further galvanized by Triple H’s comical fit of rage, but it’s not like we’re dismissing him with the ‘L-for-loser’ gesture here.
If Helmsley is going to play the role his father-in-law perfected fifteen years ago, he should draw on what made it so perfect: the gulps of fear, the constant emasculation from the good guys, the best laid plans being ultimately foiled by the determined hero. Sure, Helmsley’s a trained wrestler while Vince was little more physically than a jacked-up geezer that needed clever protection in matches, but what is there to lose from this side of Triple H?
It’s one thing for Triple H to pass this torch to the next wave of top heroes by letting Bryan and whoever else get one over on his nefarious schemes again and again, but think of how this helps the villains. If Triple H can’t fell these good guys, but Bray Wyatt or Cesaro or hell, even Randy Orton (the champion who Suit-Wearing Hunter belittled weekly without a real payoff) get the job done, that’s true elevation. After all, Helmsley was in his glory as Vince’s strong-arm. You’re telling me Roman Reigns couldn’t pull this role off, flanking the current boss?
Let’s hope Triple H never forgets that by losing the game, he’ll end up the biggest winner of all.
Justin Henry has been an occasional contributor to Camel Clutch Blog since 2009. His other work can be found at WrestleCrap.com and ColdHardFootballFacts.com. He can be found on Twitter, so give him a follow.
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