Opinion Pieces

Behind The Curtain: The Evolution of McMahon-Helmsley

Triple H

Source: WWE

The McMahon Family has ruled the wrestling industry for over half a century at the time of writing. Nobody needs that spelling out so I won’t retreat old ground here. Nevertheless, what I do plan to address is what the future may hold for this family and its company, especially regarding the influence of Triple H.

Triple H

Source: WWE, United States Army Forces Command

Triple H started his career back in 1992. As a wrestler called ‘Terra Ryzing’ for the International Wrestling Federation (IWF). This after being trained alongside future girlfriend and stablemate ‘Chyna’. He moved to World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1994 where he first introduced his aristocratic character Jean-Paul Levesque. A play on his real name ‘Paul Levesque’.

It wasn’t until 1995 that Triple H jumped ship to what was at the time the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). At the time, they wanted to call him ‘Reginald Dupont Helmsley’. But it wasn’t long before he tried to control the situation creatively and insisted on names that bore the same first letter. Thus, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was born.

Triple H

Source: WWE

In a very short time after his WWF debut, Triple H gained favour with the backstage group known as ‘The Kliq’. The group consisting of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Shawn Michaels. The Kliq had a huge amount of control creatively. Moreover, some hefty influence on Vince McMahon and the booking team. So much so that literally anyone associated with (or in fact not in the favour of) The Kliq saw a noticeable change in the trajectory of their career.

Up until he joined The Kliq, Triple H’s career had started to falter. To the point where he was thrown into ridiculous and often comedic angles. As mentioned above, it should come as no surprise that by 1996 he was scheduled to win the King of the Ring, which would have hugely elevated his position. Ultimately, Triple H lost that chance to Steve Austin following the first major breaking of Kayfabe (the unwritten law of wrestling) simply known as ‘The MSG Incident’; where heels and faces came together to say goodbye to Scott Hall and Kevin Nash (who were departing for WCW). It shows the arrogance of The Kliq when you understand that it was those people in particular involved in the MSG incident (AKA, the ‘Curtain Call’).

The punishment was short lived, (surprise surprise) and Triple H did in fact win the 1997 King of the Ring. Which, itself was a precursor to the formation of the stable ‘D-Generation X’. Arguably, the most influential and important stable in wrestling history. Shawn Michaels left the WWF for four years to recover from a serious back injury and Triple H took over the leadership of DX, becoming one of the top stars in all of wrestling some mere four years after he joined the WWF.

In a weird turn of events, the next few years were dominated by ‘the McMahon-Helmsley’ faction. This was a storyline where Triple H interrupted the Kayfabe wedding between Test & Stephanie McMahon, with video footage that he himself had actually married a drugged Stephanie, prior to this event. It sounds stupid when written down like that, and of course with WWE, there was some crazy angles floating around back then. What started as a storyline and engulfed just about every superstar in the roster at one time, actually ended up in a real marriage and in 2003, when Triple H married Stephanie McMahon.

Triple H

Source: WWE

Due to his consistent main event booking and championship reigns, many people began to suspect that his marriage with Stephanie was the reason behind it all. I mean, if you look at the evidence, it does make a compelling case. During the later stages of the DX run, every championship was held by a member of the stable. During the ‘McMahon-Helmsley’ era, Triple H became a double champion (holding IC and Tag belts). As well as winning the Heavyweight Championship a handful of times. Likewise, Stephanie (a non-wrestler), held the Women’s strap for a lengthy period. When Evolution was formed in 2005, once again every male title was held by a member of the stable. Whatever the reason behind this constant and seemingly limitless success, it wasn’t actually until 2010 that Triple H was formally hired into the executive team.

Triple H

Source: WWE

His first official title was ‘Executive Senior Advisor’, which meant he had considerable input on just about every storyline or creative angle that came through, despite not having necessarily the final say. It is worth noting at this point that the ratings for WWE television started their gradual, albeit yearly, decline. Although later on in this article I’ll explain why I don’t necessarily think ‘the game’ is to blame. Many fans have actually spoken out in the past about their belief that the product was growing stale; Triple H was simply booking himself to win the whole time, however, this is something he denies. Furthermore, if you look at the evidence, he has actually suffered defeats to many lower profile, up and coming stars, which elevated their position massively (Randy Orton and John Cena).

During 2011, Triple H was promoted to ‘EVP of Talent and Live Events’. This basically gave him complete control over the development of new (and existing) talent, training of wrestlers and worldwide recruitment. It was during this period that many high profile former employees of WWE have spoken out in criticism of Triple H; promoting only those people that he personally liked, rather than professionally booking Superstars. This position was the catalyst for what comes next.

By 2012, ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ created and founded NXT. The part-training, part-testing programme for the WWE. Since its inception, NXT has been getting far better reviews for match quality than WWE programming on average. Additionally, the popularity has been increasing exponentially. Not to mention, the sole reason that female wrestling is in the best period it’s ever experienced. Which, in my opinion, is solely down to Triple H’s recruitment and booking.

Triple H

Triple H, flowers in hand, at NXT Takeover: Respect | Source: WWE

In conclusion, what is most important to realise here is not that NXT’s success has been astronomical or that it is regularly winning Match of the Year awards. Because that would be a far too simplistic view. What is really apparent here is that NXT has been increasing in popularity massively. Improving its overall match quality and producing more future stars than WWE has been doing in the same period.

WWE has been slowly losing ratings to the point where RAW dipped below two million viewers. Which at one time seemed almost unthinkable. Also, they have literally had a handful of top rated matches in the last five to ten years. If Triple H really was in charge of all the booking aspects of WWE, you’d expect all of the brands to be experiencing the same level of rise. But we don’t see that.

It’s inevitable that one day Vince McMahon will cease to control the company. Furthermore, I remember growing up with the feeling that Triple H taking control was a truly harrowing one; feeling that Shane McMahon was a much more deserving heir. As I’ve matured (and discovered NXT) it’s actually apparent that the evolution from Kliq member to President of the WWE, may not seem that far-fetched. In fact, it could well be the best thing to happen to them since the attitude era ended.

Triple H

Source: WWE

The future

With the doom and gloom surrounding record low ratings and the potential (albeit slim) chance of being cancelled from their current television networks, it does provide me with at least a bit of solace. Knowing that the business will eventually be in the right hands (judging by the progress of NXT). One thing is certainly not in doubt, Triple H will most definitely has the pedigree to run the game. Moreover, this writer at least, wishes long live the king.


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