Triple H Still the Focus with Kevin Owens as WWE Universal Champion


Kevin Owens is the WWE Universal Champion and the new Face of Monday Night Raw. As such, he has earned the unenviable position of working Second Fiddle to the COO, Triple H.

Stop me if you’ve seen this:

Of course, this is Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling, the viral sensation from Max Landis that made the rounds last year as a smart, witty, gender-bending treatise on the glories and marvels of professional wrestling. Landis breaks down everything grand about the graps by deconstructing the career of his favorite character of all time: 14-time WWE/World Champion Triple H. Following his career from the early days of aristocrat Hunter Hearst Helmsley, through his days with D-Generation X, all the way through his World title reigns into his current role as executive, Landis portrays a man who, in his words, “just wanted to be the best, but never could be that without cheating, and finally selling out to the point where if he can’t be the champion, he’ll choose the champion.”

It’s a brilliant deconstruction that one can’t help but follow past WrestleMania XXX (where the video lets off), because once you see where Triple H came from, it’s easy to see where he’s going. The “he’ll choose the champion” story continued last year with Seth Rollins, through a period where Trips said, “screw it–if Rollins is gonna get hurt and give up the title, I’ll take it myself!”

Of course, once The Game was dispatched at this year’s WrestleMania by Roman Reigns, he vanished for the rest of the Spring and Summer, not resurfacing until this past Monday, when he once again decided to play “Choose the Champ!,” getting some quick payback on Reigns and swerving his former protege, Rollins, by singlehandedly putting the WWE Universal Championship in the hands of Kevin Owens.

The epic, decades-long tale of Triple H continues! And somewhere in there, incidentally, is a B-plot involving a prizefighter who just got handed a prize without having to fight too hard for it. Hey, that sounds like a potentially compelling story! Too bad it’s a sidebar to the most consistent long-term tale told in WWE for the last 20 years…the centerpiece of which is a 47-year-old part-time wrestler.

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Can anyone think of an equally consistent long-term character arc on WWE’s main roster other than that of Triple H? Sami Zayn’s journey to NXT Champion was compelling drama that spilled into his Kevin Owens feud on the main, but he’s been adrift since. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa are currently embarking on an epic tale of brotherhood (potentially) gone bad, but again…that’s NXT.

Seth Rollins? Now there’s a story. One of a trio of men who took the main roster by storm, Rollins, realizing he’d been overshadowed by Roman Reigns’ physique and Dean Ambrose’s reckless abandon, turned on his brothers, selling out to the Authority in order to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. He became the heir apparent to former champ and current COO Triple H, even going so far as adopting his finisher, until a freak knee injury derailed all their plans and…wait. This is all just a sidebar to Triple H again, isn’t it?

Let’s not get it too twisted here: the Triple H saga is compelling, gripping television and a fascinating case study in pursuit and abuse of power. There’s a reason Landis chose it as the subject of his short film–it’s great serial drama! But by continuing to invest so hard in the ongoing tale of the semi-retired executive who won’t stay retired, is WWE jeopardizing its long-term storytelling health?

In the past few years we’ve seen WWE rely on The Game and his in-laws time and again in order to build ongoing storylines with comfortable, recurring characters, often to the detriment of the rest of the WWE roster. Then, when the company decides they need to give the McMahon/Triple H saga a breather and focus on actual full-time wrestlers, it just takes one curveball to throw the writing staff back into a “let’s bring Trips back!” panic. It happened when Rollins blew his knee; it happened this Monday after the new Anointed One, Finn Balor, wrecked his shoulder. And now, with the Raw main event scene seemingly beginning to steer toward a Rollins/Triple H showdown, will there be room for anyone else to get the airtime needed to develop their individual character arcs, so that the next time an unexpected roster thinning happens, the company is covered?

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Let’s hope that the Kevin Owens title victory, well deserved as it was, launches the prizefighter into new, exciting, uncharted waters, away from Rollins vs. Triple H. There’s a lot to be done with KO; we’re not telling tales out of school by saying he’s a unique, one in a million talent. Once upon a time, the former Kevin Steen was the centerpiece of his own one-man war against an entire promotion; a war that saw him crowned Ring of Honor World Champion for a solid 328 days. The dude can carry a storyline.

And heck, who knows–maybe the latest chapter in the Triple H saga is merely opening the door for Seth Rollins’ story to bloom into its own. That’s how wrestling narrative should work, in principle; the stories of yesterday should blend seamlessly into the tales of tomorrow as the older generation steps aside for the new. Triple H vs. Seth Rollins could be the tale that finally ends the Game and launches the Architect into a million new narrative creations.

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You’ll forgive us, though, if recent history has us worried that once again, as is always the case in WWE…it’s all about The Game.