I’m not sure which is more important – the work Triple H has done inside a wrestling ring or the work he has done while serving as the COO of WWE? In either case, the body by which the man who runs NXT may be the most underrated of any superstar who has worked on and off screen.
If you read Larry Matysik’s “The Greatest Professional Wrestlers of All Time,” Paul Michael Levesque lands at No. 26, right in front of Killer Kowalski, the man who trained him, and behind Randy Savage, one of the most flamboyant performers of my generation.
Levesque is every bit the brawler and hard-nosed performer Kowalski was and nothing like the man who could have been the “Hulk Hogan” of the late 1980s if given the opportunity.
Triple H is in my mind one of the most underrated stars to ever set foot in a WWE ring. Aside from the obvious rub he gets from being married to Stephanie McMahon, there is a fire that burns inside the man that was ablaze long before he ever joined wrestling’s first family.
“Levesque is bright,” Matysik writes. “He was a student of professional wrestling growing up, studying tapes of various performers such as Ric Flair and Harley Race. Levesque had a knack for talking to those in power and never putting forth his thoughts in a way that seemed pushy.”
But in the ring, he is anything but laid back. A master of crowd psychology and selling a match for both himself and his opponent. For years, we have referred to Flair as the “Dirtiest player in the game.” It seems to be it would be safe to say the Triple H “character” is a close second.
Triple H’s resume is as checkered with as many accolades as anyone in this business – past and present. While fans and historians talk about the importance of The Rock, Shawn Michaels and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin – three men who rank much higher in wrestling’s food chain in terms of the best ever by Matysik’s standards, it is Triple H who is equally important to the success of the Attitude Era and Ruthless Aggression.
While he is still a part-time wrestler, Triple H has held a total of 25 championships, including nine reigns as WWF/E Champion and five as WWE's World Heavyweight Champion. He was the winner of the 1997 King of the Ring tournament, and the 2002 and 2016 Royal Rumbles.
He has headlined WrestleMania, WWE's flagship pay-per-view, a record seven times (tied with Hulk Hogan). Honestly, I am a bit perplexed as to why he is not listed as one of the six or seven best to wrestle under the McMahon banner.
His co-creation, Degeneration X, is one of professional wrestling’s greatest stables, rivalling the Four Horsemen and the New World Order. If you disagree with me, I have two words for you.
The fact is, while wrestlers change their personas, fight between being a babyface and a heel and walk away only to come back for encore performances – much like Undertaker, Kane, Randy Orton and John Cena – Triple H shows up and continues to give the same performance night after night.
He is the reason for the success of NXT and continues to champion the cause for change in programming and brand extension.
When looking the “best ever” concept in this business, many thoughts go into what makes a wrestler stand out over others. A look or a gimmick perhaps. Maybe bloodlines or even nepotism (had to throw that in there).
Considering Triple H though, there are few finer in a ring and on the mic. There are few finer at delivering a promo and even fewer who care about the business aspect of WWE more than him.
More than anything, he fills the role of heel with aplomb and takes on the role of “tweener” babyface with the attitude of a lone wolf.
That’s professional wrestling. That’s Harley Race at his finest. That’s Terry Funk in the 1970s with the NWA World Title over his shoulder. That’s his mentor in the ring, Ric Flair, basking in the confidence and arrogance that is backed by victory after victory.
WWE will soon be void of its Attitude Era. Undertaker, Kane, Orton, Cena and others will leave the Gorilla position for those younger, energized and more suited to the times. But Triple H still has a final hurrah left in him.
Champions are crowned. Legends are created. Triple H’s legacy lies in his time in a ring and out in the corporate minutiae of this business. NXT thrives because of him. Superstars in Stamford thrive because of him.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he is the most underrated of his generation. It’s a debate worth discussing and a debate that hopefully does not get much argument.
Underrated might be an understatement looking at his career. He has been given his due, but not given his due enough.
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