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Iron Jung #4: Triple H - Played the wrong game?



7 May 2008

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Why hello there? I didn’t see you come in. Welcome to another instalment of The Iron Jung, the answer to all of your questions, even the ones you were afraid to ask. Now who watched Backlash? Come on hands up. I imagine a fair few of you. Not because the product is scintillating and you can’t even miss an episode of Heat. Why of course, it was free (for those of us in the UK) wasn’t it? And fair play to you for taking advantage. Stick it to the man. Yet I’m sure a lot of you groaned at the end of the event as we saw for the 117th time, Triple H begin another title reign, which will last what seems like forever. Before you say it though, I’m not going to go on a long rant about his boring counter productive promos from years ago or even how his ability to elevate stars is as good as Teddy Hart’s ability to keep a job. I’m actually going to go for a more well-rounded, civil and helpful approach. So pay attention and you may learn something. Only kidding.

This may come as a shock to you but in 2000 I felt Triple H had reached a pinnacle that rarely any wrestler ever reaches in this sport. Perfection. In 2000 he was everything you wanted from your top heel. He bumped all over the place for everyone and anyone and delivered promos that made you want to see him impersonate Brian Pillman in the War Games against Sid. He had excellent matches with the likes of Jericho, Foley, Austin, Rock, Benoit, Angle etc heck he even made Taka Michinoku look like Ricky Steamboat in his prime! This in a time when the only chance a small Japanese wrestler had of making it was if they gave him a hilarious deep voice. If anyone was going to be this generation’s Ric Flair, here was the guy.

So to cut a long story short…what the hell happened?

Well a lot happened clearly. But the point I feel which was most important was ultimately a wrestler’s Achilles heel. His vanity. Now Trips in 2000 looked good. 6 feet 4 and about 260 pounds of toned muscle. He looked main event bulky but lean enough to keep his speed and agility. Now as anyone who’s watched wrestling over the years knows, it has seemed that when moving from a midcard nobody to a fully fledged main eventer, you need to look bigger, let alone better. Look at the difference in Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Edge, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio for example. I’m not going to even allude to how they may have got bigger so quickly, but the facts are there. When entering the WWE in 1995 Trips was a fair bit lighter. He looked a bit lankier and judging by the trousers, obviously didn’t have the same muscle definition on his legs. Clearly in the eyes of Vince McMahon, he had the tools to be a main event player but he certainly didn’t look like one.

So to me in 2000 he was at optimum level, bulky yet still quick and agile, but then disaster struck. After going down with a horrific quadriceps injury, out came the paranoia. Upon his return in January 2002, he looked freaking massive. I thought we’d gone back in time and the WBF had returned. It just didn’t look right. Stacked he may have been, but his mobility was now severely compromised. That loss of speed was evident instantly in his matches. Gone were the quickness, the sharp bumping, the agility, and the snappy style. He now looked like The Ultimate Warrior’s younger brother and wrestled like him too. He was half the man of only 18 months earlier in terms of talent, yet twice the man in size. So why the radical change in appearance?

Paranoia. That was why. When away rehabbing an injury, being out of the ring can do that to you. Scared he might lose his spot, scared he wouldn’t look as good as the other top guys, scared he’d appear inferior from the viewpoint of the fans. Which all pointed to coming back the way he did. His matches across 2002 invariably sucked. Working with Scott Steiner, Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker and Chris Jericho brought matches, which plodded their way through rubbish before languishing on mediocre street. Only the return of Shawn Michaels with his toys back in the pram saved Tripper from having his worst in-ring year since 1996.

Yet I think Triple H knew this. Which is why we got the 20-minute promos on Raw, which took all the time in the world but said nothing. The fact he was put over everyone in order to stay strong. The fact he was at times given preferential treatment. Its all because he needed it because in-ring he couldn’t cut it anymore. He was a shadow of his former self.

Since then it’s been much of the same story. He has had some belters here and there with Cena, Batista, HBK and Orton. But no longer can you rely on The Game to have a decent match with whomever you throw at him. The injuries are becoming more and more frequent (I believe he’s torn his quad so many times that he has his own bed at the hospital now reserved for the next time) yet he’s not realised what has caused all this. We can talk for days about his politics but the simple fact is if he hadn’t overly bulked up so much, there would be no need for it. He wouldn’t need to justify being a headliner every time. We could see he’s consistently putting in excellent matches and consistently making everyone he works with, look like a million bucks.

But because of that first injury, it destroyed that belief that he is the best. So now each time he’s injured and comes back looking the size of a small house, it just becomes a vicious circle. The extra muscle means the loss of pace and bumping. The history of hurt means he’s more fragile in the ring, scared he’ll get injured again. This causes him to care more for his spot than elevating others. Thus less great matches, more personal gain.

He’s still a very good worker as evidenced by the smattering of great matches we get from him every few years. But a part of me inside is so disappointed every time I see him returning jacked up like a poor man’s Ahmed Johnson. He could have been so much more if only he stayed like he was 8 years ago.

Iron Jung

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