The Villain Who Lived Long Enough To Become A Hero

Corbin Macklin

I won't even build to this point: You are a huge mark if you think WWE will be better under HHH. Paul Levesque is Vince McMahon lite at BEST. Do you hate Roman Reigns? Do you know whose idea it was to put him in The Shield? HHH. I am a Roman Reigns mark. I hate the narrative that HHH is this white knight of wrestling so much I'll use the fact that Roman is a product of HHH's influence to make my point that YOU don't know as much as you think. I love NXT. NXT ain't made me forget all the selfish things HHH has done over his career. Also, I am a HHH fan. I do not hate him and think he's a terrible human being. I just want to remind you of history.

It all begins with The Kliq. Shawn Michaels was pilled up and wielding mad influence behind the scenes. You could say it was that influence that influenced the HHH we know today. Marrying Stephanie didn't hurt, but I don't devalue his accomplishments as being the result of marrying into the family as many marks do. He had years of being in then taking over DX and winning championships before he even got with Stephanie. When most wrestlers were off doing their own thing, HHH was sitting in on production meetings. Having a voice where most talents chose to remain voiceless made an impression on Vince. I think that is what has led to his position of having some power and influence in the company today. Another thing I think made an impression on him was the aftermath of "The Curtain Call". To old school people, HHH, Shawn, Razor and Diesel exposed the business when they hugged and raised their arms. Heels and babyfaces didn't act buddy buddy in front of people in those days. Razor and Diesel left for WCW. Shawn was the WWF Champion and The Guy. That meant the only person who could suffer for that act is HHH. They jobbed him out and he was supposed to win the same King of the Ring tournament Stone Cold Steve Austin won, where he came up with the "Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass" catchphrase that sold millions of tshirts. It's fascinating to sit and think, as I am as I type this: "How would wrestling history have changed if HHH never got in trouble for The Curtain Call?"

I remember exactly what moment in WWF history solidified HHH as a singles star. It was the ladder match against The Rock at SummerSlam. I'll never forget the times DX impersonated The Nation and The Corporation. Every great villain needs a great foil. HHH's hero was The Rock to be honest. When Stone Cold went out with his neck injury, HHH and The Rock carried the company and WWF didn't miss a beat without their top star. The Rock stayed getting screwed because HHH always had the deck stacked against him. And that is where the lines of work and shoot become blurry. Once HHH started to become one of the top stars in the company, fans started saying HHH had the golden shovel to bury as much young talent as he could. There is a good argument to be made that he should have put RVD over when he was hot. Booker T at XIX. Randy Orton, several times. I say argument, because while it is arguable he should have never beaten Goldberg or CM Punk or Brock Lesnar or Sting, he has also done so many jobs at WrestleMania that you can't really say he won't put people over.

What would WWE be like today if, in September 2011, HHH put over CM Punk, and instead of HHH facing Kevin Nash, CM Punk beat him too? What if CM Punk defended his title against The Rock then ended Undertaker's streak? First, CM Punk would be a god. Second, he never leaves. If he never leaves, Daniel Bryan never gets his moment the next year that only happened to spite Punk. Daniel Bryan beat HHH in the match CM Punk would have had, had he not left. Who knows what else happens differently? Maybe Brock Lesnar still beats the piss out of Punk at SummerSlam like he did Cena, then Roman Reigns still gets booed because now not only is he slated to take Bryan's spot but CM Punk's too. I don't think there is a parallel universe in which the marks want Roman to look strong. But maybe there's a parallel universe where people see through HHH putting himself in marquee matches annually instead of, yanno, letting some of that ballyhooed NXT talent step up. I don't think I'm being a mark when I say WWE drastically needs to cut down on its reliance on old men to try to promote its bigger shows. The message is literally being sent "Hey you know all those guys who work every Monday and Tuesday? Yeah we know them dudes ain't real stars. Sunday, the real stars will be there. But not Monday and Tuesday after. Cool? Cool."

Would Roman be more over if, instead of booking him to spend half the 2016 Rumble in the back sipping Gatorade a year after booking him to spend most of the 2015 Rumble ducked in a corner, they had him work the whole match and win it, proving he has the stuff to be a worker of the ilk of a Shawn Michaels or Rey Mysterio or Ric Flair? Maybe instead of giving the belt to HHH, they let the guy they want to be THE guy hold it for longer than one month? Maybe it sends a sign he's for real if they bill the match "One Against All" and let the guy who was saying that as a catchphrase go out and back up the talk? Maybe? So now I circle back around to the point: ROMAN REIGNS IS HHH'S BOY. THIS IS HOW HHH AND VINCE ARE BOOKING HHH'S BOY WHO IS ALSO VINCE'S BOY. PLS, TELL ME MOAR ABOUT HOW WHEN VINCE HANDS THE REINS TO HHH IT WILL BE DIFFERENT AND BETTER.

Maybe 205 Live is going to better now that HHH makes more decisions about it, and funnels the little guys he signs to NXT there. Will that matter as long as the cruiserweight championship is defended in empty arena preshow matches? How long are you going to give him a pass, that as much influence as he's wielded for decades, that he couldn't do more to ensure Roman Reigns and the developmental talents you do like are booked better? What if... the problem was never the booking at all, but the difference between the smark crowd that goes to Full Sail and the hipster smark crowd that goes to Raw and SmackDown? What if HHH gets to be in complete control and we still nitpick everything to death to prove how smarky we are? What if adding a new belt to NXT proves HHH will water down and oversaturate that show given time, as Vince has the main roster shows? I could ask these questions all day. I think HHH comes with some solutions, some problems. Some good ideas. Some bad. I just want people to snap out of this fantasy that it'll be sooooooo different. It won't be. Watch.