Former WWE star Santino Marella said it best during a shoot interview, in order to make it in the WWE, you must form some type of connection with Vince McMahon. Triple H certainly did so; McMahon pushed Hunter as the dominant heel of the company during the late 90s and into the 2000s.
During that time, Hunter made several relationships. His most glorified friendships pertain to his relationship with Kliq members Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and X-Pac. Throughout the course of the years, these men have still managed to stay relevant and Triple H constantly brings them back for various involvements, whether it be on or off-screen.
We discussed how impactful forming a friendship with Vince can be. In this article, we compare something similar to that, but with Triple H instead, and many of the NXT talents. It’s no secret as to why these stars have thrived down in developmental, as Triple H has a soft spot for each of these wrestlers.
We will also document a couple of cases of wrestlers Triple H befriended before NXT came about. Let us now jump in and find out who these 15 WWE Superstars are. Enjoy!
15. Corey Graves
Graves went through a series of ups and downs during his run with the WWE. His in-ring career was sadly cut short after experiencing multiple concussions during various NXT bouts, and things were looking quite glum for the NXT star.
Hunter was a huge fan of Graves since day one and opted to move the wrestler over as a panelist to finish the rest of his contract. Corey would shock the WWE officials with his incredible desire to be great at his new job. In 2014, this would result in a contract extension given out by Triple H himself. During the contract signing, Hunter predicted big things for Corey and he was right on the money. Graves is now the voice of Raw and a perfect representation of a modern look in the world of the WWE. Many refer to his friendship with Triple H as the new Jim Ross and Vince McMahon duo of the company.
14. Tyler Breeze
This might be a head scratcher considering Breeze has done nothing since making his way onto the main roster a year ago, but it does not undermine the fact that Triple H respected and appreciated the star during his journey down in NXT.
Breeze was the prototypical journeyman in the company, spending five years total down in development. He first signed when the developmental branch was under the FCW umbrella in 2010 and would stay on board when the company rebranded to NXT in 2012. He bounced around some terrible personas but finally in the summer of 2013, he struck gold with his Tyler Breeze gimmick. He was devoted to his role and was a student of the game since day one. Something very reminiscent to what Hunter was during his earlier days.
This factor made Triple H have a soft spot for the talent and he appreciated his work ethic. Hunter himself made the announcement in front of all the other aspiring Superstars that Breeze was getting a WWE call-up solidifying his respect for the Canadian performer.
13. Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn will forever be remembered as the first chess piece Triple H played during his NXT journey. Zayn’s overall attitude and ability eventually caused the WWE to go after several other Indie talents, something that was not the norm before Zayn’s signing.
Hunter believed in the journeyman and his belief paid off big time instantly. He put the developmental brand on the map during his first NXT show which was a huge deal as it was the first time the program was being showcased via the WWE network. Zayn tore the house down with his match that night at NXT Arrival, taking on Cesaro. Following the match he became the face of the underground and would later solidly his legacy by capturing the championship.
Triple H will forever remember everything Zayn gave to not only NXT but to himself as the puppet master of the brand. As a thank you, it seems inevitable that Hunter will one day have a say in making Sami a future WWE Champion.
12. Cedric Alexander
The North Carolina native is the most recent wrestler to tap into the lighter side of The Game, Triple H. Like the other CWC talents, Alexander has travelled the world wrestling for various indie promotions including ROH where he recently departed from this past May.
His connection with the WWE universe during the CWC tournament was instant. The fans truly loved him and he became a favorite to win it all. Sadly, his run came to an end after he was ousted by Japanese megastar Kota Ibushi. The match has been argued to be the match of the tournament and quite possibly the match of the year. The encounter was filled with so many emotions and ended with Cedric tearing up in the middle of the ring.
His efforts were acknowledged immediately. Following the match Hunter greeted Cedric on the stage and offered him a contract which drew an overwhelming reaction. He is now set to debut on Raw and was featured in the final CWC show tagging with Noam Dar.
We’ve highlighted younger talents so far in this writing but we will now change focus for this entry on a veteran that has managed to connect with Hunter throughout his time in the WWE.
This entry, as opposed to the others, was met with frustrations from fans. Many believed that Sheamus was past his prime and marginal at best but was still being given chances to thrive because of his relationship off-screen with Triple H. According to speculation, the two were “gym buddies” outside of the ring. Sheamus “cashed in” big time due to his friendship (literally), wining the Money in the Bank Contract in 2015 and later claiming the WWE Title, which was shocking considering Sheamus was way past his prime.
He enjoyed two other WWE Title runs previously, a World Heavyweight Championship run and a Royal Rumble victory back in 2012. Oh, and a King of the Ring victory. Merited or not, it doesn’t hurt being friends with Hunter outside of the ring.
10. Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin was another wrestler Triple H grew close to during his time down in developmental. Corbin was an interesting project for Hunter. He had a great look with no experience coming from an NFL background. He truly was a guy the company needed to build from ground up.
Hunter always preaches the motto of working hard at your craft and being a pro about it while doing so. Corbin took those words to heart and thrived being one of the hardest workers outside of the ring. His development was truly something else, as he grew into a WWE Superstar overnight as it seems.
As a thank you for all his hard work, Triple H decided to not only call up Corbin but add the big man to the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at the biggest WrestleMania of all time. Oh yeah, and one other thing, he won the match! This outcome solidified the respect Triple H has for Corbin. We can expect big things from the Kansas native in the very near future.
9. Dana Brooke
Before Triple H decided to go full throttle into the world of pro wrestling he had another deep passion which he still loves to this very day: bodybuilding.
His physique speaks for itself; the guy just turned 47 but yet still looks sculpted from head to toe every time WrestleMania season comes around. His dedication is quite motivating to say the least. Hunter uses his former passion to employ future WWE stars, and one of the very first he hired under the NXT banner was Dana Brooke.
Despite her inexperience, Hunter loved Dana’s look, attitude and overall work ethic. She blasted through NXT despite no experience whatsoever beforehand, and made her way onto the main roster officially this past May joining forces with Champion Charlotte.
One can argue, would Dana be given the same opportunity had she not been a bodybuilder prior to her wrestling career? The answers are generally split but she’s worked hard and seems to be fitting in quite well on Raw. The company has huge plans for her in the future and this is largely because of Triple H and his upbringing of the Ohio native.
8. Alexa Bliss
Similar to Dana Brooke, Bliss was welcomed into the WWE by Triple H, coming from a background as a bodybuilder. Her rise to prominence wasn’t as quick but her window certainly looks bigger than Dana’s and maybe anyone else on the SmackDown women’s roster at the moment.
She started with NXT as a manger. Triple H saw something more in her however, and chose to put her in the ring as a performer. The decision was spot on. Bliss has thrived as a heel using bits and pieces of Triple H’s heel work from back in the day, obsessing over the Women’s Championship and doing anything it takes to win it. Sounds a lot like something out of the Triple H’s playbook.
She’s only 25 but now a prominent piece on the SmackDown Live roster. She recently won a Five Pack challenge match, cementing her name into a match for the title against Becky Lynch. This will be Alexa’s biggest match of her entire career, win or lose. Her relationship with Triple H has helped her immensely to showcase how talented she truly is.
As a father of three daughters Hunter understood the importance of building a female role model under the NXT umbrella; enter Bayley.
Hunter would take Bayley under his wing and give her the tools to succeed, placing her in matches against some of the very best including the three other Horsewomen. Not even Triple H could have predicted her rise; she not only became a role model for little girls but she also became the most popular Superstar down in NXT. Her Championship win would not only cement her greatness but her popularity soared to new heights when the crowd in Brooklyn burst out of their seats to applaud her Championship victory.
She has just recently turned the chapter on her NXT life and is now a prominent part of Monday Night Raw. With the fans and Triple H fully invested into her persona, you can expect some big things from her in the future. This truly is only the beginning, folks!
6. Sasha Banks
With control of NXT, Triple H used this platform to rebuild a women’s division that was eagerly awaiting something new and fresh. Triple H wanted to turn the division into a competitive one all about the in-ring action, and we can safely admit that he’s done a tremendous job looking at the landscape of both divisions on Raw and SmackDown.
Sasha entered the mix in 2012 with years of experience coming from the Indie circuit. She started off as a quiet and shy girl with no personality whatsoever. Slowly but surely she became the face of the division and everything Triple H wanted, a dominant force in and out of the ring, labelled as the Boss.
The two grew very close and worked together side by side changing the game of women’s wrestling. Her NXT popularity continued on to the WWE scene and she is now one of the main faces on Raw. Like Bayley, her future is brighter than ever and only getting started.
Being the daughter of Ric Flair, Charlotte was welcomed into the WWE without any prior experience. Triple H holds Ric Flair close to his heart. Flair was in a dark place at one point in time, but Hunter still saw greatness in Flair and chose to use him in the company on-screen. Flair joined Evolution and later played a prominent part in various storylines. The love the two have for one another is rather obvious.
The love has now shifted towards Ric’s daughter, Charlotte. Triple H is said to be like a father figure to her behind the scenes and is very protective of her development.
Thus far, Charlotte has been the most successful Superstar out of the Four Horsewomen in terms of accomplishments, being crowned the final Divas Champion and first ever Women’s Champion. She is also currently enjoying her second run with the tile.
4. Kevin Owens
When Triple H pretty much handed the Championship to Kevin Owens, many fans were reminded of just how close the two really are not only on-screen but off as well.
The WWE signed Owens back in August of 2014, and Hunter instantly had big plans for the Quebec native putting him in the forefront from day one. Shortly after his debut, Owens became the Champion and one of the most dominant ones in NXT history. His loss to Finn Balor ended a 143 day Championship reign.
He made his main roster debut a little less than a year later, after his debut defeating John Cena in his first match on the main roster. Man, that’s something! Fast forward a little more than a year later and Kevin Owens is now the Universal Champion and the face of Monday Night Raw.
3. Finn Balor
Inking a deal with the WWE in May of 2014, Triple H made it a priority of his to mold Balor into not only the face of NXT, but the future face of the entire company.
The two grew a formidable relationship behind the scenes. Hunter worked very closely with Finn trying to perfect everything about the future star which included hours upon hours of entrance rehearsals. Hunter made it a priority to perfect everything about Finn which started with the opening seconds that the crowd would see Balor during his entrance.
Together, the two took NXT by storm, Balor in the ring and Hunter out of it. After dominating the NXT landscape Balor made his Raw debut and won two matches in one night solidifying his status to become the first ever Universal Champion. He won the match but picked up an unfortunate injury. Despite his six months off, you can expect Balor to continue his dominance once fully healed. He and Hunter will continue to dominate the WWE scene together heading into the future.
2. Seth Rollins
Before there was Finn Balor, there was Seth Rollins. From day one, Triple H chose Seth Rollins to be the next “guy”. His monster push began down in NXT when Rollins was crowned the first ever NXT Champion winning the Gold Rush Tournament. Hunter would take Rollins under his wing and shape him into one of the greatest heels of the new era. He cemented his legacy with the WWE by turning on his Shield brothers, and from then on, he absolutely thrived. The respect is shown back to Hunter with Rollins using the pedigree to finish off opponents till this very day; quite the homage.
Hunter’s love and belief in Seth is still ongoing today. Triple H plans on making Rollins an even bigger star, this time as a babyface. The idea is to make Seth a new era type of Stone Cold character by going against The Authority with a more modern twist. This should put Rollins over even further making him the hottest wrestler going into 2017.
1. Randy Orton
At the age of 36, Randy Orton is still going strong, recently returning to the company full time. Looking at his track record, many find it hard to believe he’s still employed with the company. The facts are there; he’s failed multiple Wellness Exams, showed up to shows late, bullied wrestlers behind the scenes and various other antics. So how is he still employed? The answer: Triple H.
Hunter has grown close to several talents but before any NXT product came along, Randy was his “guy” behind the scenes. Hunter helped mold Orton in the future by choosing him to be a part of Evolution. He later became the youngest Champion in WWE history.
His first title run was a disaster, as Orton couldn’t handle the pressure thus the company opted for him to drop the title prematurely. Hunter didn’t give up on him however, and Randy would enjoy an eight time WWE Title reign, along with four World Heavyweight Championship runs, which included him being chosen as the last World Champion ever.
Orton will forever hold a special place in Hunter’s heart.