The wrestling career of Triple H will go down in the history books among the most controversial and polarizing stories. You would, however, be foolish to argue with the fact that Triple H is extremely talented at putting together greatness in the squared circle. The controversy is due to his position in the wrestling industry and how he got there. Triple H has benefited from the political game in WWE. First, he buddied up with the influential backstage faction known as the Kliq by becoming friends with Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Sean Waltman. They wielded power backstage for a few years.
Triple H didn’t benefit as strongly as friends did in the Kliq. The polarizing reputation truly started with his real life romance with Stephanie McMahon. They were paired together as a couple on television and life started to imitated art. Triple H’s power started to rise in the WWE and many stories circulated of his reputation. Some wrestlers claim Triple H as a mentor that went above and beyond to help them reach success. Others view him as a piranha that sabotaged their careers. Both are correct. We’ll look at the history of the most controversial man in wrestling with the eight wrestlers mentored by Triple H and eight wrestlers buried by him.
16. Mentored: Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins entered WWE with a world of hype due to his past success in Ring of Honor. The talented young man possessed every athletic quality needed to thrive and knew how to get the crowd going in any favor he wanted once stepping inside a wrestling ring. Rollins however had to change some of the small fundamentals in his game. WWE made him stay in developmental for a few years. Rollins was allegedly unhappy with the lesser crowds and time going by in FCW.
Triple H managed to see the special qualities in Rollins and did his best to showcase him in the early stages of NXT as the first ever NXT Champion. The time spent in developmental proved to be for the best as Triple H saw his value firsthand. Rollins made his main roster debut as an integral part of the heavily pushed Shield faction. They worked together on television for many years with Rollins playing the protégé of Triple H in an example of the in-ring product following the backstage life.
15. Buried: Sting
The wrestling fan fantasy of Sting appearing in a WWE ring took longer than anyone expected. Sting finally agreed to work for WWE in 2014 and made his highly anticipated in-ring debut at WrestleMania 31 against Triple H. Fans wanted the match to be against The Undertaker but the match against Triple H was still considered a dream match. Surely, Sting would win the WrestleMania match as the legendary fact opposing the hated authority figure? Wrong.
Triple H inexplicably scored the pin fall victory after the kick of nostalgia with the New World Order and D-Generation X interfering. No one could understand the process behind such a booking decision. Sting losing likely was another notch on the belt of WWE for winning the Monday Night Wars over WCW. Triple H once again crushed the dreams and ruined the moment fans wanted to see of the icon getting his moment in the WWE spotlight.
14. Mentored: Sheamus
Sheamus has one of the most unique WWE careers of the past decade. The Irish star debuted on the main roster for the ECW brand and moved over to Raw with a massive push. Sheamus won the WWE Championship in just a couple of months in an absolutely shocking move by WWE. The talent wasn’t a question but he didn’t appear to have enough main roster experience to successfully hold down such a top spot in the company.
It all made sense when you realized Triple H took a liking to Sheamus in the early days. Triple H loved the work ethic of the youngster and they developed a relationship as workout buddies. Sheamus started to sit under the learning tree of Triple H and it saw him have a few years as one of the top heels in WWE. The company has tried to make him the world champion on many occasions with the most recent being 2015. It never worked and Sheamus is one of the few Triple H students to struggle to succeed despite the help.
13. Buried: Kurt Angle
The WWE career of Kurt Angle is shorter than most realize due to just how much he achieved in his six years there. Angle competed with Triple H as the best-rounded performer in the company during his tenure with the company. Both men could pull off just about any role asked of them to absolute perfect. Sometimes two people being too alike can be a bad thing. Angle and Triple H butted heads on a few occasions.
A few former WWE writers claim the memorable love triangle storyline in 2000 was originally supposed to end with Stephanie McMahon turning on Triple H to become the love interest of Angle. Triple H buried Angle backstage and basically weaseled his way out of it to keep Stephanie by his side. Angle had harsh words for Triple H following his departure from WWE in 2006. Triple H hasn’t stopped burying Angle today as reports have circulated that he is the one talking Vince McMahon out of bringing Angle back for one more return in WWE before his career ends.
12. Mentored: Sami Zayn
The new position of Triple H leading NXT and trying to find stars for the future of WWE has changed his perception in the wrestling community. Fans and talent have started to see a new side of him as the wrestling genius hoping to help new talent rather than bury them. Former WWE star Taz has said it shows that Triple H has changed his stance from viewing other wrestlers as competition to employees in it together with him.
One NXT star to learn many things from Triple H is Sami Zayn. The talented Canadian signed following years of work on the independent wrestling scene as masked luchador El Generico. Triple H felt Zayn benefited from losing the mask and it proved to be a genius decision. Zayn became the first breakout star from NXT and helped create change in bringing along Triple H’s new vision of wrestling. We are starting to see Zayn blossom into a top face on WWE television and the help from Triple H definitely plays a role.
11. Buried: Paul London and Brian Kendrick
Most of the burials by Triple H have been done subtly with winning the big match or complaining about them backstage. This instance saw him show no remorse with his shovel. Three heel wrestlers were attacking Triple H until the popular face tag team of Brian Kendrick and Paul London made their way to the ring to even the odds. They cleared the ring and looked to engage in celebration with Triple H. The Game made them look like fools by hitting both men with Pedigrees.
London and Kendrick were utterly humiliated in the ring. A fellow face leaving them laying for no reason other than humor showed where they were on the totem pole. They never recovered and saw their tag team completely fade away despite having a highly successful run on Smackdown before coming to Raw for this moment. Kendrick has made peace with Triple H by returning to the company for the Cruiserweight Classic, but London still holds strong hatred towards the man that buried him.
10. Mentored: Batista
Batista is one of the more underrated stories of a wrestler learning from the wrestling intelligence of Triple H. Evolution was meant to highlight Triple H as the top heel, Ric Flair as a respected veteran and Randy Orton as the future of the industry. All three were so successful in getting their presence across that WWE decided to add Batista to the mix. The Animal wasn’t as young as Orton and is in fact older than Triple H, but the company viewed him as the next big star.
Evolution would implode at WrestleMania 21 with the story of Batista finally leaving the dictatorship of Triple H to beat him and win the World Championship. Batista matured into the role and became among the most popular stars of the era. Many interviews have seen Batista give credit to Triple H as being a genius in the ring that helped teach him what was needed to get to the next level.
9. Buried: CM Punk
There are times in wrestling when two people just loathe each other despite there being no rational reason for it. Triple H disliked CM Punk from day one and frequently insulted him to others backstage when Punk showed up to television to work dark matches. Things would only escalate with Punk rising to the top of WWE over the years. The public side of their war started with Punk naming Triple H among many others to blame for WWE being in bad shape during his legendary “Pipe Bomb” promo.
The two contrasting personalities stood for the opposite of everything the other represented. Punk and Triple H engaged in many verbal debates in a feud following the pipe bomb. It led to a match where Triple H somehow got the win over Punk. The latter was in his hottest stage as one of the most popular faces in many years. Triple H squashed it all by hitting him with the Pedigree and beating him in the middle of the ring. Punk held a grudge and trashed Triple H to his face on his final night in WWE before walking out forever.
8. Mentored: Bray Wyatt
Everyone knows about Triple H’s commitment to NXT and trying to elevate the young stars that made it to the main roster. One name that gets lost in the shuffle is Bray Wyatt. You may not see him putting up the “too sweet” symbol in photographs with Triple H but he learned a lot from The Game. Wyatt’s career was on the verge of failing when he entered NXT following a flop on the main roster as Husky Harris.
Wyatt had the idea of adopting his current character and Triple H gave him input to help make the presentation stand out. NXT became home to The Wyatt Family and it caught on enough to become marketable on the main roster. Triple H always goes out of his way to name Wyatt with all of the other NXT success stories and views it as the ideal scenario of what the new process in developmental should be.
7. Buried: Booker T
WrestleMania 19 revolved around many big name feuds but only one had a disappointing ending. Triple H was the dominant heel World Champion heading into the big show at Safeco Field against the fan favorite Booker T. The singles career of Booker was booming with louder responses with each week. WWE doubled down on the fan dynamic by having Triple H cut over the top heel promos that bordered on racism against Booker.
The smart money would have been on the sympathetic rising star with a world of potential to beat the dominant heel champion on the biggest show of the year. Instead of elevating Booker with the logical story ending, Triple H would win the boring match with him controlling the majority of it. Booker wallowed back into obscurity in the midcard and Triple H moved into a pointless angle with what was left of Kevin Nash. This was one of many times Triple H used his influence to get out of doing a job that should have happened.
6. Mentored: Finn Balor
Finn Balor is arguably the biggest star in NXT history and that alone tells you how close he is to Triple H. WWE signed Balor after a hugely successful stint in New Japan but left him in NXT longer than anyone expected. The work of Balor always delivered the goods. The problem is he lacked some of the television awareness needed in WWE. Triple H tells the story about Balor looking lost when having to work to the cameras until it was taught to him.
Obviously, Balor learned how the process of playing to cameras in WWE and became the face, or face paint, or NXT. Business went up with venues growing in size due to the demand under the reign of Balor. Funny enough, Balor was one of the wrestlers in the Bullet Club to bring back the “too sweet” greeting like Triple H did in the Kliq. The two grew close and Balor was instantly pushed as the WWE Universal Champion when called up from NXT before having to vacate it due to injury.
5. Buried: Scott Steiner
One wrestling superstar that will tell you to your face that Triple H buried him and would use expletives doing so is Scott Steiner. WWE signed him as a singles star after his WCW contract expired. Steiner blossomed into a top star in the dying days of WCW before WWE purchased the company and monopolized the industry. By many accounts, Steiner didn’t like working in WWE but it was the only option to make big money performing on the big stage.
WWE fast tracked Steiner into a world title program against Triple H after fans treated him like an absolute icon in his return moment at Madison Square Garden. Steiner and Triple H went on to have some of the worst PPV main events you’ll ever watch. They had no chemistry and Steiner holds Triple H responsible with implications of sabotage. Steiner viewed Triple H as a backstabber and believed his WWE career was a victim of the backstage politics played by The Game.
4. Mentored: Randy Orton
Randy Orton was one of the first stars to truly get the mentorship of Triple H given the storyline of Evolution. WWE put Orton with Triple H and Ric Flair in hopes he would learn from the two legends and fulfill his potential. Orton struggled immensely as a singles face on SmackDown and moved over to Raw to join Evolution. The move worked out perfectly with Orton instantly connecting. Once viewed as a goof, Orton started to show the signs of brilliance.
WWE believed in the improvement of Orton enough to have him be the youngest world champion winning the big gold belt at the age of 24. Triple H is apparently legendary at adding the small keys of knowledge that can play a major role between success and failure in WWE. Orton’s career could have easily flopped as many of the other second generation flops but learning from Triple H completely changed his momentum. Today, Orton is one of the biggest stars of the era and a future Hall of Famer.
3. Buried: Rob Van Dam
The popularity of Rob Van Dam in his first year entering the WWE landscape showed massive potential for a top star. Fans gravitated towards RVD far more than any of the new talents coming over from ECW or WCW. Between his naturally cool demeanor and the astonishing things he could do in the ring, Van Dam captivated audiences on the big stage. It felt like perfect timing when RVD received a World Championship match against Triple H.
WWE seemed ready to give Van Dam the ball and see how far he could take it. Instead, Triple H picked up the win to get his title reign of doom going. Of course, he lost it to his close friend Shawn Michaels a couple of months later. RVD saw his best opportunity at winning the title at his most popular time period slip away. WWE relegated him to the midcard for many years following this. The program could have been much more entertaining if they went with the move of making Van Dam the top star by defeating Triple H.
2. Mentored: Kevin Owens
WWE’s current top storyline features another dynamic formed from a real relationship. Triple H took the chance of signing Kevin Owens into NXT and it turned out being one of the best decisions in recent memory. Owens had a polarizing reaction to his look, in-ring style and personality. Triple H chose to embrace the unique star and he’s now the WWE Universal Champion. Many have criticized the way he won the title with Triple H’s help, but Owens views it as perfect.
Owens states Triple H as his biggest supporter and the reason why he has been given a fair chance to succeed in WWE. The two formed a close relationship in NXT and still have the bond on the main roster as they’re now working together. Triple H helping Owens win the title as his new protégé makes sense as Owens is one of the top examples of NXT working effectively. The career of Owens is on the up and Triple H’s mentorship is a major reason why.
1. Buried: Goldberg
The most blatant instance of Triple H’s ego getting in the way of business took place during his feud with Bill Goldberg. Both men held a dislike for the other due to a past war of words when Goldberg was in WCW during the Monday Night Wars. Triple H insulted Goldberg on national television on the WWE reality show Tough Enough claiming he had no passion for the wrestling business and didn’t deserve respect.
Naturally, they quickly worked together when Goldberg signed with WWE a couple of years after WCW was purchased. Triple H, conveniently, was the first one to pin Goldberg, ending his new undefeated streak after just a couple of months. Goldberg looked less credible taking a loss that early and would end up losing the feud to Triple H at the end of the storyline. WWE never marketed Goldberg well and he chose to leave the company after just a year. Goldberg has taken shots at Triple H blaming him for how things turned out.