Hi folks! Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should have heard the news of Vince McMahon announcing his retirement from WWE. Since then, Triple H has been appointed the new ‘Head Of Creative’, which came as a relief for many fans. When ‘The Game’ took on more backstage responsibilities several years ago, we praised him for his handling of the original NXT. Before we get to the list, I think it’s important to share some background information for the unaware. If you’re knowledgeable about NXT and Triple H’s role in that, you can skip this part.
Triple H Leads A Revolution
The Black & Gold brand was lauded not just for bringing an alternative ‘wrestling’ product under the WWE banner, but for consistently proving to be a better show than Raw & SmackDown. Its weekly programming built up storylines for NXT TakeOver PPVs, which almost always knocked it out of the park. However, despite the success, it didn’t get the recognition it deserved. Upper management didn’t do enough to draw attention to NXT. It was under everyone’s nose, and for the lucky fans who took the time to check it out, they were treated to some of WWE’s best matches, angles, and feuds of the modern era.
Now, it wasn’t just Triple H who lead NXT. Other personnel like Dusty Rhodes in the early days, William Regal, and creative writer Ryan Ward (he currently writes for SmackDown) helped a lot. In 2018, Triple H stated in an interview with The Sun that Vince never watched episodes of NXT but would give feedback on snippets. He later backtracked on this by saying Vince was hands-on with all aspects of the company and would approve every card of each show, including his own NXT brand. Fast forward to 2021, and Triple H came under fire for NXT losing the Wednesday Night War to AEW. Dave Meltzer reported:
Paul “Triple H” Levesque is internally being blamed for NXT not “winning the Wednesday night wars which WWE thought they would win easily.” Further, there are players backstage who’ve been worried they would lose power if Vince McMahon’s son-in-law took over the company. Now they’re using AEW’s success to bad-mouth NXT, and by extension Triple H: “NXT is being cast as a product full of independent workers who can’t draw which is unable to attract a younger audience.”
Now, it’s safe to say they used Triple H as a scapegoat. Someone had to take the blame, although I believe it was more because of Vince McMahon tampering (see my article: The Rise & Fall Of NXT – Where Did It Go Wrong?) with NXT’s dynamic than anything Hunter did.
They tried making NXT an equal third brand, which blurred the lines between it being a main roster product and a developmental territory. Also, it can be said that increasing NXT’s airtime to two hours per week, on top of constantly having to build fresh talent to replace those moving up, meant that they ran into a talent void. The show became formulaic. The adage of “WE ARE NXT!” was long gone, and the brand needed a fresh coat of paint. Annoyingly, WWE took this to heart by making 2.0 look like a 90s art show for kids, with an emphasis on non-wrestling athletes.
Since then, we’ve seen many former NXT Superstars struggling to varying degrees on the main roster. For others like Karrion Kross, they were treated as monsters in NXT, only to be buried and released when McMahon got hold of them. Triple H & crew had done a spectacular job with many of the guys & girls I am about to list. We’ll be looking at what they have done since their black & gold days, and what made them special back then. I am hoping this gives valuable insight into how Triple H could alter the booking and writing of these WWE Superstars, to better play to their strengths while covering their weaknesses. With that said, thank you for reading through this extended introduction. Let’s get to it with the first entry!
The Asuka we saw in NXT was extremely dominant. Her undefeated streak carried over onto the main roster until Charlotte Flair put an end to it at WrestleMania. Asuka struggled for a long time after that. Her saving grace was the tag team with Kairi Sane which highlighted another side to her.
Yelling in Japanese and dancing around showed off her natural charisma, and this continued after Kairi Sane’s departure. She has since become one of WWE’s most popular babyfaces in the women’s division. However, if you didn’t see her run in NXT, I think she’s missing one crucial ingredient.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Her? – What got her over in NXT was that whenever her music hit, there was a sense of impending doom. Think of Taz in his ECW prime. Think of Brock Lesnar when he never looked like losing. Asuka was a different kind of animal, like a tiger or a shark. All she had to do was show up to strike fear into her opponents.
Also, I’d say she had more athleticism and work rate, which was scaled back after a few months on the main roster. A good example would be Daniel Bryan, who went harder in a professional wrestling environment. Vince McMahon preferred longevity, so he discouraged his talents from going too hard in the ring. But without the many restrictions placed on the talent, Asuka could show what made her the most dangerous woman in WWE. Could we see the Asuka of old?
#2. Bianca Belair
Out of everyone on this list, Vince McMahon pushed no one harder than Bianca Belair. And he did right because even back in NXT, she was exceptional. I remember seeing her debut and thinking, man… she’s going to be something. It didn’t take long for her to find confidence and improve her ring skills. The only reason she didn’t win the NXT Women’s title was that she was the third wheel when Charlotte Flair returned to the brand to challenge the champion, Rhea Ripley.
Had that not happened, I believe Belair would’ve beaten Ripley at that year’s WrestleMania weekend. McMahon had other ideas, and he took both her and Ripley away from Triple H. Her natural charisma has shone through as a babyface, however, there is one part of her game that isn’t clicking, which I think Triple H could help her with.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Her? – Belair spent much of her time in NXT as a heel. If you didn’t see that, can you imagine it? Yes, it was excellent. However, she also had a catchphrase that rhymed with NXT. Here’s how that began:
“And then I was in NXT, see, and I was, you know, cutting promos about how I’m strong, but I’m also fast. I’m also tough. I’m kind of all-around the strongest, I’m the fastest and I’m the roughest and the toughest and the quickest, just all-around athlete. And then the “est” was kind of at the end of it. So I was like, ‘EST rhymes with NXT. I’m the EST of NXT.’ It all just was a perfect fit. It all just fell into place like everything has in my journey. So kind of just came about and it was the first thing that I started doing and it stuck. And it’s kind of what I’ve just been riding with from the beginning.”
The problem is that they originally meant for this catchphrase to garner heel heat. So, either Belair turns heel and turns it up to another level, or Triple H helps her to find a new catchphrase that suits this part of her career. She’s only hanging on to being the “EST of WWE” because they haven’t gotten around to something better.
Yes, that is Ciampa crying as Triple H hugs him. This was his farewell during his last NXT appearance after helping to carry the brand for years. He & Johnny Gargano had arguably the greatest rivalry of WWE’s modern era, during a time when Ciampa was fiercely booed into oblivion. He didn’t get this reaction because he sucks, can’t wrestle, or can’t cut a promo. NXT provoked the audience by making him a despicable human being who turned on his best friend at the most unexpected moment. The writing was magnificent. Good writing in WWE?! Yes, it happened under Triple H’s watch.
Ciampa & Gargano nailed their performances on the mic and in the ring. The story gradually ended, and you’d be hard pressed to find anything that gets close to how engaging it was. After that, Ciampa kept on as a babyface and won the NXT title after returning from a severe injury. Yet, nothing he or Johnny Gargano have done since then can live up to what they did together. While Ciampa is a very skilled wrestler, he excels at storytelling. For those who have only seen him on the main roster, he hasn’t been allowed to do any of that. Yet.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Him? – It’s simple really… give Ciampa a microphone. He needs to stay heel, but have him feud with babyfaces. They don’t need to add any titles to the mix, and he’s wasted if you use him as a lackey or for random matches.
Ciampa’s core strength is storytelling, so make everything he does mean something. Allow him to do this on his own because the only time he worked well with someone else was Gargano. His Logan Paul attacks on The Miz’s behalf do nothing for anybody. Get him as far away from that as possible.
Aside from his weight, the artist formerly known as Walter hasn’t changed. The ring has always been sacred to Gunther. He loves ordering guys around and punishes them for showing weakness. The record-setting NXT UK Champion dominated because of his ring work, and we’ve only seen a glimpse of the brutality he can bring to the main roster. Vince McMahon was high on him, and Triple H is the same, but he has the job of pushing the character now.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Him? – There isn’t much I would change, other than allowing Gunther to expand his stable. He will soon come up against tougher opposition, and he won’t be able to run over them like a truck.
He’s highly intelligent, having proven that he can use tactics and deploy strategies. Gunther is called the ring general, not just for his wrestling excellence, but because he can coordinate a group to victory. You’d have to get up early in the morning to fool him. We’re so used to WWE’s heels being thick-headed, but Gunther is only that way physically. Mentally, he’s a tough nut to crack, and Triple H needs to show the WWE Universe that he is deserving of the respect he demands.
#5-7. Judgment Day
Finn Balor, Rhea Ripley, and Damian Priest are three of Triple H’s favorites. It’s crazy how the stars aligned to have them together in a stable only weeks before Vince McMahon stepped down. The Bullet Club was founded with Balor as its leader, and the adoption of The Kliq’s “Too Sweet” hand gesture has always been a tribute. Triple H respects that and has used Balor exceptionally well during each of his two NXT runs. Rhea Ripley is the youngest female star they produced, and Damian Priest had a meteoric rise.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Them? – The tough part is they are piggybacking off a stable that was originally meant for Edge. Just as it began gaining traction, McMahon pulled out the rug from under their feet by throwing Edge out so Balor could replace him. To be fair, Balor so badly needed this. He needed something to do, but some fans groaned because they killed what was an interesting Bullet Club partnership with AJ Styles.
I feel what Judgment Day needs, which I know Triple H is a master of, is making the heel stable ‘cool’. Was D-Generation X ever meant to be a babyface group? How about the New World Order? Or The Bullet Club? There are many examples of heel stables garnering heat, but doing so with a degree of ‘cool’. They are majorly hated in the beginning, but they gradually transition into a mixed reaction. This stable could be as ruthless as it is impressive. Essentially, Judgment Day was wiped clean with Edge being kicked out. Triple H has the freedom to take this group in any direction he wants, and I’m sure that will help each of them to reach the next level.
#8. Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens came to WWE with a lot of fire. He wasted no time taking the NXT Championship, and upon being called up to the main roster, they thrust him into a program with John Cena. This Kevin Owens had no heart… he was like The Grinch early in the movie. Nothing was stopping him from getting what he wanted, and he was as merciless as he was hungry for success. Yet somewhere along the way, Kevin Owens began showing a softer side.
You could say that he grew up and learned how to be tolerant. He’d even get into a tag team with Chris Jericho. Yes, he’d almost always betray whoever he became friends with, but the old Kevin Owens would never have got into that position. He would have seen it as a distraction. In recent times, WWE has used Kevin Owens for comedy. The old Kevin Owens would only have wasted time on Ezekiel to put him in the hospital. He has spent so many years going nowhere since losing the Universal title to Goldberg. If he ever wants to reach the top again, he needs a helping hand.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Him? – Triple H needs to get in his face and remind him who Kevin Owens is. For years now, he has been patiently biding his time, just waiting for an opportunity, but the old KO would have created his opportunities. He would have made an impact.
Whichever big name returned that week, he would take them out. If he couldn’t put them in the hospital, he’d make it personal. He should be doing all he can to scratch and claw his way back to the top. The old Kevin Owens would cross the line to get to where he wanted to be. Vince McMahon tamed this character until it was unrecognizable. Perhaps Triple H can relight the fire that once burned so brightly.
#9-10. Otis & Chad Gable
This is the toughest entry to talk about because Chad Gable and Otis have changed so much since their NXT days. Otis was a dancing caterpillar who eat too much meat, while Gable was a workhorse in his tag team with Jason Jordan. Neither had much of a character, but recent changes have put their careers on the right path.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Them? – He could choose to bring the old Otis back, but I understand why Vince McMahon changed it. He was never becoming WWE Champion with that character because it couldn’t be taken seriously. The newer Otis is more believable, but like Braun Strowman, McMahon struggled to sell him as anything more than “this guy is big & strong”.
We know Otis has natural charisma, so it could be something simple like Chad Gable letting him speak more. As for Gable, he’s doing an excellent job, and I think Triple H needs to stay the course with that. The point of this team should be to make them stars in their own right. If neither Otis nor Gable can stand on their own two feet, then they will never be allowed to split. Triple H can help them by adding more individual touches to their performances, so they no longer need to rely on each other.
One of the biggest misfires has been Ricochet’s main roster career. He was a big deal in NXT because Triple H let him be who he is, but when he was called up, it went downhill. Vince McMahon tried pushing Ricochet in different ways, but no matter what happened, he saw nothing in him. Despite being one of the most athletic performers in WWE, Ricochet rarely got opportunities. When he did, they were short-lived. Vince didn’t care and was keeping him around just so other promotions couldn’t have him.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Him? – Simple answer is Triple H lets him be who he is. Allow Ricochet to amaze us with his athleticism and then work him into some feuds. How about a rivalry with someone like Ciampa? That will get them both over. Don’t force Ricochet into a dumb gimmick. His strength is in his ring performances, so if you don’t want (or can’t trust) him to talk… find someone who can speak on his behalf.
Bro, Riddle had an entertaining time in NXT. We got to see who Riddle is, long before he met his best friend, Randy Orton. In fact, before RK-Bro, he was teaming with Pete Dunne (now Butch) as The BroserWeights. Together, they won the Dusty Tag Team Classic and the NXT Tag Team Championship. What this shows is that Riddle can adjust how he works to suit his partner. His character is fluid enough that he can cut a promo against anybody and make it entertaining.
When Seth Rollins says that he doesn’t know who Riddle is because he copies Randy Orton so much, you have to think about his NXT days. Yes, his default state is to be like… super chill, bro. However, I have seen him become angry, frustrated, sad, and fearful. Typical stoners show little emotion, but Riddle is capable of the full range. The only negative feelings I have yet to see are resentment and jealousy. These feelings are rarely found in a babyface character, and Riddle has been that for much of his WWE career. Some day his character will have to make a tough decision, and that’s when we’ll truly know who Riddle is.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Him? – I find Seth Rollins’ line of not knowing who Riddle is interesting because it’s something WWE could explore. He likes to push people’s buttons, so I’m interested to see if Riddle’s usually cool exterior can be torn down. Triple H can help Riddle by showing that his character isn’t one-dimensional and is capable of more than how many would initially judge him.
I’ve always said that Riddle would be an extraordinary heel, and he already has several fans who can’t stand his routine. It would be so easy. However, by building this babyface character for a long time, I know Triple H would execute a turn in the best way possible. He already proved that with Ciampa & Gargano. I could see something similar happening between him and Orton, but the timing has to be as unpredictable as you can make it.
#13. Robert Roode
Robert Roode is a veteran in the twilight of his career. I liked his stint with Dolph Ziggler, but I’m not sure if WWE is keeping them together. He did well for Triple H as the NXT Champion, although it was cut short because Drew McIntyre returned to WWE and took it from him.
During his time in Impact Wrestling, Roode proved he could carry a company as the World Heavyweight Champion. He was an outstanding heel, and I don’t think he’s forgotten how that works. To me, it feels like WWE hasn’t tapped into half of what he can do in the ring and on the microphone.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Him? – Make him an upper mid-card heel fighting over the secondary titles, but occasionally gets young babyfaces over. He needs mic time, and he also needs feuds. Much like Ciampa, Roode is only worth it if you play to his strengths. Having him standing around while someone else talks, or throwing him into random matches, is a total waste of his abilities. If you aren’t using the guy in the mid-card to elevate young talent, you’re better off letting him go. Oh, and he also needs to get his “Glorious” entrance back.
#14. Shayna Baszler
Do you know what Shayna Baszler was in NXT? She was a sadistic ****. The Queen of Spades was so hated by everyone. She was an old-school heel champion who never tried to impress anybody. The only thing that mattered was her brutalizing opponents and making them tap. And she didn’t follow anybody, because she marched to the beat of her own drum. She was so intimidating that I remember Dakota Kai fearing her forever.
They played up this dynamic between Baszler and Kai for well over a year, where Baszler would beat her up if she got her hands on her. Dakota eventually stood up to her and the place went nuts, but she couldn’t take the NXT title away. Baszler was a cruel person with no morals, sympathy, or empathy. She debuted on the main roster with a similar level of vileness, but I’ve noticed her dwindling mean streak dragging her down. It’s a minor miracle that she hasn’t picked up the Raw or SmackDown Women’s Championships yet. And how have they not done a Ronda Rousey vs. Shayna Baszler feud???
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Her? – In the same vein as Kevin Owens, if WWE wants a despicable heel who will do anything to win, then Triple H can simply remind Baszler of who she is. However, I know a few fans in the WWE Universe wouldn’t be ready for how brutal she can be. When she gets going… she is ruthless, and it would not make for easy viewing. With WWE going to TV-14, this should not be a problem for the networks.
#15-17. Sheamus, Butch, Ridge Holland
Of those listed, Sheamus is the only one who is a ‘Triple H guy’, but didn’t go through NXT. We know he is good friends with Hunter, and I’m sure they will make some tweaks to his character. As for Ridge Holland, I don’t think Triple H got to work with him as long as he wanted, because Vince took one look at him… and said, yeah, you’re not staying in NXT. He can finally get back to developing Holland. Let’s be fair, he’s struggling after what happened with Big E, and Triple H will get him past that horrible moment.
This entry is mostly about Butch. I’m focusing on him because when he was called up to the main roster, Vince McMahon introduced Pete Dunne as this character. Before this, Pete was known as a former WWE UK Champion, and one of the biggest stars of NXT UK. His performances as ‘The Bruiserweight’ were jaw-dropping, and it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t long ago. When Dunne moved to America for NXT, he struggled somewhat. He was having quality matches, but the fans weren’t behind him like they were in the UK. That was until he paired up with Riddle to form The BroserWeights.
Because Dunne was the quiet, violent type, he was the yang to Riddle’s ying. Opposites attract and it was money out of the gate. But when Riddle was promoted to the main roster and the pandemic hit, he returned home and stayed there with his family for a long time. When he returned, he was ready to move on up, and he did so in Pat McAfee’s new stable called the “Kings Of NXT”. When Pat was called up to the main roster, Dunne did the job of taking over as the leader. After several talent releases, Holland being promoted, and the stable breaking up, Dunne was on his own again. He finished a feud with Tony D’Angelo before disappearing from TV.
I often argue with somebody about Pete Dunne’s new character. They can’t stand that he is now called Butch and want him to return to being The Bruiserweight. I say that his old character wouldn’t get over with the main roster audience, and it was better suited for a pro wrestling environment. Much like the Junkyard Dog or British Bulldog, the gimmick can become his own.
I make the comparison to Sami Zayn, who was a great wrestler in NXT, but otherwise, he had nothing. Now look at him, this character used to be ridiculous, yet he has brought it to life and we couldn’t imagine him going back. Butch has a long way to go, but I’m happy that we have another British talent doing well for himself. He’s got what it takes to make this work, even if it was a Vince idea. If it doesn’t work, he can always revert to being Pete Dunne.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Him? – Triple H is now responsible for building a character that McMahon and Dunne agreed on, but he likely never would have given the green light. With the chain off, I think he will allow Dunne to develop it how he wants. We know Vince could take years to do anything with a character, but without him around, the development should be more timely.
We’ve already seen how Butch’s behavior affects Sheamus and Holland, so whatever he does, it needs to tie into their characters, too. I know Sheamus is supposed to be the leader, but I think it would work better if Butch challenged him for it. The group could be like a wolf pack, and Butch will become the alpha male who eats first. Perhaps not in the short term, but they could plant the seeds for it to happen in the next year.
#18. Shinsuke Nakamura
They touted it as one of the biggest signings in NXT history. When Shinsuke Nakamura jumped from New Japan, he was easily one of their biggest stars. It was a dream having the “King Of Strong Style” on the NXT brand, and he worked some of its most exciting matches. He was a popular NXT Champion, not just because of his entrance theme, but because his charisma was infectious. His hype continued on the main roster to his WWE Championship match at WrestleMania with AJ Styles.
That was the height of his WWE career, and he has struggled to reach those same heights, although his partnership with Rick Boogs has been fun. He’s not in an awful place, but it would feel like a waste if Nakamura never becomes a WWE or Universal Champion. That has always been his goal, but doing that under Vince McMahon’s watch was a near impossible task.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Him? – Because the WWE and Universal titles are together, it’s difficult to justify Shinsuke Nakamura becoming the undisputed champion. However, if WWE ever splits them again and keeps them brand exclusive, I can see Triple H pushing him toward one. But before that happens, he needs to bring us the Shinsuke Nakamura, not just of NXT, but of Wrestle Kingdom fame. There’s more to him than what we’ve seen in WWE, and I’m intrigued to know if Triple H can deliver that.
#19-20. The Viking Raiders
I’m happy because the recent repackage of The Viking Raiders is a step in the right direction. They look, sound, and act far more like Vikings than they have before. Debuting them as the babyface “Viking Experience” was extremely damaging, and WWE has only just begun fixing that. I think Vince McMahon needed to see what they could do with the Street Profits thing before he could pull the trigger on anything serious.
Also, injuries have limited their run, but fingers crossed they will remain healthy for a long time under the new regime. This team has solid chemistry and their strength is in their ring performances. They just need teams who can step up and allow the Viking Raiders to raid them to new heights.
How Can Triple H’s Creative Help Him? – Consistency is key. Make them a threat to any tag team, including The Usos. When their music hits, there needs to be a feeling that business is about to pick up. Like I said earlier with Asuka, if WWE can elicit a sense of impending doom, then that goes a long way to get them over. You’d have to think back to teams like the Road Warriors or the Brothers Of Destruction to understand that feeling. It will take time, but Triple H’s mission should be to make them one of the most feared teams in WWE history.
This concludes my list of 20 ‘Triple H Guys’ who can benefit from him leading WWE’s creative. They aren’t the only ones! I know you likely have a few other WWE Superstars in mind. Instead of telling me off for not including so-and-so, please let me know how you think Triple H should handle them. Also, please understand that this is an opinion piece, so the way I think Triple H will go isn’t a guarantee he will.
I based my opinions on what I know of his booking style and the talent’s history, but I’m not saying they will happen, nor that it’s the best way to go. Triple H may have better ideas we’re not expecting, which makes this an exciting new era for WWE. It’s nowhere near as predictable as it used to be… and fingers crossed, it brings a lot of eyes back to WWE. Thanks for reading! And see you again soon.