Damien Barling: Triple H And His Wrestlemania Struggles

This Sunday will mark Triple H’s 21st Wrestlemania. If Shawn Michaels is Mr Wrestlemania, Triple H is the opposite. I don’t know what you want to call him but its not good. Given the level star that he is, he’s produced some of the least memorable Wrestlemania matches and moments in it’s 33 year history. Don’t misunderstand me, Triple H is as good as they get but for reasons outlined here, his time on the biggest stage doesn’t shine as bright as others (yes the Daniel Bryan and 3 Undertaker matches are huge exceptions).

His first Wrestlemania match was against the Ultimate Warrior. It lasted 99 seconds.

At Wrestlemania XV, The Undertaker fought Kane. At the time Chyna had aligned herself with Kane and the Corporate Ministry. Triple H was still a part of DX. At the end of this match, Chyna turned on Kane and realigned herself with Triple H. The two left in each others arms only to return later on and interfere in the Shane McMahon X-Pac match. It became clear that while Chyna and Triple H were reunited, it wasn’t with DX. It was with Shane McMahon under the banner of the Corporate Ministry.

Wrestlemania 2000 (16) saw Triple H retain the heavyweight title in a convoluted 4-way match that showcased the McMahon family at ringside. It was a bottom 5 Wrestlemania with a horribly flat ending. This was the very first time a heel left Wrestlemania as champion. Sadly, I witnessed this in person.

Wrestlemania X-8 marked the return to Toronto (Wrestlemania VI) and the return of Hulk Hogan. Hogan would return to take on The Rock in a match that was dubbed Icon vs Icon. The crowd immediately determined, this was the main event. From the moment Hogans music hit, the crowd was cheering him so loud and so passionately it caused the two performers to change their working style. When it became clear The Rock was going to be booed no matter what he did, Hogan began working as the “good guy” while Rock assumed the role of “bad guy”. The crowd cheered and booed, cheered louder, booed louder, and never sat down. Oh, it wasn’t the last match. Triple H triumphantly returned at Madison Square Garden in Jan, won the Royal Rumble and earned the right to face Chris Jericho for the WWE title at Wrestlemania. There’s not a fan alive who remembers a single thing about this match. After the emotional high of Hogan and Rock, the show ended flat with Triple H regaining the title.

Wrestlemania XIX saw Triple H retain the title, after a racial charged build up against Booker T. The crowd in Seattle was solidly behind Booker T and he had been built to level no other WCW star at that time would. Triple H retaining felt slimy and out of place given the way the story was told. Booker T flattened after this, and never regained this kind of momentum again. The crowd was reminded that night WCW guys will never be placed over WWE guys (more to come).

Wrestlemania XX was headlined by Chris Benoit beating Triple H and Shawn Michaels for the WWE Heavyweight Championship. Theres nothing at all wrong with this but we’re supposed to pretend like it didn’t happen because, well, you know.

Wrestlemania XXV will always be remembered as the stage the greatest match in WWE history took place at. The theatrics, the story, the suspense… The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels took us on a thrill ride that can make your heart race no matter how many times you’ve watched it. Unfortunately, Taker and Shawn weren’t the last match. Triple H was defending his WWE title against Randy Orton in the show closer.These two did a tremendous job of telling an amazing story leading into the 25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania. It was personal, it was violent, it worked and it was awesome. For some reason, when it came time to close the book on this story, it was decided the two would have a wrestling match. Just a straight up wrestling match. Given the dynamics and personal nature of their story, a “wrestling match” felt out of place. There was no Cell, no cage, no weapons, or rule bending, and since the greatest wrestling match in the history of the company took place 5 minutes before these guys hit the ring, they never stood a chance. There’s not a fan alive who remembers a single thing about this match. Why does this sound familiar?

Wrestlemania XXVII against The Undertaker was an incredible match that lead to another incredible match the following year. My problem with this was during the build through both years, the WWE completely ignored the fact the two fought at Wrestlemania X-7.

Wrestlemania 29 versus Brock Lesnar – This was before WWE realized Brock was an extremely special attraction who is best portrayed as the legitimate badass he is. Again, Triple H wins in an outcome that makes no sense. With the exception of that screwy Undertaker finish at Summer Slam 2015, this was the last time Brock Lesnar was pinned prior to being jackhammered by Goldberg at Survivor Series.

Wrestlemania 31 against Sting – I have a lot of fond memories of this match. I was at Levi’s Stadium and I thought the match, like the show, was really enjoyable. I didn’t mind the smoke and mirrors with the NWO and DX. It worked. It made sense. I did have a problem with the finish and I had and even bigger problem with the way the match was called on the telecast. It was built as if this was some war between WCW and WWF, Friendly reminder, WCW closed 14 years before this match took place. It came across ridiculous. Dumber yet was the fact Triple H leveled Sting with a sledgehammer for the 1, 2, 3. Then, the two shake hands. HE JUST HIT YOU WITH A SLEDGEHAMMER!!!!!!!!!!!! Perhaps even dumber was the fact the next time we saw Sting, he was challenging Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship. I guess he earned it by getting hit in the face with a sledgehammer.

(Triple H’s true Wrestlemania moment came later in the show when he was in the ring with The Rock and Ronda Rousey.)

The annual Roman Reigns Wrestlemania Coronation Party at Wrestlemania 32 – I’m sympathetic to Wrestlemania 32. Seth Rollins, John Cena, Randy Orton and seemingly half the main roster was injured at the time of the event. The issue with Triple H here is he positioned himself as the babyface against a guy he knew (we all knew) would be booed out of the building. It was the second straight year they attempted to crown Reigns as the babyface of the future. They called an audible at 31 in Santa Clara but went through with the plan here. It didn’t work and Triple H didn’t help.

Obviously, we have no way of knowing how the match with Seth Rollins will go this year. I’m quite certain the match itself will be great. Triple H and Seth Rollins are great on the big stage but match positioning will be really important this Sunday and the build has left a lot to be desired. Triple H has a record of 9-11 at Wrestlemania and with the exception of the End of an Era Hell in a Call match, he has yet to produce anything truly memorable. Maybe this Sunday that’ll change.

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