Greg DeMarco takes a look at the man who just might be the smartest mind in all of pro wrestling: Triple H.
Triple H is the man largely credited with the creation and advancement of the “third brand” in WWE, NXT. The Black and Gold Standard is often a topic for me, because (in the effort of full transparency) it’s my favorite wrestling product out there. Triple H deserves every bit of that credit, but I don’t think he gets credit on the larger scale, because Vince McMahon is still around, and many wrestling fans would rather complain. I try to flip to the fun and positive side as much as possible, but I will complain from time to time.
The Obediah Stane look-a-like has risen to the top of the WWE food-chain thanks to a storied in-ring career, an unprecedented work ethic, a marriage that probably didn’t change his trajectory, and one of the best promos in wrestling history. He’s done so much to prepare for the company’s future, and that’s where this topic comes from.
Former NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa is one of the brand’s most beloved stars, becoming that after a heel turn that was so expertly done and following it up with so much attention to detail (like refusing to have a t-shirt released, not using theme music for his return, etc). He was one of those heels that was SO GOOD at being a heel that people had no choice but to love him.
But thanks to multiple injuries, Ciampa himself knows his days in the ring are numbered, and has said as much:
“I get that my window is smaller than it was and my bump card is ticking. I just look at like, if I’m doing 200 plus dates a year on the road with Raw or SmackDown OR I’m doing a manageable load of 30 to 50 matches with NXT – I can do 4 years of that in the time that I do 1 year on Raw or SmackDown. So how long can my career and portfolio grow HERE as opposed to going there.”
“I legitimately vocalized to them, if I have to go to Raw or SmackDown then I’m gonna retire. I would love to produce or coach or be apart of it, but there’s no way I’m taking on that load and going, ‘yeah, I’ll just have a 6-month run and then call it quits.’ I just won’t do that. It’s not worth it to me.”
That interview comes courtesy of Ryan Satin and his great Pro Wrestling Sheet site.
Now WWE is a highly controlled environment, although talent has been able to exercise more influence in 2019 thanks to the positioning of Paul Heyman backstage on Raw, and the brand split taking into account WWE Superstar relationships and how they effect life on the road. It’s still surprising to hear someone basically threaten retirement if a certain decision is made, and years past that would almost certainly cause a decision like that to be made.
But not now. Appearing on Corey Graves’ After The Bell podcast, Triple H had a brilliant response to Ciampa’s comments:
“It’s a different, that’s a different beast. And even though that schedule has now dropped and has become much more manageable, especially if you have a family and everything else…he probably looks at it and says, ‘Look, if I was on the main roster, I have a run that’s this long. If I was on NXT with a lessened schedule and much more manageable, I have a run that’s this long.’ He’d rather do this for a long period of time and then transition into doing all the other stuff that he loves…I’ll tell you, when the time is right, he’ll be a phenomenal coach. He’ll be a phenomenal backstage producer. We’re letting him get experienced in that now. He goes to EVOLVE right now, and he’ll go there and he’ll sign autographs or whatever. But then during the day, he’s a producer. And he helps with their shows and does everything else. And then when they’re producing the television event or the digital whatever it is that night, he’s helping with that. He’s picking up the things that we’re teaching him, and he’s putting it someplace else. And that’s gonna translate long-term in his career too.”
Man, there is so much to unpack there! And it’s almost all Triple H stuff. Let’s take a look…
He has Tommaso Ciampa’s back: He didn’t give a response in the vain of “you have to be ready for anything we throw at you, opportunity opportunity blah blah blah.”
He’s looking at Ciampa’s future, and WWE’s as well: He’s turning a perceived negative (Ciampa not going to Raw or Smackdown), and turning it into a positive (developing him as a coach so he can contribute to the business for many years to come, while still contributing to WWE NXT today).
He’s perfectly leveraging EVOLVE: He’s taking advantage of the relationship with EVOLVE (WWE is keeping that alive) to further train Ciampa and let him get the practice he needs, almost in an internship capacity.
He’s teaching the future Hall Of Famers and boardroom executives now, and has made move after move after move that will impact the WWE long term. You often hear rumblings of a “succession plan,” and while it’s a largely hidden secret (if it exists at all), Triple H is the one to lead the charge. One person can’t replace what Vince McMahon does, but Triple H can coordinate the efforts, be the mouthpiece for the company, and keep the machine chugging for many years to come.
Because damn, he’s freakin’ smart.