I actually wrote an intro for this before the Roman Reigns/Triple H interactions on the March 14, 2016 edition of Monday Night Raw. In that original intro, I stated that I thought Triple H’s initial main event push was worse than what we’ve seen WWE do with Roman Reigns over the last two years.
I was wrong.
I actually think they wanted Triple H to succeed in 1999. You just had the problem of Stone Cold Steve Austin beating him at a UK only PPV early in the year and then refusing to lay down for him at SummerSlam for the big Triple H coronation. At one point, Triple H lost his number one contendership to Chyna. Eventually Mankind got involved and took that spot. Mankind had to win the belt at SummerSlam. Triple H wins the title next night on Raw, and away we go. Well, except for the part where Triple H loses the title to Vince McMahon on SmackDown a few weeks later and then has to regain it in a six person match at Unforgiven.
But that’s ok. Triple H got his big win over Stone Cold in October 1999 …. After The Rock hit Austin with a sledgehammer.
So I go back to a question I asked when this column was in it’s original form: What on earth were they were trying to do in 1999 with “Triple H” Hunter Hearst Helmsley?
This isn’t gimmick. It’s a sincere question.
I think they figured it out by end of 1999. It only took eight months or so.
We’re now two years into the Roman Reigns experiment.
Too bad there isn’t a McMahon for Roman to marry, right?.
Enough of that nonsense. Let’s talk about the lead-up to WrestleMania 15.
The Raw the night after the 1999 Royal Rumble saw the mighty Paul vs. DWAYNE in the main event of the show in an “I Quit” match. It was a play off the previous night’s “I Quit” match between The Rock and Mankind. Yeah, that one. You know the one I’m talking about. To this day, that Raw main event actually remains one of my favorite matches of that era of the WWF. I still remember the goosebumps I had watching the thing as a fourteen year old.
As the match reached its climax, Triple H was about to Pedigree the champ on the table when The Corporation hit the ring and Bossman demanded that Triple H quit or Kane would break Chyna’s neck.
“Ok. Alright. Alright. I quit. Put her down.”
And it was done.
But it was all a ruse as Chyna gave Triple H a low blow post match and joined The Corporation. This lead to St. Valentine’s Day Massacre where Chyna actually pinned Triple H in a tag match involving X-Pac and Kane. Yes, that is a thing that happened.
It’s the night when the WWF went full-Russo. You never want to go full-Russo.
Swerve city, baby. Triple H and Kane had a match that Triple H wins after Chyna gets involved and turns on Kane. Then later in the evening Triple H returns to the ring to help Shane McMahon beat X-Pac, turning heel, and beginning the journey to becoming The Game.
For a couple of months, nothing really changed about Triple H that screamed “NEXT MAIN EVENT STAR”. He had generic music. He practically wore the same gear. He got really, really wet. He was playing second fiddle to The Rock and the Undertaker in various iterations of the Corporation/Corporate Ministry.
Then this happened.
“You guys talk about being students of the game. I am the fucking Game, JR. There’s nobody that eats, sleeps, breathes this business more than me. And now it’s my time to prove that to the world. SummerSlam is my time to take what is mine, and that is becoming the WWF Champion.”
He beats The Rock at Fully Loaded and becomes number one contender and the rest is history, I guess. Well, except for the part where Austin doesn’t want to play ball, but we’ve already talked about that.
The year does end on a positive note as the world is introduced to the new Mr. and Mrs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Steph turns on the old man. Paul beats Vince at Armageddon. The McMahon-Helmsley Era begins. And just a few months into the millennium, we headline WrestleMania 2000 with a Levesque in every corner.
I have a joke.
“I don’t get it.”
“Neither do the fans.”