Ego. It’s the one word that defines the very essence of professional wrestling and is the key ingredient every wrestler needs in order to be successful. But just like anything else in life, having too much of an ego can be a bad thing.
On this week’s Monday Night Raw, I was subjected to one of the most self-serving and narcissistic moments I’ve seen in the two decades I’ve followed the business.
In case you missed it, this week’s show was the unofficial Triple H Appreciation Night. All night long they hyped the appearance of Triple H, who was to make a big announcement coming fresh off of the heels of his SummerSlam loss to Brock Lesnar, and played numerous videos of his career highlights.
Before I continue, I’d like to point out that I’m not a Triple H hater. I’ll never deny his place in history as one of the greatest WWE superstars of all time. He works his butt off between the ropes and has a laundry list of classic matches to his credit. As far as his marriage to Stephanie McMahon goes, my defense to those criticisms is that he was a major star long before he married into the McMahon family.
As far as his political machinations go, Triple H came up in the business with Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash, two of the most notorious backstage politicians of the 1990s. To put it bluntly, HHH is on the short list of most powerful and smartest wrestlers in history. The fact he will one day inherit the WWE says it all.
When Triple H finally made his way to the ring on Monday I figured he was going to do some sort of scripted retirement speech that would subtly hint at a potential rematch against Lesnar. However, I was not expecting to see announcers Michael Cole and Josh Matthews stand solemnly at attention as though they were honoring the president of the United States. It was at this moment that I could no longer take it seriously.
Even in defeat to Lesnar, which he should’ve sold by taking weeks off from television, Triple H returned one week later. It’s no secret that they are building towards a rematch at some point. While losing twice to Lesnar would be surprising at best, I can’t possibly imagine Triple H thinking it would be a good idea to have Lesnar lose before his tentative WrestleMania 29 match against Undertaker.
Now I’d like to switch gears to compare and contrast Triple H to another WWE legend. By coincidence, the man I’m talking about just lost a retirement match (to which I’m sure he’ll return from shortly) to Dolph Ziggler last week and is known for having one of the biggest egos in all of wrestling. That man is Chris Jericho.
Last September, Triple H returned to action for his first PPV match following his WrestleMania 27 encounter with Undertaker. At the time C.M. Punk was the hottest guy in WWE. So what happened? Triple H came back and beat him in the middle of the ring at Night of Champions. Punk also took the losing fall in a tag match the following month where he teamed with Triple H against Miz and R-Truth. Jericho returned this past January from a year plus absence and guess what he did? He lost to Punk at two straight PPVs.
In February of 2011, Triple H returned to Raw after being out of action for most of 2010. On his first night back, he cut a promo where he basically said he had beaten everyone of importance in WWE and how he looked around the locker room and noticed there wasn’t anyone left worth challenging. He even buried Sheamus and made him look like an inept fool. This made particularly little sense since Sheamus was the one responsible for putting him on the shelf.
Anytime Jericho returns he makes it his mission to put over younger talent and make them look as good as possible.
In 2004, Triple H authored the book “Making the Game: Triple H’s Approach to a Better Body.” It was a guide to his training regime mixed with autobiographical bits on his career. Nevertheless, it flopped.
Jericho’s 2007 autobiography, “A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex,” and its 2011 follow up, “Undisputed : How to Become World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps,” are considered as two of the best wrestling books ever written and both charted on the New York Times Bestseller List.
As far as other outside ventures are concerned, Triple H starred in Blade Trinity which was largely panned by critics as the worse film in the Blade trilogy. He also starred in The Chaperone, one of the very worst WWE films ever produced (which covers a lot of ground).
Jericho has competed on the hit television show Dancing with the Stars and is lead singer of the heavy metal band Fozzy. Jericho is a genuine celebrity outside of wrestling, even recently appearing on the cover of Revolver Magazine.
Jericho has often stated that he doesn’t want to retire with a grand farewell celebration. He wants to quietly ride out into the sunset never to be seen again. After watching Raw on Monday it became apparent Triple H wishes to go out with farewell on par with that of his boyhood idol Ric Flair.
If you were to poll the vast majority of the WWE locker room as to who are the most respected stars on the current roster, Jericho’s name would likely appear right after the Undertaker’s on many responses.
Jericho is a man with an ego. You have to have an ego and ruffle a few feathers to make it to the top of the WWE. But unlike Triple H, Jericho has used his ego and influence to help elevate everyone around him. Even at 43, Triple H is still having a hard time realizing that the business doesn’t revolve around him.
When the book is closed on Triple H’s career, his legacy will fall short of legends such as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Steve Austin and Rock. And even though the record books indicate otherwise, he will never have the universal respect of fellow peers such as Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, Edge or even John Cena.
There are no amount of championships, classic matches or false retirements that can take away from the fact he will forever be remembered as one of the most selfish wrestlers of his generation.