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411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Is HHH a Better Booker than Vince McMahon?

December 19, 2022 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Triple H WrestleMania 38 Image Credit: WWE

Welcome back to the 411mania Wrestling Fact or Fiction. I’m your host Jake Chambers.

It has been a while, but I’m sure you’re all familiar with the format of this column – a statement is made on a pro-wrestling issue and a writer explains why this is true or false. Today, that writer will be me!

So let’s get right into it with the big one…

Statement #1: 2022 HHH-era of WWE is better than the 2022 McMahon-Era.

FICTION – There’s no doubt that Triple H has made logical moves, put on some good matches, and brought back a bunch of wrestlers.However, Vince did a lot of things in 2022 that have yet to be matched by Triple H. Mainly, that all centers around how he booked two pretty amazing nights of Wrestlemania.

First of all, he got Steve Austin to wrestle again. Many thought this should have been promoted better in advance. But was that the right move? Most of us thought Austin was just going to say a few lines, stun Kevin Owens, and drink some beers. Instead, we got a pretty great full match. And the pop for it was incredible. Rather than waste the pop for that announcement on like a Tweet from Barstool or at the end of a RAW, Vince to be just vague enough to make us think we knew what was going to happen, then put on an entire Wrestlemania card, and when we thought there couldn’t be any more he gives us the Stone Cold return match. A risky but brave move that paid off with a legendary Wrestlemania moment. Just that alone is probably enough to consider Vince the better booker.

But Wrestlemania Vince also promoted impressive matches with non-wrestlers Jake Paul, Johnny Knoxville and Pat McAfee, and that last one Vince even got in the ring himself. Then he actually brought back Cody Rhodes, another surprise we were never sure was happening until it did. He put Cody in a match that totally maximized his abilities and made a new main eventer overnight. Additionally, he booked Rhodes to win three straight PPV matches against Seth Rollins, even when he had a horrible injury, which goes against traditional 1-1 booking logic.

But most importantly, Vince made Roman Reigns the unified champion, a move that was not guaranteed when he was up against Brock Lesnar at Mania. This victory set in motion the Bloodline storyline for the rest of the year, including Vince’s decision to put a weasely Sami Zayn into the mix.

Triple H’s high points of his 2022 booking have coasted off that Bloodline story, and it is yet to be seen how he’s going to conclude what Vince started. That’s going to be the true test of HHH’s creative power. The next best storyline has maybe been the continuation of the Judgment Day, yet that was another Vince creation, including the addition of Rhea Ripley and the turn on Edge. HHH’s boldest moves were having Logan Paul main event Crown Jewel and Austin Theory cash in and lose the Money in the Bank for the US Title. In both cases, though, you could argue it was the work Vince did initially that helped these decisions pay off.

Otherwise, while the TV matches have felt better, the PPV/PLE quality has been about that same throughout the year. Despite all the returns, none of them have really made an impact, including Bray Wyatt. It’s possible HHH proved that Vince’s reluctance to do a WarGames match in WWF/E wasn’t because it was just an NWA creation, but that it actually isn’t that great of a gimmick. So while it’s be fashionable to anoint Triple H as this life-saving booker from the chaos of the Vince McMahon era, I think we need to be more patient before stamping the exclamation point on that statement.

Never forget, Vince McMahon booked a 25-minute Aleister Black/Apollo Crews match on his flagship, prime-time television show. And that was deep into his unprecedented 30+ year run booking Monday Night RAW. If Triple H can casually pull off something like that on a holo-screen in like 2052 then we’ll know he’s truly accomplished something incredible.

Statement #2: AEW is better without CM Punk.

FICTION – Whatever the damage that was ultimately caused by the Punk media scrum meltdown, in a bubble that was the most compelling content I’ve ever seen in AEW. By contrast, in my opinion, the post-Full Gear profanity-laced rant by MJF was one of the dumbest and phoniest things in AEW history.

These two moments illustrate the difference between a professional wrestler and a “sports entertainer” – one being the hyper-embodiment of raw athletics and real emotion, and the other being a really great acting athlete. It’s like knowing the difference between Ric Flair and HHH, or Mick Foley and Bray Wyatt. In CM Punk, AEW had one of the few professional wrestlers who still embody that tradition, which appeals instinctively to audiences beyond the weekly super-fans of pro-wrestling, and they were better for it.

Statement #3: NXT “2.0” is better than NXT “Black & Gold”.

FICTION – I’m giving it to the original NXT but I was never a fan of the weekly TV show back then. They felt like placeholders between the big Takeover events. And also, so many of the stars of that era come into NXT as fully-developed characters with a lot of history. It truly was an indie all-star roster. However, the Takeover events though – wow, glorious times. The new NXT “2.0” era hasn’t even come close to putting an event at that level. But the 2.0 TV shows are better, right? Am I crazy? There is so much going on now, so many new characters, storylines, and fun stuff. Does it always hit? No. Gotta respect the energy and creativity. So if “2.0” starts putting on PLEs at the Takeover level, then it will be time to reevaluate this statement.

Statement #4: New Japan Pro-Wrestling was better when “the Elite” wrestled there regularly.

FACT – I think there’s no denying NJPW was better when the Kenny Omega-led Bullet Club was at the top of the company. I’m not saying this as even a massive fan of Omega and the Bucks, but there was clearly a sense of forward momentum to the narrative that has been lacking since they left. This was probably due to two things. A mix of the foreign “invasion” element of the Bullet Club constantly bringing in American stars like Hangman Page, Adam Cole and Cody Rhodes, which feels much more high profile than what we see today with the United Empire. As well, the “final boss” like challenge of Omega for the rest of the roster is something they no longer have with the top champions, as good as the matches during the runs of Shingo, Okada, and White may have been.

Statement #5: In 2022, watching professional wrestling is better than any other form of entertainment.

FACT – This year The Rock starred in the DC comic book movie Black Adam. He played a super-powered anti-hero with godlike powers. This was a dream project that took him over a decade to get to the big screen. Most of the movie was designed to give The Rock extended fight scenes where he destroyed his opponents in elaborate ways. He also played a character so arrogant that he would talk shit to anyone. You would assume that a movie with all these qualities would be the ultimate vehicle for the biggest box office star in the world and one of the greatest pro-wrestlers of all time. And then movie was… fine. It had some badass moments, it had some dumb moments, but it wasn’t an excellent movie. It was just fine. Was it better than watching Roman Reigns and the Bloodline walk to the ring? Hell no. I’m not even talking a match or a promo, just watching the guy walk to the ring in 2022 was better entertainment than anything. If a movie like Black Adam isn’t even better than a ring entrance, what else can even compete?

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next time with the first round of the annual Larry Csonka Memorial Fact or Fiction Tournament!