wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Can Triple H Successfully Run WWE?

March 29, 2021 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Triple H - Mae Young Classic WWE NXT

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

If you have one of those queries searing a hole in your brain, feel free to send it along to me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy about shooting those over – the more, the merrier.

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This week, we’re doing something that I’ve only done one other time in the history of this column. We’re helping to clear out some of the backlog of questions that I have by focusing exclusively on the questions by one of or more prolific askers. When I did this in the past, the reader in the hot seat was Tyler from Winnipeg, but it’s not this time.

Instead, this time we’re addressing inquiries from the man known as Mohamed, who has consistently been writing in since I took over the reigns of this little column.

Let’s get our party started. Mohamed, this one’s for you.

Will the WWE be stable after Triple H takes over or will things be transitioned from the start of his reign?

It’s hard to say, because we don’t know what sort of state WWE will be in when the Hs ultimately inherit it. If he were to take over tomorrow, he would be at the helm of a company that has incredible financial stability due to television rights fees that will increase over the next several years, the new deal with Peacock, and significant cash flowing in from the Saudi government once the promotion is able to run shows in that country once again. The company has lined up so much guaranteed revenue that they no longer have to worry about the old ways of drawing fans, when their prosperity depended so much on convincing people to purchase live event tickets or pay per views. If that’s the ship that Triple H is steering, it will be pretty damn hard to mess up.

However, there’s no guarantee that’s what he will be getting, because, for all we know, Vince McMahon will remain in his current position until well after all of those deals have expired. After all, the guy is 75 years old and, despite some noticeable changes to his physical appearance in recent years, he’s shown no sign of slowing down.

I do think that, if some of WWE’s guaranteed money deals collapse between now and when the Helmsley takes over, he will be better positioned than some others to guide its creative direction. He grew up a student of the game as it was played in the 1970s and 1980s, and he has worked with and learned from mentors who were prominent in the era where drawing fans to those live events was the industry’s main source of revenue. As a result, I think that he may be uniquely well-qualified to help guide WWE if they ever have to go back to the old way of making money.

I guess that’s my way of saying I am fairly confident in what Triple H will be able to do, though I will put one caveat in place. Because of his reputation going back several decades, the people on the corporate side of WWE see Vince McMahon as a genius within the pro wrestling industry who is uniquely well-qualified to run the promotion. Even though he is Vince’s son-in-law, Trips will not have that same legacy. As a result, even though he may be the guy running WWE’s day-to-day operations for a period of time, I suspect that he will be more likely to get taken out of power by corporate management if there is a business downturn, whereas similar action will likely never be taken against Vince because of how he is viewed.

How long is Vince McMahon gonna keep using legends for big shows and Wrestlemania before he starts making new big stars that are fresh and new rather than stale and old? The Saudis don’t seem to care about the current bunch that are midcard level.

Honestly, I wouldn’t hold your breath. As I mentioned in the answer above, WWE doesn’t need to draw in the same ways that it used to forty, thirty, or even twenty years ago in order to be a massively profitable company. The main thing that they need to do at this point is just keep pumping out content for the people who pay them absurd sums of money for it, regardless of its level of quality or how well it would “draw” based on traditional metrics.

That means there is no real incentive to make news stars, so get ready for another five to ten years of dudes in their fifties slapping on the spandex and pretending that they’re half their true ages.

Do kids even watch WWE nowadays, cause it’s not talked about in schools?

Even though there is still a subset of fans who constantly complain about WWE’s “PG” rated content and believe the show is marketed towards children, demographics for all WWE programming in the U.S. make it clear that the number one audience for the promotion is people over 50 years old. In other words, the people who were young professional wrestling fans in the 1980s have just continued to watch the product throughout the rest of their lives, while newer fans have been relatively few and far between.

That’s not to say that there are NO children watching WWE, but it is far more popular among middle aged men than it is the kids’ set.

What’s the difference between Dixie carter and Stephanie McMahon when it comes to how they do business?

It’s really an apples and oranges comparison, because they’ve never had the same role in the professional wrestling industry. Stephanie is currently WWE’s “chief brand officer,” meaning that she works in marketing for the promotion, and in the past she has also been the executive vice president in charge of creative, meaning that she was responsible for the direction of the on-screen product.

Dixie, meanwhile, was president of TNA on the corporate side of the company, managing the promotion’s overall business picture. Though I can’t say that she had no role in creative (based on shoot interviews with talent), it wasn’t her primary focus, and she more often than not farmed those decisions out to others with more experience in the wrestling industry.

So, I can’t tell you what the similarities and differences are, because they’ve never been in the same position.

Do you think the current WWE roster is more relatable to Triple H than Vince McMahon because Triple H is more relaxed and gives freedom in promos and segments while Vince is always using scripted promos on talent and making everyone walk on eggshells?

No. I think the current roster has largely come of age in an environment in which everything is heavily scripted, so, even though they might improvise here and there, ultimately they need the scripting to get by. They’ve never known anything else.

Up next, I’m going to combine the answer to two questions, because they’re pretty closely interrelated. Up first:

What is WWE’S future post Vince McMahon?

And second:

Would fans be willing to accept HHH or Stephanie as the next chairman of WWE if Vince steps down one day?

Well, they’re not going to have too much of a choice at a certain point, so . . .

Seriously, though, Triple H has been doing quite a bit over the last several years to build goodwill with WWE’s most hardcore fanbase, those who are most likely to pay attention to backstage dealings and who the real power brokers in the company are. If you think he’s been doing that for any reason other than making sure that there is a smooth transition between Vince and himself, you’ve underestimated how smart Triple H is. He knows that he is going to need acceptance from the incredibly loyal members of the fanbase, and he is priming that pump as we speak.

Why was Triple H made Vice president for talent relations when his recruitment record has been atrocious for years.

Too many vanilla midgets and not enough big men in personalities and charisma?

Honestly, I don’t think that Triple H’s track record has been that bad because of anything that Triple H has done. I think that his track record has looked worse than it could have otherwise because WWE’s presentation stinks and makes it difficult for anybody to get over.

Nobody is booked like a true star and given an opportunity to go on the sort of huge winning streak that used to be used to establish big names. Instead, everybody gets booked on a 50/50 basis, losing at least as much as they win. Furthermore, to the extent that wrestlers have unique or distinguishing characteristics, it’s like the promotion goes out of their way to squelch them. Just ask anybody who watched Keith Lee on the indies or Shinsuke Nakamura in New Japan how much they have been toned down in the E.

If the guys that HHH brought in to the company were used to their full potential when they transitioned to the main roster, I believe general impressions of his work as a recruiter would be far more positive than they currently are.

Will Vince McMahon sell the WWE one day in the future?

There are persistent rumors that this might happen, and the deal that WWE recently struck with NBC Universal regarding Peacock did nothing to quell them. Personally, I doubt that Vince will ever sell because, even though it is publicly traded, he still sees the promotion as his family’s property, going back to the roots that were laid down by his own grandfather. He likely wants to see the next generation succeed in promoting as well, and he knows that they could (potentially) lose control of WWE if he were to sell to an outside company.

Would the world of wrestling be different had WCW survived and became great again?

Yes, definitely.

The ways in which professional wrestling would be different if there had been a viable number two promotion for the last twenty years are almost too numerous to list. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the wrestling world would be unrecognizable.

In my mind, though, one change would be the greatest and most pleasing of them all:

If WCW survived, TNA never would have come into existence.

Why is Vince so obsessed with controlling everything from backstage with commentators and wrestlers?

I’m not Vince McMahon’s therapist, so I may not be in the best position to unravel the motivations for all of his actions. However, from my layperson’s perspective, it strikes me as though he has been remarkably successful in promoting professional wrestling over the years, and he has very strong opinions about what aspects of his product have resulted in that success.

Whether he is correct in his assessment or not is another query for another day, but you cannot question the fact that he is pretty damn confident in what he believes has worked for him and what has not.

Thus, Vince’s “controlling” mentality likely has to do with the fact that he is attempting to make certain that the product presented each week on Raw and Smackdown comports to his model of a successful professional wrestling product.

Do you believe that if it want for the AOL/Time Warner merger WCW would’ve still been around today?

No.

As noted in response to one of the questions above, it’s been twenty years since WCW closed its doors. They existed for a little over twelve years before that. In the entire century-plus-long history of professional wrestling, you can probably count the number of promotions that have existed for thirty-two years on your fingers. The odds are against a wrestling company lasting that long, so, even if you buy the proposition that the AOL/Time Warner merger is what killed WCW, chances are good that, if it didn’t happen, something else would have killed it between then and now.

Why is Stephanie the most protected McMahon in WWE, especially when she never gets her comeuppance?

I think that much of the answer to this one has to do with the fact that WWE has, for the most part, barred man-on-woman violence.

(Disclaimer: That is not a complaint. As I wrote on this site several years ago, I am not a fan of intergender violence in wrestling.)

Because she is positioned as one of the biggest stars in the company, Stephanie is most often mixing it up with male professional wrestlers, who, despite the Women’s Revolution, are still the other biggest stars in the company. When she is interacting with those men these days, they cannot put their hands on her, which, if you haven’t noticed, is how most people in professional wrestling get revenge on their rivals.

If you look back on Stephanie’s career, back when man-on-woman violence was allowed, she actually did get her comeuppance far more than she does now. Since the ban on simulated woman-beating was put into place, Steph being one-upped has usually come at the hands of another female personality, like when Vickie Guerrero threw her into a kiddie pool full of mud:

Do you believe that Brad Siegel and Stu Snyder conspired to kill WCW’s hopes of any comeback with new owners jurisdiction to sell it to the WWF?

No.

The reason that WCW didn’t get sold to the Eric Bischoff-lead Fusient Media Ventures is because WCW’s television programming on the Turner networks was canceled. Without those prime time TV deals, the promotion had significantly reduced value, and Fusient did not want to go through with the deal.

However, the decision to cancel WCW Nitro and Thunder was not a Brad Siegel decision. The decision is widely credited to Jamie Kellner, a Turner executive who, as I understand it, outranked Siegel in the hierarchy.

It was at that point that the hasty sale to the WWF was put together, with Vince McMahon’s company paying a staggeringly low sum.

If Siegel were more directly involved in the decision to cancel WCW TV – which was really the only thing that prevented the sale to Fusient – then maybe I would be more inclined to think that this conspiracy theory has legs.

Where do you see AEW going in the next five years or so if they stay on their current track under Tony Khan’s regime?

Honestly, I anticipate that they will be right about where they are now. The company has been on television for a little over a year now, and, in that time, their viewership has hovered around 750,000 to 1 million people per week with no significant pattern showing that they are going to grow anytime soon. Absent something truly unexpected happening and wrestling catching fire in the way that it did in the mid-1980s or the late 1990s, I do not know where any significant gain would come from. (They might grow a bit if NXT ever stops running directly opposite them, but even at that point I would guess they’d top out at about 1.1 to 1.2 million viewers.)

In the current television environment, a show that delivers as many eyeballs as AEW does – particularly within key demographics – is a success. Thus, if they do maintain their current levels, TNT has no incentive to cancel them.

That’s probably not the most scintillating answer, but it’s the one that I believe is correct. AEW can and probably will remain exactly where it is, making everybody involved a respectful amount of revenue along the way.

I don’t understand why WWE can’t use OVW to build wrestlers like it did in the past to make megastars. NXT doesn’t work for me. There’s too many indie flip flops that don’t want to understand how to draw and was shown up by Pat McGee. Why persist with something like NXT that has never made big stars?

Even though the question doesn’t invoke his name, this is basically the exact same thing that was asked above about Triple H and his success (or lack thereof) as head of talent relations. With it being the same question, I’m going to have to give basically the same answer:

I don’t think that this is NXT’s fault.

NXT has generated talent who have the ability to be top stars in the professional wrestling industry. They’ve just failed to achieve on the main roster not because of anything that is inherently wrong with their training but rather because, once they arrive on Raw or Smackdown, they are not booked in a way that is conducive to making anybody a star.

I feel that the Royal Rumble PPV isn’t as special as it used to be. Having two Rumbles I feel ruins the match as well. What do you think?

I one hundred percent agree that having two Royal Rumble matches on the same show devalues the gimmick.

Really, I feel the same way about most gimmick matches. I would prefer it if there weren’t multiple TLC, Elimination Chamber, Hell in a Cell, or even basic cage matches on the same show, because after a while the gimmick matches all start to look the same – and, if matches start to look the same, it becomes all the more difficult to engage in the suspension of disbelief that is necessary to enjoying professional wrestling.

Looking back at the final Nitro, do you believe that was the day wrestling died?

No.

There has been plenty of good to great wrestling after WCW went out of business, if you know where to look for it.

What was your reaction to Goldberg winning the WCW belt on Nitro?

At the time the match happened, I was in the beginning of my time as a so-called “smart” wrestling fan, having read up on backstage news via the internet for a couple of years. As a result, I was a little bit surprised to see that the bout was being held on a free television program as opposed to on pay per view where the company could have made more money. I was also starting to hear about some of the political machinations that the Hulkster is infamous for, so I was intrigued to see whether he would actually drop the match, which was the right finish by just about any measure, or whether he would somehow get out of it.

As far as the match itself is concerned, it’s not as though it’s an athletic classic, but, much like Hogan’s matches with guys like the Ultimate Warrior and the Rock, the electric atmosphere and massive crowd carry it and make it a spectacle worth going back and watching if you consider yourself any stripe of professional wrestling fan. In fact, I’m a bit surprised that it doesn’t get talked about more with the Warrior and Rock matches as one of the all time great events of the Hulkser’s career. The finish was exactly what it needed to be as well, which pleasantly surprised me on some levels. Ultimately I enjoyed the evening, even though neither of the wrestlers involved are guys who I would count among my favorites.

Don’t you think AEW is too indy like? Thigh slaps, Small guys beating big dudes, lack of psychology. How does Khan expect to compete with WWE with indy wrestlers?

Well, he’s consistently beaten a WWE product in the same timeslot and has come close to matching WWE’s flagship show in key demographics some weeks, so I would say that he’s competing just fine at this point, indy wrestlers or no indy wrestlers.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.