wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Triple H Happy With His Career?

November 13, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Triple H WrestleMania 38 Image Credit: WWE

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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Chris is here to play the game:

A lot of fan speculation concerning Triple-H deals with the idea that he kind of always wanted to be “THE” buy. He wanted to be the Ric Flair of his generation, and you can see that played out in his booking, his dominance, his matches, etc. I’m not disagreeing with that evaluation. I guess my question for you is this.

Do you think Triple-H is “happy” or satisfied with the work he’s done? I mean obviously Trips certainly seems to have a long life and career ahead of him, so the full story and the ultimate legacy of Triple-H is yet to be told. That said, if you look at what he’s done in his career, he’s had a number of runs with the championship. He was given multiple high-profile matches with top-level talent where he could really showcase his skills. He’s been part of big storylines with big factions. He’s main evented numerous major events. On top of all this, with his marriage, Triple H has attained a position that is basically unprecedented in that he has married that daughter of the boss. He can essentially write his own story.

On the other hand, he’s been plagued by injuries, his matches have been derided as boring, and the spector of “it’s only because he married Stephanie” cast a long shadow. He’s never really broken through to be a household name or a breakthrough star the way that the top-level guys like Hogan, Austin, or the Rock have been. There have been long periods of time when Austin and Rock weren’t even around. This man could write his own ticket . . . and I’m not sure he ever reached the goals he set for himself.

But he’s also had quite a ride, and he’s got an unprecedented chance to shape the direction of his company.

So what do you think? In your opinion, do you think he feels like he did everything he wanted to in his career, or do you think he feels like he kind of fell short?

I obviously can’t get inside the guy’s head, but it’s hard to imagine that Triple H isn’t completely over the moon with how his career turned out.

This isn’t some dude who got into wrestling because he was a football player who blew out his knee and then had nothing else to do or because he needed to fund his addiction to buying ridiculously expensive Pokemon cards. This is a man who by all accounts genuinely loved wrestling from a young age, and, over the course of his career, he has able to perform at its absolute highest levels, including at a time twenty-five years ago when it was more popular than it has ever been in the history of the planet.

Plus, on top of that, he got to not just meet and work with but by most accounts genuinely befriend one of his idols in Ric Flair, and he has also had a chance to develop the industry’s next generation of talent, which I can say from experience is something remarkably rewarding once you reach a certain point in your chosen line of work.

Oh, and did I mention that he did this all while becoming filthy, stinking rich? If you get to make a decades-long career doing something you love AND making bank for it, it’s hard to say that you go to bed with too many regrets.

Yes, he had some injuries. What wrestler hasn’t? Hell, one of his injuries probably benefited him, because he got to dodge the bullet of being involved in the mess that was the Invasion.

Have some people criticized some of his matches for being boring? Yeah, sure, but he’s also been involved in absolute classics involving guys like Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and more. Plus, wrestlers don’t wrestle matches for critics. (Or at least they didn’t historically. That may have changed in some quarters these days.) Wrestlers wrestle matches for the audience that is in front of them on the evening in question, and I can’t recall too many if any Triple H matches where the live audience turned on it. He’s not a Kenta Kobashi where he could have his leg chopped off and still get a ***** match out of the Great Khali, but, if you look at the entire body of Triple H’s work, he’s still probably in the top ten percent of in-ring performers of all time. Plus, he was doing it a time when he had to wrestle several nights per week as opposed to some current “Best Bout Machines” who are only working two or three times a month.

And, yeah, there’s the “he married the boss’s daughter” knock. However, marrying the boss’s daughter didn’t give him his physique. Marrying the boss’s daughter didn’t let him wrestle all the great matches I referenced above. Yes, it gave him some opportunities he might not otherwise have had, but, when the door was opened for him, he still walked through it. Anybody who has ever performed at a high level in any form of sports or entertainment will have some criticism that a vocal minority makes about them. “He married the boss’s daughter” is just Triple H’s version of “Hulk Hogan only knew two moves” or “Ric Flair wrestled the same match every night” or “Shaq couldn’t shoot free throws.” It’s a criticism some people have and there may be some truth to it, but it doesn’t negate all the overwhelming success he’s had.

Oh, and did I mention he goes to sleep on a giant mountain of cash money every night?

In short, don’t cry for Triple H. He’s doing just fine.

Tyler from Winnipeg is asking about a personal favorite of mine:

Any good Scott Norton matches from Japan? When did Scott Norton break into the business? He looks a mix between Rhyno and Al Snow!

Norton had his first match in 1989 for the AWA, and what I would call his last full-time year as a wrestler was 2004, though he also did one or two tours per year of Japan from 2005 through 2007 and then did one last tour in 2012 after taking several years off. He then worked one or two matches per year until 2019, at which point he seemed to hang it up before reappearing for a single twelve-man tag match on a New Japan USA show in 2022.

Over the years, I think that it’s been pretty well established that Norton’s greatest opponent was Keiji Muto, and the two of them had televised singles matches on April 30, 1991; August 7, 1991; October 18, 1992; February 3, 1995; August 14, 1995; August 2, 1997; and January 4, 1999 (which saw Muto defeat Norton for the IWGP Heavyweight Title).

For what it’s worth, that August 1995 bout earned the highest match rating that a Norton match ever received from Dave Meltzer, clocking in at ****.

Jonfw2 is asking about people who f’ed themselves:

What wrestlers were headed for the most success who sabotaged themselves, whether through attitude or personal discipline?

Marty Jannetty, Marty Jannetty, a million freaking times Marty Jannetty.

Seriously, there was a period of time when people looked at the Rockers and said to themselves that Jannetty was the guy who was going to be the breakout star of the team. When they did split and were wrestling singles matches against each other, the two men were neck-and-neck.

However, Shawn Michaels went on to be Shawn Michaels, and Marty Jannetty became . . . well, you know.

Many of those wounds were self-inflicted, as Jannetty couldn’t get his personal demons under control and never lived up to the potential that he had once upon a time.

Brad is keeping with tradition:

We’re getting close to the end of the year. Could you update your list of former WCW talent that are still active? I’m mostly interested in people who are valuable enough to be employed by major companies, but you always go above and beyond with a very comprehensive list.

I have to applaud Brad’s dedication to this question, because this is the fifth time he’s asked it. In case you’re curious, you can take a look at my prior answers in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

As has been the case in the past, we will break down where the WCW alumni are by promotion.

Last year, our list of WCW alumni active in WWE consisted of AJ Styles, Charles Robinson, Edge, Goldberg, Meiko Satomura, Paul Heyman, Rey Misterio Jr., and Triple H.

This year, there are two major departures from this list, because Goldberg has not wrestled at all since February 2022 and, in any event, word is that his WWE contract has expired. And, of course, Edge jumped ship from the E to AEW, so we will still see him on this list . . . just not in this section.

I suppose that I will leave Satomura on the list. Admittedly, she has not been on WWE television since March of this year, but she is still under contract to the company to the best of my knowledge.

We do not have any additions here that I’m aware of. This means that the WWE list has winnowed down a bit and now includes AJ Styles, Charles Robinson, Meiko Satomura, Paul Heyman, Rey Misterio Jr., and Triple H.

This year, I’ve combined AEW and Ring of Honor into one entry on the list because, despite the separate branding, they really are one promotion for all intents and purposes.

In 2022, the WCW alumni active in All Elite Wrestling were Arn Anderson, Chris Jericho, Christopher Daniels, Dustin Rhodes, Jake Roberts, Jeff Jarrett, Luther, Sting, and William Regal. Meanwhile, there were no WCW wrestlers in ROH last year.

In the time since that list was compiled, two of those men have departed AEW, those being Arn Anderson and William Regal.

Though we’ve lost two, we are also adding two. The first is the previously mentioned Edge, and the second is perhaps WCW’s biggest star of all time, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, who recently made his debut as an on-camera talent for AEW.

It’s also worth noting that Rob Van Dam has had a couple of matches with AEW as a nostalgia act in 2023, though I don’t believe he’s signed and he’s wrestled just as many if not more matches in other promotions, so I’m adding him to the “other” list as opposed to the AEW list.

That makes the final list Chris Jericho, Christopher Daniels, Dustin Rhodes, Edge, Jake Roberts, Jeff Jarrett, Luther, Ric Flair, and Sting . . . though if all goes according to plan, this will be the last time we see Sting listed here.

Impact Wrestling
Johnny Swinger, PCO, Rhyno, and Scott D’Amore were the former WCW wrestlers who appeared for Impact in 2022.

All four men continue to work for the promotion, despite PCO flirting with free agency a bit earlier this fall. The list is the same.

There were no WCW alumni active in Major League Wrestling during 2022, but in 2023 we’re going to be putting Raven on their list. Though he’s only stepped into the ring once as part of a battle royale, Raven is now a manager in MLW.

The one and only former WCW talent appearing for Billy Corgan’s NWA in 2022 was Father James Mitchell, also known as James Vandenberg during his time in WCW.

This year, Mitchell, in addition to snorting heaps of cocaine, was joined by Ricky Morton, who mostly manages his son Kerry but has also stepped into the ring on a couple of occasions.

Speaking of managing, this year saw WCW alum Vampiro begin managing the tag team La Rebelion in the NWA, while Violent J of the Insane Clown Posse – Vampiro’s former running buddy in WCW – showed up in the NWA in the corner of its own clown wrestlers, Ruffo and Yabo. Vampiro and J even stepped into the ring against each other alongside their respective teams at an NWA pay per view.

There have been some one-off appearances by former WCW stars in the NWA this year as well, including Madusa and Gangrel (who was briefly one of the Blackhearts in WCW). I don’t know that I’ll formally put them on the NWA side of the list because those were more cameos than anything else, but I’m still noting them just so Billy Corgan doesn’t log into his Disqus account and yell at me.

That makes our formal NWA list for the year Father James Mitchell, Ricky Morton, Vampiro, and Violent J.

Swinging over to the other side of the planet, the 2022 New Japan roster included former WCW stars Gedo, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, and Yuji Nagata. All four of these men are still active in New Japan as of this writing, and nobody else has joined them, so they’re the 2023 list as well.

Aside from occasional guest shots of wrestlers more closely associated with other promotions, All Japan Pro Wrestling had no WCW alumni wrestling for it in 2021, 2022, or 2023.

Dragon Gate
In 2022, our list in Dragon Gate was Don Fuji, Dragon Kid, and Ultimo Dragon. As with New Japan, there has been no change year-to-year because these three guys are still the guys.

Pro Wrestling NOAH
Keiji Muto and Kendo Kashin were the WCW alumni active in NOAH during 2022.

Like Rob Van Dam, I’m going to move Kashin off the NOAH list and into the “other” list because, even though he has wrestled a couple of matches for NOAH this year, he’s wrestled just as many matches for other promotions and seems to be a true freelancer to the extent that he is still involved as an in-ring performer.

As most reading this column will know, Muto had a highly publicized retirement match for NOAH this year, so we’ll list him for 2023 because he was part of the promotion, but this is probably the last time.

So we’re down to just Keiji Muto . . . for now.

Last year was the first time we acknowledged GLEAT on this list, and, at the time, former WCW talent CIMA and Kaz Hayashi were working there. They’re still the only WCW alums in the company, so the new list is the same as the old list.

Though he didn’t have a lot of matches in WCW, Felino was the only person who ever wrestled there who was active in CMLL in 2022, and that’s still the case in 2023 as near as I can tell.

Konnan was the one and only WCW alum who we recognized as being part of AAA in 2022. This year, L.A. Park (the original La Parka), who has mostly been an independent guy in recent years, has been showing up for major AAA shows, so we’ll add him as well. The same can be said for the original Psicosis, who now wrestles as Nicho el Millionario. Konnan is still around, too, making the list Konnan, L.A. Park, and Psicosis.

And the Rest . . .
As Brad notes, he really only cares about major promotions, but I have typically taken this a step further to see who is active anywhere in wrestling, at any level.

The 2022 list of WCW wrestlers who were still going despite no affiliation with a major company consisted of The Barbarian, Big Vito, Bob Orton Jr., Jimmy Yang, Ernest Miller, James Storm, Too Cold Scorpio, Vampiro, Crowbar, Lizmark Jr., Lodi, Damian 666, L.A. Park, Juventud Guerrera, Rock n’ Roll Express, Shannon Moore, Malia Hosaka, Gangrel, George South, Koji Kanemoto, Mayumi Ozaki, Rob Van Dam, Shane Douglas, Shark Boy, and Tony Atlas

Vampiro, L.A. Park, and Ricky Morton come off that list for reasons that we’ve mentioned above, because they’re now active in promotions of note. Similarly, Kendo Kashin gets added to the list because he is still wrestling but not for any particular company.

But the real question we’re asking is who we’re removing due to inactivity. Fortunately, we’re not taking anybody off the list this year because they’ve died, which is, sadly, a rarity for pro wrestling. However, Big Vito and Shannon Moore have not stepped into the ring this year, so they get axed.

We do have some additions to the list, though the first is actually somebody who I should have included from the beginning of this exercise but somehow overlooked. That’s Tom Brandi, who wrestled in WCW as Johnny Gunn and later in the WWF as Salvatore Sincere before switching over to his real name. Brandi has actually wrestled every year since I started listing active WCW alumni at Brad’s request. I have no idea how I missed that. In case you’re curious, Brandi mostly wrestles as The Patriot these days, having bought the rights to the gimmick from Del Wilkes when Wilkes retired.

Similarly, I’m not sure how I missed the fact that Villano IV was active both this year and last. He’s often teaming with one of his nephews, Villano III Jr. and Villano V Jr. That sounds like a joke, but I swear to you, it is not. Those are the guys’ names.

Another miss? Tommy Rich, former NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Rich has had several matches in 2023, the most notable of which was in GCW.

I’ll also add Fidel Sierra, who has stepped back into the ring this year after several years away. Similarly, Chavo Guerrero Jr. has again had several matches this year after a very limited schedule in the recent past. Finally, we’re bringing back Mustafa Saed. Saed, best known as one of the Gangstas in SMW and ECW, had several WCW matches as an enhancement talent before he headed to the land of the extreme, and he’s back in the ring in 2023.

Another comeback is Miguel Perez Jr., who hadn’t wrestled since 2019 but made a return this year for the IWA in Puerto Rico, even winning the company’s main championship. We’ll also add the Warlord, who has been wrestling more in 2023. If you missed the Warlord in WCW, that’s because he was under the mask as one of the Super Assassins in 1995.

That means we have a 2023 list as follows: The Barbarian, Bob Orton Jr., Chavo Guerrero Jr., Jimmy Yang, Ernest Miller, Fidel Sierra, James Storm, Too Cold Scorpio, Crowbar, Lizmark Jr., Miguel Perez Jr., Lodi, Mustafa Saed, Damian 666, Juventud Guerrera, Robert Gibson, Malia Hosaka, Dave “Gangrel” Heath, George South, Koji Kanemoto, Mayumi Ozaki, Rob Van Dam, Shane Douglas, Shark Boy, Tom Brandi, Tommy Rich, Tony Atlas, Villano IV, and The Warlord

And that’s a wrap.

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.