Triple H is a man wrestling fans can love and hate all at once.
His work in NXT is what internet wrestling fans adore. He has brought in and helped develop some of the most popular acts NXT has produced. As an in-ring performer, his career has been more divisive. He was one of the top heels of the Attitude Era and a fixture of the main event scene. Triple H has starred in some of the most prominent storylines in WWE history.
Sometimes he can be too prominent. Fans accuse Triple H of not putting over other stars during his heyday. This includes guys like Booker T and Kane. His reign of terror over the Raw brand in 2003 and 2004 still irks some fans. However, “The Cerebral Assassin” has been a part of many memorable matches. Here are five that are overlooked, underappreciated, or just plain underrated, presented in chronological order.
1. Vs The Rock, WWE Intercontinental Championship; Two Out Of Three Falls – WWF Fully Loaded 1998
The Rock and Triple H were the two breakout stars of two massively over factions: The Nation of Domination and D-Generation X. Rock and Triple H’s bigger matchup in 1998 was their Summerslam ladder match. It feels like a launching pad for two of the industry’s future biggest stars. This 2-out-of-3 falls match is an underappreciated part of their feud.
The match was full of faction shenanigans with both DX and the Nation getting involved after being tossed out from ringside. Both men scored one fall, but the match had a 30-minute time limit. Once the timer ran out, these men would still be tied. The Rock retained his title, leading us to the Summerslam ladder match. It is interesting to see their match go to a 30-minute draw here, when two years later they’d be involved in a 60-minute Iron Man match at Judgement Day. Maybe the logic is that if they were tied 1-apiece after 30 minutes, that a longer match would be necessary as an Iron Man match… perhaps there is some logic to WWE after all.
2. Vs Cactus Jack, WWF Championship Match; Hell In A Cell – WWF No Way Out 2000
Here’s the second Triple H match that is good; but usually outshone by another match from the same feud by most fans. Jack & Triple H’s Royal Rumble street fight is one of the best hardcore matches put on by the company. It was brutal and memorable for all the right reasons. Their sequel at No Way Out was just as spectacular with the added bonus of Mick Foley’s career being on the line.
With it being a Hell in the Cell match, most of the focus goes to Cactus Jack. He spilled his guts out trying to wrestle the WWF Championship away from Triple H. Jack even busted out a flaming barbed-wire 2×4 and fell through the cell but couldn’t get the job done. For Jack to look so valiant, he needed a strong heel counterpart. Triple H more than held his own in Jack’s hardcore world. The Royal Rumble match gets lots of love, but this match was one of the best matches in history to take place in the Devil’s Playground.
Vs Ric Flair, Last Man Standing Match – WWE Survivor Series 2005
Ric Flair is one of Triple H’s best friends in and out of wrestling. After spending years together dominating Raw as part of Evolution, Triple H had returned to take out his former mentor. He attacked Flair for no longer being the legend he used to be. It was a cold and calculated heel attempting to take his elder out to pasture.
This match has a Ric Flair staple: his white hair dyed red from blood. It also featured a Triple H staple, him being at his merciless best. It’s contests like this that earned him the name “The Cerebral Assassin” as he tore into Flair almost systematically. To his credit, Flair plays a great underdog when called upon. During the last leg of his career, Flair was hard to boo. This match gave him a peak Triple H to gain pathos from to lead to a great dynamic.
3. Vs John Cena & Randy Orton, WWE Championship Match – WWE Wrestlemania 24
The triple threat WWE Championship on Wrestlemania 24 is a forgotten gem. It could be because Triple H had a more memorable Wrestlemania triple threat – his match with Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels is more fondly remembered from purely a wrestling standpoint. It could also be because the following year, Orton and Triple H had a more memorable feud during the “Age of Orton”. Either way, this triple threat is not to be slept on.
Triple threat matches sometimes suffer from the action feeling like a rotating series of singles matches. This one did not have a lapse in action and started at a frantic pace. Most fans foresaw Super-Cena or Triple H getting the victory in this match. Triple H came close to winning, hitting a Pedigree on Cena. However, Orton came in with the vicious punt kick on Triple H to retain his title. At just over 14 minutes, this is a shorter classic in Triple H’s arsenal but speaks volumes to the frenetic nature of the match.
5. Vs Daniel Bryan – WWE WrestleMania XXX
Authority Era Triple H presented a mixed bag of good and bad. The Authority was a constant presence, re-treading the “evil bosses” trope that was so successfully done by Triple H’s father-in-law Vince McMahon in the Attitude Era. While some of it was repetitive, the Triple H-Daniel Bryan dynamic was excellent.
Triple H being a more talented wrestler than Vince McMahon gave the challenge of “beating the boss” the same stakes, but much more difficulty. Some may have believed that Bryan winning and advancing to the main event was a given. And while it was the better option, Triple H and Bryan told a story that made you doubt if Bryan was going to get the win. Bryan was solidified as a main event star with his title win. However, reaching that summit would not have been as sweet without his triumph over Triple H earlier in the night.
There are so many more amazing Triple H matches that are overlooked or underrated. He has been a presence in WWE programming for almost 25 years and will surely continue to influence the product as NXT grows. What matches did we miss? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @EvanGomes_. Thanks for reading!