We are now a month into Triple H’s reign at the top of WWE and it’s fair to see there’s been some notable changes put in place by the new head of creative.
WWE suddenly feels abuzz once again, and the evidence is there to see with Survivor Series selling out the TD Garden in Boston as soon as the pre-sale tickets went on sale.
GiveMeSport looks at ten changes Triple H has put in place during his first weeks in charge that have benefitted WWE.
There’s nothing wrestling fans like more than a big return and Triple H has quickly made that a hallmark of his WWE tenure. Kicking-off at SummerSlam, we finally saw Bayley back on our TV screens, something Trips wasted no time in triggering when we believed she’d been ready for a matter of months. She was swiftly joined by Dakota Kai and Iyo Skye and since then we’ve also seen WWE comebacks for Karrion Kross, Dexter Lumis, Hit Row and Johnny Gargano. All big favourites of Triple H during his NXT days, but none have been bought in for a quick cheap pop, there is belief and a plan that will mean that will add something valuable to Triple H’s WWE.
Keeping the characters
What’s made the above returns mean more and make sense is that they’ve been bought back as the characters we already know, and we already loved in NXT. One of the more frustrating aspects of NXT call-ups in the past has been the way they’ve been portrayed upon arriving on the main roster. Whether it be how quickly they would be lost in the shuffle and made to look like ‘just another NXT call-up’ or the complete repackaging from what we already knew. It’s hard to see that Pete Dunne becomes ‘Butch’ or LA Knight morphing into Max Dupri under The Game’s watch. What we’ve seen from the likes of Kross, Gargano and Lumis is just an extension of the character we came familiar with in NXT and given a bigger stage to perform it on. Which can only be good news for any future call-ups.
Making feuds mean more
One of Triple H’s biggest calls thus far was removing the Seth Rollins vs Riddle match from the SummerSlam card. It was a ballsy move from the new man in charge, given it was WWE’s second biggest show of the year, but it’s clear he wanted more heat in the feud and a build so the culmination match was bigger. And it’s worked. The pairs segment at SummerSlam and subsequent dealings since has given the rivalry room to breathe and made their eventual meeting at Clash at the Castle a far more exiting prospect. It’s the same across the board, where every match booked on the Cardiff card feels like it has the right momentum behind it and has given the card a real big-time feel.
Meaningful feuds have also bled into meaningful matches, too. Since the changeover there seems to be a plan to every clash and that has resulted in far less matches having disqualification finishes. Matches now have a clear winner and it gives so much more credence to the victor and the role the match plays into the show and the storyline it’s part of. Sure, there will be some matches that will end in shenanigans – Triple H starred in the attitude era after all – but like his days on Tuesday nights, matches have much more consequence when there is an outright winner rather than a DQ finish to try and protect both competitors.
What has become clear during the new regime is the idea to theme shows around the location that Raw and SmackDown are in. Whether that’s by showcasing the talent who hail from the area or bringing in a local legend to give the fans even more to cheer about. Using this week’s show in Toronto as example where we saw Edge in the main event, Aliyah make an appearance on the show and Trish Stratus knitting the show together with her appearances – all of which added to the show without making it feel like Canadian tokenism. More of the same is expected next week when Raw hits Pittsburgh and Kurt Angle makes a WWE return, using his huge popularity and WWE legacy to give Raw another different flavour.
More focus on the mid-card
One thing that has been sorely ignored for too long in WWE is the Intercontinental Championship. The hugely significant title has suffered somewhat of a decline in the last year or so and almost become just a TV title thanks to its last pay-per-view defence coming at WrestleMania 37. That’s no longer a problem under Triple H – a man who knows first-hand how important the IC belt is. He’s been in the chair for less than a month and we already have an Intercontinental Title match booked for the next big show and one that makes the mouth water. Sheamus vs Gunther could steal the show at Clash at the Castle and be just the jumping off point the championship needs to put it back on the WWE map. If only he’d change that hideous looking belt, too.
Reshaping NXT UK
For a long time now, NXT UK has been something of a lost soul in the WWE landscape. The talent has kept on thriving and WWE have continued to recruit and allow the show to be a pathway to bigger things. However, it had lost some it’s vigour and personality that made it such a success when Triple H was around – some of the reasons of which have been down to circumstance. So, while the decision to rebrand NXT UK into NXT Europe was seen as a bit of a shame at first, especially when you see the talent that was let go as a result of it, it does give the brand more purpose and a restart it needed. What’s more it opens the gates to more talent across an even bigger area – where hopefully some familiar faces will return, too. Add that to the subtle changes already made to NXT 2.0, then there is renewed excitement for all the NXT brands.
No more reruns
Something that made Raw and it’s three hours a slog at times was the constant re-run of the same matches, as feuds seem to outstay their welcome – especially when it was laced with the 50-50 booking style, too. That theme seems to have been removed from Triple H’s vision of Raw, which means different matches every week, giving Raw and SmackDown that added freshness every week, but without going away from the current rivalries and storylines. It was means we have less receptiveness across pay-per-views too, where rematches will only occur if the story warrants it.
Talent on top
What has made WWE TV even more enjoyable in recent weeks is the plethora of talent that has been used and highlighted like we haven’t seen previously. On Raw Judgement Day finally seem to be making waves and giving Finn Balor, Rhea Ripley, and Damian Priest more defined roles, while Tomasso Ciampa suddenly feels like integral part of the show rather than a token call-up from NXT. While over on SmackDown, the show has been given a fresh impetus with Kross and Hit Row as well as the NXT stars competing in the Women’s Tag Team Title tournament. Add this to main event stars on both shows and the blend feels on point across both shows.
Women back in the limelight
One of the hallmarks of Triple H’s NXT was the ridiculously strong women’s division he built on the black and gold brand. Many of those names are now part of the Raw and SmackDown roster and it’s no surprise they are finally being showcased in the right way. Bayley and her pals have quickly become a focal point of Monday Night Raw, opposing the lead star that is Bianca Belair and her backup in Alexa Bliss and Asuka. While on SmackDown, Shayna Baszler is back to her menacing best that we last saw during her dominant NXT championship run. While Ronda Rousey has gone back to a role that she is way more comfortable and believable in. All of this without using big hitters like Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks, who are all ready to come back to the fold as and when their respective absences have been sorted.