Lutz's Blog: Answering my own questions (and maybe yours) about Triple H and Kurt Angle
By Jeffrey Lutz
So you're getting a second straight "random but organized thoughts" blog because I've been on vacation and haven't sunk my teeth into any one topic. Instead, I've sunk my teeth into TWO topics, where I talk myself through my own opinions as I write. It's kind of like getting two short blogs instead of one long one. Look for the long-form stuff to return next week, provided I can limit myself to one topic.
1. Was WWE any good when Triple H was a full-time wrestler?
Triple H has spent the better part of the last month finding his niche as a heel authority figure, and mostly it has gone well. It definitely is a lot easier to dislike his character now than it was when he was more wishy-washy and allowing too many of his babyface traits to cloud what should have been a completely villainous persona. He has settled in, but his real-life ego is still peeking through on occasion.
At least, I assume its his real-life ego. Maybe his frequent bashing of his peers is part of his plan to get his heel character more heat, but it doesn't seem to be serving much of a real purpose. Instead, it just seems like Triple H is putting himself over as the best of an average group of late-1990s/early 2000s wrestlers. This week, Triple H mentioned that while Edge, Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho all had noteworthy careers, none of them was ever "The Guy," which, in a macro sense, is true. If Triple H's version of history, whether in-character or not, is that he was the true leader of the Attitude Era, that's fine, but there's a better way to get that point across.
For example, instead of comparing Daniel Bryan to past stars who weren't necessarily franchise players, Triple H could say something like, "I beat a lot of great superstars to get to the top, including Edge, Rob Van Dam and Chris Jericho. Daniel Bryan is a great superstar, but for Randy Orton he is just a stepping stone." In that case, fans of Bryan would know that while he is clearly an underdog, he is The Guy if he beats Orton at Hell in a Cell. Orton also wouldn't be hurt, even with a loss, because it has been established that he is the wrestler against whom championship-level performers are being judged.
The WWE (or World Heavyweight) Champion should always be The Guy. Why have I been watching wrestling for the last 15 years if Edge, RVD and Jericho, who have dozens of championships between them, were essentially replaceable background players who have no real place in history? Because of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson has never been The Guy in golf. But on the days Mickelson won the Masters or the U.S. Open, he was the best player in the world. WWE should constantly be telling the story that whoever is holding the championship is the best in the world at that time.
The unlikelihood of Bryan being in a position to win the WWE Championship (even though he already has on multiple occasions) should be sold, but so should the idea that the company is validated when someone earns the championship on his own merits. Triple H can aid that story and come across as the bully he's portraying by pointing out that The Guy always eventually rises to the top. If and when Bryan wins the title and keeps it, his fans can know that he's The Guy, and not someone whose accomplishments will be demeaned by the next authority figure for the sake of a malicious promo.
2. Does the TNA Hall of Fame mean anything?
Wrestling fans seem to always want it both ways, like when grievances are aired about Big Show failing to step up to The Authority, then complaining that it took too long once it finally happens. I definitely fall into that category sometimes, so that is in no way a criticism of people who are passionate about the product and those who expect clarity and continuity from stories being told on television. A deeper analysis of that attitude, however, can expose some inconsistencies with it. Kurt Angle's Hall of Fame debacle is a prime example.
Angle, as (we think) part of a storyline, declined induction into the super-prestigious, storied TNA Hall of Fame this past Sunday at Bound For Glory because he believed his personal failures, such as a recent rehab stint in response to a couple DUI arrests, made him unworthy to join Sting in the HOF. Many fans railed on the angle because the Hall of Fame in any organization is supposed to be hallowed and revered, and how dare TNA turn a legitmate, honorable institution into just another angle?
Many of those same fans, however, have spent the last year-plus criticizing and poking fun at TNA for having a Hall of Fame that is neither legitimate nor honorable. "Why would a 10-year-old company establish a Hall of Fame?" they ask. It's a perfectly reasonable question, and one that should be asked. TNA shouldn't have a Hall of Fame until it has turned out enough homegrown talent worthy of enshrinement into it. That might take 50 years, though, so TNA chose the marketing and publicity over the time and waiting necessary to establish a real Hall of Fame.
I can't find it within myself to lambaste TNA for turning the Hall of Fame into an angle because in my mind the Hall of Fame IS an angle. Until I can see and touch and marvel at the boots Ric Flair wore when he won the 1992 Royal Rumble or stand in awe in front of the robe Randy Savage wore before capturing his first WWE Championship, I can't take the idea of pro wrestling halls of fame completely seriously.
It's a great thing that the legends of the industry can congregate every year the night before WrestleMania to share stories and be honored in a way that I'm sure is special for the performers and their families. But even horseshoe pitching has a physical hall of fame building. When WWE catches up to horseshoe pitching and breaks ground on a similar establishment, I will re-evaluate my reverence for the WWE Hall of Fame.
To put it more simply, until WWE or someone else builds a physical hall of fame and houses within it the most important artifacts in the history of the buisness, I'll always see the Hall of Fame as something that can be exploited on television whenever it serves the natural progression of an angle.
That didn't happen in Angle's case, but it's unfair to criticize TNA for making a farce out of its Hall of Fame while at the same time calling the TNA Hall of Fame a farce in the first place. Pick one or the other, but not both. And if this twist proves me wrong and happens to make Angle's character more interesting and helps TNA draw money, then it was a smart decision. Until I see bricks and mortar, a WWE or TNA Hall of Fame is only a figment of the imagination, free to be used however a writer or booker may decide.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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