I’ve been saying it for months now, ever since Triple H won the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble:
He’s leaving Wrestlemania as champion.
It’s not necessarily for any one reason, but as is always the case when the winds shift at the last minute in his storyline favor—for a confluence of reasons that just happen to align at just the right time.
It’s no secret to anyone that Roman Reigns is not getting over as WWE’s lead babyface. Nor is it any secret, particularly after this past week when they had to cut essentially the same promo twice, that The Authority is a tired force lording over WWE programming. Furthermore, the talent roster is thin—particularly following some ill-timed injuries—and in need of an injection of fresh blood.
And Triple H just happens to provide the silver bullet for all of their problems.
I’m old enough to remember when WWE invested time and money into a particular anti-Authority wrestler, on a path to topple the power-abusers and show once and for all that they could be beaten. And then, even after the storyline had played out over two calendar years, WWE made the decision at the last second to change the finish and have Triple H go over, throwing away all of the buildup for a finish that made no sense.
That was last year.
Triple H successfully convinced Vince—after a few weeks of conveniently acting like a babyface on TV and undercutting his actual-babyface opponent Sting—before Wrestlemania weekend that they couldn’t let Sting, representative of WCW, go over Triple H, representative of WWF/WWE, at Wrestlemania of all places. Never mind that this storyline had been building since Survivor Series the year before; when it counted, Sting was sold out so that Triple H could get his big win in front of the largest audience of the year.
Or a few years earlier, when Brock Lesnar was brought in—hot as could be off his legit UFC championship run—only to job to Triple H at Wrestlemania.
Or a few years earlier, when Booker T was victim of arguably the most overtly racist angle in pro-wrestling history—justifiable only because he was going to go over Triple H at Wrestlemania—only to have Triple H convince Vince McMahon in the final days to reverse the planned finish and have Hunter go over Booker. After all, they’d just signed Goldberg, and wouldn’t it really make more sense to have a strong heel champion?
It doesn’t matter how much is invested—when Triple H is involved, he’ll find a way to justify his victory at Wrestlemania, at the expense of whatever greater storyline is being told.
The issue this year is that he might actually—finally—be right.
Roman Reigns winning at Wrestlemania 32 as a supposed babyface would be a disaster. Not that Triple H’s hands are clean, but these past few months have put the problem on full display, as Reigns continues to get booed even against Authority-member (and crotch-chopper / unstoppable tough-guy) Triple H.
It doesn’t take much imagination to guess how the conversations are playing out.
“Vince, the kid just isn’t working as a face. And try as I might to get heel heat, they just keep cheering me. What we really need to do here is a double-turn, where I keep the belt, and then he’s the hot heel chasing after me. Then I can really sell for him and get him over. We get a happy ending at ‘Mania, and then we have a built-in story to carry us through the summer.”
This isn’t happening in a vacuum—this actually provides some storyline synergy and escape hatches into the bigger picture. If I had to place my bets (or at least submit my fantasy booking) before this weekend, this is how I’d imagine things playing out:
The Shane McMahon vs. Undertaker match is a mess. You have two faces going head-to-head with consequences nobody wants to see play out. Nobody wants to cheer Undertaker in order for the Authority to keep power, but nobody wants to cheer Shane in order for Undertaker to be retired from Wrestlemania.
So you need a clear face and a clear heel, giving fans an unambiguous favorite, and you need a reason for things to play out in that way.
The big rumor about this match is that John Cena will interfere, costing Undertaker the match and setting them up at Wrestlemania 33. The problem is that there is absolutely no storyline reason for John Cena to interfere. Rather, what makes more sense is for Roman Reigns to interfere on Shane’s behalf; it paints the first strokes of Reigns turning heel, and importantly—that alliance gives the Wrestlemania fans an excuse to root against Shane through his alliance with the unpopular Reigns.
Ultimately Shane goes over, giving him control of Raw.
Ending the show, Triple H faces Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, where you will certainly have Wrestlemania fans cheering the heel Triple H but booing the face Reigns. You’ve already begun the Reigns turn with the Undertaker interference; the key in this match is to give context to complete the turn, and give the fans the cues they need to cement it.
Shane tries to return the favor during this match, attempting to interfere on Reigns’ behalf. This past Monday night, Triple H alluded to making a call for some backup; it would be upon Shane’s interference that Triple H’s backup arrives—the Balor Club. The Wrestlemania crowd would go wild over that run-in; they’d keep Shane from interfering, allowing Triple H to go over, thwarting the Shane-Reigns alliance.
Starting Monday, that’s where you see the next six-to-twelve months taking shape. The McMahons know no other formula beyond “heel authority figure,” and now The Authority has been replaced by Heel Shane with his enforcer, Roman Reigns. The only thing standing in his way is Triple H, who is still holding onto the championship.
This allows Vince and family to keep Raw revolving around McMahon-family drama; not that this is a good thing, but this is why this outcome will be most tempting. And for Triple H, this will allow him to cut the tough-guy promos on heel Shane that he legitimately wants to cut, and it would be totally OK from a storyline perspective. With the Balor Club as his stable, it also unifies the NXT Triple H and WWE Triple H personae, with him as the patron of the incoming talent.
It sets up a number of matches down the road—a Triple H/Reigns rematch. A Triple H/Shane match. A Reigns/Undertaker match. An eventual Balor Club heel turn and defection leading to a Triple H/Balor match, where Triple H would be motivated to put over one of his NXT guys.
It keeps the McMahons and Triple H as the focal point of their television, while also solving some of their biggest problems.
And that’s why it’ll happen Sunday.