As hard as it may be to believe, Paul “Triple H” Levesque only is a few weeks into his heel leadership—at least from a TV standpoint—of WWE.
It’s obvious he learned from the best in his father-in-law, Vince McMahon. Levesque has been so ruthless, so evil in his path of humiliation in the name of being “best for business." It Is almost like watching McMahon at his diabolical genius during the eras of Attitude and Ruthless Aggression but without the R-rated antics that defined those times.
Whether or not this was done intentionally as a test of how WWE would be post-McMahon, Levesque has passed with flying colors. The tactics may be different, but the results were the same.
In McMahon’s heyday, no one was as good at being so bad as him. He tortured his roster with sexual innuendo and graphic displays of misguided loyalty. He goaded. He cajoled. He teased. He mocked. He humiliated. He made promises he never planned to keep.
And he tested the loyalty limits of his superstars by making them do humiliating things. Remember how he got William Regal, Jim Ross, Shawn Michaels and even his own son, Shane McMahon, to kiss his bare buttocks right in the middle of the ring?
Fast-forward to 2013. Levesque’s character and his wife, Stephanie, have made Daniel Bryan and The Big Show their personal whipping boys. In addition to placing unattainable stipulations on Bryan trying to win back the WWE Championship, they also have emotionally cut Big Show off at the knees by forcing him to sit idly by at ringside and watch the Bryan saga unfurl if he wants to keep his job.
Meanwhile, current WWE champ Randy Orton—the true beneficiary of Triple H’s reign of terror—is suddenly acting like he is the owner’s bratty son, thinking he can get in others’ faces and tell them what to do because Daddy “owns” them. He and The Shield, WWE’s equivalent of the palace guard, seem to have "carte blanche" to do what they want to do when, where and how they want to do it just because they have bought the bill of goods that Triple H and Stephanie have sold them.
It’s a page straight out of McMahon’s playbook. The faces are different, but the premise is exactly same.
And that is what leads me to believe that this truly is a test of Levesque’s ability to lead programming. While all this is happening, Vince McMahon is nowhere to be found.
Sure, he set the table for all this before SummerSlam when he popped up on TV almost weekly, praising The Shield for “ruthless aggression” and calling Bryan a troll.
Since SummerSlam, however, McMahon has been seen on TV only once. That was on the post-SummerSlam Raw show, when he joined his daughter and Levesque in crowning Orton as champion. After that, he has been missing in action.
That just does not seem right for a character who, in the past, has seen himself as the axis on which the rest of the world turns.
McMahon has spent various amounts of extended time off camera during his career but that usually was for health reasons or for his wife Linda’s political aspirations. After all, he is 68 years old, and despite what he thinks, he is not going to live forever.
This plot line usually screams for the over-the-top personality we know McMahon’s character possesses.
This time, however, he seems to have taken on the role of the old, wise professor who has given his prize student a plan and is watching him study for his doctorate. He seems to be letting that prize student undergo his trial by fire and learn from his mistakes.
It’s always been a gimme that Stephanie McMahon would eventually take over the company when her dad can no longer do it. And she certainly has taken this opportunity and ran with it. She has already passed the test.
But for her husband, this plot line has been just what he needed to prove to the world—and the old man—that he has the chops to manage the entertainment conglomerate that WWE has become. So far, Levesque has passed with flying colors.
That has to make the old professor very proud.
Follow Bill Atkinson on Twitter at @BAtkinson1963.