Last night on Raw, during the contract signing for Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton at Hell in a Cell, Triple H cut a promo that veered off in an interesting direction. After Bryan signed the contract, Triple H said this:
Here's the thing, Daniel. I've seen guys like you come and go a million times. Guys like Jericho, Edge, Rob Van Dam. All guys that are very talented, don't get me wrong. Top guys! Very popular! But not 'the one.' Never were they 'the one.' And maybe nobody wants to say this, but it needs to be said: It's a fact. If any of those guys had been the face of the WWE back in the day, we'd all be working for Ted Turner right now.
You think you're playing in the big leagues, kid? You have no idea. You step inside that Hell in a Cell and I have a feeling you're gonna prove to the world that you're a B+ player.
After that, when Bryan challenged Triple H, he responded by saying he's a "A+ player" and "a star" that only faces guys at his level like The Undertaker, The Rock or Brock Lesnar. Then the segment shifted back into Shawn Michaels defending Bryan and the Hell in a Cell match.
It seemed like it was just part of the angle, but then Chris Jericho tweeted this a few hours later:
He followed that up with a tweet that he deleted pretty quickly (h/t PWTorch.com), which stated: "Time to move on guys. Bye bye @wwe! Now time for more important things...any doubt that #DayInTheLife is the best @thebeatles song ever?"
Before I say anything else, there's something I need to point out: Regardless of whether or not Paul Levesque actually believes what he's saying, everything he's saying is filtered through the current heel WWE COO Triple H character. Even if these are his sincere feelings, he's using the stereotypical Internet wrestling fans' perception of what he's like in real life to enhance his heel character.
Still, he's not completely wrong. Chris Jericho and Rob Van Dam could have been much bigger stars than they were, but it's unlikely that, even with the right push, either had a real shot at being "the one." Edge was about as big a star as he could have been, and I honestly don't see a scenario where he ever could have be the top guy. His best runs were as the top heel, and Triple H is the only heel WWE has ever really built around.
Jericho admitted in his second book that he did too much comedy early in his first WWE run to capitalize on the momentum of his debut. The Rock can get away with comedy because he's The Rock, but the heel debuting by interrupting him needs to be more serious.
When Jericho caught fire as a babyface several months later and had adjusted better to WWE, the company should have let him run with the ball. Still, even if it had, The Rock was at the peak of his powers then, and Jericho would not have been "the guy." There wasn't a window for him to really break out after that.
Van Dam had a few short windows to become "the guy": the months after his WWE debut, the period in 2002 where most of WWE's singles titles were unified and his time holding the WWE and ECW Championships in 2006.
I can see why WWE kept RVD on the ECW/Alliance side during the invasion storyline, so Steve Austin turning face when it ended got in his way. He absolutely should have beaten Triple H in the match that unified the World Heavyweight Championship with the Intercontinental Championship (which also included the European and Hardcore Championships). If Shawn Michaels still returned full-time, he never would have become Raw's real top babyface, though.
Of course, in 2006, Rob Van Dam did a good job killing his momentum when he got arrested for marijuana possession while driving to his hotel after a WWE event. He was always going to be a temporary WWE champion, but it's his fault he didn't stay in the mix as a main eventer.
There's a lot more that could be touched on, but if the argument is that they could have never been WWE's anchor stars, there's something to it. Of course, on the other hand, Jericho is kind of right, too.
WWE gave Triple H more chances than most wrestlers. As much as the legend has become that he was punished in 1996 when he, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Shawn Michaels broke character in the "Clique Curtain Call" at Madison Square Garden, the reality is more complicated.
He was really just removed from the King of the Ring tournament he was scheduled to win and became more of an anonymous midcarder for a few months. Five months after the incident at MSG, he won the Intercontinental Championship from Marc Mero in a major angle on Raw where Mr. Perfect turned heel to help him.
As he moved up the card, he had mixed results, but he did end up as the perfect heel foil for The Rock, Steve Austin and Mick Foley. He was a legitimate top heel and an excellent performer. Still, when the aforementioned Superstars were all gone and WWE started being built around him in 2002, he had slowed down considerably due to his first quadricep tear, and WWE being built around a heel didn't fit in with the company's established booking patterns of a long-tenured, unbeatable champion.
What moment do you feel made Triple H a legitimate top star in WWE?
As much as he's been an excellent performer and was WWE's biggest-pushed star, there are many legitimate arguments for why he was never quite "the guy" the way John Cena, The Rock, Steve Austin, The Undertaker and maybe even Batista were. Again, a lot of that is being a heel: Vince McMahon builds his company around top babyfaces, and a heel can't be "the guy" in the same way the babyfaces are.
So, yes, they're both kind of right, but it's really just a pissing contest. Of course, if Chris Jericho is coming back and the tweets were part of the storyline (which I kind of doubt since one was deleted), then maybe we were all witnesses to the subtle beginnings of a future feud.