The lieutenant has become the mob boss as Triple H has taken over for Vince McMahon as WWE's lead authority figure.
Parallels exist between both characters, as do disparities. One is an imposing athlete bulging out of his suit, the other a chilling villain when he reins in his hamminess.
McMahon has stepped away from the limelight in recent weeks, allowing Triple H to take over as chief corporate antagonizer with his merciless wife at his side. It's a move paralleling real life as Triple H's offscreen duties have expanded recently.
Onscreen, Triple H has been an unapologetic dictator since SummerSlam.
There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing. –Aristotle— Triple H (@TripleH) August 25, 2013
His abuse of Daniel Bryan and the WWE roster resembles what McMahon once did to Bret Hart, Steve Austin, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and others. Injustice has been a hallmark of both McMahon and Triple H's reigns.
Approach to Abuse
Triple H doesn't want Bryan to wear the WWE Championship as fervently as McMahon once hated the idea of Austin being his champion.
It was Triple H's pedigree after Bryan defeated John Cena that allowed Randy Orton to cash in his Money in the Bank contract on the bearded one. After Bryan's title win at Night of Champions, Triple H stripped him of the championship, citing collusion with referee Scott Armstrong.
McMahon spent much of the late '90s scheming to keep the title away from Austin.
In a championship match at Over the Edge: In Your House that pitted Austin against Dude Love, McMahon assigned his goons, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, to be the ring announcer and timekeeper while McMahon served as referee.
He later booked a Triple Threat match at Breakdown: In Your House where brothers Kane and Undertaker would both take on Austin.
McMahon had police and bodyguards overwhelm Austin; Triple H has sicced The Shield on Bryan in similar fashion.
Much of the difference in this maltreatment of an employee has been the level of give and take. McMahon and Austin felt like equals despite how radically different they were. Triple H has continually put himself above Bryan, both through words and actions.
Look back at the McMahon and Austin rivalry and note how often "Stone Cold" knocked McMahon on his back or outsmarted the boss.
In the shorter Bryan and Triple H feud, "The Flying Goat" hasn't had many moments of triumph against his tormentor. It was Big Show who knocked him out, not Bryan. It's been Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Orton who have suffered from Bryan's wrath, not Triple H.
Triple H, in that way, has been more untouchable.
He's the supervillain so well stocked with cronies that he rarely faces direct combat. McMahon had his share of underlings, but also suffered Austin's stunner a number of times.
The method of verbal attack has been different as well.
McMahon so often seemed genuinely afraid of Austin. When he spoke to him, it was in a tone that blended trepidation, loathing and deep down, respect. This was similar to the dynamic between The Joker and Batman.
The Joker enjoyed his clashes with Batman because he knew that he was the only hero on his level, someone fully worthy of his attention.
Triple H, on the other hand, has treated Bryan like he's below him. He's not his archenemy, he's a resilient pest.
During Orton and Bryan's contract signing, Triple H dismissed Bryan's challenge of him by saying he'd only get back in the ring "to fight a star." He told Bryan that he wouldn't waste his time with him. To Triple H, Bryan is more Nightwing than Batman.
It's as if Triple H is mimicking McMahon's interactions with Orton in 2005, rather than McMahon at odds with Austin.
The Devil Makes Fun of Himself
At his peak, McMahon's coldness was enthralling. He felt like some heartless general ordering troops into battle and disallowing disobedience.
When he explained why he screwed Hart out of the WWE Championship in 1997, the merging of real-life executive and villainous character began.
His demeanor was unsettling, his logic infuriating. This is where Triple H stands now, easily hateable, frustrating to watch in an entertaining way.
Triple H tries to pass off his actions as him simply being business-minded while playing the misunderstood tyrant superbly.
He is mirroring McMahon at his darkest and most loathsome. He has yet to tap into McMahon's sillier side.
Throughout the years, McMahon has eased off from his fang-bearing persona to be more of a mockery of himself. His increasingly over-the-top strut to the ring is evidence of that.
McMahon has allowed himself to be the butt of the joke, whether it was D-Generation X mocking him on TV or in a scene involving a bedpan.
Triple H has been all business thus far. That could certainly change should he stay atop the WWE in this role, but for now there is no pie on his face whatsoever.
That lack of goofiness combined with his past in the ring makes Triple H intimidating in a different way than McMahon.
When Austin wanted to pound McMahon into a powder, the audience believed it was only a matter of time before this happened. He just need a few minutes alone with him. McMahon, though, continually managed to keep his distance and avoid a full-fledged beating as long as he could.
Triple H versus Bryan wouldn't be the same kind of mismatch.
McMahon survived his matches; Triple H, even at this stage in his career, is more of a predator. Being younger and stronger makes Triple H a more powerful presence in terms of physicality.
Still, there was something haunting about McMahon in his prime, something believably evil about him.
Triple H has mastered being smug and maddening, but doesn't come off as dastardly as McMahon, even though he's shown less weakness. In the coming months, Triple H will have multiple opportunities to try and catch McMahon in that department.
His feud with Big Show is certain to intensify. He may continue to war with Bryan and perhaps even Shawn Michaels.
We'll then see how Triple H's approach to being a corporate heel evolves, and if he can live up to what WWE's previous version of The Godfather did.