How to tell if you are 14 time WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H

You hate all the t-shirts they make for you.

You feel like you can still go, but you have this other job now.

You convince them, just this one last time. Everyone else is hurt and you’re a star they can still use.

You’re still two away from tying Flair.

You’re one away from tying Cena. The prick.

You can’t believe you let him get ahead of you on that one.

You are awake a very long time every day and it shows.

You text The Rock every week to ask when he wakes up. You set your alarm five minutes earlier than he does.

You wonder if the back row can see the work you’ve put into yourself.

You can’t read the mentions on Twitter.

All your heroes are dead or close. You feel old when you think about them.

You feel young for most of the day. You feel like you’re just getting started. Your kids keep you young.

You did everything that was asked of you. You got everything you wanted. But it still feels like there’s something missing. And you know what it is.

You think about death a little. You get checkups. But you’re no more worried about your mortality than any other guy.

But you think about it more than Vince, who literally believes he’ll live forever.

You’re glad you never started doing suicide dives.

You wish you had a finishing move that was easier on the quads.

You wonder why the hell the interns haven’t put WCW Saturday Night on the Network yet. What did we buy them for if not that?

You’re really proud of your tape collection. Some rare shit in there.

It’s nice to get a little water before a match.

You’re proud of what you’re doing. But there are not enough hours in the day.

You’re not like what they see on TV. Sometimes you wish you were more like that guy. Sometimes you hate that guy.

Kane still ribs you about Katie.

You don’t take Hulk Hogan’s calls anymore.

Your wife is better than you are at almost everything. And you love her for it. It’s why you fell in love in the first place. You feel none of that old fashioned patriarchal shit.

You like Hunter the most. It’s a lot more you than Trips. Way more than Triple H. But you’re still Paul, too. You’re still every name you’ve ever had.

You don’t think you won that much, actually.

Just friends!

Eric Lynch:

Kurt Angle and Triple H reportedly met last weekend for the first time since 2006. The two multi-time WWE World Champions were both in attendance at the Arnold Sports Festival last weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Angle was there to be inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame, and Triple H was there to film and produce some videos for WWE.

Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported news of their meeting on Sunday night, but said there’s no word on what they talked about.

Do you think Kurt led with “So how’s Stephanie?”

Why is Roadblock happening?

They didn’t have to main event Roadblock with a WWE World Heavyweight Title match. Hell, they didn’t have to call it Roadblock. They didn’t have to air this house show on the WWE Network. And they certainly didn’t need to take two week’s of prime time television space to hype it. Wrestlemania is only a month away, and WWE’s narrative is focused on this little show in Toronto. Why?

They could have headlined it with Brock Lesnar beating Bray Wyatt and it would have been fine. Dean Ambrose could have wrestled Kevin Owens, like he did last week on Smackdown, and it would have been fine. The last two WWE-branded Network special events (we need a better name for these) were essentially televised house shows, both featuring Brock Lesnar in exhibitions. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s one of the things we thought we might get with the Network, and generally they’re nice bonuses.

But WWE Roadblock is not just a bonus. It’s become a plot point.

First off, it’s named like a PPV. It has that sort of generic catch-all feel like Fastlane and Over The Limit. The Beast in the East and Live from Madison Square Garden had “In Your House” titles. But WWE is treating Roadblock like the last PPV before Wrestlemania, with real implications for the main event of the most important show of the year.

Sure, that could be hype. WWE is a hype machine. But it isn’t one that makes unnecessary moves.

If you look at the rest of the card, it seems like fairly standard fare. All the other matches on the show scream “House show special.” Bray Wyatt vs Brock Lesnar is the main event of these matches, and it sorta kinda acts as the finale to Brock’s story at the Royal Rumble. It’s WWE’s attempt to finish a story they started for Wrestlemania but have since changed course.

Sheamus vs Roman Reigns is a fine act but has nothing to do with anything.

The nXt title match is interesting, if only because this isn’t an nXt show. This isn’t the first time they’ve done this, of course. Finn Balor won the nXt Championship at Beast in the East, which was for all intensive purposes a WWE-branded show. But it is the first time they’ve done this with characters who have spent absolutely no time on the main roster. It’s a soft launch for Enzo and Cass, who will likely lose here but get promoted to Raw either any day now or exactly the day after Wrestlemania. It’s nice, but it’s not interesting.

The main event, however, is curious.

Ususally, if WWE decides they don’t like how their Wrestlemania plans are going, they’ll change things up at the midpoint PPV between the Rumble and WM. The February PPV exists more or less as a course correctant. But Fastlane 2016 was an affirmation of the previous Wrestlemania’s story, positioning the indefatigable Roman Reigns as a chosen one.

At least it’s clear storytelling. HHH took the title from Reigns, and now Reigns wants it back. There’s little confusion to this story, and WWE in the 2010s respects “clarity” over “interesting” nine times out of ten. So far, the message here has been “we know we decided to pivot away from Reigns at the very last second last year. Don’t worry, this year is the year we really go through with it.”

So why have HHH defend the title at all? We have a number one contender. We have a simple story. It may leave a lot of fans cold, sure, but since when has WWE cared about pleasing everyone? They seem to be positioning the rest of Wrestlemania to please the hardcore fans with long memories (and a running knowledge of nXt’s history), so surely the main event could be reserved for what WWE thinks is best for business.

And why, in particular, are they having HHH defend against Dean Ambrose, a man who these hardcore fans loudly prefer over Reigns? I’ve heard so many people suggest that this is the main event they wanted for Wrestlemania.

Of course, it makes perfect sense if Dean Ambrose loses the match. HHH goes on to lose to Reigns at WM, WWE runs with him as the franchise character, and they do their best to make a “new” John Cena/Rock/Hogan/Backlund/etc. It seems like that’s their plan and I wish them well with it.

And of course, it doesn’t make any sense for Dean Ambrose to win, since Ambrose would then have to face Reigns at Wrestlemania, and the whole “best friend fight for the gold” is a little Survivor Series. They’ve done it, is what I mean, and they’ve done it recently.

So there’s this theory that’s going around that perhaps this match will end in some way that’ll throw the main event of Wrestlemania into question, and it’ll end up as a four-way match with Reigns, Ambrose, HHH, and Lesnar. This is a popular theory being thrown around by notable people, most notable among them is Ambrose himself.

Here’s Justin Donaldon recapping Ambrose’s monologue from Smackdown last week:

[Ambrose] asks for the mic and a chair, takes a seat in the middle of the ring, and goes about masterfully selling both WrestleMania and Bizarro WrestleMania, Roadblock. He explains his actions of the past few weeks and lays out a future that has him beating Triple H at Roadblock and has him going on to main event WrestleMania. He lays out every scenario of what could happen if he’s the WWE Champion come WrestleMania. Would he end up wrestling Roman Reigns? He said that seems like the right thing to do, but he really wants to wrestle Brock Lesnar. He’s got revenge on his mind and he wants to be the guy who slays The Beast once and for all. He goes on to point out that on the other hand, he might have to have a rematch with Triple H. He lays out several scenarios of wrestling different opponents at Mania, and then suggests that maybe they should just put all four of them in a cage and see what happens. He says that anything can happen right now, and the way he says it makes me want to believe it.

Mushing these two matches together solves a lot of problems. It places Brock Lesnar in the main event of the show, where he belongs. It takes the pressure off an aging HHH to deliver a one on one main event performance. Reigns shines in multi-man matches, and critics may go easier on him when he wins. And finally, it places Ambrose in the main event, where it feels like he belongs.

The question, as it always is with a scripted show, does WWE want to change it up? Or are they happy with the presentation they currently have? And if they are, why have this lowly Torontonian house show act as a place where it all might change? Why put the idea in people’s heads?

If HHH just wins at Roadblock and Wrestlemania goes on as planned, it’ll at best be a cashgrab and another successfully hyped and promoted wrestling show. At worst it’s a bungled set of mismanaged expectations.

If something else happens, it’ll be the third year in a row where WWE’s Wrestlemania main event plans changed midcourse.

Brock Lesnar vs. Bray Wyatt booked for WWE Roadblock

Paul Fontaine:

On this week’s edition of Smackdown that aired in Canada Wednesday and in the U.S. Thursday, WWE announced that Brock Lesnar will wrestle Bray Wyatt at the Network exclusive special on May 12th, eminating from Toronto, ON.

This match was originally scheduled for this year’s WrestleMania, but Dean Ambrose was moved into the Wyatt spot prior to the Fastlane PPV.

This reminds me of 2011, when HHH’s original opponent was slated to be Sheamus (it was Sheamus who “took out” HHH in 2010). WWE had HHH beat Sheamus on a featured house show close to Wrestlemania instead.

Shame about the sub out from Luke Harper. I was looking forward to seeing him in a featured spot.

Left and Leaving

“There is only one success — to be able to spend your life in your own way.” — Christopher Morley

When did simply going home and staying there become a thing we sought after? I don’t remember, but I certainly feel it. A lot of people feel it. Maybe the last generation wanted to punch out their boss. Maybe back then Stone Cold Steve Austin made them feel really good, because they could imagine what it would be like if they could act like he did. But today, these days, it’s about going home. That’s all any of us want, it seems. We want to sit on our couch and cuddle our girl and watch HBO. We want to lazily wander around at home and chat with our friends and Tumblr for hours. We want to be left the fuck alone and only dip into society when we goddamn feel like. So of course CM Punk is a hero. 

CM Punk left. He beat John Cena for the WWE Championship, blew a kiss to Vince McMahon, and ran off into the beautiful Chicago night. The last five minutes of the show was a beautiful silent short. In retrospect, what a strange thing to present us. A villain wins, a villain leaves, a villain gets everything he wants, and in that moment we all wish we were him. We all wish we could grab the prize and walk away. We all wish we could go see a damn ball game while our dictator employer is fired on live television. 

CM Punk left. Even twenty-four hours after Punk ran up the stairs past the shocked masses, nobody knew for sure if he was part of WWE anymore. We didn’t know if he’d signed a contract. As far as anyone could piece together, Punk was actually gone. They were going to crown a new WWE Champion and pretend he never existed. 

CM Punk left, and in leaving truly defined his principles. The strongest wrestling characters are ones whose principles never waver, who are loved or hated due to circumstance and well-tuned conflict. Punk had always been strongly defined—a straight-edge asshole, a tattooed degenerate who insulted your heroes for their hypocrisies — and those by themselves would have been fine. But by leaving, Punk evolved. He is now, and perhaps from now on, a man who wants to go home. He is a man who loves his friends, his city, his couch. You can see it in his eyes, in his step. He’s tired, and he wants to just do this thing. So of course CM Punk is a hero. 

CM Punk left, but then he came back. He returned because the new boss talked him into it. Presumably, HHH did whatever he could to make Punk sign. We don’t know the specifics of the deal, but we also don’t know what the WWE Championship means, either. WWE likes to leave these kinds of thing open — not because they’re lazy, but because they like the audience to fill these kinds of things in themselves.

The WWE Championship means something different to different people. Hell, it means different things to different performers. Sometimes it’s a thing you win. Sometimes it’s a thing you steal. Sometimes it’s a thing you break with a hammer. Sometimes it’s a thing you almost forget on someone’s sofa. Sometimes it’s a thing that more than one person gets to have, if only for a few weeks. 

CM Punk left, but we’ll probably never know if he left “for real.” Though Punk has insisted that he was going to go home and stay there, we don’t know the particulars of his contract, when he re-signed, and whether  his contract was ever in danger of expiring. If I had to guess, I’d say Punk re-signed before they ever began the story. I’d like to think WWE is a little better organized than to let someone actually main-event an important show without signing a contract, but I don’t know. You don’t know. Nobody knows. And we likely never will. 

CM Punk left, but he came back and immediately became the anti-authoritarian figure to the new, shiny authority figure. It’s likely that the next few months will be about that struggle. It’s an old story, and one that so far hasn’t produced new beats. Whether they do or not is the true test: does WWE acknowledge the true desires of their fans? Do they realize just how much Punk speaks for us? Do they realize the changes they have to make in order to keep this story relevant? If they do, they know this: It is vitally important that the threat of Punk leaving is always there. It is paramount that Punk’s goal is to get on his couch, away from the road, the toil, and the performance. Punk needs to go home. They can throw all the roadblocks in his way that they want, but he needs to keep that couch as a goal. If they let him forget that, if they let him just be another superstar competing for a metaphor-filled macguffin like everyone else, then they’ll have lost our desires, too. 

The best wrestling characters have strong principles, but they also need strong desires. Sometimes, winning the belt is that desire. Sometimes it’s becoming a myth. Sometimes, like the case is with Punk, it’s the desire to go home and be able to stay there. Punk wrestles so that one day he won’t have to. He left, and he will always be leaving.