We are two months into the era of Triple H as head of creative and what an interesting time it has been in the WWE. The shows feel must-watch again for the first time in years.
Stars are returning to the company and there seems to be a renewed focus in the direction of the programming. Of course, there is room for improvement, but I would definitely give Triple H (his new job title is Chief Content Officer) a solid “B” as Head of WWE Creative so far. He has made so many positive changes but there are five that really stand out to me.
FIVE POSITIVE CHANGES SO FAR
#5: LONGER MATCHES
One of the staples of Vince McMahon booking throughout his entire history running WWE is that it is not about the matches, but about the story. Even during the Attitude Era, a lot of those matches on Raw and Smackdown would run about 3-5 minutes with an occasional 8-minute match and sometimes a longer main event. One of Triple H’s strong points in NXT was that he let the performers go out there and tell their stories, but also didn’t limit them to five minutes with entrances. It seems to have carried over to the main roster. On last week’s Raw, the shortest match was 11 minutes. In the last Raw under Vince McMahon, the longest match was 11 minutes.
Triple H has shown a willingness to let the talent go out there and tell their stories in the amount of time they need to tell them. It has resulted in guys like Kevin Owens, Tommaso Ciampa, Johnny Gargano, Austin Theory, Ricochet, Chad Gable etc. getting a renewed focus put on them because they are some of the best wrestlers in the world. Some of the crowds haven’t responded the way we would like, but it will take time. A lot of these main roster fans have been conditioned to 3–5 minute matches, so it is going to take a few months or more to get them used to the new way of wrestling on Raw and Smackdown.
#4: THE WOMEN’S DIVISION GETS A BOOST
Granted, the Women’s division was doing fine over the last few months under the old regime but in general, the Women’s division hasn’t done as well over the last few years as it had done previously. Part of that is due to mass releases and most of it is due to a lack of creativity.
Over the last two months, you’ve seen a renewed focus placed on women’s wrestling in WWE. When I say women I mean the whole division, not just the same two or three women. On Raw, you have Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair, Asuka, Alexa Bliss, and Damage CTRL (including new Women’s Tag Team Champions IYO SKY & Dakota Kai) all getting screen time. Becky Lynch has been injured for the last two months and Rhea Ripley has played a key role in The Judgment Day without wrestling much.
Over on Smackdown, you have Smackdown Women’s Champion Liv Morgan, Ronda Rousey, Raquel Rodriguez, Aliyah, Sonya, Shayna, and newly turned babyface Shotzi all getting screen time on the show. All of this is without three of the four horsewomen in Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks as well as no Naomi. If all four of those women return and get slotted into the division, we may be looking at an all-time great women’s roster in WWE.
#3: MORE COHESIVE STORYTELLING
One thing the new regime seems to be more focused on is decent storytelling instead of just Person A wanting to fight Person B. We’ve seen it with the Dexter Lumis angle. We are seeing it with these “White Rabbit” references that have most thinking of a certain “Fiendish” return.
The new regime headed by Triple H seems more intent on weaving angles together instead of just assuming the audience is going to like what they’re seeing. We’ve seen histories acknowledged such as the history of Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory in NXT or, even more unbelievable, the reference of Sami Zayn and Ricochet competing in PWG a decade ago which would’ve been unheard of two months ago. It’s refreshing and something I hope continues.
#2: TAG TEAM WRESTLING MATTERS
Tag Team Wrestling is thriving in WWE again, which is not a surprise if you watched Triple H’s version of NXT over the last decade. Whether it was The Undisputed Era or The Revival, the Street Profits, DIY, Imperium or AOP, tag wrestling was always something he gravitated towards. On the main roster, he seems to be slowly integrating that back into the fold.
The Usos are still on top with a title reign lasting 14 months and counting, but he’s putting more focus on factions such as the Brawling Brutes, the newly reformed Imperium, The Street Profits, The Judgment Day, and so on. A number one contenders match for the Tag Team Titles main evented Smackdown on September 16th and then this past Friday on Smackdown, The Usos beat The Brawling Brutes in a great main event title match. The Women’s Tag Team Titles have also main evented Raw as well. It’s clear that Triple H wants tag team wrestling to matter again. They have the teams to get this done and I’m happy to see it.
#1: THE MIDCARD TITLES FEEL IMPORTANT AGAIN
This was one of the biggest misses of the previous regime. It felt like the midcard titles haven’t felt important in over a decade with a few notable exceptions. One of Triple H’s first changes as Head of Creative was to establish importance in the Intercontinental and United States Titles. Triple H immediately had a one night tournament to crown the number one contender to the United States Title, won by Tommaso Ciampa, who was obviously a big name in Triple H’s NXT for many years. The company aired video packages on the history of both titles. Ciampa dedicated his United States Title match to Harley Race, a legendary former United States Champion. Bobby Lashley has had several great US Title defenses over the last two months against a number of different opponents that have raised the prestige of that title.
The Intercontinental Title was defended at a Premium Live Event for the first time since WrestleMania 37 when Gunther and Sheamus had arguably the best match of the night. Gunther and Bobby Lashley are perfect representatives of the Intercontinental and United States Titles and they’re doing a hell of a job re-establishing those titles as top titles in WWE, especially when the WWE/Universal Champion isn’t always on the show.
Of course, there are other changes. Guys that didn’t really get a fair shot under the old regime are getting a spotlight under this one such as Chad Gable, Ricochet, Butch, etc. There are far less rematches as opposed to the previous regime where it felt like the same guys faced each other every week. We also don’t get to see champions losing non-title matches to build up challengers, which actually weakened the champions before their title matches. Even the promos have gotten better since wrestlers have gotten a little more creative freedom.
There have been a lot of positive changes made, but I did find three things that need a little bit more work.
THREE MORE CHANGES THAT NEED TO HAPPEN
#3: SMACKDOWN NEEDS MORE DEPTH
Raw has long been the most stacked show since the Draft last year. Since Triple H took over, he’s tried to even out that depth a little bit with the additions of Karrion Kross/Scarlett, Braun Strowman, Hit Row, and also utilizing some people on both shows at times. However, they still need to do more. For example, the Smackdown Women’s division is probably the worst it’s been in years. They are doing the best they can with the depth they have, but they desperately need Charlotte, Sasha, and Naomi back in the fold.
Since WWE has an extensive women’s roster in NXT with Toxic Attraction, Roxanne Perez, Alba Fyre, Cora Jade, etc. they can call any one of those up at any time to help out that division. It’s one of the low points, but one I feel will be rectified really soon.
#2. MORE MATCHES AT PREMIUM LIVE EVENTS (PAY-PER-VIEWS)
One of the strong points of NXT was less is more. Triple H didn’t want to burn out the NXT audience so most of those Takeover shows only had five or sometimes six matches so the run time would be around 2.5 to 3 hours. While that’s good for NXT, it doesn’t really work on the main roster. Look at Clash of the Castle for example. It had a six-match card and it was a great show. The best wrestling show of the year for WWE. Yet, look at all of the talent that was NOT on that card.
United States Champion Bobby Lashley
I’m not saying get all AEW and have 15 match cards every month that go past midnight. A good, solid 8 matches would be perfect for Main roster PLE’s. You can still give performers time and still keep the shows within 3 to 3.5 hours. It’s a doable concept. I don’t think six-match PLE cards are good long-term on the main roster because so much talent will get left off. Especially since guys like Johnny Gargano, Braun Strowman, and possibly Bray Wyatt returning to the company. The more talent you bring back, the more difficult it will be to stick to those six matches every PLE.
#1: GET A WORLD CHAMPION (WWE/UNIVERSAL) ON RAW
This has been a criticism for months. In my opinion, the WWE/Universal World Title situation on Raw has been disastrous since Big E lost the title at Day 1. Brock Lesnar took the title from Big E, then lost it a few weeks later to Bobby Lashley at the Rumble, who then lost it back to Brock at Elimination Chamber. Ever since then, the WWE Champion has rarely appeared on Raw. It’s only gotten worse since Roman Reigns unified the Titles at WrestleMania.
I know the United States Title is important again, but they need a World Championship on Raw. They have guys like Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Bobby Lashley and a soon-to-be returning Cody Rhodes. If Roman Reigns decides to appear on Raw more regularly then fine, I’m okay with one champion. If not and his future is mostly on Smackdown, then you have to get a World Champion on Raw. It’s been far too long.
That’s it. The first two months are in the books and I have to say I’ve looked more forward to shows over the last two months than I have in the last decade. With WarGames returning at Survivor Series, I can’t wait to see what a Royal Rumble and WrestleMania look like under this new regime.
Thanks for reading. Check out my TJRWrestling writing archive here. I’m on Twitter @GiftedMoney talking about wrestling among other things, so feel free to message me on there with any thoughts or comments.