It was a tough feat for Triple H, taking over the booking reigns in the middle of the build to the second biggest show of the year for WWE. SummerSlam 2022 had all the makings of a bad show with an uninspiring main event before the unexpected “retirement” of Vince McMahon elevated Triple H to the Booker’s seat. Yet after the PPV (do we still call them pay per views?) fans are in awe that WWE pulled off something really good. Fans are genuinely interested in WWE’s product for the first time in a long time.
The common theme throughout SummerSlam was that everything mattered. No segments wasted, no plot holes or threads that you just know would be ignored later. The talent that should be elevated or acknowledged were. The stars who needed to be spotlighted but weren’t on the card were still featured. Kevin Owens, Drew McIntyre, and Charlotte all did not have a match on the show but still had segments dedicated to them, getting them more over as stars. The Vince regime didn’t pay that kind of attention to detail. The Triple H era does.
While most fans point to the opening of SummerSlam as their example of how the booking looks different (and it was great, don’t get me wrong), to me, Theory and Bobby Lashley are equally as good examples. Lashley got to be the monster he should be. He’s a top guy in a company desperate for top guys. He got to look the part and there’s a feeling that he will be treated as such.
Theory was protected. Sure, he tapped out to Lashley (he should have) and got beat down by both Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar (he should have) but the fact of the matter is that he’s simply not ready for the top spot. He’s not and that’s not a knock on him. Vince McMahon was pushing the wrong person at the wrong time and I guarantee that if Vince were booking last night instead of Triple H, Theory would have won the title and then been punished when his title reign wasn’t successful. Triple H is knocking Theory down a few pegs for his own good. He’s still in the title picture, still has the MITB briefcase, and is working with top guys, but isn’t getting a spot he isn’t ready for. Yet.
Then there’s AJ Styles, one of the best workers in the whole world. No match on the card, no problem. AJ Styles got to make his presence felt in a high-profile match, setting up a storyline that he’s Logan Paul’s new mentor. It’s a brilliant move to get Styles in the mix and another example of Triple H turning a negative (Styles not being used well or having a match on this huge card) and turning it into a positive.
Long Term Booking
So Triple H passed the first test, turning SummerSlam into a solid show without falling into any of the Vince McMahon-made pitfalls left behind. The show was good, stories have been set up for the future and everyone was protected. But where do we go from here?
WWE will never be what NXT was under Triple H but it can be a really good product. Look no further than Triple H’s heyday, the early 2000s, when solid in-ring work had its place, as well as the entertainment factor. Good stories were being told, along with a dose of over-the-top WWE-style entertainment (think Lesnar and the tractor) and it worked. Drama, comedy, athletics. WWE can be that again. Will it be 45-minute black and gold era NXT-style classics? No, but it doesn’t have to be. WWE has its own brand and Triple H has shown in his short time on the job that good booking is back.
Who Else Is Coming Back?
Dakota Kai’s return to the WWE certainly has people wondering if and when Triple H will start to bring back others let go during the budget cuts that swept the company over the last few years. It’s hard to say. I’m sure he will inevitably bring back a few of his favorites but am I expecting a massive hiring frenzy? No, I’m not.
WWE is going to be going through a lot of changes internally and I expect that the budget will probably be somewhat frozen while the new regime gets comfortable in their positions. Someone like Dakota Kai wasn’t breaking the bank and wasn’t under contract anywhere else so it made sense. Plus Bayley has been outspoken about wanting to work with her and it makes good business sense. But I’m not expecting a lot of that. I’m more expecting current performers to get rehabbed – Triple H taking a roster that’s been damaged by bad creative and making them mean something again.
Wrestling, the business as a whole, ebbs, and flows by what WWE is doing, no matter how hard some try to deny that. Right now, WWE is in an exciting place and that’s good for the business as a whole. Look for companies such as AEW and Impact to feel a little creative pressure to step their game up, which also is good for the business as a whole. Wrestling, like any other business, requires competition and well, there’s plenty of it now. I guess Triple H wasn’t lying with all of his “what’s best for business” talk.