Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic – A pleasant surprise…

A few weeks ago I was Mister Payne’s featured guest on the No Payne, No Glory podcast, and we had so much fun that he asked me back for a WrestleMania preview show. The only problem is that I don’t watch WWE programming regularly, as my readers know, so how can I discuss WrestleMania XXV? The only choice was to watch a little to catch up on storylines, and that’s precisely what I did. While checking out RAW last week I was pleasantly surprised by the arc in which Triple H’s hatred for Randy Orton and disgust over Orton’s recent actions has forced him to reveal the worst kept secret in WWE, the identity of Stephanie McMahon’s real life HHHusband.

TODAY’S ISSUE: Triple H versus Randy Orton.

The ultra-aggressive streak within Randy Orton’s character has developed into a medical condition that causes him to lash out without being able to control his anger. Although he’s perpetrated several heinous attacks on innocent victims, Orton has a team of lawyers and doctors keeping WWE from firing him for fear of the lawsuit he’s promised if they were to release him. Seemingly more untouchable than Test was after winning the Immunity Battle Royal at Survivor Series 2001, Orton has felt safe attacking everyone in the McMahon family since winning the Royal Rumble in January and earning a guaranteed championship match at WrestleMania XXV. All of this sounds like the makings of yet another goofy WWE storyline, but surprisingly this one is actually developing very nicely.

The big reveal came when Orton systematically attacked Vince, then Shane, and finally Stephanie McMahon, which was the straw that broke the H’s back. HHHis HHHighness was incensed at Orton’s transgressions, and sought vengeance against all three members of the Legacy, armed with only his bulky frame and his trusty melee weapon of choice, the sledgehammer. Of course we all know the story between Triple H and Stephanie in real life, but I wonder how many casual fans knew the truth about their marriage (don’t answer, I’m referring to the sort of fans who’d never visit an IWC site or read this column, so none of us will ever know). If the answer is that not many actually knew, then this was a fairly large bombshell to drop, and they did so with good reason and for a worthwhile cause from a business standpoint.

Letting the cat out of the bag about Triple H being married into the Clan McMahon was a reasonably sound use of that nugget of information because it was done in the name of getting over a feud we’ve seen before. The only effective way to make “A versus B” exciting again after it’s already been done is to change the dynamic between the two sides (heel/face alignment) or to insert a new element, such as this twist about Triple H defending his previously secret family. From the perspective of somebody who doesn’t generally enjoy the WWE product today and who’s already seen Triple H/Orton the first time around, I have to admit their interaction last Monday night certainly made me believe their match at WrestleMania XXV will be worth watching, and promoters can’t hope to do any better than that.

One thing Triple H did in his promo last Monday night that really made the angle work for me was to discuss his history with Randy dating back to the heel stable known as Evolution. It was a rare bit of storyline continuity in the WWE universe, and a welcome one at that. After all, it wasn’t that long ago when Orton’s primary duties in Evolution involved helping Triple H hang onto the World Heavyweight Championship at all costs, and many fans who currently watch the product must remember that storyline. When Orton earned that very title for himself, he fell out of favor with Triple H, Ric Flair, and Batista, and was forced to execute a de facto face turn and go it alone, which Triple H correctly described as less than inspiring in his promo on RAW. This is a great time for WWE to correctly act on the assumption that we wrestling fans remember significant events, important heel and face turns, and key championships changing hands. Triple H’s mention of their past added yet another log to the fire burning between these two men, and that inferno is going to engulf them both in Houston on April 5th.

Another nice touch in this renewed rivalry was Triple H returning to the leather-clad badass look he sported when he returned from his first quad tear a few years ago. That denim-and-leather style defined and suited the aggressive babyface as he sought to capture the WWE Undisputed Championship from Y2J at WrestleMania X8. Later he evolved (pun intended) into a clone of Ric Flair, wearing expensive suits, Rolex watches and sunglasses at night. But this new anger in his character has led him to return to the biker ensemble, and it fits his current mindset. It’s hard to take the threats of a man in Perry Ellis seriously, no matter how nice his hair looks.

I’m also a big fan of the stipulation which states that Triple H is not allowed to touch Randy Orton (unless physically provoked) before the title match at ‘Mania, or else Orton will take his Royal Rumble-earned ball and go home. That gives WWE several possibilities for painless ways to increase the tension between them before the big dance. Remember when The Giant couldn’t touch Kevin Nash in WCW leading into a big match in the late 1990s? It’s an automatic ante-upper and it’ll make their first lock-up at WrestleMania seem epic since we haven’t seen them touch one another in weeks leading up to the big showdown.

It just wouldn’t be me to love every aspect of this angle, however, and not surprisingly I have two comments/complaints. The first is about all the backstage elements of this feud between the former stable-mates. Triple H’s mad chase of the Legacy members while smashing everything from doors, to cars, to glass with his sledgehammer was not a good idea due to the risk of injury this close to the big match to which the angle is building in the first place. Can anyone remember Goldberg nearly bleeding to death after smashing a windshield and gashing his arm so deeply that he needed emergency surgery? Do you remember what event that angle was leading up to? Me neither – so it clearly wasn’t worth it. Not to mention the fact that WWE was doing fine establishing the emotion between Triple H and Orton without all the excess ga-ga backstage. As Bret the Hitman Hart stated in his autobiography, they are professional wrestlers, not trained stuntmen. They’ve been schooled to take bumps and physical abuse inside a wrestling ring where they have some control of the environment and the ability to trust each other, but all that goes out the window once you have them running around backstage and throwing all sorts of weapons at each other, driving recklessly, and smashing into walls. There’s just no need for it.

The other problem I have with this angle is that it’s so good that it doesn’t need the aura of the world heavyweight title to sell it. Why waste the drawing power of the strap on a feud that is able to stand on its own? The belt could help sell more tickets if it were the showcase of an entirely independent storyline arc, and Triple H and Orton would still be able to get their vendetta over with the fans without monopolizing the best angle in the company right now and one of two major championships in WWE. I’d rather see somebody like CM Punk, Chris Jericho, or Christian (and where the heck has Kennedy been lately?) feuding over the belt, or better yet, they could instantly elevate some of the lower-card guys like Evan Bourne, The Brian Kendrick, or Paul Burchill by having them involved in some sort of world title contest.

Even with my two issues about the angle, this feud between Triple H and Orton is really cooking, and as long as they keep the heat on and then deliver a solid match at ‘Mania, their war can be a major storyline for WWE well after their title match in Houston. I’d expect them to continue battling each other through most of the spring with a likely blow-off at SummerSlam if McMahon and company can allow their arc to keep simmering until then without throwing the whole thing away too soon. Time will tell, but I’ve got to give WWE credit for this one. It’s a rare treat when one of their angles works out this well. I might even consider tuning in to ‘Mania to see how the title match plays out, but don’t be too impressed by that; I get WWE ppvs for free while serving here in South Korea in the United States Air Force. Their storyline is good, but it isn’t good enough to make me spend money on it!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.” – Anais Nin

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Elsewhere on Pulse Wrestling this week…

John Wiswell breaks down the infamous Escalation event and adds notes from Ring of Honor’s recent television tapings in this week’s Cult of ROH.

Paul Marshall owns the iMPACT Zone with another Total Nonstop Weekly.

Jonathan Kirschner is in tune with the chaos that is CHIKARA with another edition of Chikarticles.

Phil Clark discusses the New Japan promotion in the always reliable Reality of Wrestling.

Raffi Shamir brings you the latest from WWE.com in this week’s Dot Com Delivery.

Mark Allen is all about the Benjamins (a.k.a. WWE’s quarterly earnings) in This Week in ‘E.

Finally this week, the special guest host of 10 Thoughts on SmackDown! is our very own Intercontinental Champ (literally), the one and only Iain Burnside.

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