The Golden Shovel Award: Celebrating 25 Years of Triple H Burying WWE Opponents

With the WWE’s ongoing deification of Hunter Hearst Helmsley, it’s time for Pro Sports Extra to recognize Triple H’s 25 years in the WWE, including 25 years of burying opponents. In honor of “The Game’s” tireless efforts to keep potential stars down and keep himself on top, Pro Sports Extra is bestowing the much-coveted Golden Shovel Award (last bestowed on Hulk Hogan for his outstanding efforts in both the WWF and WCW). Let’s review the “The Cerebral Assassin’s” top ten victims:

I come not to praise him, but to bury him.

1. Bret Hart: Bret Hart clashed with D-Generation X’s Triple H and Shawn Michaels in the ring and behind the scenes, but no matter how shrewd Hart thought he was, Bret found himself excellently executed by Triple H. By 1997, “The Game” had already weaseled his way into Vince McMahon’s ear, meeting with the WWF’s head honcho along with Shawn Michaels to discuss angles and related matters. In his memoir, Heartbreak and Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story Shawn Michaels recalled the conversation involving the three:

“I know I’m not supposed to be talking here,” it was Hunter. “Maybe I’m out of line here, but what kind of business is this? Who in the world says. “I don’t want to drop the belt? You helped him to get a better deal there and he is leaving. That isn’t right. That’s b.s. How in the world can you trust him? This is the same guy who while he was off, after dropping the title to Shawn, went behind your back and negotiated a deal with WCW only to come back and renegotiate a twenty-year-way-out-of-bounds contract with you. He has not done good business since, and now he is leaving to get even more money, by you giving them the impression that you wanted to keep him” (266).

Some have seen Triple H’s comments as the catalyst that led to the Montreal Screwjob, arguably the biggest burial on this list. Hart left WCW with his head high, but his glory days were over, both in the WWF and WCW.

2. Chyna: When Triple H was dating “The Ninth Wonder of the World” Chyna, he entered a storyline marriage with Stephanie McMahon, launching the McMahon-Helmsley Era in the WWF where the promotion’s power couple launched a reign of terror in the promotion. Whether Helmsley saw the potential for a real-life power relationship with Stephanie or he fell in love with her, the two began dating in real-life, which made Chyna persona non grata when she accidentally learned of the relationship. Although the WWE has said Chyna left because the two parties couldn’t agree on a contract, most people with an I.Q. over room temperature don’t buy it.

3. Kurt Angle: Not every burial involves a wrestler heading to the bottom of the card, but it can see a Superstar go from a red-hot angle (no pun intended here) into a lesser storyline. In this case, Kurt Angle was involved in a storyline where his partnership with Triple H and partner-in-crime Stephanie McMahon looked to be headed for Angle horning in on Hunter’s then-storyline wife with a potential battle between Angle and Helmsley over Stephanie. The storyline was just heating up when it was suddenly dropped and fans wondered whether the storyline had the potential to lead to what happened when Trips and Stephanie’s on-screen romance turned into a real-life one. It’s likely the fans weren’t the only ones who thought so and Triple H used his stroke (and shovel) to bury this storyline, protecting his cushy position backstage.

Jericho would wait years for another world championship thanks to Triple H and his golden shovel.

4. Chris Jericho: Although some might argue that Chris Jericho is a WCW star that the WWE didn’t bury, the reality is he was nowhere near the main event when he worked in WCW, so the WWE had less reason to bury him. Nevertheless, Jericho proved to be Triple H’s latest victim after Hunter’s return from his first quadriceps injury. You may recall Jericho became the WWF’s first Undisputed WWF Champion after defeating the Rock and Steve Austin at 2001’s Vengeance pay-per-view, an impressive victory for Jericho. While the Jericho vs. Triple H program had potential, Triple H repeatedly embarrassed Jericho and the champion didn’t benefit from being saddled with Stephanie McMahon during the storyline. Triple H won the Royal Rumble in 2002 and took the golden shovel to Jericho’s main event career at WrestleMania XVIII, beating him for the belt. It would be years until Jericho held a world championship.

5. Booker T: When Booker T challenged Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XIX, fans rallied behind the then-babyface Booker T who seemed poised for a main event run, much as he had in WCW. However, Triple H’s promos where he belittled Booker’s past WCW World Heavyweight Championships as meaningless gave some fans reason for doubt. During the build-up for the match, Triple H cut a promo that more than a few people thought had racial elements to it. Whatever the case, Triple H pinned Booker T cleanly, killing his push and making the five-time WCW champion look like a sucker.

Check out the video and decide whether Triple H’s comments were racially-charged

6. Goldberg: When the WWE saw their sagging TV ratings (imagine if Vince McMahon saw the current ratings), they decided to bring in WCW megastar Bill Goldberg, then decided it’d be more fun burying him than using him to help the ratings and pay-per-view buyrates. Goldberg’s burial began with him trying on Goldust’s wig and looking like a clown rather than a bad-ass. The tipping point was at 2003’s SummerSlam where Goldberg looked like he was going to defeat Triple H in the Elimination Chamber and become World Heavyweight Champion. After an impressive performance, Goldberg saw his win vanish when Triple sledge-hammered him into oblivion. Although Goldberg defeated Helmsley at Unforgiven, his title reign was short and uneventful.

Goldberg looks strong at 2003’s SummerSlam until “The Game” makes short work of him.

7. Scott Steiner: Scott Steiner was one of several former WCW main event stars to come to the WWE and get the golden shovel treatment from wrestling’s “Cerebral Assassin.” Of course, it didn’t help Steiner that by the time he got into the WWE he less mobility than an animatronic character at the local Chuck-E-Cheese. Nevertheless, Triple H quickly deflated “Big Poppa Pump” when he defended the World Heavyweight Championship and Steiner quickly fell down the WWE ladder. “The Big Bad Booty Daddy” hasn’t forgotten what happened and during an appearance on Sitting Ringside, he went off on Helmsley:

“Same thing went wrong [for me] that went wrong for everyone else that went from WCW. Look what he did, Triple H beat everybody. Kevin Nash went in and look what he did he had a DQ and then he got beat. Sting got treated worse, he had one match with him and he was done.”

That’s the thing when a guy’s a mark and he wants to beat everybody and he was a legitimate p*ssy. I mean, Wikipedia don’t lie. I mean seriously. Look what he’s done… nothing!”

“Then he got into professional wrestling and that was his time to shine. Of course, it does help banging the boss’ daughter so you know, he took advantage of everything that he could and he beat everyone from WCW. Why?!”

8. Randy Orton: It was clear early on in Randy Orton’s career that big things awaited, particularly when he defeated Chris Benoit at 2004’s SummerSlam to become the WWE’s youngest World Heavyweight Champion. Orton was the junior partner in Evolution at the time and rather than going with a creative storyline of Orton kicking Triple H out of the group, Triple H kicked Orton out of Evolution, turning Randy babyface and proceeding to punk him out in subsequent matches. Triple H wasted no time regaining the world strap and Orton’s babyface run was a complete disaster. While Orton eventually recovered, it was a major set-back.

Randy Orton is keeping the belt warm for Triple H

9. CM Punk: Although CM Punk achieved tremendous success in the WWE, it’s difficult to look at “The Summer of Punk” and Triple H’s decision not only to wrestle Punk at 2011’s Night of Champions, but defeat him when Punk was on a hot streak. There was no pay-off to the match or Helmsley going over Punk other than for “The Game” to stroke his ego by getting a win over arguably the WWE’s hottest act at the time.

10. Sting: You can always count on WCW main eventers getting the short end of the stick when they come to the WWE, with Vince McMahon always looking to make sure fans realize the WWE was, is, and always will be the superior product. Case in point WrestleMania XXXI where Triple H defeated the Stinger in a lackluster match that’s best remembered for the appearance of a geriatric New World Order and D-Generation X.

There have been several other burials by “The Game,” but these ten are a good example of 25 years of Triple H doing what he does best; burying opponents. What are your favorite burials by “The Cerebral Assassin?” Be sure to leave your comments and let us know.

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About the author

Mike Rickard II

Retired bank robber and author of "Wrestling's Greatest Moments", "Laughing All the Way to the Bank Robbery, "Flunky: Pawns and Kings," and "Don't Call Me Bush Beans: The Legend of a Three-Legged Cat." Pro wrestling and hockey fan. Hired gun for several pro wrestling sites and a top 10 YouTube wrestling channel. Available in regular and extra-strength.