We’d long doubted that Rhea Ripley’s WrestleMania 36 loss to Charlotte Flair, and Flair subsequently losing the NXT Women’s title she took from Ripley without being pinned or submitted, was in service of some long-term plan for the 24 year old Australian. But as promoter, Triple H had to say it was.
When asked about it again in light of Rhea’s recent comments to Lillian Garcia on Chasing Glory about the losses, Hunter gave the obvious - and completely believable - reason for why his long-term plan for Ripley fell apart (he also could have mentioned Charlotte’s absence from WWE).
The rest of Triple H’s answer spinning the change of plans as a good thing also has elements of “what else was he going to say.” But it also demonstrates why he’s good at the developmental part of his job, and why many current & former NXT stars view him as a mentor.
Here’s what he said on the topic on his pre-TakeOver: WarGames conference call yesterday (Dec. 3):
“None of that plan [still] exists, or was able to - everything changed. And I don’t think anybody in that moment could have predicted, you know anybody when all this first started, ou go back to March and it seems like, in some ways, forever ago. But if you look at in today’s eyes and if anyone would have said, even in March, like, ‘Look, in December, you’re still going to be in lockdown. In December, this [COVID] is going to have ramped up again and be possibly, arguably worse than it was before.’ Everything is changing on a day-to-day basis and it’s hard to plan for next week, let alone next year, next month, all of that.
“The one thing about Rhea - and her honesty in that [the Garcia interview] is great - when you’re young, it doesn’t take much to rack your confidence. When you’re young and you’re getting going and everything is rolling, it doesn’t take much to have you go from an incredible high to an incredible low, and begin to question yourself, and all those things. That’s part of maturing in any sport... as you mature and become more confident in yourself and believe in yourself and understand, it changes. So that’s all part of the process.
“I truly believe, long-term, that those are all valuable things. I sometimes think that in the world today everybody wants everything to just - have immediate success and then go very smoothly all the way to the end. There’s no lessons in that. There’s no long-term value in that. If there’s no struggle, no strife, there’s no difficulties, you don’t grow as a performer, it’s just easy. To me these are all learning experiences.
“I look back at my career and moments in time that were amazing, and moments in time that were incredible setbacks in my mind. At the time - horrifying. Terrible for you. And then you look at them now and you’re like, ‘Well, thank God that happened then. Because if that didn’t happen, this wouldn’t have happened.’ It’s all part of the journey... When you’re young, it’s hard to say, ‘hey, you’ve gotta think long-term.’ You’re young, long-term is the spring, it’s three months from now - ‘man, that’s long-term.’ Long-term is five, ten years from now. And when you think of things in that manner, those setbacks are actually extremely valuable in getting you to places you need to go.
The answer to the creative question, is it where it was going? No, and it won’t. The whole world changed. But I still do believe that is a valuable - there’s a lot of valuable lessons for her to be able to go through, to find herself, to pick herself up. The Rhea Ripley that I’m watching now is a way better Rhea Ripley than it was in January, February when she was on the high, or even December this time last year. She’s a way better performer, way more mature, her understanding - all of it. And all of that came through that process.”