5. Triple H
For the millennials out there, it may come as a surprise that their favorite anti-authoritarian was once a blue-blooded aristocratic figure in the WWE. Triple H sported a tailcoat on the way to the ring while carrying a spray bottle to portray his over-the-top elitism. Early suggestions of Paul Levesque’s original character played upon the idea of this “Connecticut Bluebood”, with high brow attitude. Reginald DuPont Helmsley was a potential name thrown around in the beginning. Triple H insisted a name to play with the first letters, becoming Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
From day one he was known backstage as HHH, most notably by Shawn Michaels, his future partner in crime with D-Generation X. His initial affiliation with HBK came as one of the members of The Kliq, a stable of some of the top wrestlers in the company. The group sparked controversy when they broke kayfabe and embraced in the middle of the ring to commemorate the departure of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall at Madison Square Garden. After varying success in the WWF holding the Intercontinental Championship for four months and defeating Goldust at WrestleMania 13, there was a sense of uncertainty surrounding his character.
Soon after, Shawn Michaels, Helmsley, Rick Rude and Chyna formed D-Generation X. The stable was infamous for pushing the boundaries of authority, and the limits of the company’s creative team at the time, rebelling in ways that the fans had not seen before. This included controversial promos with signature “Suck It” and ‘Chop’ taunts that really got the crowd going. The group became famous for their confrontational, often humorous approach to wrestling, heavily aimed at Vince McMahon. It injected the WWF with a weekly draw worthy of our attention.
Ultimately, the group was key in the transition of HHH from this blue-blooded, aristocratic snob, to a mutinous, anti-imperialist who wore leather jackets and spray-painted T-shirts. His ring name changed to Triple H, the beginning of Levesque as a major player in the business. This has seen him lift 25 championships in his career, headlining WrestleMania a record seven times too. Outside of the ring, he is also an established businessman, working religiously for the WWE in the corporate side of affairs, as well as appearing on television, and in WWE Studios’ The Chaperone. Therefore, it is hard to argue against this image change having a strong positive effect on Triple H’s career.
4. Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt hasn’t always been this unhinged, merciless leader of the Wyatt Family. He first appeared in the second season of NXT, as Husky Harris. The overweight, yet still aggressive country-style figure was unpopular during his time in the dark days of NXT, taking part in what was more of a reality show than the entertaining spectacle it is today. The show culminated in an attack from all the eliminated rookies on winner Kaval, which supplied the basis for the Nexus. Leaving destruction wherever they went, the Nexus were one of WWE’s most dangerous factions ever. After a short run in the group, he succumbed to one of Randy Orton’s mystically career-ending punt kicks, and the Husky Harris character was written off.
Harris eventually returned to the WWE as Bray Wyatt, part of the recently rebranded FCW, known as NXT. This disturbed, freakish character in bright shirts drew initial comparisons to Max Cady of the 1991 film Cape Fear and Waylon Mercy. Adopting the style and mannerisms of Cady, the character is said to be based on the fictional criminal.
This new gimmick attracted popularity incredibly quickly, as Wyatt had intertwined aspects of cult-like spirituality into unsettling, entertaining performances. He also excelled on the mic, and has emerged as one of the finest public speakers the WWE currently has to offer.
Wyatt’s greatest breakthrough came after a 3 on 3 match against The Shield. The match was considered to be an enormous success, and an undoubted match of the year contender for 2014. However, Bray’s career appeared to taper off when the Wyatt Family disbanded, going solo as a result. While he appeared at several pay-per-views, most notably against The Undertaker at WrestleMania, he never really met the WWE Universe’s expectations. It became clear that the Wyatt Family dissipated far too soon.
Since the return of the Wyatt Family in 2015, Wyatt has been given a major push, and is the current WWE Champion. Victory at Elimination Chamber was a deserved climax to the long, arduous journey started all those years ago after leaving Troy University as a failed footballer. Only being 29, Bray Wyatt will be around for a very long time, even if he does lose the belt to Randy Orton in Orlando. It is a near certainty that WWE will look to continue to push one of the biggest draws on Smackdown Live to greater ascendancy, so Bray can captivate more audiences around the world.