You knew it was coming.
After 17 years, 13 WWE/World Championships, countless main events, and an epic run that has stood the test of time, Triple H’s ring career seems to be winding down.
But, knowing the time was approaching, and fully realizing it, are two different things. After all these years, it’s really hard to imagine a WWE ring without Triple H in it.
At this point, it’s almost impossible.
For those of us who came up loving the business before, and during the Monday Night Wars, we have seen firsthand the direct impact that Hunter has had on WWE, and on the business as a whole. The respect is there. The appreciation is there.
And, so is the controversy.
That’s right, as with any other big name in WWE over the years. Triple H has had his fair share of controversy. Being the boss’s son-in-law does not make him immune to it.
In fact, it only adds to it. Some would say it is the root of it all to begin with.
I have to say, that when his real relationship with Stephanie McMahon first became public knowledge, I had a twinge of sarcasm about the news just as many other fans did.
Of course, being known for my sarcasm, this was not much of a surprise to anyone around me, and my thoughts on Hunter’s position as the top guy in the company suddenly being solidified, echoed that of just about everyone else.
“Yeah, of course he is. Look at who he’s married to.”
But, that view lasted all of 10 minutes, as I managed to take a step back from the situation, and look at it objectively. It’s not that I was any more enlightened, or more sensible than anyone else, but I was able to take a moment and absorb something that we all seem to be missing at times.
The truth is, Hunter was not suddenly propelled to superstardom the minute he began dating Stephanie. He was already at the top. And, though the infamous backstage stroke that he and the Kliq always possessed was the reason for that, in the eyes of many fans, the truth is, the guy deserved the spotlight.
Hunter is one of those guys who just gets it. Growing up a fan of Ric Flair and Jim Crockett Promotions, Triple H understood very early on what real pro wrestling drama could be, and how the matches themselves should tell the story, and be the focus.
He was a fan, like us. He understood what he was seeing, appreciated the skill of the workers involved, and went on to become one of the biggest Superstars WWE has ever seen.
Well, yeah, and a bunch of stuff happened in between.
The point is, that a talent like Triple H, who came up respecting the business, understanding what it means, and wanting to make it his life, is a talent who deserved a second look. His ring work became steadily better as he kept learning his craft, in WCW, and especially later, after he entered WWE.
His association with Shawn Michaels helped him get a chance initially, but it was up to him to take that opportunity and build upon it. He proved that he could not only get it done in the ring, but that he could make his character work, and he was able to do both on a consistently high level every week.
For me, Hunter more than earned his spot. He is a warrior, just as Shawn Michaels said on Monday Night Raw. And, just like Shawn, the time may be coming, sooner rather than later, when the warrior will lay down his weapons, and walk away from the battlefield.
The question is, when?
While the match with Brock Lesnar may not have been Triple H’s final hour, there was every indication that the clock has officially begun ticking. Up to now, there has been very little talk by WWE concerning a possible retirement.
But, now that the company is talking about it on the air, the door has been opened, and Hunter will eventually walk through it.
Shawn Michaels did. So did Stone Cold, Edge, Mick Foley, and even Undertaker is down to one match per year. Now, Chris Jericho is once again taking a break. Perhaps that is what Hunter will do, also.
The truth is, Triple H has a job for life. He is working behind the scenes now, his roots are firmly in the company, and he will ultimately be one of the men handling the direction WWE takes in the future. He doesn’t have to wrestle on a full-time basis anymore, and he really shouldn’t need to.
As we grow closer and closer to the time when Hunter will likely walk away from the ring, I for one will be sorry to see him go. Despite all of his critics and the heat that he has received over the years, there is no denying the impact he has had, and the legacy that he will leave behind.
The song says it all. “It’s all about the Game, and how you play it.”
No one played it better than Triple H.