During the opening segment of Monday’s Raw, Triple H shrewdly inserted himself in the WrestleMania main event picture. Should the Game defeat Daniel Bryan, it will be he, not Bryan, who is inserted into the WWE World Heavyweight championship match.

Either Triple Threat scenario would feature Batista as challenger and Randy Orton as champion.

The segment featured several self-aware comments designed to resonate with hardcore fans. Orton made mention of Batista’s lukewarm return. As far as Orton was concerned, this whole mess was Batista's fault. Fans just don't care about him anymore.

This was poignant in that, according to PWInsider (via SEScoops), Batista’s unexpected negative reception in 2014 forced WWE officials to quickly turn him heel.

Batista responded by accusing Orton of being a paper champion. This type of criticism is rare in a promotion attempting to market must-see heroes and villains. The term “paper champion” doesn’t urge fans to pay money to see a heel defeated.

It’s closer to an evaluation made by a dirtsheet.

Triple H growled that he was “tired of Hollywood movie stars coming back and telling him what’s right for business," per James Caldwell of PWTorch. That could have been a thinly veiled shot at The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Batista or all the above.

The exchange was all very amusing, albeit to a wrestling minority.

Despite raising the stakes on a mainstream level, the segment’s payoff still managed to follow an obvious pattern. Orton, Triple H and Batista were winking at the Internet.

Triple H, who has a tendency to become too concerned with banter among the Internet Wrestling Community, knows how paranoid that contingent is, according to F4WOnline.

To them, he is a cunning backstage politician. Power hungry. Self-serving. A hindrance to up-and-coming stars threatening to steal his spotlight. In fact, Triple H’s purported reputation of abusing his backstage power is so notorious, it spawned his on-air character of today.

And he knows that.

Every time a Triple H buries a guy, an angel gets their wings! @TNACreative

— ThatCanadianGuy(@JustinCanadian) March 18, 2014

The mere thought of Triple H in the WrestleMania main event keeps fans on the edge of their seats. With just Daniel Bryan’s fate in the WrestleMania main event on the line, Triple H is rendered a cerebral stepping stone.

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Surely WWE wouldn’t taunt its fans with a popular stipulation if nothing were to come of it. The Bryan-Triple H match needed more balance in order to matter. And Triple H knows that.

Triple H’s ego is too big to simply be a WrestleMania road block, as it should be considering his accolades. Now, both men have a chance to seize WWE's top prize. As a result, doubt will re-enter Bryan’s quest.

With a double stipulation, casual fans are sucked into a compelling story of man vs. machine. Hardcore fans, on the other hand, now live in fear of another so-called Triple H power grab.

Nobody knows anything. The WrestleMania XXX payoff has new life.

But what if that payoff sees Triple H somehow ascend to the top of the WWE as both a top executive and its champion? Familiar online criticism would reach a fever pitch. Triple H’s adversarial relationship with the Internet would go beyond reparable damage.

Daniel Bryan’s 70,000-person “yes” celebration—the expected and desired WrestleMania conclusion—is spoiled.

That alleged egomaniac would remain WWE’s top heel, kayfabe or not. That marginal diehard crowd he provokes on-air would be more engaged than ever.

And Triple H knows that.

Listen to Episode 52 of the Kings of Sport Podcast. Like us on Facebook!