After several weeks on the shelf, Triple H made a surprising return as entrant No. 30 in the Royal Rumble match Sunday, and he outlasted 29 other Superstars to become WWE World Heavyweight champion for the ninth time.
Triple H took out Dean Ambrose to secure the win. WWE provided a photo of the new world heavyweight champion, while WWE Universe showed him looking up at the WrestleMania 32 sign:
HE'S DONE IT! #TheAuthority's @TripleH is a 14-TIME World Heavyweight Champion! #RoyalRumble https://t.co/eMjYgR8o371/25/2016, 4:00:12 AM
WWE Universe @WWEUniverse
After eliminating @TheDeanAmbrose, @TripleH has become your NEW @WWE World Heavyweight Champion! #RoyalRumble https://t.co/xGcYTb6PiX1/25/2016, 4:01:06 AM
In a Royal Rumble filled with plenty of twists and turns—such as surprise entrants A.J. Styles and Sami Zayn—the top moment of the night was when Triple H eliminated Roman Reigns and provided this reaction, per WWE:
WE'RE GONNA HAVE A NEW CHAMPION! @TripleH just eliminated @WWERomanReigns! #RoyalRumble https://t.co/hxo9nGHPcr1/25/2016, 3:58:06 AM
Reigns did not take the loss well backstage:
WWE Stats & Info provided an interesting note regarding Triple H's win:
WWE Stats & Info @WWEStats
Longest time between #RoyalRumble Match victories: 14 years, a record now owned by @TripleH (2002 and 2016).1/25/2016, 4:02:10 AM
Kevin Berge of Questionable Critics, Ringside Xcess and Bleacher Report's Erik Beaston provided their initial takes on the match:
Kevin Berge @TheBerge_
That was an amazingly well booked Rumble even though I'm not big on the winner. #RoyalRumble1/25/2016, 4:01:18 AM
Ringside Xcess @RingsideXcess
Overall, this year's #RoyalRumble PPV was the best in a while. Cool twist to the end of the Rumble match, even with a predictable outcome.1/25/2016, 4:01:43 AM
Erik Beaston @ErikBeaston
The story of Triple H vs. Reigns is fine. But it did not need the title. There were other ways to get there besides ANOTHER run for that guy1/25/2016, 4:10:11 AM
The Wyatt Family's strong night, R-Truth hilariously grabbing a ladder thinking it was a Money in the Bank match and Brock Lesnar's brief stint were just a few of the other notable moments aside from Triple H's triumph and the appearances of Styles and Zayn.
With the win, The Game will begin his first reign with WWE's top title since 2009. It also marks his 14th world title run overall, which puts him just two shy of Ric Flair's longstanding record.
The King of Kings has not been a full-time competitor in recent years, but he was compelled to enter the Rumble after a confrontation at TLC that saw him get thoroughly destroyed by Reigns.
Reigns beat Triple H to a pulp after losing a title match to Sheamus due to interference from the League of Nations, and aside from an appearance prior to NXT TakeOver: London, WWE's executive vice president hadn't been seen on WWE programming since.
In his absence, Vince McMahon and Stephanie McMahon assumed greater on-screen roles, and they resolved to make Reigns' life a living hell.
After Reigns won the title back from Sheamus and the Celtic Warrior failed to defeat him in a rematch, Vince stipulated that Reigns would be forced to defend his title against 29 other competitors in the Royal Rumble match.
In addition to that, the McMahons rigged the number draw, which resulted in the Big Dog having to enter the match from the No. 1 spot.
That was far from the only adversity Reigns would face, though, as Triple H entered the Rumble in an effort to both get revenge against the former Shield powerhouse and prevent him from leaving Orlando, Florida, with the title in tow.
Not only did the Cerebral Assassin accomplish that goal, but he also kept the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the possession of The Authority by winning the Royal Rumble match for the second time in his illustrious career.
With Triple H now back at the top of the company as world champion, it sets the stage for an extremely intriguing road to WrestleMania.
Since Reigns has been at odds with The Authority for the past few months, logic dictates that WWE intends to have him face off with Triple H for the title at WrestleMania 32.
If that is the case, then it could conjure up memories of the rivalry between Triple H and Daniel Bryan leading up to WrestleMania 30.
The difference this time around is that Triple H is champion, whereas he and Bryan merely wrestled for a spot in the title match two years ago.
Even so, the story could take on a similar construction, which is good news for Reigns, who figures to continue to grow in terms of popularity with the WWE Universe.
Some might argue that Triple H doesn't need the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at this point in his career, but if his run with the strap is booked correctly, then it could go a long way toward cementing Reigns as a top guy once and for all.
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