How things change in the space of a few months. When Triple H walked out at the WWE Fan Appreciation Day, he walked back into a landscape that looks altogether different to the one he left, injured, in March.
His one-night-only return would suggest that he is on the road to recovery, but probably isn't mentally or physically ready yet for a full-time return to action.
He returned to WWE in a time of political scrutiny and in a time where many fans are questioning their enjoyment of and loyalty towards the brand. The man who (kayfabe) put him out of action is no longer a title holder or a title contender.
Instead, Sheamus finds himself pushed to the back of the shuffled deck facing Santino on Raw, as a rather crude excuse to keep him on TV, with Wade Barrett and John Cena more viable options as threats to the newly crowned Randy Orton.
Wade Barrett was the winner of a reality show that was barely underway on SyFy when Triple H was walking into surgery and physio sessions. Now, he's the leader of a band of young upstarts and a No. 1 contender for the belt and chief adversary of the face of the company, John Cena.
Meanwhile, his brand, Raw, sees itself controlled by a computer in lieu of a GM, which may well be Triple H himself, but neither us nor he (probably) knows this yet.
His best friend HBK has now left the building for good while his old adversary, Edge, has moved back to Smackdown. Dave Batista, a man of similar build and age, has left the company in pursuit of other rewards.
Does Age Matter At The Top Of The WWE?
More than all of this, though, the feeling that might strike him most is just how old he feels. Week to week, we see younger superstars taking over Raw and beating up the old guard. At 41, Triple H is now getting to be as old as Kane (43) and Undertaker (45). The current stock of young superstars are at least 8-10 years younger than Triple H, and 11 years years younger in Orton and Barrett's case.
If WWE has to pander to his condition in the same way that they do with the Undertaker due to his fitness and injury, then I can't really see him wrestling much. Therefore, I see him "appearing" in much the same way that he did at the Fan Appreciation day.
Whether this is good for WWE, I don't know, but seeing him back in action will be a pleasure and I'm sure that he could teach the youth a thing or two.
Maybe days for Triple H at WWE are numbered now and only he will know whether his body is telling him that it is time to move on. He appeared slimmer and wrestled a quick bout with a T-shirt on covering a belly that was protruding. In truth, he looked well short of match fitness.
The 45-years-old mark seems to be the benchmark at which wrestlers call time on their careers and it's certain that, with only a few exceptions, WWE is not massively keen on keeping stars who wrestle much beyond this age these days.
The torch needs to be passed with care, however, and I feel that with the regular PPVs that the WWE now has, the older wrestlers can afford to wrestle on TV monthly, rather than weekly.
Fans will want to see the old favourites from time to time, but there is an argument to suggest that with the popularity of people like Orton (only just 30!) there may not be as much need for these older, expensive names anymore.