Triple H has not been seen on WWE programming since losing to Seth Rollins at WrestleMania 33. The Game was on a mission to shut down his former protege, while The Man was out to reclaim the soul he once sold to the boss.
He received 10 pounds of gold in exchange for selling out his brothers in The Shield. But when things went sour, Triple H betrayed him.
The Game came out with the loss at 'Mania, but that does not mean he's finished. Fans fully expect him to be back in action at some point, though he's no longer a full-time Superstar. Hunter is still on top, he's still the primary corporate heel and he is still capable of turning Monday Night Raw upside down.
But when will he make his presence known in WWE again?
Making an Impact on Monday Night Raw
The Game's arrival is imminent.
Though he's likely always behind the scenes when WWE goes live, it's the anticipation of seeing him back that's key to his return. If he were a full-time character on TV, fans would have no reason to care that much about what he does next.
But since he's gone dark, fans know the time is drawing near.
The biggest reasons for that are Rollins and Samoa Joe. The latter has made it known he's determined to take the former down. Citing Stephanie McMahon's table bump at 'Mania as the primary reason, Joe is out for blood against the man who left The Authority in pieces at The Show of Shows.
Rollins and Joe need proper time to continue their feud, so The Game is surely waiting for the right moment to strike.
The closer WWE gets to Extreme Rules, the more likely it is Triple H is on his way back. The Raw-exclusive event is happening on Sunday, June 4 in Baltimore. That means Hunter could be back on TV as early as May 23, the night after SmackDown Live's Backlash pay-per-view.
Why give away his return? WWE could decide to save that moment for Extreme Rules, then bring him to Raw on June 5. Either way, his Monday night comeback may not be the news here; his next feud could be.
The Kingslayer, The Demon, and The King of Strong Style
Many fans believe Rollins will once again face Triple H.
Rollins won at WrestleMania, which likely should have been the end of their feud. They had one night to give everything they had, to wrap up the betrayal storyline, then move on to the next event. A babyface win over such a legendary heel should have been the last chapter.
But Joe has kept the feud between Hunter and Rollins alive.
So if Triple H does return at Extreme Rules and help Joe win a possible match against Rollins, the company would likely move ahead with a 'Mania rematch. Joe could lose the bout before Hunter attacks Rollins anyway, which would also set up a match down the line.
However Rollins may not be the target.
Finn Balor and Triple H have had little interaction on TV. Balor was out with an injury during The Game and Rollins' feud, but the Irish Superstar is back in the fold on Monday nights. Many fans feel he is not only the future of Raw but also WWE.
Either scenario has Triple H's name all over it.
Despite what anyone has ever said to the contrary, Hunter does put over younger talent when the situation calls for it. He's lost to Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns at separate WrestleManias, both of whom went on to become WWE champion.
Is it possible Balor could find himself in that spot later this year?
If WWE is serious about elevating The Demon to the next level, the path will probably lead to Triple H. Beating Hunter on the main event stage is like getting chairman Vince McMahon's blessing, and Balor would find himself on the fast track to superstardom.
But what if The King of Kings returns on SmackDown Live?
It would change the entire complexion of Tuesday nights if WWE did go that route. Whether Triple H remained on SmackDown or just sporadically appeared on both programs, his heel corporate presence would be felt like never before.
Hunter's character is vengeful, he's spiteful and he doesn't like to be outclassed in any way. But that would be a problem if he began appearing on SmackDown Live.
The blue brand may belong to Randy Orton because he's the WWE champion. It could even be said it belongs to AJ Styles. But Shinsuke Nakamura is there, and he is the X-factor. Nakamura is ready for a main event run, but could that happen?
Popular belief holds that Nakamura will work his way up and will not be given a fast road to the top. But considering he's not getting any younger, and understanding what he's capable of, WWE may go in a much different direction.
Nakamura could be the next big thing in more ways than one. Regardless of which Superstar Triple H faces next, he will likely do so at SummerSlam.
History Repeats Itself
The Game's betrayal of Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam in 2013 was one of the most shocking moments in WWE history. But what if it happens again?
A heel turn may not be on the agenda this time, but the birth of a top guy could be. Hunter's actions on that night in 2013 laid the foundation for Bryan's road to WrestleMania. Many factors were in play for that to happen, including CM Punk's surprising departure from the company in early 2014.
The circumstances for Bryan's ascension were perfect, and WWE did the right thing by elevating him.
WWE is not exactly rife with veteran stars to face Triple H, and he has a vested interest in the New Era's growth. When both of those factors come together, it's clear The Game may help to evolve yet another top star.
Without him, neither Bryan nor Reigns would arguably have reached the Promised Land. The company has used Triple H as the final obstacle twice before, and that could happen again in 2017.
That means either Balor or Nakamura could be the next man to travel the Road to WrestleMania with The Game. WWE has been here before, and plans for 'Mania are surely already being discussed. If the timing is right, and if the talent is ready, then SummerSlam could be a major turning point.
All WWE needs is to move forward and set the stage for what could be an exciting summer.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at boinkstudios.com.