This is a time in the WWF that I have been waiting to write about, but also nervous about. I have written quite a few articles about the Royal Rumble winners in the WWF, but it was during the prior year that the Invasion had ended (May through November 2001) and the court case with the World Wildlife Fund ended. WWF went into their ‘Get the F out!’ campaign, something I thought was genius at the time, and still do. So many things changed in the WWF/WWE that year that I can’t even think about dipping too far into it in this article, but I will give you all I can about Triple H and how this year went for him. Please bear with me as I move from WWF to WWE. I might screw it up at some point, so please be kind. I will fix any WWFWWE mistakes, but only if they’re pointed out kindly.
On January 20, from the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, the WWF presented the 15th annual Royal Rumble. It was the last Royal Rumble produced under the WWF name. The undercard from this Royal Rumble makes me want to go watch it, now. Spike Dudley and Taz defeated Dudley Boyz, with Stacy Keibler, to retain their WWF Tag Team Championship. William Regal defeated Edge to win the WWF IC Title. Trish defeated Jazz, with Jacqueline as Special Guest Ref, for the WWF Women’s Championship. Ric Flair defeated VKM in a Street Fight! This was long enough ago that I’d like to go back and re-watch it. Flair wasn’t at the top of his career, but he was so much better than he is now. Jericho defeated Rocky to retain his WWF Undisputed Championship.
The Royal Rumble Match started with Rikishi and Goldust as entrants one and two. Every entrant after that came out approximately every two minutes after. Big Boss Man came in #3 and was eliminated by Rikishi. Taker came in at #8. The Hardy Boyz came in as #9 and #10, Lita came in to help them. The three of them attacked Taker, but Taker eliminated both Hardy Boyz. Both got back in the ring and continued to attack Taker, so he threw them both out again. This was enough of a distraction for Maven who came in at #11 to eliminate Taker. Taker returned and attacked Maven, eliminating him and beating him down outside the ring. Scotty 2 Hotty was assaulted on his way to the ring and then Taker continued his beat down on Maven. While the Royal Rumble Match continued with Scotty 2 Hotty, then Christian, DDP, Chuck and the Godfather, Taker beat up Maven all over the arena! They ended up in food concessions, at one point slamming Maven’s head into a popcorn machine. Austin came in at #19, then Triple H came in at #22. Together they eliminated Hurricane. Actually, they both eliminated quite a few entrants until Angle came in at #26 and eliminated Austin. In this match Austin brought his total Royal Rumble eliminations up to 36, a record at that point. Booker was #30, but Austin eliminated him in :33! Trip lasted 23:14 and eliminated Angle to win the Royal Rumble Match.
Angle and Trip started their feud. Angle lost a #1 Contender Match against Austin for No Way Out, where Austin face Jericho, but did not beat him for the WWF Championship. Trip and Angle feuded back and forth so much that Angle asked VKM for a match against Trip at No Way Out for Trip’s Title shot at WMX8. During this time Trip’s ‘marriage’ to Steph was unraveling. Steph faked a pregnancy and used an actor as her doctor to break the news to Trip. Trip received a tape from Linda that showed the ‘doctor’ working as a salesman. Steph wanted to renew their vows on TV as she felt she and Trip needed to reconnect. Trip agreed with this, but turned on Steph at the alter and told her he knew the truth. This was the end of their on screen marriage, even though in real life they were dating and not yet even engaged. VKM was outraged by what Trip did to his beloved Million Dollar Princess, so he named Steph the Special Guest Ref for Trip and Angle’s match at No Way Out. Angle won the match.
The next night on RAW Flair, ‘co-owner’ of the WWF at that point, granted Trip a re-match against Angle with Steph barred from ringside. Trip won. On the February 21st edition of Smackdown Steph and Jericho put their former bad feeling aside and Steph became his business partner. Jericho then started making claims that he’s the one who destroyed Trip’s marriage by causing Trip’s quadriceps tear to happen in their tag match and this took Trip’s focus away from Steph. Of course this was bull, but that’s how so many injury angles work. Steph and Trip’s divorce settlement split everything down the middle. Trip’s beloved bulldog was part of this. Steph ended up getting full custody of Lucy and made Jericho walk the dog to horrible end, though Lucy was not really injured. Trip fought back by cutting Steph’s Corvette in half and presented Steph with her piece of the car. After Lucy’s ‘injury’ Trip rushed the ring and tried to get to Steph, but Jericho was able to lock Trip in the Walls of Jericho.
Of course Steph was ringside for Trip and Jericho facing off at WMX8. Steph kept trying to get herself involved in the match. At one point Trip moved out of the way so Jericho ran into Steph who was on the apron. Earl Hebner took a chair from Steph before she could hit Trip with it, then she ended up taking a pedigree. Trip tried to pedigree Jericho through announce, but Jericho reversed it to a body drop and Trip went through Spanish announce – shocker! Jericho tried his own pedigree on Trip, but it was reversed out. Trip hit his own pedigree and won the WWF Championship. The RAW after WMX8 Trip pinned Steph in a Triple Threat Match with Jericho. Per the stip, Steph had to leave the WWF. This ended the Trip and Steph storyline.
Trip went on to Backlash where he lost the WWF Championship to Hulk Hogan where Trip lost the Title. On May 6, 2002 the WWF Undisputed Championship was changed to the Undisputed WWE Championship when the WWF had to change to the WWE because of their loss in court against the World Wildlife Fund. I think I need to write about how all that went down, but later.
Trip was drafted to Smackdown. HBK and Nash were what was left of the WWE version of nWo and they wanted to bring Trip into the group on RAW. VKM then disbanded the nWo and brought Bisch in as the new RAW GM. I remember the shock when Bisch walked out and joined VKM on stage. I thought pigs had to be flying and the devil must be ice skating, but no and they sure did a great job with Bisch’s run in the WWE! Bisch put his mind to bringing Trip back to RAW, which he did. He reunited with HBK, but on the night they were supposed to reunite DX, Trip turned on HBK with a pedigree and turned heel. This was the start of an absolutely fabby feud. These two best friends know each other so well that they were able to make this feud intimately personal, something that was widely missed by this recent mini-feud between Trip and Nash. They feuded hard to their Street Fight at SummerSlam where HBK came out of retirement and defeated Trip. After the match Trip attacked him with his beloved sledge and HBK had to be carried out of the ring.
Brock Lesnar was the WWE Champion and exclusively on Smackdown, so Bisch awarded Trip the Big Gold Belt. It had been the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, then the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. So Trip became the first WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Trip retained this at Unforgiven against RVD when Flair got involved with Trip’s sledge.
Trip went on to feud with Kane. This started the whole Katie Vick storyline which, for good reason, didn’t go over well with the fans. Kane was the IC Champion and for some reason the WWE had a Unifying Match at No Mercy. Trip won the unified belt, so there was basically not IC Title for a short bit. Trip carried the WWE World Heavyweight Championship belt until he lost it to HBK at Survivor Series in the first Elimination Chamber Match.
That was quite the comeback year for Trip from that horrible quadriceps muscle tear. He proved himself over and over, especially in his feud with his best friend HBK. While I love DX, especially the more recent segments after HBK got his head on straight, this feud was more than worth the time. They are proof for why the best feuds seem to be between people who really know each other well outside the ring.