In 2017, Triple H was firmly out of the ring, for the most part, but he wasn’t done trying to do what he deemed ‘Best for Business’, even when that meant going against what the WWE Universe claimed to want, for better or worst. But as the WWE came to the end of the second decade of the 2000s, the Game found himself having to face those he’d wronged and face the fact that he was no longer the competitor he once was.
At WrestleMania 33, Triple H would face Seth Rollins, his one-time protégé turned bitter enemy in a battle for respect and for the redemption of the Architect of the Shield.
At WrestleMania 34, Triple H and Stephanie’s promotion of the Women’s Evolution would collide both with an old rival in Kurt Angle and a woman who more than embodied the revolution of women in sports: Ronda Rousey.
WrestleMania 35 would prove to be the Game’s swan song and he took on long-time frenemy, Dave Batista, in a battle for respect and the Game’s career.
These would be the years that the Game finally seemed to accept that he was no longer the center of the WWE Universe and moved on to keeping alive the industry that had given him so much.
The Game vs the Architect: Seth Rollins – WrestleMania 33
This feud was rooted in Seth Rollins’ year and a half long tenure in the Authority. Despite turning on his brothers, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, bringing the Authority the 2014 Money in the Bank briefcase, and then the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Rollins would find himself rather unceremoniously booted from the Authority in 2016, in favor of the brash Kevin Owens. The Authority’s reasoning was that Rollins had failed too many times, which wasn’t really fair considering that some of those failures hadn’t been his fault. Even worse, Rollins lost the chance to compete in the Royal Rumble, causing him to confront Triple H at an NXT TakeOver.
Triple H tried to avoid the oncoming clash by sending his hit squad, namely Samoa Joe, after Rollins, but Rollins, despite partially reinjuring his surgically repaired leg, refused to go away. Triple H agreed to a match at WrestleMania under one condition: Rollins had to sign a ‘hold harmless’ agreement and the match was unsanctioned.
Triple H is out first, and the King of Kings has a new ride: a motor-tricycle, which Trips actually manages to make look cool. Of course, the Skull Queen herself, Stephanie, is with him.
Oh, this was before Vince FINALLY included the ‘Burn It Down!’ to Seth’s music. The Architect is clad in gold and carrying a torch. The flames shooting down the ramp is cool. Let’s light this candle.
This action starts fast and furious. If you remember that Seth turned his back on his friends, Ambrose and Reigns for Triple H, his anger makes more sense. Also, since this is TECHNICALLY un-sanctioned, they can go all over the arena, which they do, very quickly.
This match definitely seemed more physical and violent than the match against Reigns the year before, maybe the fact that the match was ‘un-sanctioned’ gave them a little more room to play with the violence.
As far as storytelling, I like that Triple H treated Rollins as a legit threat. He tried to put Rollins away early and dominantly. Of course, that’s how you would want to see a top level talent be treated, but it was nice to really see that in this match. Also, Rollins held his own against a man who had a lot more ring experience than he did.
Scary-ish spot when Rollins went for the sunset-flip powerbomb and the knee that had been injured before, that Triple H had been working on, gave out. Triple H got his own back when he ate a turnbuckle powerbomb. It was a nice little bit of storytelling to see Rollins hesitate to do the move that cost him nine months of his career back in 2015.
I also have to give Triple H a big kudos for taking a frog splash on his back, that could NOT have felt good.
This is was such a good match. It was clear how much Triple H valued Seth as a performer of the future that they put on this level of a match at this point in Triple H’s career.
In the end, despite everything Triple H and Stephanie threw at him, Seth Rollins would prevail over the Authority. After accidentally causing Stephanie to go through a table, Rollins would put Triple H away with his own move, the Pedigree. The Architect became the King Slayer and burned down the Authority’s kingdom, at least to some extent.
The Winner: Seth Rollins by pinfall.
Comment: Again, kudos to Stephanie for taking the table bump. Great match that really put Rollins over as a top babyface.
The Women’s Evolution: Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey – WrestleMania 34
Parts of this feud go back to Kurt Angle and Triple H’s on again, off again rivalry during the 00s, usually involving Stephanie in some way, and a confrontation with Rousey and the Rock at WrestleMania 31.
Given how instrumental Triple H and Stephanie were behind the scenes in launching the Women’s Evolution in WWE, starting with NXT, you’d probably wonder how they got themselves into a match with two legit scary, badass competitors like Angle and Rousey. Well, Stephanie is a McMahon, and McMahons can never leave well-enough alone, which is how she ended up on the wrong end of Rousey’s temper. Add in the tension over Angle’s running of Monday Night RAW, and you have a recipe for the only GOOD mixed tag team match in WrestleMania history.
Triple H and Stephanie ride out first and they’re both on bikes this time. The effect is LOUD, even on TV and their escort is female bikers, or NXT recruits that can ride well enough to get to the ring. Either way, it’s cool. Also, seeing Stephanie do Triple H’s entrance with him is cool. It is worth noting that Stephanie and Ronda Rousey are both wrestling at WrestleMania for the first time. Stephanie had been involved in WrestleMania as a manager several times, but she’d never wrestled at WrestleMania.
Kurt Angle being serenaded to the ring by the ‘You Suck!’ chant, and it being meant affectionately is something that only happens in wrestling.
Ronda Rousey needs no introduction, she seems legit happy to be there. Also, love her tribute to Roddy Piper.
I had no hopes for this match. WWE has put on several mixed tag matches at WrestleMania and they’ve all stunk, including the one that involved King Kong Bundy dropping an elbow on a little person dressed as a Native American.
That said, this was a pretty good match. Triple H and Angle did a lot of the lifting this, which is understandable given that Stephanie was never more than an occasional wrestler and Ronda had a lot of experience in MMA, but was having her first WrestleMania match.
However, when Ronda finally got into the ring, it was on like Donkey Kong, and this was where Stephanie’s lack of experience in the ring really hurt the match. However, no one sells like a McMahon, and Stephanie sold her ass off. She also potatoed Ronda a few times, which is a hazard in facing a McMahon.
I will say that I was surprised that the match went intergender so quickly. I mean, Angle and Stephanie didn’t really throw down, but Triple H and Ronda sure did, and the fact that Triple H did it says a lot about him and the what they’ve been trying to do for Women’s Wrestling.
The Winner: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle after Ronda made Stephanie tap out.
Comment: Much better than I had hopes for given WrestleMania’s HORRIBLE history of Mixed Tag Matches. If that seems harsh, I covered every WrestleMania up to 32 for another website and have seen some really SHITTY Mixed Tag Matches done at WrestleMania.
Taming the Animal Part 2: Batista – WrestleMania 35
This build was odd. Batista made his third return to WWE to celebrate the 20th anniversary of SmackDown, a shade-throwing joke from Batista ignited tension with Triple H that had grown over the years due to things Batista had said about Triple H to entertainment magazines. It looked like the collision was on, then Triple H tore his pectoral muscle in a match with Undertaker.
Then came the birthday celebration for Ric Flair, especially poignant given that Flair had had a SERIOUS health scare a few years earlier. However, while the eager group waited for the birthday boy to appear, they were greeted with the horrifying scene of the 70something Flair being beaten and dragged around by Batista, who demanded to know if he had Triple H’s attention. The war of words got heated and nasty until Triple H agreed to face Batista in Batista’s retirement match and agreed to Batista’s stipulation: If Batista won, Triple H would retire. It would be one more clash between the old friends.
Batista’s entrance was kind of bougie and played more into his whole Hollywood star thing than the Animal. At least we get the machine gun pyro, that was always the best part of his entrance. Batista was so…fired up, he forgot how to climb into the ring. Good thing this is his last match. Of course, he had to talk shit to Michaels, who doesn’t seem bothered.
Triple H’s entrance is more in tuned with the biker/outlaw/Skull King thing he started doing for WrestleMania and it’s a lot cooler than Batista’s, not that that was much of a fight. However, instead of a motorcycle, Triple H comes out on a car like something out of Mad Max. It’s time to play, Batista.
Batista gets a cheap start by jumping Triple H before he was ready, but the Game taught Batista everything Batista knows and was ready to counter and it gets ugly in a hurry.
I’m going to be honest, this wasn’t a great match compared to previous battles they’ve had, mainly because Batista hadn’t been in the ring since 2014 and before than brief return, he’d been gone since 2010, so we’re talking about being out of the ring for the better part of a decade and it showed. However, there was more than enough brutal violence to make up for it. The worst part was Triple H ripping out Batista’s nose ring, which was GROSS!
The thing that I didn’t like about this match, even though I understand it in terms of the storyline was Ric Flair’s interference. Even though it was only a distraction, I didn’t think the match needed him. I guess it was because Batista and Flair were tag team champs for a long time back in Evolution’s heyday, but I was ‘eh’ on it. They could’ve used Vince or Shane, and told the same story. At least we got a nice moment between Flair and Triple H.
The Winner: Triple H by pinfall.
Comment: Was ripping out the nose ring REALLY necessary? Like, EW! Other than that, that was a great swan song match for both men.
Post-Script: As of the writing of this chapter, which is March 1, 2021, Triple H is not scheduled to wrestle at WrestleMania 37, which makes it the second year in a row, and the third time, in his entire career, that Triple H is not expected to appear on the Show of Shows. He has done a few matches since the match with Batista in 2019, but it seems that WrestleMania 35 was the Game’s swan song. Thanks for ride, Game.