In 2006, Triple H found himself on the Road to WrestleMania 22 without much of a gameplan, so to speak. Despite a magnificent effort at the Royal Rumble in 2006, Triple H was unable to capture the #1 Contendership, being one of the last to be eliminated. Undaunted, the Game entered into a tournament to decide who would face WWE Champion, John Cena, and stamp his ticket to the Show of Shows.
In 2008, Triple H, fresh of a triumphant return from another quadricep tear, would not only face John Cena again, but also Randy Orton, Triple H’s one-time protégé turned bitter enemy, in a battle of the ages.
In these years, Triple H would find himself embroiled with the next generation of WWE Superstars, one that were determined to take the top spot he’d spent years hanging on to.
The Game vs The Champ: John Cena – WrestleMania 22
On the Road to WrestleMania 22, Triple H found himself on the side of the road. Despite his valiant efforts in the 2006 Royal Rumble, the Game had come up short, watching Rey Mysterio take the coveted top spot after his own valiant effort. Undaunted, the Game entered a stacked tournament to determine who would face WWE Champion John Cena at WrestleMania 22. It came down to a Triple Threat Match between Triple H, the Big Show, and Rob Van Dam, which the Game won after pinning RVD. It was a generational battle between Triple H, who was entering his tenth WrestleMania, and the brash new generation, embodied in John Cena.
Triple H is out first in what would become his staple persona at WrestleMania: The Skull King, though this version looked like a bad Conan the Barbarian cosplay. Still, it looks cool, but not as cool as later versions would be.
Cena would tap Chicago’s notorious mob history for his entrance, using a very old car and a bunch of extras as ‘gangsters’, including an up-and-coming talent named CM Punk, and shooting of a Tommy Guns. Lilian Garcia gives an overly long introduction for each competitor and it is time to light this candle.
This match was DEFINITELY a clash of wrestling styles with Triple H’s more technical and scientific style going up against Cena’s more power-based ground and pound style. A lot of times, it can work really well, and sometimes it can hit a sour note and this match hit several sour notes at the start.
One thing I HATE about Cena’s presentation, especially in the early years, was the whole ‘Cena was born and raised on the mean streets of West Newberry’. Dude came from a middle-class family and went to private schools, stop with the whole ‘mean streets’ nonsense.
I’m glad Triple H and Cena figured out that this match would go better if they went outside the ring and just fought. It made the match much more watchable.
This was a pretty standard wrestling match, to be quite honest, and that formula is always a safe one to follow in a big match context. Triple H worked on Cena’s neck, making it look like the babyface champ was in serious jeopardy of losing his title, which I’m not sure the fans would’ve been that angry about, given the reactions of the crowd during this match.
One thing I found really interesting was how JR and Lawler talked about Triple H and the crowd in this match. The Chicago crowd had proven to be VERY contrary, actually turning on fan darling, Trish Stratus, in the Women’s Championship match earlier, in favor of Mickie James. JR, who was vocally not a Triple H fan, praised him while still talking about Triple H’s negative qualities.
The other interesting thing was the crowd reaction to Triple H. For years, Triple H had perennially been a heel since 2000, but this match marked a turning point for Triple H, from then on, he would get more cheers than boos, no matter what he was doing.
To his credit, Triple H would pull out all the stops, low-blowing Cena and Mike Chioda, breaking out the sledgehammer, but Cena would not stay down.
In the end, Triple H would have to tap out to the STFU and John Cena would retain the WWE Championship, but Triple H’s relationship with the WWE Universe had been altered forever.
The Winner: John Cena by submission.
Comment: Okay match, it got better as it went on. Solid, not a memory maker.
The Viper and The Leader of the Chain Gang: Randy Orton and John Cena – WrestleMania 24
In 2008, Triple H’s road to WrestleMania had taken several odd turns. After a triumphant return from a second quadricep injury in the summer of 2007, Triple H found himself having to battle not only WWE Champion, Randy Orton, but his own former father-in-law, Vince McMahon. After battling to get into the Royal Rumble, the Game came up short again, but found himself presented with a golden opportunity. John Cena, who HAD won the Royal Rumble in 2008, had rashly opted to cash in his title match at No Way Out against Randy Orton, but had won by DQ, leaving WrestleMania without a main event. However, even after Triple H stamped his ticket to WrestleMania after winning a grueling Elimination Chamber match, Cena refused to go away and found his way back to the match he, arguably, had no right to be in, and Triple H would have to battle two hungry opponents to get back to the Promised Land.
Cena is played to the ring by a college marching band that is playing ‘The Time is Now’, the only problem is that you wouldn’t know that was what they were playing if you didn’t look it up because it, of course, sounds NOTHING like what fans are used to hearing. It was a cute idea, but I’m not sure the fans got it. Cena gets a big reaction, but he’d also just come back from injury, which always gets you a good reaction.
Triple H is out next, and he didn’t do the Skull King entrance this time. Triple H had also returned from serious injury the summer before.
Orton’s entrance is basically the same as it always is, which I guess says something about him as a person: no frills, just the basics.
Now, this is a Triple Threat Match, which means Orton does not have to be pinned to lose, which makes him pretty desperate and a desperate heel is the most dangerous heel of all.
Orton and Cena quickly disposed of Triple H in order to continue their war, but Triple H wouldn’t take that lying down and the match got ugly in a hurry.
This was a classic Triple Threat with all three men dominating at some point. Randy Orton, despite not needing to be pinned to lose the title, was the clear target as Triple H and Cena had both had issues with him, which lead to some brawls between Cena and Triple H over who would get to pin Orton.
The funny thing, at least to me, was how Triple H was treated as almost a third wheel in this match at several points. Orton and Cena seemed less interested in fighting Triple H than they were in fighting each other. It’s odd that Triple H would be booked like that given that Cena and Orton had proven they could carry a big match. It makes me wonder if Vince wanted Hunter there to shore up the match and give it an anchor.
Orton would walk away WWE Champion, but only after the picking the bones when Triple H was about to win and pinning Cena, which surprised me a little bit. I can’t remember if Cena was going to leave to shoot one of his movies or what, but that was kind of odd.
The Winner: Randy Orton by pinfall on John Cena.
Comment: Good match. Surprising ending, which is always good.