As the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania loomed, Triple H found his personal and professional worlds colliding. After winning a BRUTAL Elimination Chamber to become WWE Champion once again, the Game was looking forward to squaring off with Randy Orton, his one-time Evolution protégé turned bitter rival. However, Randy Orton’s mind games would push Triple H to the limits and expose his personal life to the harsh light of the WWE Universe.
In 2010, the Game would face Sheamus, a young superstar every bit as hungry and ruthless in his pursuit of gold as the Game himself had been in his younger days, and force Triple H to his limits again to stay on top of the ladder.
These WrestleManias would expose Triple H, his personal life, his family, and his legacy to the harsh light of day and leave the WWE Universe asking just how well they knew the Cerebral Assassin.
Very Personal Business: Randy Orton – WrestleMania 25
To really understand this feud, you have to go back to 2003/4 when Randy Orton, the second 3rd generation superstar, was the protégé of Triple H in the Evolution stable. Things were going great for the stable, at one point, all of them were holding gold on RAW, then Randy’s ambition for himself began to collide with Triple H’s obsession with being champion. It all came to a head in the summer of 2004 when Randy Orton beat Chris Benoit for the World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam 2004, amd Randy found himself unceremoniously booted from Evolution.
By 2009, you would’ve thought Randy would’ve gotten over that break, He’d been a champion several times, had main evented WrestleMania, including against Triple H, had had a career-making feud with the Undertaker, and had established himself as a top star. However, in those years, Randy Orton’s more sinister and sadistic side had shown itself, and when presented with the chance to take the WWE Championship from his former mentor, Randy Orton let that nasty side of himself out, by attacking the McMahons.
Why would attacking the McMahons bother Triple H, given how his marriage to Stephanie had ended, and the fact that Triple H and Shawn Michaels had spent much of 2006 tormenting Vince and Shane? Well, the truth was revealed after Randy Orton had attacked Vince, Shane and Stephanie. Triple H gave an interview to Jim Ross and it was revealed that in the years since their on-camera divorce, he and Stephanie had reconciled and not only were they married, but he was the father of Stephanie’s child, something that had been teased about in 2006, along with another child. Which meant Triple H was out for Randy Orton's blood.
Though the initial McMahon reaction to Randy’s actions was logical: Fire his ass, the Viper seemed to have out maneuvered them by claiming that he had brain damage from concussions, thus keeping the McMahons from firing him, and using it as cover for continuing to attack them, getting Vickie Guerrero to make a stipulation that stated that if Triple H got DQ’d during their match at WrestleMania, he would lose the title. It was going to be a battle, not only for the title, but for the safety of those Triple H held dear, and for the honor of the McMahon family.
Before the match starts, we see Triple H walking in the back, headed towards the Gorilla Position, when he encounters Vince and Shane. No words are said, they don’t need any. All three men know what Triple H has to do and he’s ready to do it.
Randy Orton comes out first, without Legacy, and seems focused on what awaits him.
It’s Game time. Again, Triple H is not using the Skull King intro, but he does a thing where he throws his sledgehammer through a glass wall. Triple H looks PISSED. The commentators note that Triple H seems more focused on destroying Orton than the title, and all things considered, he probably is.
I’m going to be honest, this has been one of my favorite matches of all the times I’ve watched WrestleMania for whatever reason. Trips and Orton really made you believe that they HATED each other and were trying to destroy each other. That is the best kind of storytelling in professional wrestling.
This match was BRUTAL. Neither man gave the other an inch. Orton was definitely playing the cowardly heel and trying to get Triple H DQ’d so he didn’t have to beat him, which is kind of odd given how the story was written, but heels are going to heel, I guess.
I think the reason this match doesn’t get the love it deserves is because this match was after the first Undertaker vs Shawn Michaels match and that basically sucked all the air out of the room. The crowd was still great for the match, but it wasn’t going to stand out after the Taker/HBK match, which was probably the best match ever to happen at WrestleMania. Also, there was no run in by Legacy or the McMahons, and very little chicanery. This was a straight up fight, with a few exceptions, which given the nature of the story, is great, but no run ins was odd.
In the end, Triple H would fall back on the old adage ‘Everything’s legal until you get caught’. After the ref was knocked out, Triple H would pull out his old friend, the sledgehammer, and an ironic punt to the head would help put Orton down for the count and avenge his family.
The Winner: Triple H by pinfall.
Comment: Great match. Deserves more respect than it gets.
The only thing I didn't like about this whole match/storyline was the Stephanie revelation. Granted, the Triple H/Stephanie RL marriage wasn't exactly a secret to smart fans, but the fact that it was suddenly part of a storyline without any build up was frustrating. I mean, we got little moments between them over the years, but the fact that we went from their breakup in 2002 to them suddenly being married with two children in 2009 with almost no fanfare in storyline is aggravating. The McMahon-Helmsley Era was a big part of WWE in the latter part of the Monday Night War/Attitude Era, so bringing that back in any capacity should've gotten more attention than being a peripheral part of a storyline. I maintain that this was the greatest storyline WWE never gave us: The McMahon-Helmsley reunion. I really wish we'd gotten SOMETHING to justify the sudden reveal, but I'm glad we got it.
Present Meets Future: Sheamus – WrestleMania 26
The build for this match was actually pretty simple. Triple H and Sheamus had competed in an Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship and Triple H eliminated Sheamus. Just business, right? Well, the brash Sheamus, who had been WWE Champion in that match, was not going to take the disrespect lying down and challenged Triple H to a match at WrestleMania.
Sheamus comes out to not a lot of love, though it could be that this is an open-air stadium and it’s drowning out the noise, but looking at the crowds, I just think he’s not very popular.
Triple H comes out next and gets all the love. Still no Skull King, but who cares. He’s the Game. I do like how the build involved Triple H playing into the ‘Golden Shovel’ narrative the fans wanted to push.
This match wasn’t one of my favorites. It was a good match, but it’s clear that this was mostly to get Sheamus over with the fans. He hung with the Game for a pretty tough match and Triple H made him look good. That said, I just wasn’t that into it. The storyline didn’t really work for me because Triple H didn’t fit that ‘Established babyface taking heel newcomer’ role.
Plus, this match was a lot shorter than most Triple H matches, which makes sense since there wasn’t a whole lot of story there, but it was just odd.
The Winner: Triple H by pinfall.
Comment: Okay match. Sheamus looked good in defeat, it just wasn’t my favorite.