WrestleMania 36 will (hopefully) go down as a unique entry in the history of WWE‘s flagship show due to COVID-19. In all of the chaos created by the pandemic, one thing still remained consistent: aging part-time stars showing up for their WrestleMania moment. Or, at least, most of them did.
The Undertaker and John Cena were involved in the most talked about matches of the show. Goldberg was in a world title match. Netflix sitcom star the Big Show even made an appearance that was saved for Raw. But one big name was conspicuous by his absence, however: Triple H.
“The Game” went without a WrestleMania match for the first time since 2007. It’s the first time in his entire career, going all the way back to 1996, that he was absent from a WrestleMania card without a significant injury. His most prominent appearance on WWE TV recently was on NXT, where he set up the final match between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa.
This makes a certain amount of sense. Triple H’s corporate duties and backstage role in NXT have been well documented. They’re the reason he took on a reduced in ring schedule in the first place. The chaos around moving WrestleMania and cancelling live events (including NXT TakeOver: Tampa Bay) probably left little time in his schedule to train for and build to a WrestleMania match.
That said, the fact that it didn’t seem like a match was ever on the table is surprising. Love him or hate him, Triple H has been one of the few constants at WrestleMania for over two decades. It’s odd that his absence received so little notice, but that could be explained by him wearing out his welcome at last year’s show.
Unfortunately, once the match finally happened, it was a slog. It was the longest match on the card, clocking in at nearly 25 minutes. Triple H has always had a “more is more” philosophy when it comes to big matches, both for his own and the ones he oversees in NXT. It has produced some undeniable classics, as well as some self-indulgent messes, but it reached its nadir with two 50-year-old men endlessly trying for an epic match. It didn’t help that one of them had spent more time fighting Thanos than he had in a ring in recent years.
Triple H’s last match since WrestleMania 35 was against Randy Orton at Super ShowDown in another 25 minute match that was the longest match of the PPV. Orton won that match, and if it winds up being Triple H’s final match, it makes sense that it was against the member of Evolution that doesn’t have a day job in Hollywood. Triple H definitely passed the torch of marathon WrestleMania matches to Orton. He and Edge went a whopping 36 minutes in their Last Man Standing match.
There are a few paths forward for Triple H if he’s going to continue wrestling, at WrestleMania and beyond. One is to continue in a role similar to his father-in-law’s, the evil authority figure who wrestles the occasional match. He played that role well against Daniel Bryan and Sting at WrestleMania. Another is for him to take part in the burgeoning cinematic match division. He could also continue to take part in matches at the Saudi Arabia shows, of which he’s only missed one. Those shows have relied on part-timers so much that they might as well be WWE’s senior circuit.
No matter what Triple H’s future in the ring is, his legacy at WrestleMania is secure. From being the first heel to walk out of WrestleMania as WWE Champion to helping launch Ronda Rousey’s WWE career, he’s done it all. Once WWE (and the world in general) get back to normal, fans may finally be able to appreciate WrestleMania 36 as the end of an era for “the Game.”
In the chaos of WrestleMania 36, fans missed a milestone; Triple H didn't have a match. We look at what this means for “the Game's” career.