When Triple H walked out to his music in a suit and accepted the well-deserved award for Match of the Year against The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVIII, he didn't look like a wrestler whose best days were behind him, someone longing for the spotlight that would never again stay focused on him.
He looked content and at peace, happy with a career that has, for all intents and purposes, ended.
The Slammys gave Triple H the chance to do what he has always done best, including poking fun at himself and showing respect and love for professional wrestling as a whole.
I have no idea if he will step in the ring again after the mauling he faced from Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, but that was a bonus match after the Hell in A Cell epic we saw at WrestleMania, a match that The Rock vs. John Cena and even CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho had no chance to follow.
For all the accolades Triple H has earned, and for all the moments he has given us throughout his time in wrestling, no match proved the immortality of his legacy more than the final shot of Triple H, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels leaving the ring as one.
As much as it makes me want to bite my own face to bring up the subject, I don't think of The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin when I think of the Attitude Era. What I remember most is WrestleMania XV, where Triple H did the unthinkable and aligned himself with Vince McMahon and the rest of the corporation.
While he would toy with being a babyface throughout the 2000s and would reform D-Generation X with Shawn Michaels twice, Triple H, like his idol Ric Flair, would always be at his best when playing the bad guy and making others look good.
Triple H and the McMahons dominated WWE programming through the turn of the millennium, going to war with the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Kurt Angle, The Big Show, Mick Foley and Chris Jericho.
Twelve years before The Undertaker and Triple H put on a classic inside the cell, they had their first WrestleMania encounter in Houston, Texas. By the time Triple H tore his quadriceps muscle in 2001, he had already won the WWE Championship four times.
It was 2002 when Triple H truly became the top heel who everyone wanted to see get beaten to the ground. Anonymous posters on the internet who cried foul over his off-camera marriage to Stephanie McMahon and accused him of playing politics are now the same ones who pop like true marks whenever he makes a surprise appearance. They ridiculed WWE's decision to "hand" him the World Heavyweight Championship after the Brand Extension, a fact he ridiculed himself when he told the writers, "Screw you," the night after he defeated Kane to unify every belt on Raw.
I wish I could dig out old comments from message boards when I would sit up and defend everything Triple H did for years, always falling on deaf ears while people began to take interest in some kid named John Cena. They always seem to forget how Triple H tapped out in the middle of the ring to Chris Benoit to end WrestleMania XX, or the little things like getting sprayed with Tajiri's mist and subsequently yelling at a ficus plant to vent his frustration.
Thanks to Triple H, we now have a bright future for WWE. As Executive Vice President of Talent, he is in charge of the entire developmental system. Under his watch, The Shield made an immediate impact at the end of 2012 and capped the year with a pay-per-view match that stood up to anything else WWE had put on this year.
Even if people eventually relegate Triple H's name and accomplishments to the past, his work in the NXT area will ensure that his mark is left on just about everything in WWE.
When they day comes for him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, a date I expect within the next ten years, Triple H will once again give a humble and respectful acceptance speech, acknowledging everyone who came before him to make it possible for him to become the legend he is now.
The company would not be where it is right now without his hard work throughout the last decade, and he has given the stars of tomorrow plenty of new goals to reach.
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