On the latest episode of WWE’s The Bump, the panel brought on Triple H to talk about his memories of the Royal Rumble and which moments in those pay-per-views stood out to him. The first Rumble they look back on was his triumphant return back in 2002, when he suffered an eight-month quad injury, which almost cost him his in-ring career. For the former nine-time WWE Champion, this moment 19 years ago solidified where exactly he stood in the company.
“It’s hard to sort of put into words the journey at that point in time because, you know, there was a high probability I might’ve not been able to wrestle again,” Triple H stated on his 2002 Royal Rumble return. “Coming back and having the return I did at Madison Square Garden, and the reaction I got was great. The challenge was: How do you capitalize on that? So, to come back at the Royal Rumble, there’s so much meaning there. Not only from a performer’s standpoint but from an athlete’s standpoint of the validation to be able to do this still.”
In this exact match, Triple H recalls the excitement he felt from the crowd when his mentor Mr. Perfect made his entrance at the event.
“It was awesome! For me, as a fan, Curt was one of the best in-ring performers ever,” he replied. “When I came to WWE at the time, and Curt sort of being in his first management position, [he] helped me get [towards] the Intercontinental title. After leaving WWE to go to WCW and then returning later, it was a weird full-circle moment. To see him in that spot and the reaction he got, that was awesome.”
Last month, the wrestling community lost one of its influential minds in the business when Pat Patterson passed away at 79 years old. With Patterson’s vision of the Royal Rumble living up to the hype since it first started in 1988, Triple H credits the inaugural Intercontinental Champion for his contributions in this annual event.
“[The] Rumble is one of those great matches where it can last the length of time that it does. And every couple of minutes, there’s this surprise every time. Sometimes, those surprises are underwhelming. Sometimes they’re those ‘Oh, my God’ moments,” he began. “They are a lot of fun to put together because of those moments because you’re constantly looking at how you can get that excitement level. But that’s the genesis thing that Pat Patterson put together. Pat was the concept creator of the Rumble.”
When he made his return back to being a full-time in-ring performer in 2016, Triple H admits that year was the most challenging part of his overall career.
“Absolutely, because it was completely out of the blue and completely unplanned in a way,” he noted. “There was a moment in time with injuries and everything that was happening in the company where, you know, I sort of got to a place in my career where Vince [McMahon] would joke that I was the in case of an emergency, break glass [guy]. So, I’d be sitting there with my trunks on. He’d tell me, ‘Ok. You’re my in case of an emergency guy, we’re breaking the glass, and here’s what we’re going to do.’ And you’re like, ‘Oh, my God.’
“I don’t believe I’ve ever done anything harder in my career than have moments where you don’t wrestle for an entire year or a long, long period of time. Then you come out and do whatever it is at the highest level, you know, to try to add to the stuff you’ve done without letting others or yourself down. It’s really one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever faced. The pressure was immense.”
Throughout the month, The Bump will ask their guests which moments in Royal Rumble history were their favorites to participate in or to watch. For Triple H, he says the very first Rumble he participated in will forever be his favorite because of the interaction he got to have with Dory Funk Jr.
“It’s funny. There are moments for me in the Rumble…I’ll give you one that was a cool moment for me that nobody else would even remember happened,” he opened. “It was my first Royal Rumble, and I was in there for a long period of time, and Dory Funk Jr. came into the ring. I don’t remember how long I’d been in there, but I remember Dory just coming and grabbing me in the center of the ring and picking me up and putting me in the corner. He said to me, ‘Get yourself a breather, kid.’ He just started working with me in the corner. And, you know, that was a guy I grew up watching. For me to have that moment with Dory Jr., it was the coolest thing for me of all time.”
You can watch Triple H’s full interview above. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WWE’s The Bump with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.