Triple H after tearing his quadriceps for the second time in 2007.
We're often critical of certain professional wrestlers here at Cageside Seats and if you've been around long enough, it's likely you know those we've targeted the most frequently. Hulk Hogan is number one on the list, of course, but Triple H is a close second. There's a good reason for that and it's because we're not exactly fond of backstage political players who put themselves above others by any means necessary, often to the detriment of the business as a whole. There's no doubting Hogan and Trips are tops on the list in that respect.
But when it comes to skill inside the ring, we also do our best to simply call it like we see it. In the case of Hogan, he relied on his charisma, his opponent, and his ability to work a crowd to get through his matches. But the opposite holds true for Triple H. In fact, I would argue that from around early 1999 to May 20, 2001, "The Game" was one of the very best professional wrestlers in the entire world.
But it was on this date in WWE history (May 21) that that all changed.
Indeed, Triple H was in the midst of a run with Stone Cold Steve Austin after forming a tag team that came to be known as "The Two Man Power Trip." They were dominating the landscape of the company, at one point holding the tag team championships while Trips was the Intercontinental champion and Austin was the WWE champion.
Then, on one fateful night in 2001 on Monday Night Raw in San Jose, California, it all changed.
Triple H and Austin were booked to lose the tag titles to the team of Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, and the match itself was a 14 minute thriller that had the fans at the San Jose Arena going absolutely bonkers. To think, these four men were all basically in their prime with Austin probably showing the most signs of wear and tear. But even he was still special despite the limitations placed on him by his neck issues.
All was going swimmingly through the first 11 minutes of the match with all the usual tag team shenanigans. They perfectly set up a hot tag from Benoit to Jericho and Triple H to Austin and once that happened, "Y2J" came in and cleaned house. He sent "The Game" to the outside with a clothesline over the top rope and then reversed an Austin Lou Thesz press attempt into the Walls of Jericho.
That's when Triple H came back into the ring to make the save but awkwardly planted on his left leg while doing so and tore his quadriceps completely off the bone.
The severity of this injury cannot be overstated. Injuries like this have ended athletes careers and his eventual surgery and recovery time was eight long months. The saddest part of all this is that Triple H was simply never the same. Sure, he returned in 2002 and went on to wrestle for another 10 years. In fact, he's only semi-retired at present time, all these years later. But there's no denying that he's never quite gotten back to the level he was before his first quadriceps injury. I say first because he also tore his right quad in 2007. In both cases, he would go on to finish the match.
Perhaps that's the most impressive aspect of all this. After tearing his quadriceps following his saving Austin from Jericho's submission, Trips barely skipped a beat. He followed Jericho to the outside but he didn't simply crawl up in the corner to ride out the remainder of the match until medical personnel could attend to him. No, he put Jericho on the announce table and set up for the Pedrigee, the thought of his going through with which being absolutely cringe worthy with the benefit of hindsight.
And then the unthinkable.
Jericho actually reverses the Pedigree by grabbing Triple H's legs and dropping him to his back. He then turns "The Game" over and fully sits down, locking in the Walls of Jericho. It's painful just to watch this sequence knowing what we know now. And yet Triple H got back up yet again and grabbed his trusty sledgehammer to make one more run into the ring in an attempt to save Austin, who was just about to get finished off by Jericho. He ended up hitting "The Rattlesnake" when "Y2J" moved, leading to Benoit tackling Trips and sending him to the outside where he could finally, mercifully wait for assistance while Jericho got the pin on Austin to win the titles to a raucous ovation.
Watch the entire match below and marvel at how incredibly tough Triple H was to work through such an unbelievably painful and debilitating injury.
Note: The quad tear occurs at the 14:39 mark of the above video.