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  Jan 10, 2002



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SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Triple H back in the game
By NICK TYLWALK -- For SLAM! Wrestling

From all accounts, the fan reaction at Madison Square Garden was deafening. Unquestionably, the returning star was emotional. And the ratings for this week's episode of Raw seem to indicate that casual WWF fans cared enough to tune in. Yet the one question that can't be avoided is, "That's it?"

In case you hadn't heard (unlikely, given the massive amount of publicity generated by the WWF's hype machine) or were just thawed out from a block of ice, Triple H made his triumphant return after almost eight months on the shelf with a nasty thigh injury. Scratch that. It was a nice return, to be sure, but something was missing that kept it from making a lasting impression.

The problem wasn't in the set-up. Showing an unusual amount of restraint, Vince McMahon had no role in Raw's final segment. Triple H was allowed to walk out on the stage, soak in a much deserved ovation and pose in the ring as the roars continued. He even got a chance to formally reintroduce himself before Kurt Angle crashed the party.

No qualms there. Angle's jealousy was eminently believable and well within the bounds of his established character. Even Helmsley's subsequent demolition of Angle made sense, as he had to take someone out to prove The Game was back.

But that was it. Pedigree, music, good night and thanks for coming. Maybe the return of one of the WWF's top performers should have been enough, but in this day and age of sports entertainment, we as fans have been conditioned to expect more.

It's not like there was a lack of questions surrounding the comeback. Would Triple H be a heel or a face? Only Angle's interruption even gives us a clue. What about the status of his relationship with his loving wife Stephanie? Looks like we'll have to wait until Smackdown.

And what about Helmsley's unresolved issues with a certain Texas Rattlesnake? When last we saw him, a heel Triple H was terrorizing the WWF alongside Steve Austin. The injury came just as their partnership seemed to be unraveling, and vignettes shot at the time of Triple H's surgery suggested that Stone Cold would be the first man on his hit list when he recovered. Hey, if The Rock can forgive Austin for what happened at last year's WrestleMania, I guess we can buy Hunter and Steve sharing a few brews.

It was, of course, only one night. Nothing short of Triple H decimating Chris Jericho to claim the Unified World Title and kicking Steph to the curb would have lived up to the hoopla, and that just wasn't going to happen. Unfortunately, therein lies the point. Too often pro wrestling simply sets the bar too high, and Monday proved that even the industry leader isn't immune to this affliction.

Millions of fans can't be wrong. The ratings were up substantially for Monday's show, so it's hard to second guess the WWF's decision to do what it did. It sure would have been sweeter though, if we hadn't been promised unforgettable and received nice instead. Until The Game has more time to get cranked up, nice will have to do.

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