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WWE: Retro RAW | The Return of Triple H – January 7th 2002 [MSG]

Madison Square Garden – New York, New York | TV Rating:  4.9


The Good

The main takeaway on this show is the return of Triple H, which still gives goosebumps some 20 years later. The backstage promo’s throughout the evening from Kurt Angle, who isn’t at all happy about HHH’s return, are pretty funny (and do a subtle job of making sure we’re all aware Trips is returning as a babyface).

It was set up to be a show that only had one focus which meant that the rest of it was pretty awful all things told. And the actual meat of the sandwich isn’t exactly thrilling as an angle.  BUT the reaction for the return of Triple H is genuinely one of the loudest pops you will EVER see in wrestling. 

The fans explode and just will not stop cheering for him.  You can say all you want about Triple H as a wrestler and how the WWE almost begged the fans to accept him as a genuine main event star.  You can talk all about the burials and how marriage cemented his status as one of the top guys.  But this one reaction here is proof that HHH was over.  That he was a genuine star and was fully deserving of it. You can’t fake that kind of reaction.


The Bad

Billy & Chuck (who foreshadow where their alliance is headed, of sorts, when Billy suggests that it should be them not Trish and Terri in a wet T-shirt competition) against Scotty 2 Hotty and Albert/The Hip Hop Hippo is another sub-four-minute match but as no-one in it is particularly over once the bell rings it’s nothing more than filler. 

The “What” thing is still annoying to this day.  Seeing Steve Austin attempt to rattle off 29 of them in order to symbolise how he will win the upcoming Royal Rumble match is just plain excruciating. 

Edge against Lance Storm for the IC title seems like it might be quite decent, at the very least, doesn’t it?  Well, it goes about a minute before Edge wins. And in that minute Storm tries to win by submission to boot.  Which I kind of get could happen in a “real” fight (albeit not with the half crab he attempts here) but this is wrestling.  So it’s really, really dumb. 

Chris Jericho, whose World Title reign is already in serious trouble, needs to cheat via a belt shot and biased referee to defeat Rikishi in a non-title match. 

You weren’t expecting a Wet T-Shirt competition (that is effectively the main event in terms of “action”) between Terri and Trish that is presented by Jerry Lawler to be anything but nonsense were you…?


The Indifferent

The opening in-ring promo from Vince McMahon is what it is by this point in time.  At least it is building up to something (even if that something is Vince Vs Ric Flair at the Royal Rumble) and the video montage of some of Flair’s greatest moments is a nice touch.  But Vince’s impersonation of Flair (complete with robe and blonde wig) isn’t really that good/funny and as we’re in MSG this has to be a time when Vince humiliates the “competition” as so he smacks Flair with a “steel” pip and Flair takes a blade job so blatant and OTT that you realise it must be a “rib” of sorts given Flair’s history. 

Rob Van Dam is over, REALLY over, so his match with Test isn’t that bad given it goes less than four minutes, but the whole storyline of Test having immunity from being fired (imagine that as a concept twenty years on…) as per his win at Survivor Series is already a storyline that we can see isn’t going to lead anywhere.  So it leaves him as an angry young man who pushes referees around. 

Apparently, Steve Austin & The Rock against Big Bossman and Booker T is a “match for the ages”.  Spoiler alert, it’s not.  It’s two genuine superstars against a man a decade beyond his peak and a WCW star who keeps having to be “buried” to remind everyone that WWE was always superior.  The match is poor too.  In hindsight it’s blatantly obvious that Austin has lost that “fire” and is, to some extent, coasting along.

Coming from the “I don’t remember that” files Tazz and Spike Dudley winning the Tag Team Titles from The Dudley’s isn’t great but it’s a fast-paced sub-four-minute match that went down well with the live audience, at least.


Overall

The show is clearly only about one thing. The Return of Triple H.  And cynics might even argue that the rest of the show is fairly pedestrian by design so that the return of HHH is the only thing worth popping for… You could even argue that the mechanics of his return (he announces his Rumble entry, is interrupted by Angle and then he beats him up) are nothing more than your average wrestling spot.  But still, for the pop alone you should at least watch the return of Triple H

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Matthew Roberts
"Who's your daddy, Montreal?" - Shawn Michaels
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