HHH vs. HBK – A Rivalry Among Friends Pt. III
Three Stages of Hell
Last time, in Part Two, the Heartbreak Kid wrestled his second match in four years, inside the very first Elimination Chamber, and walked away with Triple H’s World Heavyweight Championship. That makes two wins in a row for HBK over his old running buddy. This was the rubber match at Armageddon 2002. The feud continued for some time after this, but this was the final match of their initial program. Now they could’ve gone toe to toe in a simple one fall to a finish bout, but the Cerebral Assassin and Mr. WrestleMania have way more style than that. They finished their opening run with a Three Stages of Hell match.
First stage: Street Fight. Favors the Cerebral Assassin, known for his brutality and advanced proficiency with a sledgehammer.
Second stage: Steel Cage match. Splits it down the middle. Both competitors had gone face to steel on many occasions before 2002. Shawn Michaels innovated the Hell in a Cell match, but Triple H helped refine it with its master, Mick Foley.
Third stage: Ladder match. Favors the Heartbreak Kid. This was another match he helped innovate; this time with his buddy Scott Hall back in 1994 at WrestleMania 10.
Everybody know what they’re in for now? If not, I’ll break it down. Somewhere along the line, Shawn Michaels must have been super psyched about his progress physically, because he went from wrestling two matches in four years; to wrestling three matches in one night. Everybody wanted to know if he could maintain, if he could be as consistent as he once was. This was his answer.
Triple H got the honor of officially welcoming HBK back into the ring for good, that night at Armageddon 2002.
Triple H twisted HBK’s knee early into the Street Fight and preyed on it throughout. The action was in and out of the ring. It was fast and hard hitting, involving tables and a two-by-four wrapped in barbed wire, which The Game lit ablaze. Blood was drawn. As predicted, Triple H got the victory in the first fall, taking us up one stage to the unforgiving torture of the Steel Cage. As I mentioned, this match doesn’t favor either of the men involved. Both had extensive histories inside the cage, and they’d put them to good use here.
This was a back and forth affair. They played all the familiar tropes: HHH catapulted HBK into the cage, he ground his face into it, and so on. I don’t mean to be dismissive. It’s how you work the match. If you don’t use the steel, all it is, is in the way. The Heartbreak Kid picked up the victory in the second fall, after he set Triple H up on a table left over from the Street Fight, and then jumped off of the top of the cage, landing on top of the Cerebral Assassin, sending them both crashing through the table. Thankfully, HHH landed with his shoulders down, and HBK landed on top of him.
The ref just had to count the one, two, three.
It came down to the match that HBK practically invented. The arena was thick with tension. Everyone wanted the Show Stopper to walk away with the World Heavyweight Championship. Triple H was the most hated heel in the company back then. All 9,000 in attendance that night at Armageddon in Sunrise, Florida were captivated. This fall is where the heart stopping moment of the night came to pass. Throughout the match, both men had done various things with tables. The end result leading into the third fall was one smashed table in the ring, and four perfectly fine tables set up outside it.
So the old friends are battling, using the ladder as a weapon. They’re going back and forth again. Then, HBK gets the momentum. He manages to get enough time to set the ladder up and start climbing. Triple H is not easily kept down, however. He gets back up and pushes the ladder, sending the Heartbreak Kid plummeting through those four perfectly fine tables set up outside the ring. The spot was used in the company’s Don’t Try This At Home ads for years. The lights from the flashbulbs are spectacular. It’s as if 9,000 people all decided at the same moment to try and capture the moment with their shotty, early 2000’s digital cameras.
To much surprise, HBK lost the final fall, dropping his World Heavyweight Championship back to Triple H after only a month.
Find out where things go from here when I return with Part Four of HHH vs. HBK – A Rivalry Among Friends.