Trauma to a wrestler, like any Triple H injury, can be really serious and derail a career. If an athlete suffers an injury in any type of sport, the game is stopped and a team of trainers runs out to the injured player to assess the problem. If the injury looks bad for the athlete, they’ll be taken out of the game. Much like in sports, a pro wrestling match can also be stopped, but there have been times where wrestlers showed mental and physical perseverance by finishing a match despite the distress they were under due to injury.
One of the biggest examples of someone who has shown this strength and tenacity is Triple H. Triple H has suffered two career-threatening injuries and another that was deemed potentially life-threatening, yet he finished every single one of those bouts in an incredible amount of pain, without thinking twice. While having a long decorated career spanning over twenty-six years, all of these dramatic injuries happened within five years of each other.
Triple H Injury #1: Quad Tear (left side)
On the 21st of May, 2001 edition of Monday Night RAW, there was a fantastic tag team match. Chris Jericho refers to it as: “The match that doesn’t exist anymore because of the circumstances that happened after.”
It was Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho against Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The match was thrilling and the crowd was hot, everything was going really well and the boys were going to enjoy a few beers and celebrate after this performance — all that changed during the latter stages of the match. Triple H went to break up a ‘Walls of Jericho’ hold applied to his partner Stone Cold, and as he planted his left leg, his quad tore. It happened in a very innocuous manner but was perhaps a result of wear and tear and years of landing on the quad area from delivering pedigrees.
Most men wouldn’t be able to walk with a torn quad, let alone continue a wrestling match, but that’s exactly what Triple H pulled off. The match was a classic, and this could have motivated The Game to go that extra mile, but ultimately it’s down to his own sheer willpower that he pulled this off.
Hunter sat down with an opponent from the match, Chris Jericho, on the Talk Is Jericho podcast and they went over the match together and talked about this Triple H injury.
“I remember thinking, ‘This is one of the toughest dudes I’ve ever been in the ring within my life!’ because you finished that match with a torn quad, came BACK in the ring to make the save with the sledgehammer, took a Walls [of Jericho]… I mean, that was incredible, man.”
“I remember you said, ‘Oh my god, are you okay?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely not!’
I mean, I couldn’t even put weight on it, but I was like, ‘Whatever I’ve done, I don’t think I can make it any worse,’ so I was like, ‘Put the Walls on me.’ When you did, I remember you turning me over and thinking, ‘REALLY bad decision!’ Like ‘holy shit…’
I remember you putting me down on the table and I had to go back in [the ring] to do the spot… I was like, ‘Oh my god, am I going to be able to get up to the ring?’ And I was like, ‘I gotta go…'”
“I don’t know how you got back in.”
“I remember uh, rolling to the floor and just curling up in a fetal position, Vince coming out and saying, ‘What’d you do?’ and me saying, ‘I tore my quad.’
I felt it when it went, man, I felt it just roll up to my hip. [the trainer said] ‘No way, you couldn’t have, you couldn’t be walking on it.’
I said, ‘I’m telling ya,’ and he put his hand in there and was like, ‘Wow, you did.’ He could feel the divot and stuff.
Here’s another thing, I remember coming up the ramp and as we were getting to the top of the ramp, I was doing the math in my head… ‘Four months, rehab, can I be back for Mania?’ That was my whole mentality, ’cause it was like May when I did it but I was thinking like, ‘Man, I don’t think SummerSlam is an option, but I know I could probably come back for later….’
I didn’t know how bad it was and I didn’t know Dr. Andrews was going to come to me and go like, ‘Yeah, you might never wrestle again…'”
Dr. Andrews told Triple H, “Here’s the thing, I don’t know anybody that’s ever come back from this from the level that you did it. I’ve never seen a contact sports athlete come back from this, so if you do, it’s gonna be awesome. I put it back together, it’s back together as good as it can go, but now it’s on your rehab.”
Triple H remembers saying, “Wow, so what does that mean?”
Dr. Andrews responded, “If I were you, I’d stay with the best.’
“So I was like, ‘Done.'” Triple H continued, “Kevin Wilk was there and he’s the best guy in the world [for physical training and rehabilitation of sports injuries]. So I called the office [of WWE] and was like, ‘I need to stay down here. [The doctors here] were saying I might never wrestle again so I gotta stay here to rehab,’ and [the office] was like, ‘Done, stay where you’re at.’
“I lived in the Embassy Suites [located in Birmingham, Alabama] for nine months. Towards the end when I got better, I was flying and doing things here and there and stuff, but I stayed there until the very end. I remember packing my bags, the vignettes had been playing of my return, I remember packing my bags in the Embassy Suite and saying like, ‘Alright, here we go…'”
A dedication was shown from the beginning right until the end with Triple H staying in Alabama to give himself the best chance of recovery. As a result of this Triple H injury, he missed the whole WCW Invasion storyline. Despite that setback, he returned eight months later to Raw as a face on January 7, 2002, at Madison Square Garden. He later won the Royal Rumble and received an Undisputed WWF Championship match at WrestleMania X8, defeating Chris Jericho for the Undisputed WWF Championship.
Triple H Injury #2: An Almost Life-Threatening Throat Injury
The first ever Elimination Chamber match took place at Survivor Series 2002. With it being such a fresh concept, an injury was a strong possibility. No one had ever tried jumping off one of the pods before, and nobody really knew what it would feel like to bump on the steel and all the surroundings the Elimination Chamber came with. Everything was coming with its set of first-time experiences.
One of the participants in that match, Rob Van Dam, had a moment in the match where he jumped off the pod, using his Five-Star Frog Splash. Rob himself was uncomfortable performing a move from the top of the pod, and it was never his idea to execute the daring splash. Rob’s uncomfortable feeling was justified because it all went wrong. RVD is an exceptional athlete, and he uses a lot of that athleticism in his Five-Star Frog Splash, using the ropes as leverage, getting that extra spring, covering great distance and adjusting his body mid-air… But it wasn’t natural for him to do all that on top of a pod. The unfortunate receiver to the splash was as the article suggests, Triple H. Rob did his signature ‘RVD’ taunt and leaped off the pod, but his leg connected with Triple H’s throat instead of hitting the mat. This Triple H injury caused an extraordinary amount of pain and Triple H immediately started kicking against the mat furiously.
The man didn’t even know whether his throat was fully crushed or not. He struggled to breathe, could barely talk, yet still went the distance in the match, making it to the end. The Game suffered bad swelling in the throat, and he’s lucky it wasn’t any worse than what it was. He was back in action within a couple of weeks but stayed in the hospital overnight. Thankfully the swelling went down.
RVD made an appearance on The Shining Wizards podcast and spoke about the splash gone wrong that caused this Triple H injury.
“That was the only night that Vince McMahon ever called me, to tell me Hunter was okay. He knew I was concerned for a lot of reasons. I was visibly upset about it. I knew that it was a really big deal, and I never want to hurt anyone anyway. This was something, that was an accident. I wasn’t comfortable jumping off of there, it wasn’t my idea to do it. Just being off like that, BAM. Yeah and its Hunter, it wasn’t good, and they wanted me to know they understood. Vince was super cool about it.”
An interview for WWE.com the day after the second Triple H injury backed up what RVD said and explained his version of events.
“When Rob Van Dam hit me with the Frog-splash off the top of the cage, his knee went across my throat. It caused swelling on the inside of my throat, which closed my airway down. I don’t know the percentage, but [the medical staff] said your throat’s normally at two, and it was at less than one… They needed to keep me overnight because they were afraid that if it swelled any more, my airway would close off, and before I would be able to tell anybody, I wouldn’t be able to breathe and I could die. While they were making sure that didn’t happen, they were also trying to find out whether or not I had torn my trachea, which, if I did, I couldn’t drink or swallow. I basically sat bloody in the hospital with my gear on until about eleven or noon today. I was still in my gear. I was still covered in blood with confetti on my back.”
[The doctors] told me not to wrestle for at least ten days. It’s mostly just until the swelling goes down. Once the swelling goes down, I have to see. They’ll take more pictures inside to make sure there wasn’t any damage. But as of right now, they think it’s not structural damage, it’s just swollen tissue. And unfortunately, when your throat swells, you can’t breathe.
This sounds extreme, but the doctor explained to me that if somebody dropped even a 10 or 20 lb. weight on you from a few feet in the air and it hit you on the throat, it could crush your windpipe and kill you instantly. For me, the doctor said it was a lot of things. Rob tried to protect me as best he could. I rolled with the shot. My neck’s very thick from training it. All those things protected me, and a bit of luck too. It could have been a lot worse, and that’s why they kept me last night and wouldn’t let me leave the hospital, because they weren’t sure how bad it was, and if it did swell more, it could have still killed me.”
Triple H revealed whether or not he blamed Rob Van Dam. “No. This is a tough business. And there are certain moves in the business that are high-risk moves. When we do them, we take high risk, that’s why they’re called high-risk moves. Every time that you do one, the odds go up that something’s going to happen. And this time, something happened. The time was right, and there it was. This has nothing to do with Rob. I feel completely safe in the ring with Rob every time I’m in there with him. It was just one of those things. It wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t my fault. It just happened. In this business, there’s a fraction of an inch between safe and not safe, and we were on the wrong side of the fraction.”
The thought of Triple H sitting in the hospital all night in his gear still covered in blood and confetti is a heavy one. The Cerebral Assassin wasn’t going to let anything stop him from letting the fans get their money’s worth that night, not even a heavy-hitting Triple H injury to the throat.
Triple H Injury #3: A Second Quad Tear (right side)
The night Triple H made his return to the ring after the first torn quad was on January 7, 2002. Ironically, on that exact same date five years later, this Triple H injury of a torn quad was suffered on his right side.
At the New Years Revolution Pay-Per-View in 2007, it was DX up against Rated RKO. During the course of the match, Triple H’s quad just gave out. Ex-WWE referee Marty Elias held up the dreaded ‘X’ sign to signal that a legitimate injury had taken place, and the quality of the match had come to a screeching halt, as Triple H was visibly struggling. Triple H was hobbling slowly, and whilst Edge was being as ginger as he could with him, Randy Orton was confused and panicked a bit, with the match losing structure. At one point, Randy bizarrely ran into the ring with a steel chair, setting up to hit Triple H in the back but then decided against it, running back out of the ring with the steel chair in hand.
Shawn Michaels, in Triple H’s corner, could see the match was losing structure and used his high ring IQ to save the match. In the midst of the match being slowed down and the crowd relatively silent, Shawn Michaels took a dive to the outside through the middle rope onto Orton to excite the fans, hit some wicked chair shots, bringing the match to an improvised no-contest finish.
Triple H did more than his part despite the significance of his injury, hitting not one, but two pedigrees! One was delivered not long after tearing his quad as the match was still going on, the other was on the announce table after the match had come to a no-contest. The improvisation of the match going to a no-contest may have sounded like it would be viewed negatively by the crowd, however, this was a no-contest done right. Triple H and Shawn gave Orton and Edge a very solid beat down, the crowd was digging it, and after The Game hit his pedigree on the announce table whilst dealing with the pain of a detached muscle, Shawn Michaels took a huge leap from the turnbuckle to the Spanish announce table, elbow dropping Orton in the process.
It was, on one hand, amazing innovation and professionalism from Shawn Michaels to keep the crowd happy in such an awkward spot, and on the other hand, insane fortitude shown from Triple H.
A week later on RAW, a segment aired about this Triple H injury. Here’s what Triple H had to say from the segment:
“Basically I detached the muscle at the front of my leg from the bone of my kneecap. It felt honestly like my kneecap just kind of blew over to the side of my leg, which wasn’t I don’t think my kneecap moving so much as it was just the quad ripping off and sliding over to the side.”
Speaking about his recovery, “Whether it’s four, six, or eight months, I don’t really know, but I know what I gotta go through to get to the end of the road and it’s a long, slow process… I don’t just want to come back and wrestle, I want to come back and be The Game. I want to come back and be on top. I can’t read the future but eleven-time champion sounds good to me.”
In the end, the healing process took seven months, one month less than his first quad injury to the opposite leg.
Triple H went on to become a fourteen-time world champion.
A rumor worth noting is that Stephanie McMahon was absolutely devastated backstage when the injury occurred and was inconsolable as staff awkwardly looked on.
She supposedly fell to her knees and shrieked, “Noooooooo!” as she watched her husband on the monitor backstage. Stephanie’s reaction to the injury could be described as if she were reacting to a death in the ring.
Whether you are a fan or not, you cannot deny his toughness.