Love is in the era
According to the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, "Death is better, a milder fate than tyranny." That said, one cannot help but wonder if the widely regarded "father of tragedy" was actually a time traveler working for World Wrestling Entertainment at the dawn of the 21st century—a period that witnessed the fusion of power, corruption, business savvy and, of course, WWE.com's No. 1 Whoa-mance: the McMahon-Helmsley Era.
Truly, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were from different worlds; he was D-Generation X's crass Cerebral Assassin, while she was Mr. McMahon's Billion Dollar Princess. But those worlds collided in November 1999, when The Game played ultimate wedding crasher during Stephanie's nuptials to Test. In front of the horrified bride and groom-to-be, her entire wedding party and everyone watching Raw that night, he produced video footage of another marriage ceremony—one that featured himself, a drugged Stephanie, tacky ventriloquism, 40 bucks and a drive-thru chapel in Las Vegas.
Outraged, Mr. McMahon would battle Triple H for his daughter's honor in a "No Holds Barred" contest at Armageddon. Unfortunately for the bloodied WWE Chairman, the apple of his eye did not fall far from the family tree; just as he had done to so many others in the past (and present…and probably future…), Stephanie betrayed Mr. McMahon, happily aiding her new husband to secure the victory. As she herself would later explain, watching Triple H make business personal against her father gave her butterflies, and she was thrilled the night he netted her.
By breaking her father's heart and driving away the remaining McMahon clan, Stephanie and Triple H welcomed the new millennium in complete control of WWE. Together, the narcissistic newlyweds merged the members of DX with the remnants of Mr. McMahon's sinister Corporation, thereby laying the foundation for their own eternal partnership, the McMahon-Helmsley Era. Further solidified by championship gold (two WWE Championship reigns for Triple H, and the Women's Championship for Stephanie), the faction declared "marital law" on WWE Superstars, referees, even announcers and production crews; those who didn't adhere to the rules of their happy home were often unceremoniously cast out. (Or in the case of Stephanie's mother Linda, slapped in the middle of the ring by her own daughter!)
Naturally, their business-like love would be tested. The Rock laid the smack down on Triple H in several unforgettable contests for the WWE Championship. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin returned to the ring in late October, focusing solely on revenge against The Game who put him out of action for a year. And who could forget Mick Foley, who was forced to retire after losing his Royal Rumble "Hell in a Cell" Match against the Cerebral Assassin, yet still "fought the power" as WWE's Commissioner throughout the latter half of 2000? Resistance came from all angles, yet—as later evidenced by Mr. McMahon and Shane McMahon's reconciliation with her and Triple H—no one seemed able to conquer the passion powering the McMahon-Helmsley regime.
Like most loving dictatorships, however, the fall begins from within. WWE theorists believe the demise was the combination of dissenting ranks, plus a slow but steady power struggle within Stephanie's familial faction (a problem that has foiled many McMahon-generated plans over the years). Many also point to May 21, 2001, when Triple H tore his left quadriceps muscle during a tag team contest against Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit. Sidelined more than eight months, The Game would return to WWE and find a woman he no longer knew—one who, after failing in a joint ECW-WCW Invasion with Shane, had run back into the ultra-controlling arms of Mr. McMahon.
By February 2002, tensions between Triple H and "Daddy's Little Girl" had grown so bad that Stephanie, fearing she was losing her husband, faked a pregnancy just to convince him into renewing their vows. The Game happily obliged, until he learned of her deception less than an hour before their live ceremony on Raw that Valentine's week. The discovery set up the most ironic of environments for Triple H, who would end his two-year marriage to Stephanie in a manner much like the way it had started. Speaking from his heart, he'd call her "a no-good lying bitch," destroy the surrounding wedding scenery, Pedigree his father-in-law and toss his ring at the fallen bride, declaring that they were through.
Needless to say, Stephanie didn't take the break-up well. In fact, the ink hadn't even dried on their signed divorce papers before she allied herself with several Superstars to destroy her ex—among them, then-Undisputed Champion Jericho, the man who had injured Triple H eight months before. The Game would persevere over Y2J and Stephanie at WrestleMania X-8, then defeat them both in a Raw Triple Threat Match that forced the Billion Dollar Princess to (begrudgingly) leave WWE for good—or at least for several months before she was reinstated as SmackDown's General Manager. Either way, her absence certainly made Triple H's heart grow fonder, and enabled him to focus once more on his one and only love: being "that damn good" in the squared circle.
Even Aeschylus himself couldn't pen a greater romantic tragedy.