PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Triple H walked with his arms crossed like an X — his signature Degeneration X symbol — with his 7-foot tag-team partner Joel Embiid to ring a ceremonial bell last month before a Philadelphia 76ers playoff game.
His theme music blared through the arena and nearly 19,000 fans hanging from the rafters roared when the wrestler hoisted his bad guy weapon-of-choice sledgehammer and struck the bell.
Sure, the setting wasn’t WrestleMania — though Triple H lost a match in the same building when the event was held there in 1999 — but for the superstar-turned-executive, the frenzied atmosphere was a reminder of what WWE lost during the 16 months it ran without live events and raucous crowds.
“It was a fun opportunity to get back into an arena packed full of fans and have them go nuts,” said Triple H, known these days as WWE executive Paul Levesque. “That adrenaline rush, there’s nothing like it.”
WWE hasn’t been the same without its “Yes!” chants or “This is Awe-some!” singsongs once the pandemic relegated the company to running empty arena matches every week with a piped-in soundtrack and virtual fans.
Much like the intro to the DX theme, WWE has one question for its fans: Are you ready?
With most American sports leagues settled in to their old routines, WWE is finally set to ditch its stopgap home in Florida and resume touring starting Friday night with “Smackdown” from Houston, a pay-per-view Sunday in Texas and a return…