I can't comment on the TV matches from 2000-2001 as I really don't know/remember a lot of them as I probably haven't watched them since they aired if at all. I will say though while his PPV matches were classic and I'm not trying to discount his work in 2000, look at who he was facing throughout the year. Foley who in the environment he (HHH) worked with him in is a master in the ring. Rock and HHH have always had some of the best in ring chemistry so no surprise even with Rock not being that great in ring, they pulled out the classics they did. Jericho has always been a top notch worker. Then there's Angle, Benoit, both great technical wrestlers.
So I think it's something to think about. I'm not saying anyone could've produced the same quality of matches under the circumstances HHH had in 2000, but he had a hell of a lot of great people to work with. 2002-2003 was like the polar opposite of 2000-2001. The former he was terrible and worked with terrible wrestlers for the most part, while the latter he was great in the ring and worked with great wrestlers/people he had great chemistry with.
Like I said, can't comment on TV matches.
I've heard this a lot of times and...
Foley had arguably the greatest match of his career. That Iron Man match against the Rock is unreal. Jericho's probably never had such a decorated match after that. The Benoit match is perhaps the best pure wrestling match from the entire attitude era. Then you have Undertaker who had--what could be--his best non-gimmick match up until that point. Let's not even talk of the 3 Stages of Hell match--a caliber of match Austin hadn't delivered since dancing with Bret Hart.
It sums it up pretty well. Hunter's "caliber" of opponents was stellar in 2000, but the stellar list included Foley who was at the end of his career; the Rock who was just starting to cut it as a wrestler; Angle who wasn't in his 2001-2003 mode yet and Angle isn't a technical wrestler for the last time. The remaining wrestlers are Austin, Jericho, and Benoit, if we talk strictly on PPV terms. It was the first time Jericho had such a match in WWE; for Austin it was THE match that catapulted him into being the old Austin again, and Benoit is Benoit. I'm not even including the TV matches.
The catalogue of matches is incredible. The opponents he had are from a different league as compared to what he had in 2002/2003, but let's not get ahead of ourselves and assume that Triple H was wrestling demigods during that period. I understand you're merely provoking a possibility, but it's really strange that after so many years, people are still stuck on this.
In 2002, he was awful and in 2003 he was consistently having bad matches. Those are two bad years for Hunter as a wrestler, but personally, I enjoyed that period most, only after 1999-2001 due to the whole Evolution story-line. From 2004 onward, except the Batista and Flair feuds, as a character, I stopped finding Triple H impressive. His ringwork has always been good since then.
For me, the storylines are what make or break a wrestling match. That's the reason I watch/used to watch WWE/wrestling. The programs, feuds, and psychologies behind the match is what makes the match a contest. I'd find no point in watching a match where there is no feud and back story to it; I'd rather watch real sports in such a case. That is something wrestling has over any other physically intense show/sport/contest.
For the heck of it, Hunter's best matches in the 2002/2003 period:
- SummerSlam 2002 vs. Michaels ~ **** 3/4
- WrestleMania XIX vs. Booker T ~ *** 3/4
- Raw (somewhere in May) vs. Flair ~ *** 1/2 (it's short but it's sweet)
- Bad Blood 2003 vs. Nash ~ *** 1/2
- Raw 12/29/2003 vs. Michaels ~ **** 1/2