Massachusetts newspaper interview- 9/99

Paul Levesque was torn between physical therapy and graphic arts. Joanie Laurer envisioned a career with the Secret Service or FBI.

But somewhere along the way, Malden to be exact, the former Nashua, NH, residents picked up a set of job skills- suplexes and piledrivers, low blows and figure-four leg holds- not exactly conducive to 9-to-5 careers.

They are, however, perfect for mean-spirited careers in the opera buffa universe of the World Wrestling Federation, which rolls into the Fleet Center tonight at 7:45. Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner... current WWF world champeen Hunter Hearst Helmsley (also known as Triple H) and his bodyguard, Chyna.

"Basically, he's a piece of s---."

Triple H, the grappler formerly known as Paul, isn't standing on a turnbuckle, dissing Mankind. He's describing his character. "A low-life bastard who'll turn on his best friend if it means getting ahead."

And Chyna? The former Peace Corps volunteer happily terms herself "the woman the fans love to hate."

Few people could have predicted their current careers. Levesque, 30, was a good student at Nashua Senior High School, a kid who preferred weight lifting to team sports.

"I tried to trace back to 1987," said his high school guidance counselor, Steve Barnes, "and honestly, his name doesn't ring a bell with me."

After graduation, Levesque managed a gym and studied graphic arts, but chafed at drawing assignments.

"It's an expression thing," said Levesque, speaking a few hours before a WWF match in Kansas City. A longtime pro-wrestling fan, he enrolled in the Malden-based school run by legendary villain Walter "Killer" Kowalski.

Laurer came through Killer's door after a circuitous route. The youngest daughter in "an extremely dysfunctional family", she finished high school in Spain, then majored in Spanish literature in college. After a Peace Corps stint in Costa Rica came a succession of odd jobs: bartender, sales singer. By 1995, she was living New Hampshire with her sister.

"I'd be rejected at everything," said Laurer, now 29. Then she saw a televised match. Never a fan, she had an epiphany. "I could go out and be this big, huge female and entertain people. That'd be my niche."

Kowalski remembers the two kids from the Granite State. No wrestling skills whatsoever. But big and athletic, with a natural aptitude for the squared circle.

"It's not easy," Kowalski said. "You have to be very dedicated."

He tutored them in old-school fundamentals: how to fall without killing themselves; how to make moves without killing their opponents. And, most importantly, showmanship.

"The whole thing is to make people notice you," Kowalski said. "If you body-slam somebody, don't just look at 'em or walk around the ring. I used to pull the guy off the floor, rip him up, hit him again, knock him down again."

Count Triple H among his acolytes: "Our business is about telling a story. It's a lost art... When you're in the ring, the whole point of the match is to take the fans on an emotional roller coaster."

The two wrestlers paid their dues at fairgrounds and armories with Kowalski's International Wrestling Federation. Levesque played a "heel", Terra Ryzing; Laurer, a redheaded "babyface", Joanie Lee. Both becamee IWF world champs, for what it's worth. Picked up in 1994 by WWF rival World Championship Wrestling, Levesque continued as Terra Ryzing, often fighting "jobbers", or designated patsies. What? You mean rasslin' isn't real?

"Obviously what we do is predetermined," said Levesque. "Pro wrestling is not real. I don't make any pretense. We have storylines on TV written out.

"If you're really good, it doesn't have to be planned," he added. "You know the finish, but the rest you do as you go. If you're good, you're one of the best improvisational people in the world."

Levesque then became a character with a "gimmick": Jean Paul Levesque, French-Canadian aristocrat.

"Why I wrestled as that I still have no idea," Levesque said. No matter. A year later he made a flying leap to the WWF. The big dance. He arrived with another gimmick: blue-blood wrestling Hunter Hearst Helmsley.

"He was a rich, snobbish guy like Thurston Howell III," said Levesque. Hunter also had a cool finishing move: the Pedigree.

But Levesque found the character limiting. He changed the person, morphing into Triple H. No more phony accent; the man in tights became a larger-than-life version of Levesque.

Three years ago, he and fellow wrestler Shawn Michaels brought Laurer aboard the WWF. Instead of the usual valet/manager eye candy stood a silent, scowling bodyguard who could crush any pencil-necked "Austin 3:16" fan.

Since then, life has been a whirlwind of steel-cage matches and surgeries (breast augmentation for Chyna, knee surgery for Triple H), feuds and friendships, defections and reunions. Don't bother keeping track.

A week ago, guest referee Jesse "The Body" Ventura tossed Chyna after one-too-many cheap shots during Triple H's Summerslam match with Mankind and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

"It's one of the highlights of my career," said Laurer.

And then, last Monday in Iowa- was it Ames or Iowa City?- came victory. Triple H brained Mankind with a chair, then slam-dunked him with the Pedigree. One, two, three- your new WWF world champ (of course by press time, this might have changed).

As for the future, Laurer will bid for the Intercontinental title, another of the WWF's half-dozen belts. And Triple H?

"He'll continue to be a piece of crap," said Levesque. "He'll step over everybody. He'll forsake his friends. The title is the one focal goal in his life."

Got a problem with that, punk?

Back to the Triple H archive