Wrestling Observer interview (11/00)

At the tender age of 31, Paul "Triple H" Levesque has emerged as one of the top five names in the wrestling business. In an interview with Alex Marvez of wrestlingobserver.com, Levesque talks about his recent back injury, his rise to prominence, his days in WCW, his friendship with The Clique (Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels), and what is next in his career.

Q: How are your hip and back injuries?

H: "It's a bunch of different things. I took a powerslam (against Kane) a few weeks ago and it shifted the bones in the lower portion of my spine above the coccyx bone. At the same time, I tore the covering on some discs and the muscle to my hip bone. I also bruised my hip bone and sprained all the ligaments. It just compounded the injury I already was trying to heal up from. Over the past few (television tapings), any time I had impact in the area of my lower back, it caused almost a complete spasm. I'm getting the spasms out now by taking a little time off. That's gonna allow what needs to go back into place."

Q: So you won't be 100 percent at Survivor Series.

H: "I'm gonna give it the best and highest percentage I can. It's hard to say I'll be 100 percent, but I'll be there."

Q: I was among those who thought your babyface character was getting over, which is why I was surprised at you turning back heel. What are your thoughts on that?

H: "To be honest, I enjoy being a heel more than anything else. To me, it's a great time for it. The hardest thing in this business is to stay one way or the other. If you're a (babyface), if you're not creative enough, people start to dislike you. If you're a heel, it's easy for people to start liking you, especially if you're doing a lot of bad-ass stuff. Toward the end of my run as a heel, people were starting to cheer a little bit. It was just an inevitable fact. This bayface turn and then turning back to heel was great because I think people bought into the fact I had turned (babyface). When I turned again, it was like, 'That bastard. I hate him.' It puts me back with heat and I like that. It also gives me the opportunity to work with Steve (Austin). He's always been one of my favorite guys to perform with in the ring. Certain guys have chemistry with me and Steve is one of them. For me to get a program with Steve is a great joy for me. I'm going to enjoy it."

Q: I know some of the boys are nervous about working with Steve because of his neck injury. Do you see him rounding into shape over the past few weeks?

H: Certainly. Whenever you come back from an injury as serious as that one, the boys are going to try and handle you more carefully. In his first few matches back, you're not sure whether he's going to hold up or how he'll deal with the first bump he takes. Then you've got ring rust. He's trying to fight all those factors. Sometimes, people outside the business look at it as being so easy. It's so easy to criticize to many. As he goes into the ring every day and as he gets more comfortable and as the boys get more used to him being back and see that he's OK, everything will be fine. Plus, if I'm a guy who's gonna get a break and Steve Austin is my opponent, I'm gonna take it (laughs). Once he starts to feel more comfortable and feel like himself again, he'll be willing to take more risks and know that it's not going to hurt him. He'll be back at full force. It's just a matter of a breaking-in period. "And I think working with me - I'm not putting myself over, and I don't want it to sound that way -- will be good for Steve in that having worked with him in the past as opposed to someone who would be working with him for the first time not knowing what to expect. Steve and I have been around each other a long time. It should make things a little easier."

Q: Obviously, your career has skyrocketed over the past four years. What would you attribute to your success?

H: "Sometimes in this business, it's very easy to get into a rut. You're doing the same things and you get accustomed to what you're doing. You lose a little fire for the business. I gained that fire back. There was a long time there where I was on the shit list. As well as you think you're handling it, that can be demoralizing and it takes time to come back from that. I'm of the old school in the belief that when you're not in the main event position, you're saving things for the main event guys. As Rock says, it's knowing your role. I think of it as trying to display the best you can but not trying to steal from the other guys or take away from what they're doing. Finally, when the opportunity was given to me where they said they would give me the ball for a little bit, I just stepped my game up. It was my time to shine. This company is big about opportunity. It's not like working in a company where people are pushed according to their pay level. Everyone is given an opportunity here. When you get that opportunity, you have to make your mark."

Q: Can you point to any one moment that you felt was the turning point?

H: "It's difficult to say, because in the process different things happened. I think when I was given the ball, I was given it halfway. I was given it like, 'Well, we don't know which way this is going to go.' I think it took time to prove myself. I've had a lot of naysayers in the business, partially because of myself or the people I've associated myself with in the past and who I'm still friends with today. Some may dislike that, but I had to prove a lot of people wrong. It's a process that happens over time. Toward the beginning of this year is when people -- from the boys to the office to the fans to the smart fans -- all started to recognize the contributions I can make. And then I had those matches with Cactus (Jack) and Rock and all those things. That really cemented it."

Q: Dave Meltzer has called you the smartest man in wrestling because of the fact you have only done one pay-per-view job since 1996. How do you feel about that?

H: The thing is to me when guys are on top. When have any very, very tippity-top job guys done a bunch of jobs?

Q: The Rock.

H: "Not to say this in a bad way, but that was to build talent toward certain things. I've heard everybody say that Triple H has way too much say with Vince (McMahon). I don't feel that at all. When I go into production meetings and give my input into the show, 90 percent of the time I'm not talking about my stuff. I'm talking about other things that are not even my angle. Purposely when I'm in meetings talking about things in my matches, I don't say a word because I don't want people to think -- especially other agents - that I'm lobbying for my own causes. I have no problem putting anybody over in the business under any circumstances. I never have and don't now. Here's the thing: I know the critics of our business know what they want to see and what they want to hear. That's all. If people want to make something of it, then they can. It doesn't bother me."

Q: Earlier you talked about being in the doghouse. Still, how much do you look back at what happened with The Clique at Madison Square Garden as something memorable?

H: "That was for all of us. And in reality, it was. We asked beforehand if it would be cool. It turned out to be a whole lot more than what we expected it to be when we got out there. Each guy was upping the ante and following the other's lead. If I knew I would get into that type of trouble, it's not something I would have done. We had asked if it was cool to go out and do a little something. When we got to the ring, the guys waved me into the cage and all of a sudden it kind of went from there. A lot of people saw it. At the time, the old agents saw it as us shitting on the business. We didn't see it that way at all. I don't think the fans saw it that way. It was one of the things that was a precursor to picking up business in using a little more as shoots in angles. The fans thought it was cool, I think. When we came back (to the locker room) from that night, Vince did not have a problem. I remember him asking Shawn (Michaels) if it meant a lot to him. Shawn said yes it did. It went from there and took on a life of its own with the agents. I think Vince saw their point and had to lay the law down or it would lead to something else. In a couple of days, he saw the need to punish the criminals. I was the only guy who could be punished. I took it all. I did the crime, so I had to pay the time."

Q: Talking about that time, it's hard to believe the different directions your careers have gone. Kevin Nash is winding down, Shawn Michaels is out of the business and Scott Hall is working for ECW. Could you have seen things going that way?

H: "I think a lot of things when I look back at that time. Scott has always been a troubled guy. He's a great guy, but he's always had troubles. And he's a very emotional guy personally and those (out-of-the-ring) issues weighed heavily and led to where he is at. I don't think Scott is over by any means as far as being done in the business. He's in a position where he has to prove himself again. I don't know this for a fact, but I don't think the WWF will say it will never hire Scott Hall. I think they're just seeing if Hall is staying on the right path and can prove to everybody that he wants to be a productive part of the business if he were to be given that opportunity. He's a huge star in this business. He always has been and he always will be. Hell, he would be a huge benefit to the company. I think Kevin is biding his time in a bad situation. He's just riding the end of the ride. I watch (World Championship Wrestling's) show now and you see it's gotten to the point . It used to be like, maybe the show was bad or there were some bad aspects, but the boys worked hard and seemed to still care. I watch it now and it just seems like guys don't care. They're just beaten down now. It's a crappy show. People are not gonna bust their ass. You see it in Kevin. You see he doesn't care. He says what he feels like at the moment. That's sad because Kevin was a guy who takes pride in his work. "The one thing about the four of us, you can say what you want to about the Clique. But the reason we got along is our passion for the business. That's what led us to being friends in the first place. We were the guys when everybody else left the building and didn't want to talk about the business, we got in a car and drove four to five hours talking non-stop. That's why we all rode together. Sometimes, it's sad to see a guy like Kevin, who I know has so much passion for the business, to the point where he doesn't care. "As far as Shawn goes, he was one of the most talented ever in the business. It's just a shame his career was cut short because of injury. He was too young to have it ended. I wish Shawn still was wrestling. If we could get in the ring and do it, I know it would be good."

Q: The wrestling business is changing quicker than ever, in a lot of ways for the worse. What are your thoughts on the future of the business?

H: "The sad thing for me is with this WCW thing. I don't know where it stands, but I almost on one hand wish Vince would buy WCW because if anybody could make it successful, Vince would. I fear if the other guys buy it, they don't have what it would take to make it successful. When one product is bad, it shines badly on all of the product. There's a saying that high tide raises all ships. If their product was great and ours was great and ECW was great, all the things would bind together to make the business as a whole stronger. I'm not saying that the business is in decline. I don't think is. Maybe you can look at the ratings . but I just think the rating is down because of the switch to TNN. I don't think it's hurting business that much. If people are still entertained by our product, they will continue to watch. But the product is a tricky thing. If I'm a fan and want wrestling, it's like a one-product country right now. In that way, (the future) is bad. Before, if you got a little tired of one, you'd watch the other. If you got a little tired of that, you'd go back to the first one. You had the opportunity to watch different things. It kept everybody on their toes. Now, you can watch our product or go to the other guys. I find myself watching their show, and it's like if a segment comes on and it's gonna be rotten, I can't take it off. I have to wait and see how rotten it's gonna be. It's sad in that way. There are a lot of guys down there with talent. It's a shame to see. "The other thing that it makes tricky for the business is when this thing happened, there was no place for guys to learn. It's so difficult, especially with WCW putting guys on TV who, no offense, but are in a position they are not ready for and it hurts them. They're not only putting these guys on national television but also in pretty prominent spots on the cards. These are guys who can't go. That becomes evident when the guys who can't go get in with the guys who can't go. That hurts the business because then the product really gets bad. Nobody wants to see that. It's like watching a movie. No matter how good the storyline is, if the acting is just completely pitiful, the product stinks."

Credit: Alex Marvez and Wrestling Observer

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