Wrestling Observer interview (1/02)

Paul "Triple H" Levesque will make his long-awaited return from a torn quadriceps on the January 7 episode of Monday Night Raw. In the following interview, Levesque discusses his injury and the rehabilitation following surgery by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., his thoughts on the WWF product and his future goals.

Q: How are you feeling?

Levesque: "I feel great. Time will tell when I get in there, but as of right now, I feel 100 percent. It's gonna take a little time to get used to being in the ring. I might have to change a few things in there. I've been in the ring over the last two months. I have a ring in Birmingham and when I go to TV (tapings), I jump in."

Q: What might you have to change?

Levesque: "I don't think I have to change too much. There might be a few things, but I never have been a high-flier. I don't think I'll be jumping off the ropes too much."

Q: I read about how you've worked out with Ric Flair a couple of times in the ring. How did that get started and what was it like?

Levesque: "It just happened that one time when I got to TV, one of the things I like to do after the production meeting is get in the ring and work on my wind. That's part of my therapy. I was talking to Flair one day and he was talking about wanting to get back. One thing the WWF is really good about is that we have a lot of veteran guys. When they get in during the afternoon with a lot of newer guys, they're willing to try and teach different things. A lot of times, you can stand around the ring and pick things up. Ric asked me whether he thought anybody would mind if he got his stuff and got in the ring. I brought my stuff and we hooked up. It was a lot of fun. I never had the chance to work with Ric. He was one of my favorite performers and I consider him one of the best of all time. It was an honor to get in the ring with him."

Q: Even when you were in WCW you never worked with Ric?

Levesque: "Never."

Q: How did the sessions go?

Levesque: "It's hard to say, but the first couple of time we got in was a contest of who was going to use more oxygen. But after a few times, our wind started picking up. It was good to mess around. You can do all the cardio you want and run or do the stair-climber, but there's nothing like being in the ring. It's completely different. The guy who does the stair-climber blows up in 10 seconds."

Q: So how did you finish that match in May where you got hurt?

Levesque: "A lot of people ask me that. I don't know. It never occurred to me not to. It wasn't a conscious effort. It was like, 'I hurt myself.' The thought ran through my head that I just tore my quad but I've got go get Jericho. The I was thinking, 'He (Jericho) is gonna put me in the Walls of Jericho. It never dawned on me not to do it. It was just a matter of doing it. Actually, to be honest, when he turned me over the first time, I thought, 'Oh my god, this is going to be bad.' But it really wasn't a conscious decision. I think most of the guys would do the same thing. Guys get hurt and they continue and worry about it after. Plus, adrenaline is an amazing thing."

Q: It's amazing how aggressively you attacked the rehab. Can you talk about your thinking behind that?

Levesque: "When the injury happened, it was a matter to me of how fast I can be back. I don't like being injured. It had been a year or so earlier when I hurt my back. I just kept going until finally Vince said that this was ridiculous and made me take two weeks off. I just hate missing time. It was the same with this. I wanted the best surgeon. He (Dr. James Andrews) had done my other knee before and I knew his rehab team was the best in the country. When I found out how serious it was, it was a matter of seeing who the best people were. I thought that I was gonna move to Birmingham and stay and do this until I felt better. In a way, it was a difficult thing to do. When you're hurt, you want to be around familiar surroundings. You want to be home around the things you know and are comfortable with. "I have not been off in years. To have time not wrestle and being someplace else, that was not what I wanted to be doing. In the same breath, I felt like the boxer that goes away to train for a fight, like Rocky in Rocky IV when he went to Siberia. I had to pack my bag up and go there and do nothing else every day. I know people down there, but my daily grind was getting up in the morning and starting rehab at 9:30. I would go until lunch time, eat lunch, and when I was done, I would go right to rehab until 6:30. When I was done, I would go to the hotel, have a bite to eat and go to the gym to work on my upper body. Then I would go to the hotel and eat again. I would do this seven days a week. "I started going back to TV and to the shows because I missed being around the business. I wanted to get back and get back around ... This is a difficult injury. If you scan through sports, not a lot of athletes come back from this. But I was damned if I was gonna let it knock me out because I didn't try my hardest. If I can't come back and, knock on wood, re-tear it, it won't be because of a lack of effort on my part or because I had a (bad) doctor or the wrong rehab."

Q: Did you expect to be out this long?

Levesque: This injury is a weird thing, because when I tore it and got an MRI (exam) done, they said the quad tear doesn't look that bad. But there was a lot of blood and swelling. When I saw Andrews, he said it was pretty bad, a lot worse than he thought. The prognosis got progressively worse. First it was five months to seven month to over a year. Really, it kept getting worse. But now, Andrews has told me it's strong. The leg is close to the same size as the other leg and is almost as strong. It technically should be as good, if not better, than how it was. That's the way he feels about."

Q: Were you able to reflect with all the time away from the business?

Levesque: "This makes me more appreciative of what I have. In any business, no matter what you do, people look back over their careers and say those were the good old days. I don't know if I can say that now, but it makes you more appreciative of what you have and wanting to enjoy that more. In any business, the negatives sometimes start creeping up on you. You're sick of traveling or going to another hotel and you're gonna puke if you pack your bag one more time. Whatever your Achilles' heel of the business is, it starts to weigh on you. When you first start in the business, you don't care what hotel you stay at. You'll sleep in the worst possible hotel and eat in the worst restaurant and love every second of it. In time, those things start to wear on you. This (injury) brought me back to the beginning and made me remember why I love it so much. I think it was a good thing to be able to take that step back."

Q: As you know, WWF business dropped quite a bit in the time you were away. What did you think of the product?

Levesque: "I had mixed feelings. Every performer has a certain way that they perceive things should be done. It's like writing a song. You can write a song a certain way and another band can write the same song in their style. It's apple and oranges, or as Pat Patterson would say, chocolate and vanilla. It's a different flavor but it's the same product. Think somewhere in the mix, the stories got muddled. A lot of things happened all at once. The WCW invasion could have been a good thing, but the thing changed internally as far as what they could do legally and within the company and within what our partners in TV wanted to see done. That limited where you can go with a lot of things. It (The invasion) turned out to be different entirely than anybody thought it would be. It took them a while to recover from that. Those are the things that you're taking a hell of a gamble with when you buy the entire industry. You have two other companies as competitors and you try to somehow blend those products. There was a major influx of talent. Guys were gonna get lost and forgotten about. "But god, when they did that, it was uncharted waters. Somebody can look back and say we could have done this or that. It's real easy to say looking back, but would they have said it as we are going forward? I think the writers have a very difficult job. I certainly would not want their job. It's very hard to write creative things for so many talents. And then there was so much talent coming from different places. They're not sure what they have because they've never worked with the talent before. Then have egos - and I do not want this to sound bad - but the egos and the personality of all the talent and how they interact with each other is a factor involved in the product. I think they did the best job they could have with what they had, but the business went down for a lot of reasons. I'm sure we'll straighten most of them out as time goes on. Sometimes you see things that grabs the fans and they love it but sometimes they don't."

Q: There was a story in the Wrestling Observer that you were upset when Steve Austin was turned back babyface because it would cost you a spot as a babyface against him in the Wrestlemania main event. Was that the case?

Levesque: "I wasn't by any means worried about him going babyface because I think it affected a potential 'Mania angle. I was concerned about the fact -- and not having read that (Wrestling Observer) story I'm going off what you're telling me -- I was going off more of what ... For example, the Rock. Rock had a hell of a time there when the story was that Steve turned and beat the hell out of him and threw him out of the business. I was concerned how did it look when Rock doesn't get his comeback? It was things like that. It wasn't like I was unhappy when (the idea) was presented to me. It was like, 'What do you think about this? Sometimes when someone asks what your opinion is, some of (your answer) should be playing devil's advocate. You have to examine all the facets of it because there might be some things nobody thought of. That does not mean I am unhappy with it. Do I think it's the right thing to do with Steve? Yeah. Steve is a huge part of the show and one of most over guys in the business. If we can do more with Steve as a baby than a heel, by all means, let's work in that direction."

Q: One more controversial matter I wanted to address. Joanie Laurer is making a career out of trashing you in every interview she does. What are your thoughts on that?

Levesque: "I really don't have a comment on it. My personal affairs are my personal business. I don't see the need to make it public and have to give a rebuttal against it. We had a relationship and things didn't work out. I prefer to keep my private life private. If she wants to bring hers out in public, that's her business."

Q: Also, what are your thoughts on the possibility of Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels returning to wrestle in the WWF?

Levesque: "If it's good for business, I'm all for it for anybody who wants to come back in. One funny thing in this business is that guys always say things like I heard this guy doesn't want this guy to come in because he might be a threat. Shoot, I hope we can get as many guys in and get them all over big because that's more guys to run with. You can't have angles by yourself or draw money as one guy. You need three or four guys. After a while, you can only work the same guy so many times. You need new guys to keep the business fresh. "I don't know if Shawn can come back healthy working. But if he returns to 50 percent of what he was, he would be one of the greatest in the business. I've always said he's been one of the best there's ever been. Nash is a great worker for what he is. Maybe some will disagree and say he's not the greatest worker, but what he is is a good big guy who has got a good head on his shoulders for business."

Q: Having a chance to sit back, were there any newcomers that impressed you during your time out?

Levesque: "Some of the guys I like were in when I was there, like Rhyno. It's unfortunate with his neck (injury) but he's a young guy and can come back from that. Rhyno is an incredible talent and I think he's going to be a big player. A lot of guys like Tajiri and Chuck Palumbo down the line can be good hands. The guys that impress me are the guys that come down to the ring and aren't afraid to get in and stand there with a guy like Arn Anderson or Fit Finlay and learn from the these guys. It's like standing under the learning tree. That's what this business is about, picking their brain and learning from them. Even guys like Rob Van Dam, who has been in ECW and things like that. He had a particular style, that ECW style. If he's smart, he will learn from everything around him and pick up a little bit here and there and learn how to make himself a great performer down the line."

Q: Do you figure to get the biggest pop of your career when you show up on Raw?

Levesque: "God, I hope so. (Laughs). Taker asked me that the other day. He asked me if it makes me feel good when they play that video. What makes me feel good that is if the video wasn't playing, in my head I would be wondering if anybody would give a crap about me at Madison Square Garden. If I walk out and I can hear crickets chirping, I would be like, 'Oh god.' But at least here people will pop. When I walk out, I hope it's good."

Q: I figure you're at the point where you can't stay as a heel much longer.

Levesque: "I don't know what I can do in this comeback. At the end (last May), they started to cheer me no matter what I did. I could turn them at points when I walked out and get them to boo me again, but I would have to work a lot harder at staying heel. I think that coming back now, the fans are going to dictate what I am. I don't think you're able to dictate to them. My guess is they're gonna turn me babyface or make me a babyface. They cheer me because of what I was and the perception of what my character was. For me to then become something else and run down to the ring glad-handing people like I'm running for mayor, they would turn on me. Actually, that would be the best way to turn me back heel. It's kind of in their hands right now. I don't think there's a whole lot I could do to sway them either way. I don't know what I come back and do to make people say, 'I hate that guy.'"

Q: It looked like some of the most fun you had at the end was when you could turn a crowd that was popping for you.

Levesque: "One thing I enjoy about this business is to be able to go and, like you said, build emotion and make people start to go, 'He's not such a bad guy,' and then turn them to say, 'Oh, I hate him.' It's fun to get that reaction."

Q: What are your goals for 2002 and where does acting rank at this point?

Levesque: "First and foremost, my goal for 2002 is on January 7 to get in the ring and do what I love to do again. Hollywood and all those things, I did not get into pro wrestling to become an actor or do Mad TV or any of those things. I have fun doing them, but right now today, what I love to do has been taken away from me for the last eight months. I can't even think past getting back doing that. If Hollywood wants to back a dump-truck to my house full of money, I would not say no. But it would have to be the right thing at the right time and right now I can't really think of anything I want to do that would take away from this. I missed this more than I could have imagined."

Credit: Alex Marvez and Wrestling Observer

Back to the Triple H archive