From "Electric City" ( (12/30/04)
Three Faces of Fame
By Gene Padden

With the WWE coming back to town, top dog Triple H talks about his book, his movie, and life as the boss's son-in-law ...

In his nearly 10 years with World Wrestling Entertainment, the man known as Triple H has done it all.

He won the King of the Ring. He won the Royal Rumble. He retired Mick Foley. To date, he has won the World Title nine times.

He even won the heart of Stephanie McMahon, daughter of WWE chairman Vince McMahon, and the two married this year.

Born Paul LeVesque, Triple H (which stands for his ring name, Hunter Hearst Helmsley) is also an author. He recently released a book: "Making the Game: Triple H's Approach to a Better Body," and starred as a vampire henchman along side Wesley Snipes, Ryan Reynolds, and Jessica Biel in Blade: Trinity.

But of all his accomplishments - and there are countless others we just don't have space to mention - nothing trumps the night of January 7, 2002. Nine months prior to that evening, Triple H ruptured his quad in the ring. Since he finished the match, the muscle actually ripped and had to be surgically reattached to his knee.

He had left the ring as one of the most hated professional wrestlers of our time. But on this icy January night, 17,000 fans sold out Madison Square Garden to welcome him back.

And the reason for such worship isn't because Triple H is a "ring general" or because he has a build that mocks the statues of the gods. It's because Triple H has always been known as the working man's wrestler - the WWE's Curt Schilling. He's just a hard-nosed dude from New Hampshire who lays his heart and soul on the line every night, and people identify with that.

And though the WWE schedule lightens up during the holidays, Triple H is out there making appearances, signing books ... being the man. A few days before Christmas, he took a moment from catching up with his relatives and called e.c. to talk about his book, his movie, and life as the boss's son-in-law ...

Hey Triple H. Where are you calling from?

I'm home, visiting relatives in New Hampshire.

Ah. Are you freezing?

Yeah, actually it is pretty cold up here.

How are the holidays with the McMahons? Is Stephanie the girl that has everything?

You know, she's not necessarily the girl that has everything, but she doesn't really need anything. She's not a person that uses a lot of things. She doesn't collect anything, and she's not ridiculously into anything. So yeah - she's difficult to buy for.

What do you want for Christmas?

Time. There aren't enough hours in the day. That'd be the perfect gift.

What's the latest on your book? Any reviews?

I don't know that I've had any reviews, yet. But I know it's selling well. Every place we've done signings, people have been very positive. With book critics and movie critics, there are things people find entertaining that critics sometimes get a little uppity of themselves. It's no different than wrestling in general. Critics think we're the worst thing in the world, but our fans can't get enough.

What's the one lesson to be learned from your book?

With hard work and enough dedication, anything is possible. It's about a regular guy from New Hampshire that wouldn't take "no" for an answer.

How was Blade: Trinity? I've heard it's difficult to work with Wesley Snipes.

He was absolutely fine with me. I think there's an advantage to being 6-foot-4, 265 pounds when it comes to making somebody who has a bad attitude have a good attitude. But I know a lot of people on the set had a hard time with him.

How satisfying was that line you had, where you look down at him and snarl, "You're not so big."

(laughs) You know, that was one of the first lines I said. It was one of the first scenes we shot with him. At that point in time, I didn't know what he was like as a person or anything else. And like I said, he was fine to me. But I just had satisfaction doing the whole movie. It was a lot of fun. For me to go to an avenue like that ... I had a lot of nay-sayers and even the director, at first, didn't want a wrestler in his movie and then he became my biggest fan. He wrote more scenes into the script for me to make my part bigger.

I thought the costumes made you look dorky sometimes. I've never seen a vampire in slacks.

(laughs) Yeah but there's nothing wrong with looking dorky as a vampire though.

How do you feel when an interviewer asks you if you're trying to follow in the footsteps of The Rock?

Um, it's a natural question, because he's the most successful wrestler to go into Hollywood. You really can't count the stuff Hogan did. If it was football, it'd be the same thing. I don't want to do what The Rock did. I don't want to be the next Rock. I want to be the first Triple H in anything I do. I'm also not looking to leave wrestling. If Hollywood continues to be an avenue for me, because of Blade, and I get other opportunities - which I have - then I'll explore those opportunities, but I'm not looking for a substitute for wrestling. I think there's a way to do both.

Would you be disloyal to the McMahon family if you went full-time into movies and abandoned WWE?

No, because I think Vince would support me no matter which way I wanted to go with it. It's no different than with any of his kids. Stephanie and Shane weren't forced to be in the business. They could do anything they wanted to do and they chose to be in the business. I've often said, even years ago, before I was ever in that family that if I even won the lottery at that time for like $100 million, I'd have still continued wrestling because I love doing it. It's the rush of the crowd and the excitement of a live event that is the thrill. I would do it for that reason alone.

A few years ago you had an appearance at the beginning of the Saturday Night Live that The Rock hosted. Is there any chance of you someday getting that spot?

It's something we've not really thought about. I'd be happy to do it if I had something to go on there and promote, like another movie role or Wrestlemania or something. I'd love to do it. It's a fun show and again, it's similar to our business. It's a live crowd and there's a rush because it's a live performance. I thought Rock did an awesome job, though.

Yeah he did.

You know, I vividly remember Mick Foley and I walking backstage, and we had just gotten there the day before and Rock had been there all week rehearsing. I remember Mick looking at me going, "You know Hunter, I just don't think Rock's going to be very good at this." Because at the time, Rock was so reserved with his character. He never wanted to do any of the Rock-and-Sock stuff with Mick because he thought it was too funny and people were going to laugh and Mick was always having to convince him to do these things. So Mick says, "I just don't think he's going to relax or want to be funny at all." And just as he said it, we turned the corner and Rock was up on a desk doing that monkey character where he was eating the apples and spitting them all over the place and stuff (laughs) and we just looked at each other and I remember Mick going, "Or I could be wrong."

That's awesome.

It was one of those moments where neither of us had ever seen him doing that kind of stuff and I thought, "Oh my God, this is going to be great. If he's willing to go out on that kind of a limb, this will be great."

Last week was the Best of RAW episode. What was your best match of this year?

That's hard for me to say. I really enjoyed some of the matches with Benoit, although I think some of our best matches were not televised. Benoit and I were wrestling around the country every night for 30-45 minutes each night, and we had some great matches. But if I had to pick some, I'd say the ones with Shawn. Maybe the Iron Man match with Benoit I enjoyed, but I did think Shawn and I had some big-time matches.

The "Last Man Standing" from Royal Rumble where you didn't leave the ring area was incredible.

Yeah, I enjoyed that one, also. Anytime I get in the ring with Shawn ... he's just ... he's the Ricky Steamboat of this generation. He's a consummate worker and performer. For me to get in the ring with him is a thrill every time.

The first time you put over Shelton Benjamin on RAW was a great match, too. What do you think of him?

I think he's like a lot of our young talent. He has a lot of potential and he's still trying to find himself. It's a good thing. He has all the tools. It's just a matter of him lining them all up. I've often described our business as a puzzle and the more pieces you have, the more successful you are. He has all the pieces. He just hasn't figured out how they go together yet.

Being a man about "the business," I have to ask: Even though he left a bad taste in the company's mouth, is there money to be made in a Triple H/Brock Lesnar program?

If the time was right ... you know, the one thing about Brock is that Brock left before Brock made any money in the business. He made some money personally, but he was just getting to the point where people were going to pay to see him. Up until that point, he had been propped up by everything around him. He was just getting to the point to where he would become an attraction on his own. He hadn't gotten there yet. It would be hard for him, at this point, to come back and it would take a lot of work on his part for him to be accepted by the guys. Secondly, it would take a lot for him to be accepted by the fans.


I think they would, but I think that they feel that this guy just walked away. And the one thing with Brock is ... he did it the wrong way, but I have to respect his decision. He thought, "you know what? I've been in this business for a while and I've decided it just isn't right for me." Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that he walked away before he wasted any more time. I think he should have done a lot of things before he left, but I at least respect him for making that decision. And you know, the business isn't changing. So unless Brock Lesnar changes, it's still going to be the business he left. He just didn't like the travel. The constant grind. It's not for everybody. It's a tough business.

You're a nine-time champ now. What will it take for you to be the undisputed "greatest," or are you already there? What's left for you?

Oh gosh, no, I don't think I'm already there. It's performance over time. Just like anything else when people ask, "What's left" it's like if you won an Oscar in Hollywood, what's left? Well, there's the next role. There's always the next match. You're only as great as what you've just done. There's always another match and another guy and a new challenge. That, to me is a thrill. And people get hung up on the whole champion thing but whatever position I'm in within the company, you always want to go out and steal the show. You want to have the best match and be the guy that can work with anybody and that's the challenge for me. It's not the titles or "Am I on top" or "Am I in the main event" but it's what you do in your next role, your next challenge.

I see where you're going here. Why do so many of these little Internet bitch writers have such a grudge against you? It's like you ate their dogs or something.

Well, it's a natural scapegoat. Everybody at work's going to hate the guy that's married to the boss's daughter and "he's in a position that I wish I had." I'm begging somebody to take the spot. I'll work less. It's fine with me. I've been busting my ass for a long time. I could use some down time. It wouldn't hurt my feelings any. They've tried over the last few years to put guys in that top spot, and they haven't found the right guy yet. The business is in a transition period. When you go from a period where in one time frame you have Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, The Undertaker, Triple H, all these guys in on group working against each other and then all of a sudden, you lose The Rock, you lose Foley ... Taker's kind if part-time ... that's a major league hit. In any other sport, if you took out ...

That's like taking the Yankees' infield away.

Yeah. It's going to take a couple years to rebuild the team. And you're going to bring new guys in and you'll bring this guy in as a starting pitcher and you're going to realize, "This guy's not who we thought he was." In football, you might draft a guy in the first round and he isn't what you thought he was, but maybe the guy you took in the third round had a hell of a season. It's almost always the guy who sneaks up on you. It's going to take some time. The thing that kills me about it is ... so many people put stock into what's online and it's really people that have no knowledge. They don't work inside the business. They have no knowledge of what goes on in the inner workings of what we do. All they know is somebody's sister's brother's cousin's uncle's friend has a neighbor who knows a guy who overheard a meeting one time and this was said. It's ridiculous. I was in the position that I'm in before I ever even met Steph. From a creative standpoint, behind-the-scenes standpoint, talent standpoint ...

If I remember, you were a top guy years ago.

Yeah, before I even met her. It's silly. And if people knew the reality of it, it's actually the exact opposite. When I'm around Vince personally, it's actually the exact opposite. He does not want to talk business with me. I talk business with him at TV because that's the only time he'll want to talk business with me. A lot of times, we're on different pages because we never talk. And he holds me to a higher standard than he does everybody else, because not only do I represent myself, I represent the company and I represent him. It's different.

I've wondered if it actually works against you because he'd be worried about any kind of nepotism backlash.

Without a doubt, it does. And I'm not complaining, but I'm saying there's a different standard that I'm held to than a lot of other guys are held to. Honestly, people ask me about it so I talk about it and at first, when we first got together, it bothered me a little bit, but now I don't even waste a second of thought on it because I know what I do and the people that are close to the business and the people that work with us ... if you ask the people that I've worked with over the last year, I don't think any of them are going to tell you that I'm the Anti-Christ.

I know you're a guy about all sports. Do you worry that the baseball steroid developments are going to ruin professional sports?

Well, I think people need to stop being so hypocritical. I do think it's wrong. If it's a sport and the sport tells you, "You cannot take this because it gives people an unfair advantage," well, then you can't take it. If you do, you're cheating. That needs to be stopped. But I do think that the public and the media need to stop being so hypocritical. The media publicizes it like there's no tomorrow. They're on Barry Bonds, saying how bad a role model he is for kids, but kids wouldn't know what he was doing and how much if the papers didn't put it in the news every day. It's like telling a kid where the liquor store is and what the best mix to get drunk is but then telling him not to go do it.

(laughs)I've never heard that one.

You know? From that point, all these fans can take all the polls they want and say that they think steroids in baseball are horrible. OK, well, if steroids are the reason that players are so good now, take steroids out, let players go back to hitting 40 home runs a year and let's see how many of those fans are still watching baseball. They won't watch. Fans can say they care all they want, but they don't give a flying crap what Barry Bonds does to his body as long as he hits home runs like a freak. Nobody pays their hard-earned money to go see their next-door neighbor. Because I can look out the window and see my next-door neighbor. He can't hit a ball to save his life. I want to go see a guy whack a 500-foot home run for the 70th time of the year you know what I mean?


That's what you go to see. You go to see some guy run incredibly fast, knock five guys down on his way, and score five touchdowns. That's what you pay to see. And when that stops from happening, especially if it's all at once, then sports are screwed.

And you don't worry about this affecting your business at all?

We're not a sport.


You know? It's sports-entertainment. We're entertainment. There's no benefit. That's like saying if Mel Gibson got on the gas and weighed 270 pounds next week, then he's going to win the Oscar. You know? One's got nothing to do with the other.

Right, right. A few more questions. What's been the scariest moment of your career?

For me, it would be tearing my quad. Because at that point in time, I didn't know if my career was over. But in general, I think it was Darren Drozdov. Because I was at the curtain, having a conversation with Vince and we were both watching the monitor at gorilla position when it happened. I knew the second I saw it what had happened.

What was your greatest moment of pain?

Probably the quad tear. Although I did have an injury one time where I twisted my Coccyx bone and caused my Piriformis muscle to seize up and my sciatic nerve runs through that, and that was pretty damn painful. But, I think the quad is probably easier to explain. (laughs)

(laughs) OK, last question. What's your all-time greatest moment in the business?

In the business would be when I came back from the quad injury.

At the Garden.

Yup. Madison Square Garden. I say in my book that if I had spent nine months of rehab just for that one moment, and as I left the ring if I tore my quad again walking down the steps, I'd have been pissed. (laughs) But it all would have been worth it. Because that moment was so unbelievable for me that it made it all worth it.

Being there, it was incredible for us, as well.

Yeah and you know, Austin and I have talked about this a million times. When Steve came back from his neck injury, you wonder if they're going to give a crap. You wonder if you're going to go out there to a symphony of crickets. As the day went on and I heard the crowd and I heard people chanting ... when we were in that commercial break, after it said, "The Game is up next" I was shitting my pants. I was thinking like ... "Here we go." I didn't know how they were going to react. You just hope for the best.

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