Nashua Telegraph interview (3/17/05)
Wrestler comes home for book signing
By SHAWN MACOMBER, Telegraph Correspondent

The childhood memories of running the streets of Manchester and Nashua, dreaming all the while of achieving a seeming impossibility, are still vivid for WWE wrestling superstar Triple H.

“I grew up a wrestling fan,” Triple H (Hunter Hearst Helmsley; real name: Paul Levesque) explained in a recent phone interview conducted just hours before he was set to deliver the smack down at a Monday Night Raw event. “My dad was a huge fan as well and we’d go to the Elm Street Junior High or the JFK Aud, if there was wrestling happening in the area we were there. New Hampshire is where I began to train seriously at 14 . . . and New Hampshire is where I fell in love with it all.”

The connection to the Granite State remains. When Triple H periodically returns to the home he owns here with his wife, Stephanie, he still works at the Gold’s Gym on Dow Street in Manchester, where he will also, not coincidentally be signing copies of his new book, “Making the Game: Triple H’s Approach to a Better Body” on Friday, March 18, from 6-8 p.m.

“When I’m in the arena, I’m all business, and my business isn’t being a nice guy,” the wrestler said. “At these signings I can be more cordial, more myself. Triple H is just me with the volume turned way up, so it’s nice to have the chance to take it down and interact with fans in a new way.”

Still, don’t take his return as part and parcel of some “New Hampshire success story,” Triple H said.

“I always hear from interviewers, ‘How’d you make it out of New Hampshire?’” he said, with obvious frustration. “That’s just small thinking. What difference does it make where you live? When I got my first big break with the WCW, they didn’t care where I grew up. They only cared that I had drive and determination. No kid in New Hampshire or anywhere else should grow up thinking where you were born determines who you will be or what you can do.”

Nevertheless, Triple H said he’s grateful the opportunities Nashua offered. When he was 14, a new gym, Muscles in Motion, opened in town, and the young rail-thin, 6-foot, 135-pound future superstar became an instant “gym rat.” Eventually he moved on to Gold’s Gym in Nashua, which he co-managed with Kevin McGaunn, who became a national championship weightlifter.

Somewhere around age 18 or 19, shortly after winning Teenage Mr. New Hampshire, Triple H began to see wrestling as a potential career. At precisely the same time, he fortuitously met former WWF wrestler, New England Women’s Gym owner, the first man to bench press more than 700 pounds and Nashua native Ted Arcidi.

“I was at a size where I thought I might be able to make a career of this,” Triple H said. “But becoming a wrestler is sort of like becoming a trapeze artist - you know people have that job, but it’s not something you can ask the school guidance counselor about. That’s where Ted came in. First he tried to discourage me, and then, when he saw I was serious, he pushed me in the right direction. He made the world of wrestling real to me.”

From there, he enrolled in Killer Kowalski’s wrestling school in Malden, Mass., and after some hard years playing promotional shows for no money, a series of breaks and a lot of hard work put Triple H on top.

“When anyone does anything, they always dream of being successful,” he said. “Otherwise, why would you do it? Looking back, though, this was all for love, not for stardom. I got in during one of the lowest times in professional wrestling when things weren’t as big or glamorous as they had been when I first got into it. We used to all sit around after shows and wonder, ‘Can it ever get that big again?’ ”

“But you know what?” he asked rhetorically. “If I had won $100 million in the lottery back then, I still would have been back in the ring the next day. When it did explode again between 1998 and 2000, I was at the forefront of that. And that was great. But I was wrestling that whole time for the love of the sport and that never changed.”

All of this historical background played into Triple H’s decision to write his recent bodybuilding book.

“Simon & Schuster has been after me for three or four years to do a book,” he explained. “Many wrestlers have written biographies, but that seems to me something you do at the end of your career, and I feel like I’m just winding up. So I thought it would be cool to write something about how the art of bodybuilding gave me the discipline to achieve my goals, and use my experience to help point kids who are just starting out in the right direction.”

But, just as Arcidi cautioned him about getting into wrestling, Triple H cautions his own fans in a similar fashion.

“People watch the show on Monday nights and think we only wrestle once a week,” he said. “They don’t realize what goes into the business. It’s great, but it’s also a lot of work and sacrifice. I’m on the road 250 to 300 days a year. I laugh when I see these bands on VH1 complaining about life being on the road three months a year. I’ve been on the road for 10 years like that, except being hit over the head with chairs. It’s, uh, very physically demanding.”

If that sounds like your bag, though, don’t waver from the path.

“I’m not trying to talk anyone out of their dreams,” Triple H said.

“Don’t let anyone talk you out of your dreams. Just understand what you’re getting into. It sounds cliche, but get an education. Have a fallback plan. No matter how much you want it, the reality is that at most there are a few hundred wrestlers under contract with WWE and out of those only a handful are big name guys. Just have perspective and do it for love of the sport, not because you want to make some fast cash.”

As for Triple H, he said he’s happy both the upcoming book signing, and the WWE’s May visit to the Verizon Wireless Center in Manchester will give him the opportunity to spend time in his New Hampshire home.

“My schedule is so busy and crazy, being in different cities and countries all the time, that when I have time off I just want to have some peace and quiet and be a regular person for a little while,” he said. “You can do that in New Hampshire. It’s just really great to get back to see my family, as well. We’re very close, and I miss them when we’re away.”

Whatever else happens, Triple H said, he never feels bigger than this place.

“I’ll be at the gym and sometimes see people I haven’t seen for a long time, and they’ll act weird around me,” he said. “They seem to think I’m a different person. But I’m the same guy I was before; I just have a job that puts me on TV.

“Early on, someone gave me a great piece of advice,” he added. “They said, always be sure to take a breath and let how big the things you are doing sink in. So, I’ve never taken anything for granted, never had it blow by me. For me that’s the most important thing, and because of that, I’ve never forgotten who I am or where I came from.”

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