Posted on PWInsider.com (1/29/05)
HHH TAKES AIM AT INTERNET WRESTLING WRITERS, WHY BOOKER AND RVD DIDN'T GET A PUSH, WHY BRET HART WAS WRONG IN MONTREAL AND MORE
by Anthony Greff

Paul Michael Levesque is known to pro wrestling fans all over the world as the hated and maniacal character ďHunter Hearst Helmsley.Ē A man with his sights set on total domination and self-perfection in the worst of ways. However, not one to pigeon hole himself, Levesque has as of late taken on a couple of new opportunities in the entertainment business: acting on the silver screen and writing his self-help book. I recently had a chance to speak with him about these new business ventures,among other things, for PWInsider.com.

Anthony Greff: You began bodybuilding at age 14, why exactly did you get involved in it?

HHH: It wasnít necessarily a conscious decision to start bodybuilding. I was always impressed by the larger then life physics of wrestlers and bodybuilders and thing like that. The first time I went into a gym there were these huge larger then life guys that I was just in awe of and I wanted to look like them, I wanted to be the guy that was larger than life. I knew going to the gym would get me there and when I started lifting weights, the ďiron bugĒ caught me and I realized the harder I pushed myself the better benefit I would receive. It was a cause and effect thing and it thrilled me.

AG: You were accepted pretty easily into this group of body builders too, werenít you?

HHH: I donít believe it had anything to do with who I was, but the fact that they saw this skinny young kid, who just wouldnít stop. I think they came to respect that fact about it.

AG: At age 19 you went on to win the title of Mr. Teenage New Hampshire. Did you win any other titles or compete any more outside of this?

HHH: I never actually competed outside of the teenage realm. I was very tall and needed time to fill out before I went into the menís division, so I held off on competing any more. I was still training heavily, but around that time I started getting involved in pro wrestling and that took off.

AG: You also went on to manage a health club?

HHH: Ya, I started working at health clubs when I was 16 and then I got good at that and was went on to manage heath clubs and consult for another one at that time.

AG: Are there any future plans to open up a heath club chain under the WWE umbrella?

HHH: The hardest thing with that is that you would have to be there to run it. Itís kind of a hands on thing and when youíre on the road 200 days a year, itís not really conducive to a hands on business.

AG: Moving back to your book once more, do you have any real expectations for it?

HHH: If one guy out there reads this book and makes something of his life because my book inspired him, then it was a success. As far as all the stuff about the New York Times Best Sellers list and all that, Iím not worried. It would be great if it did though. Iím on a the self help list with Dr. Phil, who sells like 70,000 books a day, so itís somewhat hard to do. The reason this book came about was due to Simon and Schuster wanting me to write a biography, to which I said no. I felt that itís too early in my life and my career for that, itís something you do in the end. They then moved on to wanting me to write a book about anything, so I asked them about writing a work out book, for all those kids that come up and ask me, what I do when I go to the gym and the process of getting in shape. I feel if I didnít walk into that gym and I didnít start body building at 14 years of age, then I wouldnít be where I am today. The discipline and everything that Iíve learned in the gym are what allowed me to be successful in what I do.

AG: In the new movie ďBlade 3Ē you handled all of your own fight scenes. Was there any worry that an injury would cause problems with your pro wrestling career?

HHH: Not really! To be quite honest, doing a fight scene in a movie is quite easier then doing it in the ring, if you know what I mean. In the ring there is no room for error or a second chance at things and things are a lot more real. In movies things are carefully scripted and itís a very same environment. You may hear about movie stars hurting themselves, but they donít do anything the rest of the time.

AG: There is also word going around that you may get the role of ďConanĒ in the new ďKing ConanĒ movie. Do you know anything about this subject, right now?

HHH: John Milius is currently writing the script for ďKing ConanĒ although itís a project thatís been in the works for quite a few years. Itís like one of those big Hollywood projects that keeps floating around and everybody wants to make it, but nobodyís pulled the trigger yet. John has been slated to write it and John has talked to me about doing it, so time will tell. Until I was on the set the very first day shooting it, then itís all just talk.

AG: Your name is also on the credits for a new movie ďJornada Del Muerte.Ē What can you tell me about this?

HHH: That was another project that was written by John Milius, when I first met with him about doing ďKing Conan.Ē He was really intrigued by what I do and who I am, so he told me he wanted me to do ďKing ConanĒ but he that he also wanted to do something for me in the meantime. Itís a revenge movie about brutal madman who just happens to be on the right side for a change. Itís kind of like ďMan of FireĒ on wheels.

AG: So, it kind of like the ďTriple HĒ character then?

HHH: In a way it is. The character is totally different, but there are some things that fans just come to expect from us in an action movie like that. Right now the anti-hero is a big thing, so thatís kind of where we are with that right now.

AG: When you started to wrestle as the character ďTriple HĒ were you ever hesitant that it wouldnít work out?

HHH: Obviously at the time I got into the business I want to be a star. I watched Ric Flair growing up and he was ďthe bestĒ so thatís what I wanted to be. I donít know if a blue-blood character would have been my first selection, but I didnít dislike the role and I didnít dislike the character. I enjoyed doing it. Did I ever think that I would get to where I am now? I donít think you can ever envision that. At the time I just wanted to be the best wrestler that I could be. I left WCW to come to Vince McMahonís company for just an opportunity, no guarantee no nothing. I just wanted to be a great wrestler. To get to where it is now, going on Conan OíBrian and Howard Stern, while making good money is such a thrill to me right now. Especially since this is something that I would do for free. I just love doing it.

AG: On the subject of gimmicks, do you ever see the ďTerra RisingĒ character coming back?

HHH: (laughs) I would highly doubt it. Itís funny that a lot of people mention that to me and that they can actually remember that because it was such a small gimmick. I did it in WCW for such a short period of time and prior to that it was just in the independents. Iím shocked a lot of times that people even remember what that is.

AG: After you were on the rise so to speak, rumors started to come out that you were getting held back due to the ďone night embraceĒ with fellow ďKliqĒ members Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. Now here it is over eight years later and people are saying you are the one holding people back. What do you make of this?

HHH: First off the internet can only bash the top guys. Iím the perfect scapegoat for them; Iím married to the bossís daughter, which makes me the bad guy. If you had to work with a guy that is married to the bossís daughter and he was above you, then you would begin to say that heís only there because he is in fact with the bossís daughter. Hereís the thing when it comes to the internet, I didnít believe it when they said I was the ďgreatestĒ wrestler in the world and I donít believe it when they say that Iím the ďworst.Ē I go out every night, enjoy what I do and try to have the best match that I possibly can. I try to do my job, to the best of my ability and if that means Iím a heel, then my job is to make people hate me as much as I can. I do the best that I can. If that means Iím the top guy, then Iím the top guy. If that means that Iím not the top guy, then Iím not the top guy. It kills me to say that I held people down this year; I tapped out and make Chris Benoit champ last year for most of the year. I think if you ask any of the guys in the business, instead of the twelve-year-old kids that are writing stuff on the internet, you will find out that nobody believes that. The internet is all guys that want to be in our business but arenít. They never have been, never will be, donít know anybody who is and even if they did, itís somebody that is either bitter or doesnít really have an inside track on it anyway.

AG: Was there every any tension between you and the guys since youíre in such a high position with the company? For example you worked with both Dave Batista and Randy Orton who were still relatively wet behind the ears.

HHH: No, I think if anything, one of the first things that I explained to Randy and Dave when we first did this was that the Evolution thing was that they were going to get a lot of heat from the other guys over this because all of the sudden, your going to get put in a top spot, with top guys and nobody is going to like that. You have to understand that the Evolution gimmick was a shoot. I went to Vince and told him that I didnít think we were using Ric Flair to the best of his ability; I would like to take him with me and then find two or three new young guys that we think have the potential and the future and just groom them. Give them the rub from both myself and Flair from our positioning and try to teach them and to make them stars. Ric and I looked at everyone and Randy and Dave were the ones that we selected and felt that had that ability.

AG: On the subject of stars, why do you think a couple of guys by the names of ďRVDĒ and Booker T havenít made it to that top level?

HHH: You would have to have Booker T and Rob Van Dam answer that.

AG: You donít have a point of view on the situation then?

HHH: Hereís the thing, nobody in this business, Vince McMahon included, makes stars in this business, except the stars themselves. Booker T is not a top guy or Rob Van Dam is not a top guy is because theyíre missing the piece of the puzzle that allows fans and Iím talking the massive fans, to connect with them. ďStone ColdĒ was hugely popular before the office ever got behind him. ďRockĒ made himself what he is and then the office pushed him. Itís the same thing with me and the same thing with a lot of guys. Thatís the way it works and anybody that says this guy holds me down or the office doesnít push me or anything, need to look into the mirror and say thatís is all on me.

AG: Looking back at the ďMontreal Screw job,Ē do you believe that the right decision was made?

HHH: Definitely! Our business is what it is, sports entertainment. If a movie producer tells Mel Gibson that at the end of the movie youíre going to die, he doesnít go back and say, ďIím a big star in North America, so Iím not going to die.Ē Bret Hart said, ďIím a hero in Canada, I canít lose this belt and Iím leaving by the way tomorrow or whatever it is to go work for another company. Therefore youíll just have to take my word for it, that Iíll get the belt back to you.Ē That couldnít happen. If I came up tomorrow and said you know what, Iím a big star in the United States, Iím a hero in the United States, so Iím not losing anymore in the United States, do you think that would be ok? The same is the case for what Bret Hart was doing. What I get is that itís real in Canada and not real in the United States? To me, the evil party in that was Bret Hart. He didnít want to do business and yet heís ďgloriedí because of that. Vince McMahon owns a company where we tell the stories that heís wanting to tell and Bret refused to tell the story, so Vince made it happen.

AG: Ric Flair has gone on record in his autobiography calling Mick Foley a ďglorified stuntman.Ē What is your take on this whole situation, since youíve had some entertaining matches with Mick?

HHH: I agree with the statement. I donít believe that people read it the way that Ric wrote it, he puts Mick over. Mick Foley was a big star, which he is, but is Mick Foley Lou Thesz? No! Is Mick Foley a great wrestler? No! Letís separate that out now. Lou Thesz was a great wrestler. Now what is Mick Foley famous for? Not his ability to work a hold for an hour or grab a top wristlock and do incredible wrestling moves or anything like that. He is famous for falling off the top of a cage, and heís even more famous for barbed wire, thumbtacks and more stuff like that. What Ric was saying was basically the truth. Was Mick a great star? Yes! Did Mick draw a lot of fans to a lot of arenas? Yes! Was he a huge factor in the popularity of our business at a large time in the business, when business was white hot? Ya! I made a lot of money with Mick Foley, I will be the first one to sing his praises, but I do agree with what was said. Mick Foley is not a great wrestler, but he was great at what he did. To me I donít see why Mick does take that as an insult, if he even does. Itís like saying Dennis Rodman wasnít a great basketball player, but he could rebound a ball like nothing. There isnít a lot of difference there. Ric put him over, but he said the truth about why he was over.

AG: How did you get the nickname ďThe GameĒ?

HHH: It came from an interview that I did with Jim Ross, when I was chasing ďStone ColdĒ and his title for the very first time. I was basically saying that I was tired of being overlooked and hearing announcers saying that in order to be successful in this business, you have to be a student of the game. I actually said ďFĒ that J.R., ďI am the game.Ē Then the next week when I came out on television, there were a lot of signs saying that Triple was ďthe game.Ē Then I continued to use it in interviews to where it caught on with the announcers and the fans.

AG: How involved are you in creating your own merchandise?

HHH: We all have input in that. They for instance ask if youíre going to be saying certain things or doing certain things, but I tend to not use catch phrases, so it ticks them off. Itís hard to stay a heel this long in the business, if you use a lot of catch phrases. If I have a lot of catch phrases, people start repeating them and it gets out of hand. There are things that I would say, if I wanted to say them all of the time, but they would become catch phrases and become popular and so on. Then youíre going against what your trying to, if you know what I mean. It doesnít sell as much merchandise unfortunately, but thatís part of the deal.

AG: Where does the ďTriple HĒ character end and your own personality kick in?

HHH: ďTriple HĒ to me, is my own personality with the volume turned up. Thatís the way Austin was, and to a degree I think thatís the way ďThe RockĒ was. The best guys out there are the ones who actually feel what they do out there, unless youíre a character like George ďThe AnimalĒ Steele or something. If youíre going out there pretending to be a wrestler, then youíre not going to be successful. People can see through that.

AG: Are you usually still in character right after you walk out of the building or has your real personality already kicked in by then?

HHH: It just depends on the scenario and the situation. There are times when a big group of people is around; I will very much stay in resemblance to the character. There was a time when I did it all the time, to continue the heat that I was already receiving. Now itís a bit different, especially since I may be promoting a movie or a book. People will tend to see outside of the character that I portray on TV. People may see me doing an interview on Access Hollywood where Iím a nice guy, so I had to change that. Itís like that Eminem song ďI am what you say I am.Ē If you want to treat me nice, then Iím a nice guy, but if you are rude about it, then Iím not going to be a nice guy and I wonít have any regrets about it.

AG: What is your official title with the company?

HHH: Wrestler!

AG: You donít have an outside business title then?

HHH: Iím an independent contractor, just like every other single wrestler that we have under contact. Itís my only job with the company. All the extra business related tasks that I do, whether that is attending creative meetings or production meetings, its just extra. Iím not required to do any of that. I donít get paid to do it. I do it because I care about the business. One of the things that people donít understand is that Vince and I have had a creative relationship together, where Vince respected my opinion, for whatever reasons, as far back as the days of Shawn and me teaming together in ďDX.Ē I was in on conference calls then to determine creative. In actuality it was before we did the ďDXĒ gimmick. Half the time Iím in on these calls, itís not about me. Iím in there talking about storylines, creative and other things for these other people. I donít have to do any of it.

AG: There has been speculation that by the time your career is over, you will have tied Ric Flair for the world titles wins with 16. What do you think of this?

HHH: Ya if Iím a penis Iíve gotta go 17, right? If youíre going to believe the internet fans, then Iíve gotta go for 17. Iíve gotta beat Flair.

AG: If youíre going to do 17, why not do 18 or 19?

HHH: Well itís just going to depend how old and beat up I get.

AG: I take it youíre not going to be pushing 55 and still doing the cage matches then?

HHH: Iím sure if you would have asked Ric Flair twenty years ago, if he would be out there at age 55, he would have told you no, but heís still doing it. I have no intent on being in the ring at 55 years of age. Do I have intent on still being heavily involved in the business? Yes! This is a business that Iíll still be in for the rest of my life.

Anthony Greff is the Head Entertainment Correspondent for 'The Bridge' and a Freelance Entertainment Writer. You can email him at anthony_greff@hotmail.com.

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