The Rock and Triple H have careers that are indelibly linked. Their respective rises to the top of wrestling paralleled one another and they faced each other every step of the way. One thing that was evident throughout their years of feuding was that Triple H and The Rock didn’t particularly care for one another behind the scenes. Their rivalry fueled by competitiveness — and possibly jealousy — created dynamic and tense moments in the ring and out. So let’s break down the stages of their feuds and how they sometimes got realer than wrestling.
The Early Years – Rocky Maivia vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Before there was Triple H, there was Hunter Hearst Helmsley — a faux-Brit/French hybrid with an accent that betrayed any known nationality. Hunter was a typical pompous rich character whose personality was ripe for heel heat. Rocky Maivia, on the other hand, was the company’s Golden Boy. He was a college football athlete with a strong Samoan heritage. He was 6-foot-6 and could land a perfect dropkick. He was in line to be the big star. But there was one problem: He was lame as sh*t. Rocky wore a dumb haircut and his happy-go-lucky attitude only alienated fans who were turning to edgier wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Undeterred, Vince McMahon still wanted to push his star. And in February 1997 The Rock defeated Triple H for the Intercontinental Championship to a chorus of boos. Even early on, Rock and Triple H’s backstage problems were starting to surface — and it had little to do with The Rock himself. Bret Hart had taken a liking to the young, athletic Rock and in his biography mentioned that as a result Triple H and Shawn Michaels were resistant. Rocky Maivia was now caught in the crossfire of a Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels feud. Just because Hart backed Rocky, Hunter and Michaels were set on putting his run to the side. According to Hart, Michaels and Hunter wanted Hart to beat Rocky for the Intercontinental title to curtail Rock’s push and take Hart out of the World Title picture that Michaels was occupying.
A year later, Michaels would retire, with his relationship with The Rock never getting on the same page until more than a decade later. In the meantime, Rock and Hunter would have to work out their professional relationship in and out of the ring.