This past Monday, The Game, The Cerebral Assassin, The King of Kings… Triple H turned 46. For the past 15 years, Triple H has been a constant, inescapable part of WWE. Between dominating the main-event scene, engaging in big name showdowns with The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar, or lording over WWE as part of the Authority, Triple H has been impossible to ignore. But what about his early career? Before he was a WWE Champion? That part of his life tends to be less examined.
Here are a few things you might not know about the life of The Game before he ascended to his throne…
1) Triple H owes his career to a one-week free gym membership. Triple H was born Paul Michael Levesque on July 27, 1969 in the New England town of Nashua, N.H. Unlike most other guys who would go onto big success in the world of pro wrestling, Levesque had no passion for sports as a kid. He wasn’t on the football or wrestling team, and he proudly proclaims he has no interest in organized sports to this day. Hey, I’m with you, man, but I don’t make a living shouting about what a manly badass I am.
Triple H before his nose fully grew in.
Levesque’s background was strictly in bodybuilding, which he fell into more or less by accident. Triple H was a fair-weather wrestling fan and, as a tall, 170-pound beanpole, admired the physiques on guys like Bruno Sammartino and Billy Graham, but he didn’t consider getting into bodybuilding until he was given a one-week free pass while passing by a local gym. A 14-year-old Levesque decided to take advantage of his free pass and soon found himself addicted to pumping iron. By the time he was 18, the beanpole had become a jacked 270 pounds and was winning local bodybuilding competitions, including Teen Mr. New Hampshire. So, yeah, if you think WWE’s obsession with bodies is going to end once Triple H takes over, well, keep dreaming.
2) The original World’s Strongest Man ushered him into the wrestling business. So, how did Levesque transition from gym rat to mat rat? Well, he was introduced to the business side of pro wrestling by The World’s Strongest Man. No, not Mark Henry. We’re talking about the ’80s version, Ted Arcidi.
“The Living Rob Liefeld drawing,” Ted Arcidi.
Arcidi was the first man to ever bench press more than 700 pounds in competition, which, for the record, is around 100 pounds more than Mark Henry has ever benched. Arcidi had a brief stint in the WWF in the mid-’80s, after which he kicked around Stampede Wrestling and other indies for a while. Arcidi began working out in Levesque’s gym in the early ’90s, and it was through him that Levesque was introduced to his trainer and mentor, the infamous Killer Kowalski. Game on.
3) Triple H trained with Chyna and Perry Saturn. Killer Kowalski has trained a lot of guys (and girls), and Levesque wasn’t the only one from his class destined for stardom. The man who became Triple H trained alongside Chyna and Perry Saturn. Triple H and Chyna obviously had a long, tumultuous relationship, but Saturn wouldn’t run into Triple H professionally until nearly a decade later when the Radicalz jumped to the WWF. Apparently, being old classmates didn’t count for much because, upon arriving in the WWF, Saturn promptly fell in love with a mop, then was canned after only two years with the company.
Clearly not all of Triple H’s friends are created equal in his mind.
4) He briefly teamed with William Regal in WCW. Levesque forged a much more lasting and fruitful friendship while in WCW. His tenure with WCW was brief, and marked by goofy gimmicks and even goofier names (he debuted as the intimidating Terra Ryzing), but it wasn’t all bad because, in late 1994, he briefly got to team with William Regal (then known as Lord Steven Regal).
Everybody in NXT should keep this picture on hand at all times for blackmail purposes.
Levesque, who was then playing French Canadian aristocrat Jean-Paul Levesque (uh, Canada doesn’t really have aristocrats, but okay), wasn’t that thrilled about tagging with Regal. In fact, being forced into a tag team was why Levesque quit and went to the WWF, but he and Regal hit it off personally. It was Triple H who pushed for the WWF to rehire Regal in the early 2000s, even though Vince wasn’t a fan of his style, and Hunter later made him an important cog in his NXT development program. If it wasn’t for an obscure tag team from 1994, we wouldn’t get to see Regal and his beautiful hair being a great NXT authority figure every week today.
5) WWF almost gave him the not-at-all alliterative name Reginald DuPont Helmsley. Yup, Triple H’s initials were almost RDH. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it? Thankfully, Levesque managed to think quick and come up with a list of monikers to counter Vince McMahon’s latest name brain fart (Hunter is far from the only big WWF start to initially receive a terrible name from creative).
Most of Levesque’s name ideas were alliterative because he wanted to be able to turn his name into initials like his buddy HBK. Sure enough, Vince (with the help of the aforementioned HBK) picked Hunter Hearst Helmsley from the list. Hunter’s name wouldn’t be shortened on TV for years, but, according to Hunter, Michaels starting calling him Triple H almost immediately.
“Fine, I’ll wear the stupid jacket and pirate shirt if you let me change the name.”
6) He cost the WWF some serious money with a botched Pedigree. As of 1995, Triple H had officially been born, but his WWF career didn’t exactly get off to a roaring start. The dude was almost immediately slumming it with the likes of Henry O. Godwinn and Duke “The Dumpster” Droese (as for the days when all the heels literally crawled out of the garbage bin/pig pen), and, in mid-1996, he was involved in an incident that probably didn’t help endear him to WWF management.
While wrestling jobber Marty Garner on an edition of WWF Superstars, Hunter went for the Pedigree, but Garner thought he was going for a butterfly suplex, took the bump wrong and landed smack on the top of his head. It’s one of the best and most brutal-looking Pedigrees of all-time, but it didn’t work out so well for Garner, who suffered neck damage. Despite the injury not really being Triple H’s fault, Garner sued the WWF, who settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Surprisingly, there was apparently no lasting hard feelings (or the the company just forgot who Garner was) because he returned to WWE as a jobber several times from 2006 to 2008. The infamous botched Pedigree is below (warning, it’s a bit graphic)…
7) He was once managed by Brock Lesnar’s wife. Triple H and Brock Lesnar have spent a good amount of time snorting and growling at each other like angry gorillas, but it turns out that Lesnar actually had something to beat his chest about. Starting in late 1996, Hunter Hearst Helmsley cycled through a number of different valets because he had to make sure we still knew he was a man’s man, despite the effete snob gimmick. Triple H, having it both ways right from the start.
One of these valets was Sable, also known as Rena Mero, who would later go on to become queen of whatever backwoods hunting shack Brock Lesnar calls home. Sable escorted Triple H to the ring for his infamous 90-second loss to the Ultimate Warrior, and he put all the blame on Sable after the match and was generally just a big butthole about the whole thing. Hopefully Sable was sexily smirking at home when her husband broke Triple H’s arm 15 years later.
Nobody show this to Brock lesnar. Actually, on second thought, go ahead.
8) Vince McMahon gave Triple H permission for the infamous “Curtain Call” incident. We’ve touched on the infamous Curtain Call incident in some of our past articles about Attitude Era stars, because it had a pretty major domino effect across the company. Basically, to reiterate, at a 1996 Madison Square Garden house show, members of the the Kliq briefly gathered in the ring for a hug before Kevin Nash and Scott Hall left for WCW. Being that the Outsiders were leaving, and Shawn Michaels was politically untouchable at the time, Triple H received the brunt of the punishment for the kayfabe-busting incident, having a planned King of the Ring win (which went to Steve Austin) and several other opportunities canceled or postponed.
Surprisingly, it’s since come out that Vince McMahon was totally okay with the gesture, and even congratulated Triple H and his buddies when they came through the curtain. Basically, two things conspired to make it a big deal. One, the old-timer agents started grumbling about the incident afterwards, and some fan snuck a camera into the arena and started disseminating video of the Kliq hug on this crazy new thing called the Internet. So, you now know why Hunter would still sneer about “nerds typing away in their mother’s basement” whenever the Internet was mentioned until, like, last year.
9) Triple H was the only member of D-Generation X who knew about the WCW invasion angle beforehand. After serving his time in the doghouse, things started to pick up for Triple H when a back injury forced Shawn Michaels into temporary retirement, making Hunter D-Generation X’s new leader. Without Shawn Michaels, DX could have quickly withered away, but Triple H made a name for his version of the group, and himself, with the infamous “invasion” of WCW Nitro. On April 27, 1998, Triple H and his cronies rolled up to the Norfolk, Va. arena where Nitro was being broadcast with bullhorns and a friggin’ rocket launcher. WCW locked down the arena, and DX never got in or interacted with anybody from WCW, but it was still a pretty ballsy statement.
Interestingly, most of the members of DX showed up to work that Monday having no idea what was about to go down. Some of them saw the tank-like rocket launcher in the parking lot and figured something was up, but they weren’t informed what that something was until it was actually time for them to embark on the most direct offensive of the Monday Night Wars. The only DX member who knew of the plans beforehand was Triple H, and that’s because he was the guy who came up with the idea to send a tank to WCW’s front door. Triple H didn’t expect Vince Russo and Vince McMahon would take his off-the-cuff suggestion seriously, but, in a lucky stroke for his career, they actually did.
10) Vince McMahon almost shot down Triple H and Stephanie McMahon’s relationship. Towards the end of 1999, a lot of circumstances came together to finally push Hunter over the top to true superstardom, but, let’s be honest, the most important of those circumstances was Triple H getting together with the boss’ daughter both on screen and in real life. Would Triple H have still been a top star if he hadn’t married Stephanie McMahon? Probably, at least for a while, but would he be the multi-time WWE Champion God King we all fear and begrudgingly respect today? The jury is very much out on that one.
Well, it turns out that Vince McMahon almost torpedoed Triple H’s career-befitting romance. At first, Vince gave Steph and Triple H his permission, but then, in a classic case of indecisive booking, he yanked his blessing away. Apparently, Steph managed to talk her father down, but if she hadn’t, we could have somebody different handing out the wrestler letter grades today.
There you are, some facts about The Game’s first few all-important chess moves. Know any Hunter facts I missed? Have any hair care tips that can help your fellow commenters look as beautiful as a young Triple H? By all means, share away.