After a 30 year career filled with ups, downs, scandals, world titles and other major achievements, ‘The Game’ ‘The King of Kings’ Triple H has retired from active in ring competition. He was forced to retire due to serious medical issues involving his heart. Even though he may not have retired the way he envisioned, no doubt he had a great career. Love him or hate him…Triple H was the face of WWE and later NXT for many years. Today, we look back at how Paul Levesque became wrestling royalty.
Paul Levesque grew up a wrestling fan and that led him to compete in bodybuilding competitions as a teenager. While managing a gym in his hometown n New Hampshire…Levesque was introduced to the legendary wrestler Killer Kowalski and convinced Kowalski he had the determination and desire to become a pro wrestler himself. After two years of training, Levesque debuted on March 24th, 1992 under the name of ‘Terra Ryzing. ‘
The ring name name developed after Kowalski wanted to call Levesque ‘The Terrorizer.’ Thinking that the name was very cheesy, Levesque suggested other names that Kowalski turned down. Levesque not wanting to insult his mentor…offered a variation of The Terrorizer and came up with ‘Terra Ryzing.’ Kowalski liked it…even if Levesque wasn’t crazy about that name and his career went from thre. He was given a manager in John Rodeo (As in Rodeo Drive) and became the heavyweight champion of Kowalski’s promotion the International Wrestling Federation.
Levesque eventually secured a one year deal with World Championship Wrestling keeping his independent wrestling name much to his chagrin. After awhile, his gimmick was changed to a French aristocrat named Jean Paul Levesque. He was asked to learn to speak French, but when that became almost impossible in the amount of time WCW management wanted…he was told to speak with a French accent…which was just as daunting of a task.
Levesque and Steven Regal formed a tag team called ‘The Blue Bloods’ in WCW. The duo received a strong push in the tag team division, but Levesque’s contract expired and he ultimately jumped ship to the World Wrestling Federation in 1995. Ric Flair tried to convince Levesque to stay with WCW, but Levesque could not be persuaded. Ultimately, Ric Flair gave Levesque his blessing by telling him to go to the WWF and become a star.
When Levesque debuted for the WWF, he basically received the same gimmick as he had with WCW. He was portrayed as being an arrogant, rich, spoiled aristocrat…but this time hailing from Connecticut named Hunter Hearst Helmsley. As Helmsley, he won the Intercontinental title and was scheduled to win the 1996 King of the Ring. However, after being involved in the infamous ‘Curtain Call’ at Madison Square Garden where he and his friends Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels all hugged in the ring breaking kayfabe…it was Levesque who was somewhat de-pushed and punished.
He had Mr. Perfect act as his manager and also hired a bodyguard in Mr. Hughes. He did eventually win the King of the Ring tournament a year later in 1997. That same year, with the popularity of the New World Order in WCW, the WWF created a similar faction with Kliq members Shawn Michaels and Helmsley and were joined by Rick Rude and bodyguard Chyna as Degeneration X.
Despite being heels, their anti corporate, anti establishment attitudes made them very popular attractions. The faction would dominate in the company until Shawn Michaels left to tend to an injured back. HHH was given the rub as the new leader of DX and added Sean X-Pac Waltman and the New Age Outlaws to the group. One of their most memorable moments happened when they “invaded” WCW Nitro when the two companies were holding shows in the same area.
Of course, HHH’s career was not without scandal. After DX broke up, Triple H began working storylines with Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie. The two ended up having an affair behind HHH’s real life girlfriend Chyna’s back. Chyna eventually found out about the affair which ultimately culminated with Chyna leaving the WWF and Triple H being pushed harder as a top star.
The Hemsley/McMahon faction ran roughshod through the company and Triple H benefitted from the huge push he was bestowed. Naturally, most of the credit came from HHH himself, but the addition of announcer Jim Ross putting him over on commentary giving the nickname of ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ and cursing him out on air for HHH doing dastardly things helped immensely. Triple H would suffer a serious quad injury in 2001, that forced him on the sidelines for several months.
He would return in 2002 at Madison Square Garden to a thunderous ovation making him a babyface in the process. He would “divorce” Stephanie and defeat Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania 18. While a solid babyface, Triple H worked much better as a heel and eventually turned back and formed a new faction which included Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista called Evolution.
Evolution was a success, as the group won the world title, Intercontinental and tag team titles simultaneously during their big run. When the group split, first Randy Orton was dropped (literally) and then eventually Batista…Triple H continued his big heel run wit the company feuding with his former faction members.
Triple H would hold the distinction of having the fifth shortest title reign in WWE history when he won the WWE Heavyweight title against Randy Orton at No Mercy 2007 to open the show. He then wrestled Umaga in the middle of the card and then lost the title back to Orton in the main event that same night.
Triple H reunited with his DX partner Shawn Michaels a few times and wrestled the likes of the Undertaker, John Cena and John Layfield. As the years rolled along, Triple H wrestled less and less, instead working more in the corporate office. He still was an on camera character as a part of the Authority and competed more of a part time schedule. He would often ditch the suit and put the leather jacket back on for high profile matches like at Wrestlemania and other top shows.
Triple H proved he could wrestle many different styles like scientific/technical against Ric Flair and hardcore against the likes of Cactus Jack. Overall, Triple H won 14 world titles, 5 Intercontinental titles, 2 European titles, 4 time tag team champion, 2 Royal Rumbles and a King of the Ring tournament.
Triple H soon found himself running the day to day operations of their developmental system called NXT. He put a focus on bringing in top independent wrestlers and international talent. Before long, NXT became the talk of the wrestling world by featuring guys like Kevin Owens, Hideki Itami, Adrian Neville, Adam Cole and Kushida and many others.
Unfortunately, Triple H’s heart issues nearly killed him. He was forced to retire for good from active wrestling and step away from his other corporate duties including running NXT. For now, it is game over for Triple H the wrestler. What is most important is getting his health back on track. We wish him and his family…the very, very best.
5 thoughts on “Farewell to the King of Kings: A Look At the Career of HHH”
He may not be in my top 50 of all-time favorite wrestlers but I can’t deny the man’s importance to the business as I think his work in 2000 alone was probably what made him so great. He went through many phases both good and bad but he often delivers. It’s a shame it has ended though he has nothing to be ashamed about what he’s done. Even with NXT though it must hurt him to see what it’s become.
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Agreed with his 2000 – by far his best year. Those matches with Cactus, Rock and Jericho still hold up
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Long Live Terra Ryzing.
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An absolute legend, not the greatest wrestler of all time, or the best mind, but always willing to learn, grow, and improve. I highly respect the fact that he was so willing to give back to the business that made him a star, and I really think Vince should have left NXT as Triple H’s promotion. After the Undertaker, Triple H was the only star who could destroy WWE by signing with another promotion.
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Da modern day Nick Bockwinkel