Triple H is a 14-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion and is married to Stephanie McMahon, daughter of Vince McMahon, the owner of WWE. His talent as an athlete, his success as a performer, and if we’re being honest, maybe most importantly, his marital status, have all combined to make him perhaps the most important figure in the wrestling world today, and certainly one of the most important wrestlers of the past few decades.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley debuted in WWE in early 1995. He started at the very bottom, wrestling hog farmers in slop matches, but before long he was on top of the card, winning his first WWE World Championship in 1999. His career has only gone to greater heights since then, winning over a dozen more titles in the ring, and being named WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events & Creative in his corporate life. The more successful a person becomes, the more well known information about their life can get, but there are still a few facts about the early life of the man actually named Paul Levesque, which may come as a surprise to fans, new and old.
15. He Started As A Bodybuilder
It’s probably not surprising with a body like his, but fans might still be unaware Triple H actually began his career in professional sports not as a wrestler, but as a bodybuilder. Like many young men, HHH played football and basketball as a kid, but it was bodybuilding that really interested him. He began bodybuilding on a personal level at 14, and started entering contests shortly after his 18th birthday. His bodybuilding success doesn’t come near his later success as a wrestler, but the young Paul Levesque did manage to win Teenage Mr. New Hampshire in 1988. It was as a bodybuilder Triple H met former WWE superstar Ted Arcidi, a meeting that would inspire Triple H to become a wrestler.
14. He Was Trained By A Legend
In 1992, Levesque moved from New Hampshire to Massachusetts to enroll in WWE Hall of Famer Killer Kowalski’s wrestling school. According to Levesque, wrestling came extremely naturally to him, and Kowalski could tell, taking him on as a personal pet project. Killer Kowalski was a former WWE World Tag Team Champion as one of the Executioners, and prior to that success, he was a partner of Gorilla Monsoon. The WWE Hall of Famer was a legendary trainer of dozens if not hundreds of professional wrestlers. Some of Kowalski’s other esteemed students include Big John Studd, Jason Albert, Damien Sandow, Fandango, The Eliminators and Chyna.
13. His Name When He Debuted Was Terrible
Triple H made his wrestling debut for his trainer Kowalski’s promotion, the International Wrestling Federation. Kowalski was in charge of booking the promotion in addition to owning it and training most of the talent, and it was he who came up with the name Triple H would make his debut under: Terra Ryzing. Harkening back to legends of Kowalski’s era such as The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser, he had intended to call Levesque “The Terrorizer,” but Triple H preferred his character have an actual first and last name. Kowalski suggested Terror Ryzer, but Hunter felt Terra Ryzing was closer to a real name, and that’s what he chose. Triple H won his first championship, the IWF Championship, under the terra-ble name.
12. His First Partner Was Perry Saturn
Not much is known about Triple H’s early career outside of what he’s divulged in his book, but what is clear is that at some point he teamed with Perry Saturn, and they won the IWF Tag Team Titles together. Levesque and Saturn trained in the same class under Kowalski, so it isn’t surprising the two ended up as partners. The two superstars’ career paths diverged greatly after their initial training together, so it isn’t surprising the team didn’t become more well known or fondly remembered. The former partners did have a brief allianas aided by the Radicalz, but the alliance was short lived, and the two even wrestled against each other on Sunday Night Heat later that year.
11. He Worked For WCW
Triple H finally made his debut in a major wrestling promotion in 1994, wrestling not for WWE, but for WCW. He debuted as Terror Risin’, then reverted to Terra Ryzing, before finally settling on the new name Jean-Paul Lévesque, adapting his real name to highlight his French heritage. Granted, he didn’t have much attachment to his French heritage and couldn’t speak the language, but that didn’t stop WCW from basing his gimmick around it. A posh Frenchman, Levesque occasionally tagged with posh Englishman Steven Regal, and briefly feuded with German Wunderkind Alex Wright. From the beginning, Triple H only signed a short-term contract with WCW, only wanting to hone his wrestling ability on a major stage before heading for the WWE.
10. He Almost Wasn’t “HHH”
Triple H debuted in WWE through a series of vignettes airing in early 1995. The vignettes promoted “The Connecticut Blueblood,” Hunter Hearst Helmsley, though that wasn’t his original name. At first, WWE executive and creative team member JJ Dillon told Triple H that his name was to be “Reginald DuPont Helmsley,” but the future champion asked his name be catchier, suggesting something that he could use to play with the first letters of each word. Quick alliterative thinking later, and a legend was in the making. Thank goodness, because WWE COO RDPH is far too many letters.
9. The Pedigree Almost Broke A Neck
Shortly after debuting in WWE, Triple H had a match against a little known wrestler named Marty Garner. Garner had minor success in ECW as a member of the Dupp family, but in WWE was mostly a jobber, or a wrestler used exclusively to lose to bigger name talent. Near the end of a match on WWE Superstars, Garner was unfamiliar with Triple H’s finishing move, the Pedigree, and reacted poorly when Triple H attempted to perform it on him. Jumping upwards, Garner inadvertently caused himself to land on his neck, badly injuring himself. Clips of the incident have become a popular Internet meme, usually mislabeling Garner as either Jeff Hardy or Marty Jannetty. Garner himself appeared on The Montel Williams Show to discuss the injury.
8. His Kingdom Was Delayed
Triple H won the King of the Ring tournament in 1997, but the way the story goes, he was supposed to win it in 1996. The tournament was to take place June 23, 1996, but less than a month prior, Triple H involved himself in the infamous Madison Square Garden “Curtain Call.” Along with Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Shawn Michaels, Triple H broke kayfabe at the end of a live event, with all four men hugging in the ring, commemorating the fact it was Hall and Nash’s final night working for WWE. It was impossible for WWE to punish the Outsiders, since they were leaving the company, and HBK was the WWE World Champion, without any real viable competition. Thus, the brunt of the punishment was placed on Triple H, who lost his chance at being that year’s King of the Ring.
7. He Was The Second WWE Grand Slam Winner
The punishment for the Curtain Call incident didn’t last long, and Triple H gradually went on to become one of the most decorated athletes in WWE history. In professional wrestling, a Grand Slam is when a performer wins every title they are eligible for in a given promotion. Basically, if Triple H was able to compete for a championship, he won it. Starting with the WWE Intercontinental Championship, Triple H also won both versions of the WWE Tag Team Championships, the WWE World Championship and the WWE European Championship. The first Grand Slam Champion was Triple H’s degenerate partner, Shawn Michaels. Though the parameters of a true Grand Slam were updated with the revival of the WWE United States Championship, both HBK and HHH still claim to have accomplished the accolade.
6. He Lived With Chyna
Many people know Triple H and Chyna had a long term on screen relationship, and some people even know that relationship extended to real life, as well. Many fail to realize, however, exactly how serious the relationship was. The two began dating shortly after Chyna began her career in WWE. Chyna hasn’t been the most reliable source of information on the topic, but according to her, at one point the two even planned to be married. Whether or not Chyna was telling the truth about the potential wedding, it is definitely known the two were living together for some time. Triple H and Chyna were still dating when his relationship with Stephanie McMahon began, leading to decades of unease between Chyna and WWE in general.
5. He’s Tried His Hand At Acting
Everyone knows the Hollywood crossover success of Triple H’s longtime rival The Rock, but less people know that Triple H has appeared in a variety of films and television shows, as well. He made minor appearances as himself on Pacific Blue and The Bernie Mac Show, as well as appearing as a wrestling inspired character called The Disciplinarian on The Drew Carey Show. Branching away from wrestling characters, the Cerebral Assassin next hosted MADtv before making the switch to film in 2004 with Blade: Trinity. Significantly less successful than the Rock (or maybe even Tor Johnson), Triple H’s acting career quickly fizzled out, and over the past decade, he has only appeared in poorly received films produced by WWE Studios.
4. He’s In Charge of NXT
Fans know Triple H has a very active interest in WWE from both a wrestling and a business standpoint, but his business interest in NXT may be even greater. Vince McMahon ultimately owns the training ground for future WWE superstars, but in terms of day-to-day operations, Triple H is the founder and majority shareholder of NXT, and has had a huge role in its development from the start. Many consider NXT as a form of practice for when Triple H inevitably inherits the company from his father-in-law. Focusing on simple storylines and technical wrestling from both the men and the women, NXT is a throwback to the 80s wrestling programs Triple H likely loved while growing up.
3. He Was Close Friends With Lemmy
For many years, Triple H was introduced to the ring to the sounds of Motörhead playing his theme song, “My Time.” Gradually, Triple H and Lemmy, the lead singer of Motörhead, would become close personal friends. Motörhead would also perform two other theme songs for Triple H, playing him to the ring before three separate WrestleMania matches. Triple H even designed his facial hair after Lemmy, shaving his mustache to match his rock and roll idol. Shortly after Lemmy died of cancer in December of 2015, Triple H spoke at the funeral of his friend, thanking him for the gifts of his music and friendship.
2. He Started A Charity
The WWE Universe was saddened and devastated following the death of 8-year-old superfan Connor “The Crusher” Michalek. Michalek was diagnosed with a rare tumor affecting his brain and spinal cord while only 4 years old, but in his short life went on to become one of the best known and most popular fans in WWE history. Despite a childhood trauma tougher than anything even the WWE superstars had to go through, Connor continued to interact with countless heroes of his, watching wrestling and supporting WWE his entire short life. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon decided to give back, partnering with the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to create Connor’s Cure, a charity which helps fight pediatric cancer.
1. He’s The Most Consistently Hated Wrestler Ever
Triple H has won the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Award for the Most Hated Wrestler five times, more than any other performer in the magazine’s nearly 40-year existence. He also won PWI’s Most Hated Wrestler of the Decade, 2000-2009. The Game also won overall Wrestler of the Decade for those same years. PWI is not officially affiliated with WWE or any other major wrestling company, and as such is generally viewed as a (sometimes kayfabe upholding, but) genuine source of information when it comes to actual fan reaction to pro wrestling. By winning the award more than any other performer, Triple H proves that fans actually love to hate him, and have secretly loved watching him stay on top for all these years.