With Jim Johnston lyrics, ‘It’s time to play the game’ powered by late legend Lemmy vocals and followed by catchy guitar riffs, a 6-foot-four-inch man with a gorilla body donning a leather jacket, denim vest, and jeans made his way to the ring leaving crowd totally wonderstruck. The man walked down the ramp holding a water bottle in his hand and his head held low only to raise it later with a primal scream to spit water in the most flamboyant manner that many wrestling rookies have tried to replicate.
Yes, we are talking of no other but Triple H here. Paul Michael Levesque (real name), WWE star and executive vice president for Global Talent Strategy & Development of WWE announced his retirement from in-ring wrestling on ESPN, citing health issues. The 14-time world champion sat down with Stephen A Smith to discuss his health condition leading to his retirement from in-ring competition.
Triple H revealed in the show, that he was suffering from viral pneumonia and that his lungs were swollen. When taken to the hospital, it was discovered that he had fluid around his heart and he has suffered a cardiac arrest. Now, with the official retirement, we look at the seven most ground-defining factors in Triple H’s career that truly made him a cerebral assassin and the King of Kings on and off the ring.
Signing with WWF
In January 1995, Paul Michael Levesque signed with WWF (now WWE) and worked under the ring name Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Portraying a snobbish charterer, he wore a tailcoat suit and carried a traditional atomizer perfume bottle with him to the ringside.
However, he didn’t enjoy any early success despite a few wins at multiple pay per views and didn’t even go well in eyes of Vince McMahon after the infamous Curtail Call incident at the Madison square garden where he alongside, Shawn Michael, Kevin Nash, and Razor Ramon broke the character in form of the live audience leaving crowd confused and Vince fumed.
The D-Generation X
Despite not meeting an early success after winning the Intercontinental Championship, Triple H alongside Shawn Michael, Chyna, and Rick Rude formed a group called D-Generation X or D-X simply. What started as a group for mediocre feuds slowly became a cult turning D-X from villains to fan-favorite.
The catchphrases like ‘Suck It’ and ‘crotch chop’ hand motion were all acceptable during the attitude era in WWE. And how can one forget the D-Generation SummerSlam 2009 entrance, where Michaels and Triple literally got a tank shooting off pyro in the arena.
Marriage with Stephanie McMahon
By 2000, Triple H was bursting into the scene as a main-eventer. The year and WrestleMania known for battle of the McMahons (Vince, Linda, Stephanie and Shane); Triple H on-screen girlfriend was none other than WWE CEOs daughter Stephanie McMahon.
Known by the name of McMahon-Helmsley faction, what started as an on-screen affair soon sow the seeds of real-life chemistry and love between the two. The couple finally married in October 2003 and have three daughters at present.
The top heel at the company
While some may argue that Edge and Randy Orton are the top heels (villains) in WWE, but when the two wrestler were just rookies, Triple H was already a badass at portraying heel to perfection. Be it hitting a pedigree to Shawn Michaels in a D-X reunion or turning on his protégé Randy Orton, Triple H did it all.
The Game (Triple H) enjoyed the heel persona as part of multiple factions from D-X, Evolution to the Authority. Whether it was turning on Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam 2013 to help Orton win the title or making Rollins betray the Shield in 2014 Raw; Triple H was the baddie of the baddies.
14-time world champion
Triple H may have decided to chuck in-ring competition, but during his hall-of-fame worthy career, the wrestler went on to win fourteen world titles. He won the WWE Championship nine times while earning the world heavyweight championship title five times.
Some of his famous title wins came against Randy Orton in the main event of Unforgiven 2004, Armageddon 2002 against Shawn Michaels, and WrestleMania 2002 where he defeated Chris Jericho for the Undisputed WWF Championship.
The WrestleMania classics
The cerebral assassin apart from being a fourteen-time world champion and winning two royal rumbles in 2002 and 2016 has also delivered some of the most jaw-dropping matches in the history of WWE. With honorable mentions to Triple H vs Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2012 and a hard-hitting and extremely violent match against Cactus Jack at Royal Rumble 2000, Triple H also has some WrestleMania classics for wrestling lovers to tune in enjoy from their couch.
Some of the famous WrestleMania matches include a triple threat classic at WrestleMania 2004 where Chris Benoit made Hunter tap out to the cross face in the main event. The third participant in the match was Shawn Michaels and the WrestleMania main event was nothing more than spectacular. Triple H also delivered two WrestleMania classics against the Undertaker in 2011 and 2012, both in a losing effort. He also fought his protégé Randy Orton (WrestleMania 2009) and Seth Rollins at (WrestleMania 2017), winning to the former while losing to the latter.
The daddy of NXT
NXT was a developmental territory for young budding talents in wrestling but it was Triple H who made it a cult. Credited for being the founder and executive producer of NXT, he nurtured some of the finest talents like Finn Balor, Adam Cole, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, and the list goes on…Triple H took care of every dot and made NXT an instant classic. With Seth Rollins crowned the inaugural NXT champion, the legacy was carried forward by the likes of Sami Zayn, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Triple H also promoted women roaster in NXT and perpetuated the rise of women main eventers like Charlotte and Becky Lynch. The two alongside Ronda Rousey also had main events at WrestleMania 35 for the first time in WWE history. With Triple H getting the due credit for the rise of the blue and gold brand (NXT), the Game has not been involved with the NXT brand since a cardiac attack has required the former WWE Champion to undergo surgery.