Tonight on Friday Night Smackdown, Triple H will be honored for his twenty-five years in the WWE. However, his career has spanned longer than that. During Triple H’s career, there hasn’t been one moment or match that has defined his career. With a career that has spanned over two decades in arguably the top promotion in the world, Triple H’s career has evolved to where fans are privy to it today.
As many are likely aware, Triple H trained under WWE Hall of Famer the late Killer Kowalski. It was while under Kowalski’s IWF where The Game competed emerged as the ever so clever ‘Terra Ryzing’. He did this for a couple of years until he arrived in World Championship Wrestling. While with WCW, Terra Ryzing became Terror Risin and later Jean-Paul Levesque. The latter was the one time where he competed under his actual name. It was as Jean-Paul Levesque where Triple H’s origins as Hunter Hearst Helmsley could be seen. With attire that resembled a blue-blood then, fans could see it developing.
Triple H: Before The Assassin was Cerebral
He debuted with the company on April 30th, 1995. While he had feuds with Henry O. Godwinn and ‘Marvelous’ Marc Mero laid the foundation for his career it would be his association with others that changed the perception of him. Triple H was recognized as a member of The Kliq (as many are aware) the real-life friendship with Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, X-Pac/1-2-3 Kid, and Shawn Michaels was both a blessing and a curse. By his admittance, the infamous Curtain Call led to punishment for him. His punishment wasn’t long-term and also led to him being pushed within the company. He had associations with Mr. Perfect, Mr. Hughes, and had former WWE Women’s Champion Sable as his valet early in her career.
Triple H’s feud would with Goldust would see the debut of Chyna by his side. It would be around this time when Triple H, Chyna, Shawn Michaels, and Ravishing Rick Rude would come together to form Degeneration X. From the ashes of a real-life scenario came a faction that pushed the envelope of censorship. As a member of Degeneration X, Triple H captured the WWE European Championship and the Intercontinental Championship.
What was most significant was that Triple H wasn’t considered the leader of Degeneration X while Shawn Michaels was there. However, it wasn’t until Michaels had retired that Triple H emerged as the leader.
With Chyna, X-Pac, Road Dogg, and Billy Gunn would come together to rebuild Degeneration X.
Together this ground would take Degeneration X into a different direction then they had first been. They were a much different group than the faction that emerged with Shawn Michaels. Together the group would forge ahead in a feud with The Rock and The Nation of Domination. However, all good things must come to an end and it was time for Triple H to walk in different circles. His off-screen relationship with Stephanie McMahon became an on-screen one with the emergence of the McMahon-Helmsley Era. His growth as a performer and a main event threat was now.
Triple: It’s All About The Game
It was at this point where Hunter Hearst Helmsley’s Triple H persona emerged and nicknames such as ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ and ‘The Game’ also followed suit. His feud with Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, and Kurt Angle were among the ones that best defined Triple H’s run around the turn of the century. As time passed his time as a single’s champion would lead to him as a tag team champion. At one point he teamed with the Texas Rattlesnake, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin to form the Two-Man Powertrip and become the tag team champions.
Success didn’t come without its cost physically. A complete tear of his quadriceps muscles off the bone led to his time part in the McMahon-Helmsley Era to an end….or so we think. His return in 2002 led to a face turn and a run as a World Champion. Triple H and Stephanie’s on-screen marriage was on the rocks. Several tactics on the part of Stephanie leading to Triple being manipulated led to a marriage dissolving on-screen.
Fans will recall the relationship amongst members of The Kliq years earlier including Triple H.
With the nWo and Degeneration X all under one promotion, this could be the opportunity to unite them all. A returning Shawn Michaels and plans of having Triple H join the ‘new’ nWo led to something unforeseen. Triple H betrayed Michaels in what was believed to be a reuniting of the two to form Degeneration X. A longstanding feud between the two began. The two men would brutalize one another time and time again.
Triple H moved to the Raw brand and his character was engrossed in a questionable feud with Kane. With the name ‘Katie Vick’ going down in wrestling infamy a storyline built around necrophilia was universally panned. However, one storyline does not define twenty-five years in a company.
Evolution is A Mystery
With new allegiances came a new stable. With Degeneration X and the McMahon-Helmsley Era behind him, Randy Orton, Ric Flair, and Batista alongside Evolution was born. Over their two years together, each member of the faction held championships. However, tension among members ultimately led to their demise. He was engrossed in feuds with Randy Orton, Batista, and Ric Flair.
After six years apart it was time to ask…are you ready? Triple H and Shawn Michaels resolved in-ring issues with one another to fight a common enemy…Vince McMahon. Feuds with Vince and Shane McMahon, The Spirit Squad, and Rated RKO showed the duo were once again back together. Another quadriceps injury took, Triple H out of action for the majority of 2007.
His return brought about an old feud with a former ‘friend’. The former Evolution teammates, Randy Orton and Triple H were in a different place than they were four years earlier. Orton was a more cunning, cold and sadistic character than he was before. After a few months, an issue that opened the door to their backstage relationship playing its part on-screen. Triple H came to the aid of his Father-in-law and Brother-in-Law whom Orton struck with a ‘punt’ leading to a fevered rivalry.
Degeneration X: The Curtain Call?
By 2009 Triple H and Shawn Michaels had once again come together to reform Degeneration X. The duo had chemistry together and a friendship that goes beyond the ring still to this day. It likely would be the final time the two men would come together to form this onscreen tandem. This time around with both men being fathers and were further removed from the earlier incarnations of the group it was different now. They presented a much more fun-loving and comical tandem. Triple H and Shawn Michaels had a feud with the likes of Legacy, Jeri-Show, and ShowMiz. It became more evident that the two were approaching the end of their career. By 2010, Shawn Michaels officially retired and Triple H’s role began to evolve.
“It’s great…For he and I, other than the fact that he’s in a suit all the time… it’s very much the same relationship we had all those years on the road, that we sort of did in the car. Now we get to do it, in some form, in a much bigger, corporate setting. It’s honestly still the same guys, sitting around and driving up and down the road — that’s what we do. It’s just that now, somebody is actually driving us, because he doesn’t actually drive himself anymore.
“We’re sitting in the back, throwing out ideas, writing shows, coming up with creative things of that nature…Look, you cannot beat it — honestly. I get paid to hang out with my buddy, and it is extremely tough to complain about that.” – Shawn Michaels on the evolution of his and Triple H’s relationship.
Triple H: The Authority At The Helm
His role behind the scenes began to play their way into storylines on-screen. What followed were matches against The Undertaker at WrestleMania in back to back years. Altercations with CM Punk and reunions with the likes of Kevin Nash. He even turned face and had a feud with a storyline surrounding him and Brock Lesnar. It peeled the curtain back too involving the family. The concern of his safety being at the forefront and the well-being of his children was quite different. It was a huge difference from the Triple H of nearly a decade earlier.
Once the feud with Brock Lesnar had come to an end, Triple H would remerge as the leader of a select few. With Evolution seemingly coming to an end, there was a plan B. A heel turn by Seth Rollins on his Shield brothers led to an alliance with Triple H and Randy Orton forming The Authority. Rollins carried with him the Money in the Bank briefcase. This ultimately resulted in a Rollins winning the WWE Championship under the guidance of Triple H. Towards the end of the run of The Authority, Triple H would play a key role behind the scenes. Over the course of the last few years, Triple H has been front and center at the helm of WWE’s NXT brand. However, that hasn’t prevented him from engaging in feuds with the likes of Sting, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Batista.
He IS NXT
“Look, I’ve been that fan. I’ve been all levels of wrestling fan..been the kid in the front row holding up my Hulk Hogan hat and t-shirt, and I’ve been the fickle fifteen-year-old that didn’t think Triple H knew how to work. I’ve been these people. One August they love you, and the next August they hate you.” – Seth Rollins on facing Triple H Source: WWE 365 (h/t Sportskeeda)
However, helping to push NXT to the forefront of all things WWE also became important. For several years, WWE’s NXT brand was considered a developmental brand. In many cases considered a place talent would be ‘called up from’. Triple H was committed to now transitioning the perception of the brand. He is equally committed to showcasing the future of the industry as well.
“We needed to create the next generation of talent, and the success [and setup] of the WWE had kind of limited where we were getting these athletes from..People around the world still didn’t know how to become a WWE superstar.”
“You can’t read it in a book…There had to be a place to go do it, and do it on a regular basis — to get reps in our business and do it over and over again in front of live crowds. NXT provided that opportunity, and I knew that the bigger I could make that and the better I could make that, the better that opportunity would be for talent to come in [and learn].” – Triple H on the importance and vision of NXT.
Triple H: Celebrating 25 Years of The Game
As we enter the twenty-fifth anniversary of Triple H’s time in the WWE, his career has had several highs. He has been a fan favorite and a hated heel. Throughout that time his passion for all things WWE has never been in question. His commitment to the company that elevated into a position of Authority. He has been a challenger, a challenger, a follower and a leader. The time in WWE has been immeasurable. His impact on those around him is felt. He has been hated and admired. Triple H has been respected and applauded by those near to him. For all that he has achieved, Triple H appears not one to want to settle on his past accomplishments. He has transitioned his vision into something different.
Triple H’s future has yet to be written but his past has been. To twenty-five years, Triple H has without question not only played the game but recreated it as well. We may not bow down to the King but we can’t deny his impact on the wrestling business and in the WWE.