Thanks to Mike Shalik for the following highlights from Triple H’s appearance on the “Talk Is Jericho” podcast:
– Triple H’s WWF debut back in 1995 was delayed due to a no-compete clause he had with WCW. He attended several WWF live events before making his official debut.
– Eric Bischoff initially offered him a 2-year deal at $50,000 per year, which he wasn’t happy with. He signed a 1-year deal to prove himself. He said WCW was a total mess, “no structure or organization,” and sent out feelers to WWF through dirt sheets.
– Triple H grew up watching a lot of wrestling promotions but said he always wanted to wrestle for the WWF. Jericho said he went to WCW with the goal of eventually making it to WWF.
– Triple H joked about his WCW gimmick, Terra Rizing. He said originally the name was Terrorizer. He thought that was ridiculous and asked for an actual name. Management added a space in the middle and it was Terra Ryzer, which eventually morphed into Terra Ryzing. He eventually got repackaged as Jean Paul Levesque, which he also thought was ridiculous, because he’s not French. He came up with the blue blood gimmick.
– Jericho asked him about the origin of the Hunter Hearst Helmsley character. He said Vince liked his blue blood character, but wanted to rebrand him as an American, in case they ever wanted to make him a babyface. He said Vince wanted him to be a blue blood snob from Greenwich, CT. When they were coming up with a ring name for him, JJ Dillon dubbed him Reginald Dupont Helmsley. Triple H had come up with his own list of names and they settled on Hunter Hearst Helmsley. He said Shawn Michaels started calling him Triple H from day one. Vince didn’t like the Triple H name when he first heard it but changed his mind the following year.
– When he first joined the WWF, Diesel was champion but Shawn was the top guy in the company. Undertaker, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were also the major players. He was friends with Terry Taylor before he began with WWF and it helped to have an ally there. He said the guys would make fun of bad wrestling gimmicks and Terra Ryzing was one of their favorites to mock. Despite that, they had told Vince that Triple H was a good talent they should consider bringing in. When he came in, the Kliq looked out for him a lot.
– He was miserable riding with some of his first travel partners. One day when he was at the airport, Kevin Nash told him to ride in the van with him, Shawn Michaels, Sean Waltman and Scott Hall. One night at Denny’s, Sean Waltman and Scott Hall had to be “dragged out.” He had to slap Sean Waltman because he barely had a pulse and they all wound up in the emergency room that night. The next morning, him and Kevin Nash went to the gym to train.
– He said Scott Hall was not very “impressive” when he wasn’t in Razor Ramon mode. When he’d go into character, he completely transformed “as if he grew three feet.”
– Vince McMahon held a meeting at a hotel and it was agreed that the company needed a new direction. Several top agents were there, along with The Kliq. He was in the room when the meeting was about to begin and tried walking out. Vince asked where he was going and he said he was a new guy and he didn’t think he would be part of the meeting. Vince told him to stay. Vince told the guys to evaluate the roster and advise him who should stay and who should be let go. He told everybody to individually write down their thoughts on the roster and the direction of the company. Everybody in the room had Bam Bam Bigelow on the list, because he strongly disliked the Kliq and was disruptive. Triple H said that meeting was the first spark of the Attitude Era, because everybody was pushing for more reality. They questioned, “Why do we have Doink The Clown? Why can’t be just be wrestlers? Why do we have to be firemen and cops? Why can’t it be more real?” Vince agreed that they needed to get away from the campy product geared towards children. They brought up the rock band KISS, who had been an edgy group, but turned away their core audience by having a cartoon and catering to kids. They were no longer cool and were a parody of themselves.
– One of the genius things about Vince is his ability to hear a lot of opinions, think them over and process them. Vince told him to surround yourself with people smarter than you, listen to their opinions and use your judgment to form the best strategy. The President doesn’t have to be the smartest guy in the room. He needs to listen to smart people and make the best common sense decision.
Part 2 will be coming next week.