The crushing news that Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque has officially retired from in-ring competition after heart surgery is a crushing blow to wrestling fans all over the world.
During an emotional interview ahead of WrestleMania 38, Triple H detailed the emergency situation he found himself in last year…. and the ramifications of an almost fatal battle with viral pneumonia.
Just two years ago our wrestling editor, Andy Spoors, penned an ode to The Game in celebration of a stellar 25-year career in WWE.
It seems somewhat appropriate to revisit those words once again…

Ask any wrestling fan that lived through the Attitude Era and they will almost inevitably have done at least one of the following two things in their life. The first, a lurid gesture of moving both hands in a quick downward motion, either side of the crotch and yelling ‘suck it’.

The other, grabbing a bottle of water, creating an intense facial expression, taking a mouthful of liquid and while looking to the sky, creating a spray of water that inevitably soaked everyone in the immediate area. Either that, or much to the chagrin of parents the world over, in the shower before being quizzed on why the bathroom roof is dripping wet.

Come on, admit it.

We’ve all been there.

No?

Anyway, moving swiftly on…whether it was recreating DX’s rebellious slogan or his (probably very unhygienic) entrance, Triple H’s impact has been felt throughout his quarter of a century in WWE.

His accolades and achievements in the company are simply astonishing. His total of 14 World Titles is just two short of joint leaders in that field, John Cena and Ric Flair. Add in multiple reigns as Intercontinental, Tag Team and European Champion, a two-time Royal Rumble winner and King of the Ring winner, you begin to paint a picture of exactly how illustrious the Cerebral Assassin’s career has been.

Starting life in WWE as the high society snob Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Trips nearly found himself jettisoned from the company relatively early on in his career. Backstage politics followed a public showing of comradery with real life friends Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall as the latter two moved to rival outfit WCW.

It was, debatably, also the act that would solidify Triple H and Shawn Michaels together and create one of the most popular wrestling factions of all time in the shape of D- Generation X. Brash, risqué and in keeping with WWE’s no fucks given Attitude Era, DX and in particular Triple H were the key players for WWE’s ratings resurgence and putting WCW firmly in the rear view mirror.

As a singles competitor, it was the next phase in Hunter’s career that saw the biggest upturn in World Title shots. An onscreen and subsequent real-life marriage to owner Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie, saw HHH instantly become one of the best heels WWE has served up. With Stephanie by his side, the WWE Universe loved to hate the guy that benefitted from marrying into power and flaunting it in the face of others wherever possible.

Multiple reunions with DX and best friend Michaels followed, but a move towards learning the business side of the industry and company has opened doors and created a position of power that has sown the seeds for WWE’s future.

An overhaul of WWE’s developmental system saw the birth of the highly acclaimed and fan favourite NXT brand. Under the watchful eye of Triple H, the brand focuses on high quality matches and character development, as well as creating the Superstars of tomorrow.

If that wasn’t enough of a legacy, HHH ensured WWE remained a truly global phenomenon by establishing NXT UK, the company’s first international brand complete with state-of-the-art training facilities and a weekly TV show.

So why is there even a question of whether Trips deserves to be considered as one of the best of all time? For some, his affiliation with the McMahons created a narrative that HHH had the ability to bury up and coming talent or he was afforded opportunities others weren’t. Those points could well be true, but the validity is questionable when considering the sources of disgruntlement in ex-employees of the company.

In terms of opportunities, it is worth inspecting WWE’s ‘big four’ PPVs (WrestleMania, Summerslam, Royal Rumble and Survivor Series) for some sort of evidence to suggest he is the benefactor of nepotism. Excluding the Rumble match itself, Triple H has a win rate of 44% out of the 56 matches he has participated in.

He has made only two fewer appearances than Undertaker at WrestleMania but carries a significantly worse record winning only 10 of his 23 bouts on the grandest stage of them all. Granted he has enjoyed main event status on six occasions, winning half of those coveted spots. One statistic that may raise some eyebrows, The Game has never won a title match at Survivor Series despite being involved in five championship tilts.

The biggest takeaway here? He may be one of the most decorated Superstars in history, but those wins were as a result of working a huge amount of shows, rather than being afforded the grandiose and marquee wins some may level his way. 

A brawler/technician in wrestling style often meant his matches went long. But ever the advocate for storytelling inside the ring, Triple H has had some outstanding matches throughout his career. His matches against Undertaker at WrestleMania 27 and 28 are up there with some of his most acclaimed work.

Brutal feuds with Mick Foley’s Mankind and Cactus Jack personas, as well as a rivalry with The Rock throughout his career, have created a back catalogue that could take days to sift through on the WWE Network.

Possibly the only person more synonymous with a sledgehammer than Peter Gabriel, Triple H can even boast an inanimate object will forever be associated at the mere sight of it. The Hardy Boyz have ladders, The Dudleys have tables, New Day have pancakes. There aren’t many that find themselves with that bizarre status.

Away from the ring, Paul Levesque (his real name) is an avid rock and metal fan. Using both Motörhead and Metallica as entrance themes and establishing a working relationship with Download Festival should only add to the ever-growing reasons why you should love the man.

He may not be recognised as much as others outside of the wonderfully weird world of wrestling. 

But for the WWE Universe, it’s time to bow down to the ‘King of Kings’ and celebrate a quarter of a century of one of the very best to ever play the game.

Photos: WWE.