Triple H wears many hats. To fans around the world, he’s a professional wrestling icon who became a household name during the white hot Attitude Era and has hung around as a heel authority figure and part time in ring performer. All considered, he has to land on the short list’s for pro wrestling’s all time great heel characters. Backstage, Triple H is the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations, largely working as Vince McMahon’s right hand man. In addition, he’s largely the top dog politically for NXT, who heads up the Performance Center, is hands on in character development, and has a key role in call ups to the main roster. On top of all of this? He married Stephanie McMahon and, in so doing, married into the McMahon family, shoring up his spot as a permanent power player in the world of professional wrestling.
Triple H’s many roles and legacy have naturally caused him to run afoul of a number of critics, including his colleagues. While he’s well respected by many, it’s also surprising to hear how many wrestlers have had issues with him and have revealed unflattering, surprising pieces of what he has done and who he is in the wrestling business. Whether it’s a matter of making himself look good, hurting other talents, or the ways in which his career has played out versus what original plans or Helmsley’s own intentions may be, there are plenty of surprises from Triple H’s career in the business. This article looks at 15 shocking things that wrestlers have revealed about Triple H.
15 He Thought Chris Benoit Was Just OK As a Talent
In a recent episode of his podcast, Chris Jericho discussed the legacy of Chris Benoit, not as the man he turned out to be in the closing moments of his life, but as a professional wrestler. And within the bounds of his art form, there’s little denying Benoit was among the best who ever lived.
In an unusual moment, Jericho discussed Triple H’s reaction to Benoit when he first came to WWE as part of the Radicalz who defected from WCW. Jericho described Helmesley’s reaction saying he thought Benoit was “OK.” Y2J quickly dismissed the comment as a clear sign of animosity, if not jealousy from WWE performers as they looked upon guys who came in from WCW as still being the competition, or to have a certain inherent inferiority to them. Jericho largely rejected the claim as absurd, citing that Benoit was the best in the business at that time.
14 He Didn’t Back John Cena’s Main Event Push
A number of parties close to Triple H, and even Triple H himself have conceded that, when John Cena was an up and comer on the cusp of the main event run, they just didn’t see the Doctor of Thuganomics as a top guy.
Sure, Triple H had his mind changed, and even put over Cena strong at WrestleMania 22 when he tapped out to him in the main event. The two have successfully worked together a number of other times since, and all indications are that they are on good terms. Just the same, for a traditionalist who focused on psychology and technical wrestling, Triple H simply couldn’t get behind Cena’s more cartoonish mannerisms and less realistic style of wrestling in the ring when he was coming up.
13 He Resolved Decades Of Bad Feelings Between Bruno Sammartino And WWE
Bruno Sammartino is on the short list of the top stars WWE ever had to offer, but he had a bad falling out with the company starting in the 1980s. At that time, Vincent Kennedy McMahon took over operations, and with his inauguration came the rise of Hulk Hogan, the national expansion, and a style of professional wrestling that prioritized larger than life characters and entertainment over any semblance of sport. Sammartino rejected all of this as disrespectful to the tradition of professional wrestling.
After years of not working together, Sammartino has spoken openly about the fact that it was Triple H who reached out to him to mend fences between the legend and the company that he helped build. Lo and behold, Triple H’s efforts worked, as he exposed Sammartino to the ways in which WWE had cleaned up its act and was actively celebrating tradition. Sammartino went into the WWE Hall of Fame and has since been interviewed for a number of WWE Network projects.
12 He Politicked Against The Rock
Triple H and The Rock were each rising studs at around the same time, spanning pre-Attitude, into the Attitude Era. Triple H fell into league with Shawn Michaels and The Kliq almost immediately upon arrival in WWE, and a number of parties who were around at the time have reported that Michaels actively campaigned in favor of The Game getting pushed over The Great One.
Triple H and The Rock would feud in the ring and behind the scenes a bit during this period. Unlike their predecessors, Michaels and Bret Hart, the two would largely mend fences and by all accounts are friends now, but there’s little question there was animosity early on and that Triple H saw himself in direct opposition to the Brahma Bull.
11 He Demanded To Look Good In Video Game Ads
It’s unclear who exactly was responsible for the leak, but it came out in 2008 that WWE had very specific guidelines for the images people reviewing Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 could use. Most infamously, there was a note that no image capturing Triple H looking “defenseless or vulnerable” should be published in any reviews or promotional materials for the game.
Triple H’s old enemies and critics were quick to jump on him for having such a big ego, and feeling so insecure that he was unwilling to have himself look weak, even in a video game ad. It was never clearly established where the edict came from or the rationale, but it was a shocking move to protect one particular star so thoroughly and in this unusual context.
10 Ric Flair Assigned Him A Frenchman Gimmick
Nowadays, Triple H and Ric Flair have a famously good relationship. They’re close friends and Flair has more than once credited The Game with helping him get his career back on track for one last good run in his final stretch with WWE. Moreover, Triple H has been consistent in extolling Flair as his idol and inspiration whom he watched from a young age and long aspired to be like.
When it came working together professionally, things didn’t get off to quite so great of a start. Both sides recall that Flair was in power as a WCW booker when Triple H first got started with the company. After Helmsley got started under the terrible Terra Ryzing gimmick his trainer, Killer Kowalski, gave him, he was all too ready for a gimmick change. Flair called on Triple H’s real life French name and roots to cast him as an arrogant French heel.
The trouble was, Triple H didn’t speak any French at all, and his gimmicked accent was both clearly fake and comically bad. The gimmick did the performer few favors in the early going.
9 Ken Shamrock Says Triple H Has a Big Ego That Gets In The Way Of Business
While Ken Shamrock was a legit MMA star and nicely transitioned to the world of pro wrestling to be a hot act during the Attitude Era, he has largely seen his legacy and his star dwindle. A lot of reports claim that Shamrock asked for high booking fees that price himself out of a successful career on the indies, much less a mainstream comeback. Shamrock, however, blames Triple H for denying him any kind of return to the WWE fold.
In several shoot interviews, Shamrock has spoken about Triple H’s ego, and particularly suggests The Game doesn’t like him because when they were both coming up through the mid-card, Triple H had to put him over a number of times. That seems like an awfully petty reason to blackball someone, but Shamrock hasn’t been alone in suggesting Triple H didn’t like losing and held a grudge against people he felt blocked his own advancement as a wrestling star.
8 The Undertaker Warned Him About Dating Stephanie McMahon
In a rare out of character interview, The Undertaker spoke for the Triple H Thy Kingdom Come WWE produced documentary. He recalled when Triple H first became romantically involved with Stephanie McMahon, and that the young star sought out the Dead Man’s advice. The Undertaker recalled having warned him that it was a dangerous proposition and that, in particular, anything he accomplished might have asterisk next to it because people would assume he only got opportunities because he married into the McMahon family.
It was clear from the interview, however, that The Undertaker does have a high degree of respect for Hunter, and feels that he overcame the stigmas that may have been attached to him for nepotism.
7 He Didn’t Want Alberto Del Rio To Return To WWE After His First Tenure
After Alberto Del Rio had a mixed first run with WWE that ended in controversy (slapping a backstage employee due to a racial slur), it didn’t look like WWE or Del Rio wanted to have anything to do with one another again. However, in a surprise return of events, Del Rio returned to the company little more than a year after his departure, as a surprise challenger to John Cena’s United States Championship.
A number of sources have reported that Vince McMahon and Triple H were at odds about Del Rio coming back, with Triple H seeing him as arrogant and unprofessional. The second run did not go well, with Del Rio’s booking largely erratic and a lot of rumors of backstage turmoil around him. Since leaving WWE again, Del Rio has been vocal about Triple H being controlling and being a jerk, often taunting him by referring to him as “the one with the big nose.”
6 He Considers Any Match He Has At WrestleMania A Main Event
It’s little surprise to anyone that CM Punk and Triple H did not get along behind the scenes. Punk is notoriously counter-corporate and strong willed; Triple H married into the McMahon family, climbed the corporate ladder and undeniably likes having control. Punk left WWE abruptly in 2014, and months later spoke out in a podcast, in which he criticized a lot of people in the company, and not least of all Triple H.
According to Punk, one of his great creative frustrations was that he never got to work a true WrestleMania event, in terms of wrestling in the last match of the show. He claims that Triple H tried to sell him on the idea of the two of them wrestling at WrestleMania XXX, claiming it would be a main event, and it would be a big deal for The Game to get in the ring with him at that context. According to Punk, Triple H was clearly insulted when Punk didn’t see it the same way.
5 The Curtain Call Set Back His Career
In 1996, Triple H partook in the infamous Curtain Call at Madison Square Garden alongside Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall. The incident saw the four real life friends cross kayfabe face-heel lines to embrace and salute the crowd.
Accounts vary as to whether and to what degree the Kliq members asked for and received permission to do all of this, but everyone’s in agreement about what followed. Due to intense pressure from the boys backstage who already didn’t care for the Kliq, and higher ups who felt disrespected, someone had to be punished. Hall and Nash were already leaving for WCW, and Shawn Michaels was the reigning world champion and face of the company. So, by all accounts, Triple H was left holding the bag. He missed out on his intended run as the King of the Ring tournament winner and spent the better part of a year jobbing before he got on track. It generally seems that taking the demotion without complaint earned him more respect in the long run.
4 He Was Supposed To Be The Top Face To Challenge Heel Steve Austin
At WrestleMania X-Seven, and in the events immediate aftermath, WWE launched an unlikely storyline. The company’s top face, Steve Austin, had turned heel to align himself with long-time rival Mr. McMahon, and before long he was colluding with frequent foe Triple H, too, in a tandem known as The Two-Man Power Trip. Together, they accumulated gold, with Austin as the WWE Champion, Triple H as the Intercontinental Champion, and the pair winning the tag titles to boot.
The angle came to a premature conclusion when Triple H tore his quad in a match between The Two-Man Power Trip and the unit of Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. With Triple H out, Austin was back to being a solo act, en route to heading up the heel alliance of WCW and ECW alumni for a half year of uninspired programming.
According to a number of wrestlers from the time, including Austin, the long term plan had been a slow-burn face turn for Triple H, so that he’d wind up feuding with Stone Cold and challenging him for the world title, probably at WrestleMania X8. As it stood, Austin’s heel run never really got over with the fans, so WWE turned him back face once the InVasion angle was through. Triple H did return as a face, and segued into a rivalry with the new heel champ.
3 He Had Heat With Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam and Triple H are largely the antithesis of each other. Triple H was a company man who kept his nose clean, walked the corporate line, and even worked a largely traditional style in the ring. RVD was outspoken, didn’t shy from conflict, and his style of infusing martial arts and aerial feats into pro wrestling technique made him one of the most famous innovators of his generation. It therefore comes as little surprise the two would butt heads.
In a promo denouncing Daniel Bryan, Triple H lumped him in with the RVDs of the world who didn’t have what it takes to be the man in WWE. It’s widely believed that he was walking the line between working his heel character, and shooting in line with his real thoughts. RVD, for his part, hasn’t hesitated to speak about Triple H in a variety of shoot interviews, including referencing that what he accomplished in WWE was all in spite of Triple H rather than because of his support, because he thinks The Game never liked him.
2 He Didn’t Believe In The New Age Outlaws
In shoot interviews with the Kliq, Triple H and Shawn Michaels have referenced that they gave The New Age Outlaws—Billy Gunn and The Road Dogg—an opportunity when they recognized their talent and invited them to be a part of Degeneration-X. Vince Russo tells a different story, however, about how the more established stars wanted nothing to do with the tag team that they saw as beneath them, and he all but had to force the Outlaws on them.
Given the degree to which Gunn and the Dogg spoke out against Triple H in between WWE stints, it seems that they would agree. In particular, they referenced being used as a tool to get Triple H’s DX brand more over, then cast aside when he didn’t need them any more. There very well be more shades of gray in this story, but it seems that Triple H wasn’t entirely on board with being allied wit this now iconic tag team.
1 He Cheated On Chyna With Stephanie McMahon
It’s no secret that Triple H was romantically involved with Chyna, and it’s well publicized now that he’s married to Stephanie McMahon. An inconvenient truth about the timing of the two relationships, though, is that there was almost certainly some overlap between his two relationships, at least in the courtship stages, if not in actually getting physical with one another.
Chyna was quite vocal about the timeline after her falling out with WWE. Given Triple H was a top star and increasingly a political powerhouse in WWE, it was easy to sweep her complaints under the rug ,and largely dismiss them as the rantings of a crazy person. While Triple H may not be wrong that Chyna was ultimately unstable and a difficult person for WWE to celebrate the legacy of, it remains fairly clear that he did do her wrong.