Paul 'Triple H' Levesque Marks 25 Years as One of WWE's Most Hated — and Beloved — Villains
"When it is done well, there's no greater form of entertainment in the world," Paul Levesque says of professional wrestling
When asked how it feels to have reached a milestone 25 years with WWE, it doesn’t take long for Paul “Triple H” Levesque to answer.
“It feels old, that’s what it feels like,” the 50-year-old tells PEOPLE while laughing. “It’s hard to believe, it certainly has gone by in a blink.”
It was in April 1995 that Levesque first entered a WWE ring as “Hunter Hearst Helmsley,” a snobby, upper-class aristocrat who considered himself royalty. The character was a far cry from what he would eventually become — a leather jacket-wearing, sledgehammer-carrying, motorcycle-riding force.
Though it’s been a while since he’s been a full-time wrestler, the WWE is commemorating Levesque’s 25th anniversary with the company Friday night on SmackDown.
WWE kicked off the tributes this week with posts on social media, and even Levesque’s former in-ring adversary, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, sent him a personal video message calling him a “kindred spirit.”
Including Johnson, Levesque has had rivalries with almost every superstar who walked through the WWE’s doors in the last two decades. He’s gone toe-to-toe with legends such as The Undertaker, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Mick Foley, and his longtime friend, Shawn Michaels.
But what made the character of Triple H so unique is that for much of his career, despite being a ruthless, backstabbing villain, he’s remained a crowd favorite — and it has made for some truly compelling television.
But this fandom around Triple H is a testament to Levesque’s dedication to the “artistic performance show” that is professional wrestling.
“I think to me — and I still feel this way to this day — that when it is done well, there’s no greater form of entertainment in the world,” he says.
“It hits all your senses,” he adds. “To be able to get in a ring and then almost tell a Shakespearean story through physicality, it just encompasses everything that is entertaining to me and it still does to this day.”
Today Levesque finds himself in a suit working behind-the-scenes as WWE’s executive vice president of global talent strategy and development, a position that has allowed him to help cultivate the next generation of WWE superstars through the company’s developmental show, NXT.
While the role means he sees less action in the ring these days, this is exactly where Levesque wants to be.
“I watch these young kids and see them go out there and catch on to the lessons you teach them to,” Levesque says. “They go out there and they execute, and the crowd goes crazy and they come back in and they’re buzzing because you’d know that they’ve succeeded. They know they’ve succeeded.”
“It’s like the saying, ‘Most of the things that you accomplished in your life are great, but then when you watch your kids accomplish things, it’s an even greater experience.’ It’s the same thing for me,” the former WWE champion adds.
But for as much as Levesque has given to wrestling over his career — which includes enduring a torn hamstring and pectoral muscle — the business has also given much more back, he says.
After a fictional storyline that saw them get married, Levesque and Stephanie McMahon — owner Vince McMahon’s daughter — fell in love in real life. They’ve been married since 2003, and have three children.
“I did it out of passion, the performance part, but all the other stuff just came along,” Levesque says while reflecting. “Everything in my life comes from this business.”
“It’s hard for me to even imagine life without wrestling,” he adds. “If I had never done it, then every component of my life would change.”