It’s time to play The Game – here comes Triple H. I don’t think any of those aitches on his trunks stand for ‘happy’, do you?
No, it never would. Hunter Hearst Helmsley is one hard-nosed son of a gun and one of the most prolific and dedicated performers of his generation. Entering the WWF in 1995 as a snobby blue-blood, his character would evolve into mischievous degenerate – as part and later leader of the legendarily entertaining stable, D-Generation X – through to ruthless cerebral assassin champion you see here, heading to the ring in fearsome chain mail, which was not in the reference but I decided to add for the nostalgia. I genuinely can’t work out whether I think the garb suits him or looks rather silly; I only ever saw him wear it once, so I guess that’s his own view on it made quite clear.
As the blue-blood he boasted many valets, with a new one for seemingly each show, but it was his long-standing partnership with ‘bodyguard’ Chyna that really helped elevate Helmsley to greater prominence while also allowing an evolution to ‘degenerate’ Hunter to really pick up speed. He owes a lot to her. Flanked by the ‘Ninth Wonder of the World’, it was impossible for either to go unnoticed.
But, as monikers such as ‘The Game’ and ‘The Cerebral Assassin’ would wish to affirm, Helmsley’s technical smarts and ring psychology were never in question, and once his push to the top began in 1999, he never looked back. Winning his first in the summer of that year, Trips would have fourteen runs at the top, never mind a glut with other straps in single and tag team competition.
When I started watching WWF shows as an eight year old, Triple H was at his peak and one of my favourites, just because he plays the villain beautifully. His rivalries with The Rock and later Stone Cold I very much enjoyed, even when I had little idea of the context. The audience would revel in voicing their disapproval each and every time he posted an appearance, or weaseled his way to a key win, in turn making it all the sweeter when he finally got his mouth shut in the ring. This said, moments were equally plentiful when ‘The Game’ prevailed by his own hand, the character therefore commanding a reluctant respect and even cheers. The complexities made for a great mix.
Though now semi-retired as far as in-ring performances go, Triple H’s marriage to the daughter of the boss has rendered any distancing between the promotion and he impossible, not that he would want it any other way. On being hired twenty-one years ago, HHH reputedly visited WWF headquarters and proclaimed, “one day I’ll own all of this”. Prothetic indeed, as it appears now he basically does, getting fully into backstage roles co-ordinating younger talent while also appearing on TV as dastardly authority figure.
Though some may point to stretches of ubiquity and backstage relations as a means of negating a career of generous highs, Hunter’s talent and passion for the business truly can never be argued. Triple H is going nowhere – it remains all about The Game.