Thanks toSam for the following article!
From WOW Magazine, August 1999
By Derek Gordon
At 6 feet 5 inches tall and 270 pounds, the professional wrestler now known as Triple H (HHH), recalls being infatuated with wrestling as a youngster. Boston native Jean-Paul LeVeque pledged that one day he would become a main eventer in the sport of kings. While training with his bodybuilding patron, Ted Arcidi, who was also a former World Wrestling Federation performer, Jean-Paul's ambition to become a modern-day gladiator became nothing short of an obsession.
At the time, Hulk Hogan reigned supreme as the WWF champion, sporting a Venice Beach tan and 24-inch pythons. Newcomer Lex Luger arrived on the scene offering every promoter his "total package," and threatening title contenders all seemed to come in "Monster Size Only." Jean-Paul easily assumed that the only way to make it big was to be big. He trained religiously to acquire the so-called perfect physique, and competed successfully in regional bodybuilding competitions.
Being part of the Kliq and Degeneration X helped HHH's popularity soar, and he was one of the key players leading the WWF's new "attitude." (WOW)
But it wasn't until a wrestling legend caught a glimpse of this young and determined apprentice that Jean-Paul had a true opportunity to realize his dream. He accepted an invitation to a renowned wrestling school in Malden, Massachusetts, where WWF Hall of Famer Killer Kowalski began to fulfill the prophecy made earlier by a young Jean-Paul.
In March 1992, Jean Paul made his professional wrestling debut in a Massachusetts-based independent organization under the name Terra Ryzing. Four months later, Jean-Paul earned his first taste of championship gold when he defeated Mad Dog Richard for the IWF heavyweight title. During his successful run as champ, word of Jean-Paul's success reached the offices of World Championship Wrestling, from which he received an invitation to try out in the winter of 1994.
After a successful debut and a string of victories - all courtesy of the inverted Indian deathlock leglock finisher taught to him by Kowalski - Jean-Paul's first push into the mainstream spotlight took place in a small feud with fan favorite Johnny B. Badd. Although Badd dominated the feud, Jean-Paul walked away not only with scattered victories, but with a newfound respect from fans and his fellow workers.
Soon after wrestling fans and insiders began to follow Terra, his name was changed. The gimmick (if any aside from being a young and dominant powerhouse) remained the same, but he was introduced under his given name, Jean-Paul LeVeque. After a double-countout draw with WCW U.S. titleholder and legend Larry Zbyszko, Jean-Paul moved on to make his pay-per-view debut at Starrcade 1994 against another newcomer, Alex Wright. The loss to Wright did not sit well with Jean-Paul, and with other political issues involved, he left WCW at the launch of the new year. After years of determination and obsession, Jean-Paul's first big opportunity was gone, and so was he.
In 1995, Jean-Paul's promising career seemed to disappear almost as fast it had appeared on the scene just over a year before. Then, a man with similar features and physique walked through the curtains of a WWF locker room with his nose in the air, parading to the rich sounds of a classical orchestra. Wait a minute! It couldn't be ... it was Jean-Paul!
Now known as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, a rich, blue-blooded snob from Greenwich, Connecticut, Jean-Paul strived to move beyond his history in WCW and to continue the fulfillment of his childhood prophecy.
Helmsley steamrolled over opponents such as Doink, Duke Drose, and Bob Holly before being offered contracts to lock horns with Razor Ramon and Bret Hart. Unfortunately, when the breakthrough matches came about, he wasn't as lucky as he had been with lower card talent. With losses to the bigger stars, Helmsley's name began to slip in the rankings, and some insiders doubted his ability to become a wrestling superstar.
After mild struggles with mid-level talent, Helmsley engaged himself in a feud with Henry Godwin. Their final confrontation at In Your House V was the first step in a stride to the top, as Helmsley defeated the hog farmer in his own stipulated "hog pen" match. Considering Godwin's home-field advantage, many considered the victory an upset. Helmsley, however, considered it only a start.
After a critical loss for him to Duke Drose at the 1996 Royal Rumble, many wondered if Helmsley's career was about to be set back again. Being another "stipulation match," the winner would be granted the No. 30 spot in the over-the-top-rope Rumble event, while the loser would enter as No. 1. A setback? Far from it. Despite being cast as the first entrant, Helmsley shocked the world by lasting longer than any of the other 29 competitors before being eliminated with a total time of 48 minutes and one second.
His accomplishment was rewarded with an embarrassing loss to the returning Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania XII. In a complete squash, the man from parts unknown ran through Helmsley in a mere one minute and 43 seconds. Another setback? Not yet. Perhaps it was a setup.
During that dreadful and senseless match, Helmsley was escorted to the ring by the woman now known as Sable, the WWF's female icon. After Helmsley viciously blamed Sable for his loss to the Warrior, she was saved by the debuting Marc Mero, which ignited an on-and-off feud for nearly four months. During the feud with Mero, Helmsley suffered losses to Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and other top-name talents. Later, Helmsley was involved in an event that many have called the greatest night of World Wrestling Federation sportsmanship.
On May 19, 1996, at the mecca of all sports venues, New York's Madison Square Garden, the WWF issued its final farewells to two of the biggest names in the company, Razor Ramon and Diesel. Eight weeks before the event, a public statement indicated that Kevin Nash and Scott Hall had accepted contracts from WCW and that their final day of WWF services would be May 19, the date of the house show at the Garden. From top to bottom, it was one of the greatest house shows of all time.
The Ultimate Warrior returned to the Garden for the first time in nearly four years. There was a battle of behemoths, as Vader tussled with Yokozuna. The Ringmaster officially changed his name to "Stone Cold." Shawn Michaels defended the world title against his bitter enemy, Diesel, inside a steel cage, after being betrayed a month before. Helmsley wrestled Ramon in Razor's last match. What more could you ask for?
Hunter defeated Razor earlier in the card, and Shawn successfully retained the world title against Diesel in the caged war. During Shawn's after-match celebration, Razor entered the cage. Was it a final showdown in the same ring where their infamous ladder match took place? No, it was a final farewell between friends. Up rose Diesel, after he had been laid out for the count with the sweet chin music, to see a warm embrace between Razor and Shawn. The hell with it! It was the last day on the job. What were they going to do, fire Diesel? Nash broke character and added his last hugs.
While the "Kliq" was making farewells, in walked Hunter, and the fans got on their feet to pop for a Kliq group hug inside the cage. Fans literally cried along with their heroes. Each man climbed a corner of the cage and acknowledged the crowd with a hand motion now called the "N.W.O. sign." Fans always knew of the backstage relationship between Michaels, Hall, and Nash. But what the hell was Jean-Paul doing there, aside from breaking character? Another setback? This time, it was.
Immediately after the famous "Kliq reunion," Shawn Michaels and Helmsley were in the doghouse. For the next two months, the loss column in the record book was filled with J.O.B.s and DQ finishes. But fans came to respect the mysterious Hunter Hearst Helmsley. He was now looked upon in a different light, a light that said "he's one of them ... one of the Kliq!"
The feud with Mero emerged again, this time leading into a tournament for the vacated Intercontinental title, during which Sycho Sid eliminated Helmsley in the quarterfinals. Curt Hennig reappeared on the WWF scene after a three-year absence, and Hennig advised Helmsley that the women that escorted him to the ring - what some considered mere distractions - were to blame for his losing streak. After several ringside confrontations, Helmsley and Hennig agreed to wrestle each other on Monday Night RAW. After a backstage attack by Helmsley, Hennig was unable to compete.
Hennig escorted Marc Mero to the ring in an Intercontinental title defense against Helmsley the following week, only to reveal the plot to dethrone Mero from his title reign. Hunter Hearst Helmsley was finally a mainstream champion.
Hennig left the WWF for WCW shortly after that, and Helmsley briefly acquired the managerial services of Mr. Hughes, who also left the WWF due to poor health. After sideswiping Mero, Helmsley successfully defended the title in a heated feud with Goldust. The title reign was cut short, however, by rookie sensation Rocky Maivia, who defeated Helmsley for the strap in February 1997. Although the title loss and failed attempts to regain it were considered humiliating, it all simply added fuel to Helmsley's fire.
He quickly regained his focus by forgetting about the title and reigniting the feud with Goldust, thus introducing the world to his bodyguard, Chyna. With her assistance, Helmsley planted his flag in the WWF and challenged all comers, leading to his crowning victory in the 1997 King of the Ring Tournament. Soon after, Helmsley was forced to pair up with Shawn Michaels during a tag team encounter on RAW is WAR. Although he was reluctant at first, it ended up being another Kliq reunion, this time known as Degeneration X.
As a founding father to the new group, Helmsley's career was threatened by controversy and disgust from fans appalled by their foul manners. Then again, his popularity was at an all-time high, and he became one of the primary influences in the reconstruction of "WWF Attitude."
The members of Degeneration X continued their scandalous rampages by recruiting new members, including the late Rick Rude, Road Dog Jesse James, Bad Ass Billy Gunn, and a temporary pre-Wrestlemania run with boxing legend Iron Mike Tyson. They were also held accountable for taking part in the legitimate controversy at the 1997 Survivor Series that resulted in Bret Hart's shocking departure from the WWF.
After Michaels' loss to Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XIV, Helmsley booted Michaels from the group and declared himself the new leader. Michaels disappeared after his title loss, and Helmsley recruited another member - Sean (X-Pac) Waltman - in a televised invasion of the home of WCW at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
Sales of Degeneration X merchandise soared, second to only to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin goods, with items including a self-titled hit video featuring some of the group's greatest moments. During the course of the DX reign, fans have loved it, hated it, and most of all "SUCKED IT!" Popularity and success have reached an all-time high, with several victories and multiple title reigns of the European and Intercontinental straps.
Has Jean-Paul's career already gone full circle? Actually, many believe it's just starting to get heat up. With all of HHH's credentials and accolades, there has never been a world title reign. Recently, at Wrestlemania XV, Hunter Hearst Helmsley made an unpredictable yet ballsy move. He gathered everything he has sweated and bled for over the last two years and relinquished it to join Shane McMahon's Team Corporate. He betrayed the DX soldiers that fought with him through all the treacherous battles, yet he regained the woman he loved. He turned his back on an army and organization he was responsible for forming, but in turn he gets billed in the main event for the world title and is considered Steve Austin's final stop on the championship tour.
A year from now, it's likely that Jean-Paul LeVeque's story will change again, all part of the big dream he had as a child. Whatever comes next, this charismatic wrestler has already left an indelible mark on the sport.
For now, all anyone needs to know is what Jean-Paul has often been quoted as saying: "I'm the Hunter, and everyone else is the Hunted!"