A slammin' conversation with WWE's "Triple H"


A slammin' conversation with WWE's "Triple H"

"It's hard to breathe in this thing," Triple H, aka Hunter Hearst Helmsley, whispers in a labored voice, referring to the harness strapped tightly around his 265-pound body. However, there's no time to worry about respiratory difficulties, as everyone has taken their places for the "ratchet pull" scene. Twenty feet of rope is clamped to Hunter's back via the harness as he steps into position, face-to-face with Wesley Snipes. Off-camera, four crewmen grasp the line.

Action. Hunter punches. Wesley counters with a heel kick that lands squarely on Hunter's sternum. On that cue, the four men pull forcefully, folding Hunter in two as he goes airborne and flies several feet backward. A pile of padding breaks his fall, and the room falls silent as Wesley's foot drops to the floor. Cut.

Triple H would do the spine-wrenching stunt five more times on that cool fall afternoon at Bridge Studio in Vancouver, Canada. But you won't hear him complain about that or about landing his first movie role, a part in which he plays a half-vampire, half-human villain. In fact, the consensus on the set of Blade: Trinity was summed up by a passing crew member: "Don't let his secret get out -- he's a nice guy."

The Game? The man who has brandished a sledgehammer in the wrestling ring? A nice guy? Well, suffice it to say he was nice enough to spend the day with M&F, talking about acting, grappling and his favorite subject of all -- bodybuilding. You be the judge.

M&F: Tell me more about Jarko Grimwood, the character you play in Blade.

Hunter: I play the heavy of a group of vampires that's trying to ensure we become the dominant species on the planet. We're out to capture and kill Blade. You find out later in the film that I'm like Blade in that I'm half-human. That's why I have steel fangs instead of real ones and powers similar to his. Every time you think Blade and his crew have made their escape, I come out of nowhere.

M&F: Any memorable scenes you've shot thus far?

Hunter: In one scene shot here in Vancouver, we set Blade up so the police capture him, and we go to the police department dressed as orderlies to try to pick him up. The other heroes in the film come to his rescue. A riot breaks out at the police department, and we have a massive gun battle. They end up escaping with Blade. As they're driving down the highway, I chase them, and Jessica Biel, who plays one of the heroes, shoots me in the eye with an arrow.

M&F: Was that scene a challenge compared to the mayhem you're accustomed to in the ring?

Hunter: The challenge is not to come across looking like an idiot [laughs], not to stick out like a sore thumb on screen. When there are seven guys on the other side shooting full rounds of blanks, and you're shooting back at them, and there're explosions going off and stuff falling on you, and you have to hit your mark and be in the right place and facing the right way and doing the right thing, it's not easy. I'm used to our [wrestling] environment. I can do that with my eyes closed. Here it's a lot of fun, but it's a different world.

M&F: Do you have other projects in the works? There've been rumors about you playing Conan now that Arnold is no longer available for the project.

Hunter: I met John Milius [director of Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn] at a time when they were originally thinking about doing King Conan. He met with me and talked to me a lot about playing a part in the movie then. Before Arnold was elected [governor of California], John said if Arnold wins, I want you to play [the title] role. It's all up in the air, whether it's agreeable to everybody, but that's what John is saying.

M&F: Aren't you also working with John on a movie with the WWE production company?

Hunter: John had come up with a script and a project that he wanted me to star in. He talked to the WWE production office and they liked the concept -- we're probably going to shoot that in April in New Mexico. John wants to call it Jornada de Muerte, which roughly translated is Day of Death. I'm not sure Vince [McMahon, chairman of the Board of Directors of the WWE] likes that. Anyway, the backdrop is modern day, with the story centered on a motorcycle gang that's into drug dealing. I play this guy who's a piece of shit in a lot of ways, but because of the circumstances and because he has a strong moral code -- kind of an "honor among thieves" type of thing -- he gets himself into a situation where he's in the right.

M&F: What constitutes a cool action film to you?

Hunter: You know, in a lot of movies now, it's how cool can they make the dinosaur look or doing the longest car chase ever or a martial-arts scene where it ends up being two guys dancing around each other. It's all just special effects, and [as a fan] I just don't care about that. Things have to work within the environment. In The Matrix, there's a reason they float through the air when they fight. When you have a regular movie and all of a sudden one guy is flying through the air, you lose all reality. When I go to a movie, I like a good storyline.

M&F: Would you like to continue with action movie roles or try something else?

Hunter: I'm happy just being an action guy. If you want to pay me $20 million to make a film in which all I do is beat the hell out of people, I'm fine with that. Nobody's going to book me to do Shakespeare, nor should they. I know what I am, I know what I do. On that same point, I think there's a huge need for [a pure action star]. Nobody's going to buy Ben Affleck as an ass-kicker.

Body Slam

M&F: How big of a bodybuilding fan are you?

Hunter: Last year I didn't go because I was getting married that day, but the three years prior, I've been to the Olympia Weekend. I go there as a huge fan. [IFBB Pro Division Chairman] Wayne DeMilia laughs at me. He has said to me backstage, "You're the biggest celebrity here, and you walk around with your eyes wide open, looking at these guys like you're in awe."

I am. Maybe they're fans of mine, but I'm a fan of theirs.

M&F: With your pedal-to-the-metal schedule, how do you ever get a workout in?

Hunter: That's hard. When I hear people who are home every day say, "I don't have time to work out" -- you have time to work out. I've trained in a grass hut in Africa before, where I had to use cinder blocks for weights. It's not about having a million-dollar gym. It's all what you want to put into it.

M&F: What's your general approach to training?

Hunter: When I go to the gym, my goal is to focus and bust ass. I train hard -- to failure -- for a short period and then leave my body alone to recover.

M&F: How many days per week do you lift?

Hunter: I usually get in the gym about four days a week. I split my bodyparts up. Chest and biceps, shoulders and triceps, back, and legs. Or, right now for example, I'm not getting to the gym as much, so I do a three-day split: legs one day, chest and back one day, shoulders and arms one day.

M&F: What does a typical workout look like?

Hunter: My workouts aren't long, only 30-45 minutes, 2-4 exercises per bodypart. Once I'm warmed up, I'll do just one set to failure -- aiming for 6-8 reps per set for upper-body exercises, 10-12 or more for legs -- and I move to the next exercise. Very rarely do I do multiple sets to failure. I stick to basic exercises, depending on my injuries at the time. My chest, for instance -- about a year ago I had an elbow problem that limited my pressing ability, so I started prefatiguing. I'd warm up on the bench press, then do a set of pec-deck flyes to failure right before my heavy working set of benches. I was still reaching failure on the bench, but with a lot less weight than I could lift normally, which didn't bother my elbow.

M&F: What's your current goal, physique-wise?

Hunter: It changes all the time. I'll get real lean, like last year for Wrestlemania when I dropped to about 250. Once I got there, I immediately wanted to get heavier again. Around 265 is about as heavy as I normally go. That's because I have a fast metabolism -- the hardest thing for me is eating enough food to maintain my bodyweight, especially when I'm wrestling a half-hour every night and training.

M&F: When and why did you start working out?

Hunter: I was over 6 feet tall and was 150 pounds when I was 14. I knew I was thin, but it wasn't like an obsession to get bigger. I was a huge wrestling fan growing up, and the pictures of bodybuilders I saw in magazines always impressed me. I wanted to be like that. I just fell in love with the process of it, going to the gym, pushing myself -- the harder you train, the more results you get. I like the discipline of it.

M&F: How strict are you with your diet?

Hunter: I eat relatively clean -- high protein, moderate carbs and fat -- with cheats here and there. I eat a lot of steak, chicken, turkey, fish and egg whites. As far as carbohydrates, I usually eat rice, potatoes, vegetables and some pasta. I also use a lot of creatine, protein powder and protein bars, and I supplement my fat intake with fish oil. If I'm busy and can't catch a meal, a protein shake is my first option, a bar is my second. I try to eat every 21/2-3 hours.

Grappling Pedigree

M&F: What do you still want to accomplish in your wrestling career?

Hunter: It's funny. People will say, "What do you have left to accomplish?" I love getting in my character, being able to go out in front of 50,000 people and control their emotions, either make them hate somebody or love somebody. To be in front of that many people is the ultimate adrenaline rush.

I look at guys like Rick Flair, he's in his 50s and has been in the business for 30 years. What does he have left to prove, he proved everything 20 years ago, you know what I mean?

I love the business, I love being involved in it, I love the behind-the-scenes of it. It's not about proving things or accomplishing something I've never done before. I just enjoy the process.

M&F: What's your role behind the scenes at the WWE?

Hunter: I don't necessarily write, but in our business, talent is always asked opinions, and we have the ability to speak up. Because I've done that, and because I've proven I'm good at it, I'm asked a lot. There've been periods, like when I was out with my quad injury, that I would go to meetings, set up matches and help come up with ideas just because I still wanted to be around the business. I've always looked at the WWE as a partnership deal; I just want to make the product the best it can be.

M&F: How's your quad? [Editor's note: Hunter tore his left quadriceps clean off the bone during a match on Monday Night Raw in May 2001 -- a match he went on to finish before being carried backstage. After an operation and 10 months of intense rehab, he returned to wrestling on Jan. 7, 2002.]

Hunter: It'll never be 100%. It can't be. A lot of people don't know this, but when I came back that year and we were heading into Wrestlemania, my knee really started hurting me.

I went to the doctor for a checkup and found out part of my kneecap, where the holes for the sutures were drilled, broke off, floated over and lodged in a tendon. It was all calcified over. Dr. Andrews [who did his quad re-attachment surgery] asked, "Is it hurting you?" and I said, "It bothers me, but I can deal with it." So we're leaving it in there for now.

M&F: In October you married Stephanie McMahon [who works behind the scenes at the WWE and is also a regular on-camera personality]. Is it better or worse for your relationship that you're both in the same business?

Hunter: The nice thing for us is we share a passion. She works harder than I do, than anybody I know. She's very driven and goal-oriented, and I admire that. It helps that we can relate to everything that happens to us. She understands what I'm going through on the road, and I understand what she's going through at the office.

M&F: What do you two do to relax?

Hunter: Sleep [laughs]. When you're home so little, when you get there you like to stay. One of my favorite things to do with Steph is to be lazy around the house for the day, get dressed up that night and go out to a nice dinner, then go home and watch a movie. Also, when I have time off, I like to go to the gym. Believe it or not, for me, training is relaxation.

M&F: How much longer do you see yourself wrestling?

Hunter: If you had asked me four years ago how long I have left, I'd have said forever. Then I tore my quad. It changes your perspective. Now I'm realistic. I still think I have a long time, but I understand that if I do get injured, it can all stop. I'm not going to look that gift horse in the mouth anymore. I'm going to enjoy every moment. M&F

Real Name: Paul Michael Levesque
Birthdate: July 27, 1969
Birthplace: Nashua, New Hampshire
Residence: New Hampshire & Connecticut
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 250-265 pounds
Wrestling Career Highlights: Debuted in the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) in May 1995. Since then, he has won numerous championship belts, including the WWE, World Heavyweight, Intercontinental, European and Tag Team titles, and was the 1997 King of the Ring.