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On paper, Paul Levesque appears to be just another busy businessman with a family living in the burbs. He’s 46 years old, wears a suit to the office, works late hours, lives in Connecticut, and is happily married with three kids. He even finds the time to exercise. But Levesque isn’t your ordinary paper-pushing number cruncher. At 6’4″, 255 pounds, he’s kind of a big deal—literally—that’s because Levesque, World Wrestling Entertainment’s Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events & Creative, is also Triple H, former WWE World Heavyweight Champion. We spoke with the King of Kings covering topics that include his upcoming title bout, dealing with prematch jitters, his family life, retirement, and craving macaroni and cheese.
SEE ALSO: The Triple H Workout
MF: What are your prematch rituals to get pumped up?
When you get to WrestleMania, with more than 90,000 people, there’s nothing you need to do to get excited. For me, it’s trying to keep calm. That overexcitement, that overadrenaline is what wears you out during the day. Usually you’re extremely nervous right up until the point you’re about to go through the curtain, and then you just get into performance mode. I’ve had younger talent say to me, “I’m sure you don’t get nervous anymore.” If you get to a point in your career when you’re not nervous anymore, you should start thinking about doing something else, because you have stopped caring.
HHH: How has your workout routine changed as you’ve aged?
When I was younger it was about getting into the gym and lifting heavy and training from a bodybuilder’s standpoint. As long as the look was there it was all good. As I have gotten older, I realized it’s all about athletics, health, and feeling good; the look just comes along with it.
— Triple H (@TripleH) March 28, 2016
Are your daily workouts different from when you’re preparing for a match?
From a strength component not necessarily, other than I probably pick up the pace and add a little more volume. I add in a lot of cardio and then I start boxing two days a week. I can’t do the stairclimber or elliptical. It’s mind-numbingly boring to me.
Between your commitments to being a Superstar and running the company, how do you find time to train?
That’s the biggest thing my wife [WWE executive Stephanie McMahon] and I struggle with. We travel a lot, and when we’re home our schedules are extremely busy. We often sacrifice sleep, which I don’t recommend, but it’s what we have to do. We get up in the morning and take the kids to school, go to the office and we’re there all day, get home in time to get them in bed, and you want to play with them a little bit and hear about their day. Then we train at midnight every night. I don’t buy the whole “I don’t have time.” If you really want to do it, you’ll make time and you’ll get it in. I understand the importance of rest and sleep, but I think your body is remarkably adaptive and can function with a lot less sleep or rest than most people think.
How many hours of sleep do you try to get?
I’m excited when I can get five [hours of sleep]. If I get six, I’m awesome. If I start getting down in the fours, I start thinking tomorrow is going to be brutal.
When we interviewed [WWE chairman and CEO] Vince McMahon, your father-in-law, he mentioned the importance of a cheat meal and how he indulges in Oreos. What’s your stance on cheat meals?
You have to shock the system; cheat meals keep your body functioning more efficiently. The one thing about having kids in the house is there are things you would never crave, but then you see the kids eating a big bowl of mac ’n’ cheese and say, “Man, I can eat that mac ’n’ cheese right now.” Then it gets in your head, and by the time your cheat meal comes, you’re like, “You know, what I want is a really big box of mac ’n’ cheese.” Sometimes it’s chocolate chip cookies. They like to bake, so sometimes all I can smell is chocolate chip cookies.
What’s it like transitioning from Triple H, the champ, to Paul, the family man?
I am a dad and husband first—they’re the most important things I do. You can have the worst day in the world, then you come home and [your kids] come running over and throw their arms around you and it all goes away.
Do your daughters watch any WWE programming?
They do. They are 9, 7, and 5. The little one will turn the WWE Network on and go to town watching the women wrestle. My oldest one talks about getting in the ring; she loves coming on the road, being in the locker room, and talking to the women. She’s had training sessions with Nattie Neidhart and Charlotte, and now and then she’ll want to try and roll in the ring with me. It’s really cute.
Would you and your wife be supportive if any of your kids decided to join the business?
I’d love it and support it, if that is what makes them happy and that’s what they want to do. WWE is a wonderful business and very family friendly. [But] at the same point in time, my middle daughter wants nothing more than to own a nonprofit farm for wayward animals, where she lives in a tree house and operates [the farm] with magic money that comes in somehow. That’s her goal, and if that’s what she wants to do, I’d support that, too. You just want them to be happy at the end of the day.
What are the challenges of being both an in-ring Superstar and an executive?
Going from the locker room and the road to coming into the office and working with the executives, it’s a totally different mindset and culture. You have to learn how to switch hats quickly. Something I always marveled at when I would first come into the office was Vince’s ability to switch hats instantaneously. One minute he was looking at logo designs, the next minute he was making a decision about an international market, then 10 seconds later he was doing something creative that had to do with the show. And that’s what it takes because there’s so much flux.
I’m in charge of talent, live events, and a lot of the creative. I also have a lot of input with certain programming. To be honest, if I weren’t on the show every week my life would be a whole lot easier. It takes up a lot of time.
Why is it so difficult to become a WWE Superstar?
I often say we don’t fit in a bucket. You can be great in the ring but have no personality or be terrible talking in front of large crowds, which won’t work out well. There are so many factors. Charisma is a factor, in-ring ability is a factor, and you can’t say one is more important than the other. Charisma is the one you can’t teach. It’s one thing to train somebody and get them ready to be able to get into the ring and have a match, but it’s a whole other thing to make them into a star.
What’s the process to become a Superstar?
There are so many avenues where we look to recruit talent. It’s from virtually every sport. Whether it’s the Olympics, NFL, soccer, and rugby or sports many have never heard of like kushti and kabaddi in India. We’re looking for athleticism and charisma—that larger-than-life persona that makes you stand out in a crowd. Just because you make it in the door, doesn’t mean you’ll make it any further.
In 2015, we had hundreds of thousands of people send in applications, and we recruited. Three hundred came in for actual tryouts, and out of that 300 about 30 made it into the WWE Performance Center. It’s a difficult process, and that’s why we started the Performance Center in Orlando. It allows us to bring in these athletes from all over the world and train them. There has never been a system like we have at the Performance Center now. I tell talent at the Performance Center: Think of every performer who was in this business before the past couple of years. Every Superstar from Shawn Michaels to Randy Savage to Andre the Giant. They all achieved a level of success without being given the tools you’re being given. So what can you do with those tools? Imagine what they would have been if they had had those tools. We give them everything conceivably possible to make it in WWE, and the rest is on them.
You’re 46 years old, still in fantastic shape, and the fans love watching you perform. When will you hang up your wrestling boots?
I think about that. I don’t want to be doing this just to do it. In the past several years there have been opportunities that have presented themselves. It all depends on the year. If you ask me right now about next year, I’m not even thinking about next year. I’m thinking about WrestleMania, and on Monday, after WrestleMania is over, I’ll think about what’s next after that.