Triple H was a guest on After The Bell with Corey Graves to celebrate his 25 years in wrestling.
Triple H and Graves talked discussed their time in quarantine, as well as this year’s WrestleMania. Graves mentioned that this year did not feature Triple H as an in-ring competitor. The Game noted how lucky he was that he didn’t have a match and talked about how this year’s WrestleMania felt.
“Another thing that seemed like a genius move at the time. A very good year to pick not to go to WrestleMania. I actually wasn’t, but in hindsight it was a smart move,” Triple H admitted. “What was was crazy is that it was such a different experience, like you know Corey, when you go to WrestleMania, there’s that whole build up for it, and then you get there and you’re there for a week, but man for us, from a business side, especially for me having the corporate side and the talent side over the last few years. It’s a week-long, forget sleep, forget anything. It’s just straight out. One minute, I’m at the business partner summit and I could change out of my suit in the car and put on sweats because I got to go do a rehearsal, and I got to go put a tux on because I got to go to the Hall of Fame. It’s just one thing after the other. This year was so different.
“There was still a lot of press and stuff happening into it, but in some ways, it didn’t feel like Mania but yet there was this craziness of trying to pull off something that big and that new in that environment that it kind of did feel like Mania in that sense. Like it was so big and so epic and just trying to accomplish that seemed so massive. Then I wasn’t there for a lot of it because a lot of it was being taped and shot during the afternoon and stuff, and I went off to do a different shoot. And then you get to WrestleMania itself and your home and now it’s two days, but I’m sitting at home for the first time. Since the moment I walked through the door of WWE, I’ve never been home for WrestleMania. Even the one that I missed due to injury, I was there. I was there sitting at gorilla the entire show. It was a surreal experience in that it didn’t at all feel like WrestleMania, but yet the epicness of it was still there because it was this undertaking that had never been done before so to speak.”
One of the highlights of WrestleMania was the Boneyard Match with The Undertaker and AJ Styles. Triple H was put in charge of putting together the match, and he talked about the conditions that they were working with.
“As we started coming down the pipe towards Mania, obviously Mania was taking place prior to WrestleMania [airing]. So, at that point in time, a lot of things were taking place at the same time. So when we got done shooting NXT television, I then went to Vince and was like, ‘so I feel like if there’s something that I can take and run with it, that would probably be the most helpful because everybody’s going to be running in different directions. And what do you think needs the most for me to look at it?’ And he was like, ‘the Boneyard match’, and I was like, ‘OK, great. So what is the Boneyard Match?’ He’s like, ‘I don’t know, like a graveyard. It’s in a graveyard.’ I said, ‘OK.’ He was like, ‘they got this huge field and it turns into a graveyard in the middle of nowhere.’ I go, ‘so what do you want it to be’, and he’s like, ‘I don’t know just make it good.’ So I was like so you want me to take that? He was like, ‘yes, please.’ I don’t remember what day it was, I went to Michael Hayes who was also an agent on that. I said, hey, I’m gonna grab this Boneyard Match. He was like, ‘thank God!’
“So we drove over to this giant field in the middle of nowhere, which was I guess I don’t know 30-40 miles outside of Orlando, and the giant field in the middle of nowhere ended up being like a one-acre lot and behind this barn at the end of a residential neighborhood with like a house across the street. We got out of the car, and I was like, ‘where’s the big field?’ And they were like, ‘no this is it right here.’ This area right here to that street right there and I was like, ‘you’re kidding me.’ Michael’s like, ‘this ain’t gonna work. We can’t do this. I gotta call Vince right now to tell him to put this in the studio or we got to find another location. Shoot this ain’t gonna work.’ And I said, ‘Michael, this is it. This the hand we have. This is the cards we’ve been dealt with’.”
Triple H talked more about the starting process of the match. He also said that the production, at first, was not there.
“We’ve got to figure out how to make this work now, but we had a hell of a team, and we started to put some stuff together. And we came up with some ideas, and then one of the tricks became, as you’re beginning to put this together, there’s only so much bandwidth of technology that can go around,” triple H said. “So we lay out all this stuff, come up with this concept and ideas, and we finally get to a place like some of this stuff could work. This might be a good with this design team that’s going to build out this little set, and I get to our tech people and I’m like, so how many people do I have in a crew for this, the camera crew? And they were like right now I got you one camera, and I’m trying to get you a second one, and I was like that don’t work. So I called up higher than that and was told yeah no. We’re shooting WrestleMania right now. Like I can get you one. I’m trying to get you a second.”
Triple H then said that his idea was to use the NXT digital team that included Jeremy Borash, who worked on the Final Deletion at Impact Wrestling and the Ultimate Deletion in WWE with Matt Hardy. He said that many were against the idea, but they had no other choice.
“So I then went to Vince, and I pitched him the concept and the idea. He’s like, ‘I love it. That sounds awesome.’ And then I said, ‘well problem is right now, I have one camera.’ He’s like, ‘well you can’t do it with one camera’, and I’m like, ‘well, I know.’ So I said I have a solution on it, but I don’t know that anybody else is going to be in favor of this and my solution was to use the digital team from NXT, Jeremy Borash and a team of digital shooters that we use there. A different format,” Triple H said. “I said, look we can shoot it with them and we can do it cinematic style and I could bring a bunch of cameras and I can shoot all at once. I’ll shoot it like a film. I’ll shoot it in a different format. And you know, I believe we can create something special with this, and I don’t know I think most everybody else was against it.
“Vince was like, ‘well, I don’t see we have much choice. So that’s what we’re going to do’.”
The Undertaker, along with many fans, speculated on his future after the Boneyard Match. However, Triple H rejects that notion because of the scale of the shoot when it came to time and cameras.
“So we gathered everybody up and we started laying it all out together and then set it up like a movie and went and shot it. I think we had seven cameras and we used a couple of drones in the process to shoot some of Taker’s arrival and things like that, but laid it out like a movie and shot. I’m watching all these camera shots, and look, we had a certain period of time to do this. Can’t shoot ’till it gets dark and then you got a certain period of time in which to do it. Then you’re done. Right? And there’s no second takes,” Triple H said. “I saw people after saying Taker could go forever and in this kind of format because like the physicality, there’s physicality. Like dude, AJ was flying around on the dirt on the hard ground with rocks. They were beating the tar out of each other, and it was a long shoot. We got it done, and it turned over pretty good.”
Triple H said he was proud of the work that everyone did for the match. He not only gave credit to the wrestlers in the match but also the production team that helped put the match together.
“I was proud of it. I was proud of the team that shot it. One because when I told them you guys are going to shoot The Undertaker match for WrestleMania, there was a lot of puckering going on, let’s just say. It’s the Undertaker and it’s WrestleMania. They were really excited about the opportunity, but that’s a lot of pressure,” Triple H said. “Then you get all that stuff and you see everything that you have on camera, but then it comes down to the edit.
“Once it went back to the TV studio, there’s a couple of guys that just made magic out of it. We went through it with them like you would a movie and here’s what we’re looking for. And then they took it and just created magic with it and scored it and did everything they needed to do with it. Top to bottom team effort. First and foremost Taker and AJ and Gallow and Anderson, spectacular performances, but from the team that built that set which was like literally a little grass yard.”
Triple H talked more about the location where they were shooting saying that if there was more light, then someone’s house would have been shown. He also talked about a car driving back and forth that was trying to see what was going on. Triple H noted how the match reinvigorated Undertaker.
“Literally when we were shooting into the graveyard, if it was light out, there’s a house right there, but luckily the guy that owned this place over here was his house and he had all lights off so you couldn’t see it on the other side of the darkness. There’s actually one shot in there where there’s a car that keeps going by. I’m like, ‘if this guy drive by one more time, I’m going to run out there to like smash his car window or something to get him out of here.’ It was the same guy. I think he’s trying to see what we were doing and kept driving by, but yeah, I was proud of it and happy for those guys,” Triple H said. “I really felt like for Taker, at this point in his career, a guy that I don’t have more respect for anybody that I do for him in the business, and for him to be at this point and be where he’s at. You’ll see when the special comes out, all the things he goes through, but for him to have that moment and be able to put out that that gets universally, you know kind of acclaimed, and I was thrilled for him and for AJ, but especially for him because it sort of felt like yeah, that’s my badass Undertaker right there. It kind of reinvigorated him in a way and I was really happy for that.”
Graves compared Undertaker to Clint Eastwood. Triple H talked more about the match and the character work that Undertaker and Styles did throughout the match.
“It’s funny you say that,” Triple H said. “It’s probably the third or fourth person that’s mentioned the Clint Eastwood thing to me. We talked a lot about everything before we got to shooting and even the scenes and stuff. The noise and mannerisms and the trash-talking was key. We talked a lot about that, and Taker can just do that stuff like trash talking is in his DNA. It’s a little bit more difficult for AJ, but he really delivered on it.
“When Taker came back, he’s like, ‘dude that was some badass trash-talking right there. That was my best Clint Eastwood.’ So there you go.
“My favorite stuff of AJ was the heel and the crying, begging, ‘Oh, please don’t.’ He played that stuff off so perfectly and it was brutal, but it turned out really awesome. I’m proud of him.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.