Paul “Triple H” Levesque is one of the few people still involved with WWE that had endured the Monday Night War where WWE went head-to-head with the ill-fated World Championship Wrestling. WCW put together 83 consecutive wins in the ratings before ultimately succumbing, but there was a four year stretch of that competition that took the professional wrestling business to heights it had never before reached.
Levesque recently joined The Bill Simmons Podcast and discussed having competition for the first time in nearly 20 years and touched on some of the challenges the new generation of fans have brought the professional wrestling business.
“Competition is good,” Levesque said. “It keeps things fresh and going strong. I’m not going to belittle anybody’s anything, but when you look back at the track record of a company that can shift, pivot and move. It might take time, it doesn’t happen on a Thursday if you know what I’m saying. It takes time and effort as there’s a lot of pieces to move, but you’re looking at a company that has recreated itself over and over again and stayed relevant to the next wave coming in. The strength of this company is being able to withstand the ebbs and flows of the business.”
“People talk about hard work,” Paul continued. “I’ve never seen anyone outwork Vince McMahon. God bless him, he’s worn out a lot of people, trust me. It’s what we do and I put my money on this. People ask me all the time if I ever contemplated leaving during the Monday Night War and I always told them, ‘I’ve been there and I’ve been here.’ Once I saw and met Vince and his passion for his company, there’s just no way I would have ever left. The way he can pick up, shift and pivot and do whatever it takes, it’s really awe-inspiring.”
Simmons went on to mention how stacked the roster was in the late 90s and early 2000s with having so many huge stars at the same time battling to be the top guy and what the challenges are in building new stars for this generation. Triple H went on to respond that it wasn’t always the case and sometimes it takes a lot of pieces being moved around one way or another for the future stars to elevate their game.
“As far as building new stars, you just continue to do what you do,” Levesque said. “You continue to put your talent out there and pulse out there. Again, it doesn’t happen overnight. You mentioned the late 90s and the amazing talent in here, but if you had gone back just a couple years prior to that and moved the top couple of guys, you would be thinking this company has nothing. You flip forward, when Steve Austin was brought in, he wasn’t brought in as the guy that’s going to save this company. The Rock, certainly a lot of potential and hope, but that first run of his wasn’t what he had hoped for or anybody else and everybody kind of wrote him off. Foley, too. The list goes on and on.”
“Even before that when Hall and Nash were leaving,” Paul continued. “Bret and those guys, if you had asked who’s the next one to step up, I don’t know if you’d have picked that certain group of people. I used to say it all the time and people perceived it as a knock, but to me, one of the best things Hogan ever did was leave. I don’t mean it as a knock to him, but there’s a certain comfort level there. Sometimes it’s just like you can’t get into a new relationship until you end the one you’re currently in. It’s a process and I would put my money on this company every day.”
Triple H then went on to talk about how different it is for him to be on the other side of the equation now as an executive compared to an in-ring competitor. He mentioned that at this point in his life and career, he prefers his new role and takes a greater sense of pride in seeing his NXT stars continue to grow and develop into bigger and better stars.
The conversation took a turn back to the current product and Simmons touched on RAW being three hours and how watered down it seems. Triple H admitted that it’s strictly a financial decision as having the third hour brings in more money from the network. He went on to say how hard it is to write a third hour of television.
“I can say this to you,” Triple H said. “As much as people complain about it and wish it was two hours, it is exponentially harder to write a third hour of television. I can’t even explain to you how difficult it is. I don’t even like three hour movies, to be perfectly honest with you.”
Simmons relayed on how WWE has always been able to incorporate whatever was going on in America into storylines and asked why it seems like WWE has been steering away from that in recent years. Levesque responded by saying how much different the world is these days and there has to be calculated risks taken from a business standpoint and sometimes there’s a fear of driving even more viewers away.
“I think that there’s a uniqueness in this cancel culture that we’re in that no matter what you do or say, you run the risk of alienating half the people that are out there, maybe more,” Levesque said. “I think you have to be a lot more calculated than you could be with something in the past. You could run an angle in the past and try to maintain a line and try to go far with that line, get some backlash and then you can pull it back and it goes away. Now, today, it’s just different and you have to be careful with all of that. You see it everywhere across the board. It’s too easy to put yourself in a position that people just say they’re done.”
“I also think in the short attention span theater of the world, the things that have been most relevant in the last 5 years you could pick out a handful that you thought this was the viewpoint and it’s relevant to now it’s the complete opposite viewpoint and that’s relevant,” Paul continued. “It’s almost difficult to latch on to a moment in time because that moment in time is intense, but it’s brief. Two weeks later and nobody’s talking about it anymore but it was such a huge thing and everyone was talking about it. It’s a unique time in the world and I have a feeling that it’s only going to get more unique.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Bill Simmons with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.