ON THIS DAY IN PRO WRESTLING HISTORY... WWE wrestler Triple H married WWE owner Vince McMahon's daughter, Stephanie McMahon... And no, I didn't mean for real. The man behind the Triple H gimmick, Paul Levesque actually married Stephanie McMahon for real on October 23rd, 2003 and the two remain husband and wife to this day with 3 daughters.
13 years ago on November 29th, 1999, however, a "game changer" wrestling angle happened for Triple H that put him on the map strongly as a heel. For on this day in pro wrestling history, the Triple H character married the Stephanie McMahon character on Monday Night RAW that would help set the stage for a great 2000 year for Triple H.
Triple H arrived to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1995 after a brief stint in World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He had a decent initial career in WCW as a midcarder, considering that in 1994, it was just HHH's third year as a pro wrestler. Triple H was initially named "Terra Ryzing" for the first half of 1994 and then repackaged as a well dressed snob named "Jean-Paul Levesque". The gimmick had some potential but the latter half of 1994 was greatly influenced by Hulk Hogan joining WCW and he brought many of his former WWF buddies from the 1980's with him that changed the roster and booking philosophy of a smitten Eric Bischoff of Hulk Hogan. As 1994 wore on, Jean-Paul Levesque became a tag team wrestler with "Lord" Steven Regal (now William Regal in the WWE). The man that would become Triple H desired a singles career instead and opted to join WWF during early 1995.
Repackaged as Hunter Hearst Hemsley, Paul Levesque was a nice addition to the midcard with the continuation of the snob gimmick and he was a regular staple of the many Pay Per Views during 1995-1996 (I always remember the Hog Pen match with Henry Godwin!). One thing that Triple H had going for him was a strong finisher called the Pedigree. As a midcarder, he consistently drew decent heat and had a finisher that was credible to finish matches. In need of main event heels, the WWF actually considered pushing Triple H during 1996. Happy with the willing business he did with the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania 12, the WWF eyeballed HHH as the winner of King of the Ring 1996. However, Triple H was punished for the infamous "Curtain Call" incident at the Madison Square Garden houseshow in which the Shawn Michaels (WWE Champion) and Triple H saluted the fans in the ring along with the departing Kevin Nash (Diesel) and Scott Hall (Razor Ramon). This was 1996 and the business wasn't as exposed as it is today... Personal friendships between heels and faces were not to be acknowledged in the wrestling business. HHH was depushed as a result to serve as punishment, especially doing this in the New York market.
But HHH soon rebounded and maybe a fast-track push for 1996 could have been bad for him... After all, Steve Austin actually won that King of the Ring 1996 event and delivered the infamous "Austin 3:16" speech that began his rise to fame. Later, Triple H would add his real life girlfriend Joanie "Chyna" Laurer as his bodyguard and she was a perfect addition to his character. HHH was a blueblood snob who had an muscle bound equalizer at ringside. His heat and in-ring ability steadily grew throughout 1997 and allowed the WWF to pair him up with his real life buddy, Shawn Michaels, to form the heel stable Degeneration X (DX). Thus, a 1996 push could have been detrimental as he was definitely ready for the bigtime during late 1997 with how DX quickly caught on. The chemistry with Shawn Michaels was instant and DX was able to draw large amounts of heat and cheers at the same time, quite possibly giving the WWF its own version of the NWO... Maybe cooler, provided the 1998 face turn that might have drawn better?
For the rest of 1997 and for 1998, Triple H spent the majority of his time drawing well with DX, both as a heel and then a babyface. After Wrestlemania 14 when Shawn Michaels lost his WWF Title to Steve Austin and had to take time off for his back injury, Triple H became the defacto leader of the group that now added X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg & Billy Gunn). They were full blown babyfaces now and DX shirts and merchandise were everywhere as WWF fans embraced the group and turned them faces by default. But with time, HHH became somewhat stale as a babyface and probably felt the wrath of Vince McMahon's "1 Top Babyface Rule" with Steve Austin hogging the babyface spotlight. Thus, a heel turn was in order for Triple H to elevate to the main event in spite of Austin.
As 1999 rolled along, Triple H signed new contractual deal with the WWF and the monetary boost was pricing in a successful main event push as a heel. The heel turn officially occurred at Wrestlemania 15 when both Chyna and Triple H fooled everybody by both appearing to reunite as faces but joining the Corporation through swerves within multiple matches (really creative booking at the time). HHH was firmly a heel, but other changes were needed. Through the summer of 1999, Triple H changed his look. He changed his tights, cut his hair a little bit (went for a wet look, too), received new ring music, and hit the gym for a much thicker look. He morphed himself to LOOK like a main eventer. But character wise, he wasn't quite there yet... He attempted to cut a few promos where he called himself "The Game", which received laughs by fellow wrestlers and critics initially... It was almost as if Rob Van Dam's characterization of him was true... "You spit your water out and yell grrrrrrr!"
Something major was not only needed for Triple H, but for the WWF as well. Steve Austin's neck required surgery and thus he was out for the end of 1999 and much of 2000. After being addicted to Austin from 1997-1999, the WWF had to realize life without Austin. They pushed the Rock as a babyface and were about to set the stage to push Triple H seriously as a heel main eventer. If you can't have Austin's absurd starpower by itself, you'll have a strong babyface in the Rock and a strong heel in Triple H. They were the anchors that made 2000 great, along with the many other superior talents acquired or promoted to main roster (Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Tazz, Dudleys, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Eddie Guerrero).
Stephanie McMahon, born in 1976 to the eventual WWF owner and operator, Vince McMahon, joined the WWF in 1998 after graduating college with a Bachelor's degree in Communications. She became an on-screen character during early 1999 and soon fell victim of being abducted by the Undertaker when the Corporation and Ministry were feuding (argh, eventually forming the Corporate Ministry when the "higher power" was revealed as Vince... Hopefully, I won't write a This Day column on that storyline!). If memory serves, Stephanie wasn't happy about the Corporate Ministry merger and it put her character at odds with her brother, Shane McMahon. Shane was feuding with Test back then and the angle was to have Stephanie McMahon fall in love with the Test character. In fact, there was an actual "Love Him or Leave Him" match at SummerSlam 1999 between Test and Shane McMahon. Test won, so thus the romance continued...
Test and Stephanie McMahon actually became engaged in the storyline and a wedding was soon in the works... After the wedding was briefly delayed by an amnesia angle (damn Davey Boy Smith throwing a trashcan at the wall, but it hit Stephanie!), the wedding was set for November 29th, 1999, on this day in pro wrestling history... Everything seemed perfect and to end RAW, the ring was converted into a chapel and everybody was dressed nice for the occasion. The wedding was about to happen until Triple H showed up and insisted that everybody watch the Titantron video... During late 1999, Triple H was actually feuding with Vince McMahon, as Vince had a face run (and a WWE Title win, ugh) during this period of time. He soon embraced the Test/Stephanie wedding, but then Triple H revealed his video on the 11/29/99 RAW:
Poor Stephanie must have had something in her drink during the bachelorette party, as Triple H drove a knocked out Stephanie McMahon to a drive-thru wedding chapel in Las Vegas. Yes, the "minister" marrying the lovely couple didn't just see the female half of the marital equation KNOCKED OUT and think nothing of it... Thus, with this Las Vegas drive-thru chapel marrying Stephanie and Triple H, the marriage between Stephanie and Triple H could not continue... However, Vince McMahon had an out... If Vince could beat Triple H at Armageddon 1999, the marriage would be annulled... And wouldn't you know it? Stephanie McMahon TURNED on her father at Armageddon 1998 and officially accepted the marriage with Triple H. The explanation was given that Stephanie was upset at her daddy for letting the Undertaker abduct her for the Corporate Ministry crap (I was thinking the amnesia angle changed her, but I can't remember!). The McMahon-Hemsley era was about to begin.
Triple H won the WWF Title and was soon thrust into a feud with Mick Foley. Foley, the perfect punching bag for all of the big stars (Undertaker, Steve Austin, Rock), helped put Triple H on the map with a 5-star epic battle at Royal Rumble 2000 and Triple H's own efforts helped prove that he was the in-ring performer that the WWF needed in the main event as a heel. HHH soon feuded with the Rock for a series of strong matches while also taking on anyone who wanted a piece. Great matches with Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle also occurred. HHH continued to compile 5-star match after 5-star match through mid-2001 when he shredded his Quadriceps tendon in his leg. Triple H, the wrestler, made it big and had arguably one of the best consecutive 18 months of any pro wrestler in history in terms of popularity and fantastic matches. The finishing touch to his character of marrying Stephanie appeared the last ingredient that he needed to make it big in pro wrestling.
During 2000, real life sparks began to fly... HHH's relationship with Chyna wore thin and ended. The stories from Joanie "Chyna" Laurer have changed based on how pissed she's at the WWE at the given time. More consistent reports suggest that Chyna/HHH was over during early 2000 and wasn't occurring when Stephanie/Triple H's real life romance began. Kissing each other on-screen and working together on the road brought Triple H and Stephanie closer together. Soon through mid-2000, something very real was there between the two and they became the major power couple within the WWF. By late 2000, Stephanie took over as "Lead Writer" of the WWF's Creative Team and she's never looked back as she remains in that role to this day (EVP - Creative). Eventually, the couple would wed 3 years later and through 2012, they appear to be the ones to assume the WWE mantle once Vince McMahon finally retires (or unfortunately passes).
For Stephanie as the lead writer of the WWE Creative team, the changes were noticeable. The guy before her who took over after Vince Russo left, television writer named Chris Kreski, was obsessed with storyboarding WWF storylines and seemed to have a longer-term view of storyline arcs and payoffs. 2000's storylines were tight and compact, although as the year wore on, you could see that Kreski's was just holding the job until Stephanie would assume it. Stephanie appears to have a very short-term view of storylines, as evidenced by the many knee-jerk title changes and RAW cards being written on the fly or rewritten repeatedly on the day of the show. Stephanie is also very controlling on the spoken word. Before, pro wrestlers were given a general idea on what to speak about and the wrestler would creatively get there. Now, most speeches delivered by WWE wrestlers are heavily scripted. WWE has hired many Hollywood television writers since Stephanie took over.
For Triple H, his influence on the WWF/WWE has obviously been from his close association with his wife Stephanie... But for the first half of the 2000's, it was to keep the Triple H character strong... Sometimes, too strong. The 2002-2004 Triple H was almost invincible, as he smashed many opponents on the Monday Night RAW brand and nobody seemed to have a chance at elevation. Guys like Kane, Chris Jericho, Booker T, Bill Goldberg, and Scott Steiner, all of which were former World Champions elsewhere, were eventually beat by the heel Triple H. However, Triple H did help bring back Shawn Michaels for 2002 and tried to elevate Chris Benoit during 2004. HHH's dominance as a top wrestler mellowed for the latter half of the 2000's, although he remains a strong presence when he's ever on screen. He's been spending more time recently behind the scenes to serve as Vince McMahon's trained back-up and possible backstage successor.
It seems that Triple H is mostly obsessed with pro wrestling talent as opposed to his wife's obsession with shows to be scripted like Hollywood television shows. Correct or incorrect, HHH often latches himself to talent that he deems are the "next big things". During 2003, he grew attached to Randy Orton and Batista and actually formed a stable called Evolution with those 2 along with Ric Flair. Within 2 years, both wrestlers would obtain World Titles. Randy Orton possibly won the World Title too early at SummerSlam 2004 while Batista would win the World Title from Triple H at Wrestlemania 21 in 2005. In recent years, Triple H has been quite high on his workout buddy, Sheamus. Also, Triple H tried to bring in Sin Cara as the next big sensation... Cara has had some success, but not up to expectations... But Triple H recognizes the growing Hispanic fanbase and has been looking further South for talent. He seemed to be politically instrumental in EVP of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis's demotion and Triple H, along with a crew of newly hired SVP's reporting to him, has fully taken over talent relations.
Regardless if you like Stephanie or Triple H's executive roles with the WWE, you have to accept them... As family, they are here to stay and Vince McMahon is more forgiving of them than he would be past bookers who didn't give him grandchildren...
But On this Day in Pro Wrestling History... The storyline that would finally put Triple H over strong as a main eventer occurred and it was the beginning of what would turn out to be a highly successful marriage and a business continuity plan for the WWE (like it or not).