This month has seen the release by WWE Home Video of Triple H – Thy Kingdom Come, the definitive three-disc boxset chronicling Triple H’s wrestling career. It’s not the first time, of course, that the promotion has attempted to cover ‘The Game’s journey in such a way – but it is the first time that they’ve done it right.
Spanning some eight hours in total, Thy Kingdom Come features an excellent documentary on the career of Paul Levesque that is boosted significantly by an excellent cast of talking heads lending extra gravitas to what has unquestionably been an extraordinary career: Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Sean Waltman, The Rock, William Regal, Vince McMahon and many others all lend interesting perspectives to key moments of HHH’s career, but the real draw is The Undertaker who makes a number of rare out-of-character appearances to offer his veteran insight and endorsement of The Game.
Talking heads and crotch chops
The documentary itself tackles all of the subject matter that you would expect from such a release. From his early days portraying Terra Ryzing and French aristocrat Jean-Paul Levesque in WCW, the young grappler’s future star power is clear, and it’s not long before he moves to WWF to take on the persona of Greenwich blueblood Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Of course, his induction into the Kliq closely follows his arrival into the company, as does the infamous ‘Curtain Call’ – explored with surprising candour – which set back a career that, the release explains, was at that point tipped for an early main event run alongside heavyweight champion Shawn Michaels.
Looking back with hindsight, that may have ultimately been a blessing in disguise, as it enabled Helmsley to establish himself firmly within WWE’s upper-mid-card, first by becoming Intercontinental Champion and then by winning the 1997 King of the Ring tournament – all of which led the way for HHH’s real star vehicle, D-Generation X.
Around the same time period, of course, came the arrival of Chyna – who, unsurprisingly, doesn’t lend her voice to this WWE retrospective, but is portrayed in a positive light as a key differentiating factor and boost for the rising star. DX’s risqué shenanigans from 1997-98 are shown, reminding fans just how good they were in their prime – as is HHH’s transition to leader of the group, his feud with The Rock, and step up to becoming World champion. Interestingly, Steve Austin’s reluctance to drop the gold at Summerslam 1999 is briefly addressed, but is ultimately disregarded by 2013′s Helmsley.
Marrying into wrestling royalty
From this point on, the DVD focuses on the main event star that we know today – multiple World championships, serious injuries and rehabilitation, 2006′s ill-advised but allegedly “fun” DX reunion and, of course, Levesque’s real-life relationship, and subsequent marriage to, Stephanie McMahon.
This is where the release really comes into its own for fans, with fascinating insight offered by Triple H, Stephanie, Vince and Linda McMahon, all giving their views on the early days of the relationship and the volatile combination of “office” with “talent”. Despite the numerous naysayers on both sides of the curtain, it’s clear now that the couple have a strong relationship outside of the squared circle built on firm foundations – but at the time, Helmsley’s romance with the Chairman’s daughter was considered by many as a tactic to maintain his stranglehold on WWE’s main event scene; a widely-held cynical view amongst fans but one that doesn’t completely add up, given Helmsley’s already-strong position on the card at the outset of the relationship.
Bringing the documentary almost bang-up-to-date (Helmsley’s current on-screen persona, and partnership with Randy Orton, haven’t made the cut), the documentary draws to a close by looking at the Paul Levesque of today and his role behind the scenes as Executive Vice President of Talent and Live Events in WWE, shaping the promotion’s talent pipeline through the Performance Center.
Delivering in the ring
Match-wise, there are some choice, if somewhat surprising additions: Terra Ryzing vs Ricky Steamboat from WCW Saturday Night in September 1994 demonstrates how polished Levesque was as a performer at a very early stage; Helmsley vs Dude Love at WWF One Night Only 1997 is a fun affair that I had the privilege of seeing live; and the Judgment Day 2000 Iron Man clash against The Rock is a strong outing from both men held before a very vocal crowd, and is marred only by the chaotic and poorly-executed closing moments.
HHH’s Last Man Standing clash with Shawn Michaels at 2004′s Royal Rumble is a superb effort, and his 2007 SummerSlam main event against King Booker is a surprisingly fun affair, and a far cry from The Game’s burial of the same star in 2003. With additional clashes against the likes of Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam and Ric Flair featured, it’s a curious mix of bouts and not the selection of history-making moments that you might expect, but it does offer a strong summary of Helmsley’s in-ring work.
The future of the Game
In an era where virtually ever WWE superstar has been given the documentary treatment, it was about time that WWE delivered a detailed feature on a man that’s had a big role to play in its past success – and will be even more influential to the company’s future.
While few superstars (with the exception of John Cena) divide fan opinion more strongly, few can deny Triple H’s contribution to the industry, and this release is essential viewing for anyone that has any doubts about what that may be. It does, especially towards the closing five minutes, veer almost uncomfortably into schmaltzy territory, but by and large it’s a strong presentation that does justice to one of the sport’s biggest stars.
As the 13-time World champion’s in-ring career now appears to be all but over, it’s a fitting time for this DVD to be released, with Triple H’s on-screen persona now seeing him portray an exaggeration of his role as the apparent to the WWE Corporate throne – proof that sometimes, in life, fact really is stranger than fiction.