If you’ve suspected that wrestling is really just acting, well, multiple-time WWE champion Paul “Triple H” Levesque agrees with you. Levesque phoned up Long Island Press to talk about his latest venture into film acting, Inside Out, in which he plays an ex-con whose self-rehabilitation involves…peddling pickles. I kid you not. Levesque also told us about his history with wrestling, the pros and cons of the trade, and he even weighed in on the verisimilitude of Mickey Rourke’s The Wrestler.
Why did you choose wrestling as your life passion? I was a huge fan [when] I grew up. I can remember seeing wrestling for the first time, seeing TJ Strongbow wrestling when I was probably like five, I think. And I just remember being mesmerized by it, like a superhero come to life. My dad was a big fan, and his dad was a big fan. That was kind of a bonding thing for us. So it was just a huge part of my life, and continues to be.
Both wrestling and acting have a lot in common, with the drama, make believe and playing characters on public display. How have those two roles in life been different and the same for you? I think in essence what we do is really one and the same. The stunts are more constant in wrestling. But if you really break down what we do, wrestling is just theater. You know, it’s acting. But instead of making a movie, you’re doing theater. And instead of doing a movie, you’re performing in front of 20 or 30 thousand people. You’re playing to the guy in the back. But when you get to making a movie in Hollywood, it’s really toning stuff down. You can almost think an emotion, and it comes out on camera.
So what sorts of people do you think are drawn to wrestling? It’s people who want to be entertainers. This is all they ever wanted to do. Then we have guys who were football players, and it didn’t pan out for them. And they think, man, I want to do something athletic. Maybe I’ll give this wrestling thing a try. But we have all different types. This is not for everybody. It’s a very physical business. And there’s a lot of travel, it’s the second largest touring thing in the world, next to the circus. It’s nonstop. And that’s not a lifestyle for everybody.
What’s the best thing, and the worst thing about being a wrestler? The best thing is those 20 minutes that you stand between those ropes and you get to perform for the fans. And the worst part? Traveling from town to town. You know, they want to see John Cena, the guy they see on TV every week. “Holy cow, now he’s in my home town! Wrestling in front of me!” But to do that, you have to travel around the world. But it’s the stuff you do… You’re willing to do it to get those 20 minutes inside the ring.
And what did you think of the movie The Wrestler and Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of a wrestler? I thought it was a phenomenal movie, and that Mickey was unbelievable. He’s a great, great talent, and a huge fan of the WWE. And I think that’s why he chose to do that role—he connected with it passionately. But it could have been about anybody; it could have been about a rock star. It’s about someone who makes bad choices in their life, and at the end of the day, can’t move on. I mean, that movie could have been Mike Tyson. It could have been a lot of different things. But it happened to have been about our business.
How true to life do you feel The Wrestler was? I feel [it was] true to life for a very small segment. Like when they’re portraying Mickey as working on what they call the independent scene of wrestling—that’s very small. Is it reflective of the WWE? Absolutely not. In no way. Does it exist out there? Sure, it does. I think that portrayal of it was accurate. You know, from the standpoint of a guy so willing to hang on to that pipedream that he will go to the lowest depths of what it is he does, to try to hang on to it. But for every guy who ends up that way, there’s 10 guys that end up in a great place. But that’s not a very exciting story! So it’s much easier to tell the other one.
And what is next for you? Oh God. There’s always something next. I’m still in the ring…