My Interview With Triple H In His Fake French Accent In 1994
Back in the mid 90s, yours truly hosted a nationally syndicated talk show. Was it about politics? Nope. Financial advice? No. Sports talk? Well… kinda. I hosted a show on the Talk America Radio Network called “Inside Pro Wrestling.” I had been a DJ doing music radio for about 5 years at that point and I was also moonlighting as a pro wrestling ring announcer. How does that happen?In high school, my neighbor and I learned all the moves because we were determined to become WWF superstars. But at some point, I grew out of pro wrestling and got into radio. My buddy stuck with it. He’d wrestle for $25 a night at high school gym fundraisers and they always needed a ring announcer. It was a fun way for me to sort of live that high school dream without having to give up beer, burgers and cake and wear a speedo. We got to do shows with all of our wrestling heroes we watched on TV growing up like Nikolai Volkoff, Rick Martel, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan.
Then in 1994, my radio and pro wrestling worlds collided. A national radio network based out of Boston gave the green light to a pro wrestling talk show. We were on all over the country… Miami, Chicago, Boston – as a 21 year old still in college studying broadcasting, that was a pretty big deal.Unfortunately the money on AM radio is terrible so we pulled the plug after 6 or 7 months. But in that time we got to talk with some of the greats… Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, and a young up and coming wrestler named Paul Levesque who I worked with when I did ring announcing for the legendary Killer Kowalski. Paul’s wrestling name back then was “Terra Ryzing.” (Try keeping a straight face in front of 500 people announcing that name.) He was a body builder from New Hampshire who definitely had the look to make it big. And in 1994, he got his first big break to go work for World Championship Wrestling with Hulk Hogan in Atlanta.
Paul was fortunately allowed to drop the name “Terra Ryzing.” Instead they had him use part of his real name, but made him act like he was a snob from France. “Jean-Paul Levesque” was an arrogant, blueblood in a goofy Masterpiece Theater costume with a thick European accent. In the studio, we chuckled when he had to use the bogus accent during the interview.
A few weeks before “Jean Paul” came on the show, we had WCW’s lead announcer Tony Schiavone on as a guest. I asked Tony which wrestlers he thought could take WCW into the year 2000. After all, it was the 90s and Hulk Hogan surely wouldn’t be around that much longer… right? Schiavone instantly mentioned Paul, saying that he reminded him of a young Ric Flair. High praise for a wrestler who’d only been on TV for a few months. Paul was pretty surprised to hear this and mentions how Flair was an idol of his.
Here’s a clip from the interview on “Inside Pro Wrestling” in 1994:
As time went on, Paul did well for himself. “Jean Paul Levesque” didn’t sell out any arenas, but when he moved on to the WWF a year later as “Hunter Hearst Helmsley, his career took off. “Triple H” held the championship 13 times, became pretty good friends with his idols he mentioned in the clip like Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, and now is part owner of the WWE.
My high school buddy by the way? He did alright for himself too. After doing those high school gym shows for $25 a night, he broke into the WWF a few years later as “Scotty Too Hotty.”
I’m not so much into wrestling these days, but it was a fun part of my childhood. When Monday Night Raw came to Tampa last year, we had some extra tickets at the station and I got to sit ringside. It’s amazing to me how the sport has evolved. I thought once the business was “exposed” and people knew outcomes were predetermined, that interest would die off. It hasn’t… people suspend disbelief as they do when they go watch a movie. Kids today idolize John Cena like I did “Rowdy” Roddy Piper when I was 12.
I sometimes wonder what life would have been like had I pursued wrestling. I wasn’t nearly as athletic Scott and Paul and at 6’4, I was far too tall to be an announcer. Fortunately radio’s been good to me. Seeing how those guys have to abandon their homes and family 300 days of the year, wrestle while injured, and the short time in the spotlight in a super competitive one company industry… I know I made the right call. But it’s always fun to look back.