Before Paul “Triple H” Levesque returns to the ring with his wife, Stephanie McMahon, for a mixed-tag team match against Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey at WWE’s biggest show of the year, I had the chance to chat with him about how the Performance Center is shaping the future of WWE, how quickly Rousey has progressed since joining WWE, and why this match at WrestleMania is so special for him.
You can watch WrestleMania live around the world April 8th on the WWE Network at a special start time of 7 p.m ET.
Every match that’s penciled in for WrestleMania 34, besides John Cena vs. The Undertaker, features someone who has put in work at the Performance Center. This has to be further proof that your vision for the future of WWE is coming true.
“Absolutely, stats like that prove that the Performance Center is working. Stats like 80 percent of the roster came through here prove that it’s working.
You can look at a lot of those talents and say ‘Yeah well they’ve had long careers and worked at other places,’ and they did, but they didn’t have the television experience. It’s a different world here and it’s hard unless you’re in it to really understand what goes into this product.
Whether a talent works out creatively is a totally different thing, but there are very few people who step onto the Raw or SmackDown stage, and especially the WrestleMania stage, who don’t feel like they’re ready for it. I think that is the real success of the PC.”
One of those people just happens to be the biggest free agent signing that you’ve made. When Ronda Rousey started her training, what stuck out to you in a positive way and what was something that made you say to yourself, well we’re going to have to work on that right away?
“I was shocked … I shouldn’t say shocked because she’s such an amazing athlete, but I was very pleasantly surprised by her level of athleticism and ability to pick up the stuff that we’re doing so quickly.
She’s very Kurt Angleish in that Kurt was the fastest person I’ve ever seen pick this business up. I don’t know if it’s because the mannerisms are similar, I’m honestly not really sure, but he just went from a guy that was walking into the door into bang he had it. She’s the same way with the physical aspect.
The things that I think require a totally different learning curve and Kurt had to go through this as well, is being the entertainer. Everything that you do in a combat environment is geared towards no emotion. It’s concise small movements that give you maximum impact in the outcome of your physical contest, but you don’t even see them so to speak.
With us being an entertainment product, if you don’t see it, it didn’t actually happen. Making things bigger, making things more spectacular. Making yourself larger than life and finding that mix between sport and entertainment, which is what makes us who we are is really what she needed to work on and that’s kind of what you would expect.
And then obviously the speaking aspect to the business is something that needed work. It’s one thing to do an interview when somebody comes up to you and asks you a question because it’s just you answering a question, but now you’re a character and now you get asked a question on camera and you have to be something different. Even if we’re not asking you to be, it’s a different mentality and it’s a huge learning curve.
I will say even on that level, she’s just such a quick study. The one thing about Ronda is, she is a machine when it comes to a goal. Whether that’s the physical side of it, the mental side of it, the speaking side of it, the character side of it, she is laser focused. If you give her an example of something, she will do it 10,000 times at that moment if you don’t tell her to stop doing that. She will just relentlessly do it.
A few weeks back when we were training at the Performance Center she got food poisoning the day before and was as sick as could be, but the next morning she showed up at the crack of dawn and was in the ring just going to town and we finally had to tell her, that’s enough. She was turning green, but she was not stopping. I respect that massively.”
Very clearly a sign that she wants to succeed very badly.
“Oh my God yes. It’s so evident in everything that she does. Her nervousness comes from the fact that she wants to be so good at this. She’s not coming in here going, ‘Oh I want to pick this up and do justice to it.’ She wants to be the best, she wants to take this to another level. She wants this side of her to be everything it was in past sides. She wants this act of her life to be bigger than anything else she’s ever done and she’s attacking it that way.”
I was shocked when I went back and looked at your match history with Kurt Angle. You guys only worked seven televised one-on-one matches. It has to be surreal to work with him in 2018 on the company’s biggest stage.
”Yeah it is, he and I talked about that a little bit ago. It’s exciting for me to see Kurt back home and it’s actually Kurt. He doesn’t have demons, he doesn’t have issues, he’s back to the Kurt I knew years ago. I’m really happy for him. Now he gets a second opportunity to step into the ring, not like he did at Survivor Series, but step into the ring at WrestleMania, on that stage. It’s special to be able to share that moment with him.
There are so many levels to which this match is meaningful for me; my wife has never competed at WrestleMania before and to see her compete in the ring with somebody like Ronda, for me to be in the ring with her when she gets that moment and opportunity is amazing. It’s also amazing for me to be in there with Kurt when he gets to have his WrestleMania return moment and then also to be in the ring with Ronda on her first foray. It’s really, really cool.
For Ronda this is just step one. This is the nice, smooth, opening foray into this business that gets her on the map. I think that people are going to be very pleasantly surprised by what they see.”