James Dixon: The title might not make it obvious, but this is a profile tape for new WWF Champion Triple H and his sidekick / girlfriend / workout buddy Chyna. The title references Triple H’s “seagulls” music that he was using at the time, you see. Much like the snitch on Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows Part 2, we “open at the close” with Triple H’s recent (and first) WWF Championship win over Mankind on RAW. It should have been at SummerSlam the night before, but for various reasons that didn’t happen. Of note from the RAW match is Chyna’s reaction to Hunter winning the belt, as she appears to have a little orgasm. Anyway, Michael Cole narrates the tape. Why? Why is it always Michael Cole?
Three days after the win, we catch up with Hunter and Chyna riding in the back of a car, and Trips claims that: “The people who work in our office don’t even understand what we do” as pertains to the schedule, and then outlines what it entrails with the eating, travelling, etc. He says he would love to take some of them on the road with him for a month to experience the lifestyle. Maybe that is why he hooked up with Steph. Hunter says he judges cities not by how they look or any other criteria than where the gyms are and how easy it is to find something good to eat, and that he always looks for a Gold’s or World gym. Sounds thrilling. He adds that he fell in love with working out, which is not a revelation, and he gets cranky if he doesn’t go to a gym for a few days. But it is SO boring though. He brings up Ted Arcidi, of all people, who introduced him to Killer Kowalski’s wrestling school. We then see footage from his early days in the WWF when he was a snobby blue blood and a frankly tedious worker.
We go to a shoot style interview on Sunday Night Heat with JR. He talks about having residual anger left over from the way he was treated after the Kliq Curtain Call, because all he was doing was saying goodbye to his friends. Yeah, and pissing directly in Vince’s backyard at the same time by violating kayfabe for a public goodbye, when it could have been done in the locker room. Hunter says Vince told him: “I gotta punish somebody, and you’re my man” and that “Every day it’s eating a hole in my fucking stomach JR”, which isn’t bleeped out. JR tries to calm him down, to which Hunter responds: “You want me to fucking shoot?” and that “Nobody in the office had the balls to punish anyone else.” Erm, like who? Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were gone from the company and Shawn Michaels was the WWF Champion and new face of the company. Who the hell else could they punish? He talks about the burial he received and the office doing “everything they could to screw with me” such as putting him in the ring with bad workers, giving him no angles, jobbing him every week and such like. This is true, but then he got rewarded with the Intercontinental Title and a few months later was the King of the Ring. He says he found Chyna and that made the difference in turning things around for him, though the punishment was already over before she came in. Talk turns to Chyna essentially forcing her way into the WWF, with Vince initially resistant because he didn’t see the value in a monster woman because he couldn’t see a spot for a character like that, but eventually he succumbed to the pestering. He was right to acquiesce, because the Chyna bodyguard character was excellent. When she later became what amounts to a rhino dressed as a peacock; not so much.
Talk turns to the original incarnation of DX, and Hunter claims the WWF were trying to keep him and Shawn Michaels apart both onscreen and backstage, though he doesn’t say that it was because they were such colossal assholes at the time when they were together. He talks about the WWF giving them warnings about not saying certain things because they would get thrown off the air, and says they were getting letters from USA Network telling them to stop. In response DX made a mock press conference speech where they promised not to say certain things, but in the process said all of those things. When Hunter says they will have to make less dick references, Shawn responds “Ah, shit!” and Hunter tells him “Hey man, watch your fucking mouth”. All of this is uncensored too, making this one of the most potty-mouthed tapes out there. Staying with DX, though this time the new rebooted version, we see footage of X-Pac’s WWF return. He says he is back to “rip ass”, which is delightfully ironic given the arsehole tear he suffered years later on an indy show. Trips says he likes working with his buddies, not that nepotism runs rife or anything. Hell, his buddies are the only ones he would ever put over. Chyna then comes out with a real humdinger, claiming: “He’s always been held back, but he’s a nice guy so he won’t say anything”. Christ. Chyna tells a story of a pre-WrestleMania XIV rally in Boston, where some jerk in the crowd threw batteries at Shawn Michaels, which prompted a hissy fit from HBK, who stormed off. Man, he wouldn’t have lasted 5 minutes in the 70s. HHH had to improvise and cut the promo himself, which apparently won him some plaudits. The thing is, he shouldn’t have had to be the one who was building the main event of the most important show of the year when it didn’t even involve him. Chyna wishes he wouldn’t be so business orientated and would do more for himself. Well shit, he sure listened to THAT advice from 2000 onwards!
To the DX-Nation feud, and the immense DX parody of the Nation (with Hunter as “The Crock”) and subsequent brawl on RAW. To highlights of the ladder match at SummerSlam ’98, which I attest is a classic, despite Furious’ underplaying of it elsewhere. I rated it highly in The Complete WWF Video Guide Volume #4, and I stand by that. I think it is psychologically sound and historically very important, which adds to its allure. It made both guys, much like a ladder bout did for the Hardys and Edge & Christian the following year. Hell, you could even claim it established Shawn Michaels firmly as one of the best in the world after WrestleMania X. Yes, this suffers from “ladder selling”, which is similar to “cage selling”, in that it involves staying down for ages from innocuous moves and very slow climbing, but hey they had both taken a pounding. I prefer some slow climbing to a multitude of spots that mean nothing and lead nowhere. It’s a shame that instead of showing this properly, they put the least fitting music in history over the top. It is a jarring mix of jaunty panpipes and whistles, with a hint of Japanese techno sounds like it was gleamed from the leftovers of video game Mirror’s Edge. Obviously it wasn’t because that game came out a decade after this release, but that’s what it sounds like. This tape is honestly worth seeking out to hear how completely baffling this music is alone. Trips actually downplays the match and says it could have been even better if he was 100% fit.
We take a look at how Hunter injured his knee during a match with Jeff Jarrett, and it was one of those silly freak accidents from an innocent looking move, with his leg just getting stuck while planted and his knee twisting out. This was the first of three major leg injuries that caused him to miss extended periods of time out over the course of his career, with him tearing his quad in 2001 and missing eight months, and then doing the same thing again in early 2007. Regarding the 1998 knee injury featured here, Hunter says he was worried about it when he came back, with Chyna bollocking him for coming back too soon, before launching into a diatribe against the practice in the business of guys coming back sooner than they should from injury so they don’t lose their spots, which she rightly says is “very unhealthy”. It’s perhaps the most insightful thing she has ever said on camera.
Tangent: Within this section, Triple H says that Vince McMahon thinks anyone in the WWF could be the next Steve Austin, meaning he expects people to fight for their spots and opportunities, and then grab the brass ring with both hands. Now, that may have been true in 1999, but as I write this many years later, there is just no way. Since WWE became the only show in town in 2001, there is far too much fear in the locker room, with too many guys scared of losing their spots if they speak out and suggest something for themselves rather than just going with the flow. Plus, everything is badly and boringly scripted to the hilt anyway by writers who don’t know the business at all, so everyone just has to do what they are told and follow directives and sound like carbon copies of one another as they churn out fake sounding dialogue. The few who didn’t just sit there quietly and take what they were given were the ones who got over, but post Attitude the WWE made far fewer genuine money drawing stars than it should have done given the monopoly it had. Over the years in wrestling, it is always the guys who have gone slightly against the mould and done something fresh and new that have gotten over. That’s never going to happen when everyone is being written by the same people. Why could WWE not see that? Why is this relevant to this tape? Well, Triple H is someone who was given exactly that opportunity to go against the grain and get over in his own way (with DX), so he should know better than anyone what works best in wrestling from his own experiences of being allowed to let loose. The fact he became head honcho in the 2010s and didn’t implement a change back from overly scripted to natural and free-flowing, continues to annoy.
After Hunter returned, he donned some really ugly bright green tights and was booked in a WWF Championship match with The Rock in an “I Quit” match on RAW. We get a couple of highlights, including an idiotic Corporate Elbow onto a ring bell placed over Hunter’s face. It would hurt Rock way more! Trips says “suck it” instead of “I quit” and then comes back and pounds on Rock, but each time he could have it won he says he is not done and carries on with the kicking. The Corporation come out and threaten to break Chyna’s neck if Trips doesn’t quit, so he does. Then, because this is deep into Vince Russo’s reign of (t)error, Chyna turns heel on him. It’s retarded. Like, the dumbest friggin’ booking ever, because after the payoff a few months later, none of it makes ANY sense at all. None. Hunter and Chyna reunited in a few months and it was all a ruse! For more on this, check out Lee’s phenomenal breakdown of the booking for this angle in The Complete WWF Video Guide Volume #4. Trips tries to make sense of it all and defends Chyna turning on him, trying to kayfabe it a little, even though the rest of the tape hasn’t been kayfabed at all. Hunter points out that: “You gotta connive way ahead of the other connivers”, which was like his mantra as his career progressed.
We move back to Chyna, who was rejected from everything else she tried because of how she looked, but wrestling was obviously a perfect fit for her. Trips sums up her major flaw as being her focus and drive to better herself, which seems like a strange criticism but it actually makes sense because as he points out, as soon as she has reached a goal she doesn’t celebrate her achievement but instead focuses on the next target, and thus can’t enjoy her success. Curiously enough, that same thing ended up being a problem for her behind the scenes as well. Having being pushed to the moon, allowed to hang in the ring with the guys and even have an IC Title reign, she started to get greedy and want more and more. Instead of the WWF Championship that she coveted, she got shunted back down to the women’s division, which she wasn’t happy about, and then in 2001 when she demanded Steve Austin type money to sign a new contract, the WWF balked and let her go. Architect of her own downfall…
Back to the Hunter-Kane feud and them taking turns throwing fire at each other, as if that is just a normal thing that people do to each other. Michael Cole shines as usual, saying that: “Kane suffered superficial burns to the exposed parts of his body”. So, his arm and eyes then. What a terrible comment to completely cheapen the impact. We get highlights of their dull match from WrestleMania XV with more completely unfitting music. This one doesn’t have panpipes, thankfully, but sounds identical to a track from F-Zero X. Why does everything sound like a video game?
Back to Hunter and Chyna’s interview, and this time the muscular couple offer up relationship advice! “If the trash is nearly full, empty the bag” says Hunter. Well thank you very much. Freddie Blassie’s “advice to the lovelorn” this ain’t. Chyna says the couple are all about wrestling 80% of the time, and there is not much difference between their personal and professional lives. I guess 80% ended up not being enough for Trips, who wanted wrestling 100% of the time and dumped her for Stephanie McMahon so he could be fully engulfed by the industry. Good on him, I say.
Trips defends his 1999 heel turn and calls wrestling “a friendless business”. He has that right. As one old-timer once said: “Do you want to make money? Or do you want to make friends?”. Hunter says that no one wanted to see him wrestle Steve Austin for the WWF Title as a babyface, though neglects to mention that they didn’t particularly want him to as a heel either. He says it was time to get serious and that he dropped everything he had been doing for the last two years such as his catchphrases, the people around him, his look, etc. I agree with this decision, and guys like Tatanka and others who turned but remained identical in every regard should take note. Back to the pre-SummerSlam Jim Ross interview from Heat, and Trips goes on and on about how “it’s about me”. By the time the match came around he was like a broken record and everyone was sick of hearing him talk. The WWF pushed him to the top too hard, and he was forced down everyone’s throats so much that it almost didn’t stick. But the WWF were determined and stubborn. It was like they were saying to the fans: “This guy IS going to be a top star and you ARE going to accept him, and we are going to keep featuring him in key spots and putting him over everyone until you do”.
A Strap Match at Fully Loaded 1999 against the Rock features next, as Hunter continues to be put over everyone in sight. It did EVENTUALLY work (though it took a few months for fans to accept him as top dog, and he was helped by Steve Austin being out injured as 1999 drew to a close), but it shows the WWF could push people properly and elevate them with booking when they were determined enough. On this occasion fans weren’t quite ready, but the WWF persisted. What a marked contrast to WWE and its stop/start even-steven booking and constant derailing of pushes, or refusals to pull the trigger on guys when they were hot. I mean, again, Hunter as the guy in charge there should have been looking at his own push as an example of what works and how to make a star. Well, right up until the final few weeks before the big payoff show that is, but we will get to that in a minute.
Back to Chyna, who qualifies for the King of the Ring tournament by virtue of a win over Val Venis on RAW. This was the start of a dark run, with Chyna going over far more talented opponents and getting a push to the IC Title because she was a gimmick. I make my feelings clear on this elsewhere, but I disagreed with the whole thing. Not even entirely because she was a woman either, more that she was clunky and her selling was a shambles. Her match with Road Dogg at the King of the Ring PPV is shown, which Road Dogg wins after having protected his plums from a Chyna low blow by using a metal cup. Chyna says that sometimes she cries about not being able to do some things. What a mark.
With Triple H having won the long-winded strap bout at Fully Loaded to grab a title shot at SummerSlam, Vince Russo then interjected his colossal fat head and overbooked the build to the August spectacular to buggery, chopping and changing the advertised main event week after week until no one gave a shit any more. It starts with a promo on RAW between Hunter and guest referee for the proposed Austin-Hunter match; Jesse Ventura. This is your typical Triple H shouty and overly punctuated promo, as are the majority which set up the bout actually, which as noted changes a dozen times. I went over this in detail last volume, but the short version is that after being protected and booked like an unstoppable force for months, Trips then does a couple of jobs to Chyna and a double fall with Mankind in the weeks before the show. The only positive about any of this is the FANTASTIC DELIVERY from Linda McMahon when she shuffles the bout into a three way and calls it “the triple threat compromise”. That phraseology is layered with double meaning and tickles me every time I hear it. This time the highlights of the match in question are set to something from Streets of Rage, as our video game trend continues. And then Mankind wins, as the strongly pushed handpicked would-be WWF main event star fails to win the big one at the PPV, in a moment of choking that Lex Luger would be proud of. Yeah, great stuff. Kept us all guessing though, right Vinnie Ru? Erm…
The next night Trips threatened to break JR’s arm if Mankind didn’t give him a title shot. Mankind came out and agreed, but then Trips went ahead and broke it anyway. Mankind still gave him the shot, which rendered the whole thing as pointless, and made everyone out to be a liar. Surely as Mankind you would fight him but not put the title on the line if you were just wanting to avenge your buddy. Nonsensical booking aside, we end where we began with Hunter’s title win, before he closes out the tape by once again giving us his advice about emptying the garbage.
Summary: It’s a strange mix of good and bizarre, with the behind the scenes interview actually engaging and a genuine insight into the man and woman behind the characters. And then they go and kayfabe things, thus cheapening what has already been said. I have no problem with a kayfabe tape if that’s purely what it is designed to be, but mixing the two together for profiles like this just doesn’t work. Contrary to some of the best wrestling storylines which marry the two together so that people believe everything about the angle. It’s Jerry Jarrett booking 101. The best bio tapes the WWF has put out are the ones that take you behind the character and combine it with exciting footage, and this half does both of those things. As mentioned too the highlights are all set to wildly inappropriate music, which makes for a galling viewing experience at times. Worth checking out for sure, but perhaps not worth going out of your way to see due to some of the poor editing choices and occasionally out of place comments.