So last night Triple H appeared on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s wrestling podcast (LIVE ON THE WWE NETWORK ONLY NINE NINETY NINE MAGGLE) and spoke for about an hour, non-kayfabe, about the challenges of booking pro wrestling in an era where everybody who wants to know anything about wrestling can essentially know at least half of everything that goes on backstage. A lot of it was interesting. A lot of it was self-serving, and I don’t mean that in a condemnatory way: Triple H is for all intents and purposes the second-in-command of WWE and protecting himself does, to a certain extent, mean protecting the company as well. (Of course, when asked about CM Punk, HHH did his best to quietly and effectively shift blame back to Punk for the entire situation, and that was mostly crap.)
But what really struck me was when Triple H discussed Chyna, who revolutionized women’s wrestling in the late 90s and who is now effectively stricken from WWE’s history books, more or less, because following her wrestling career she did porn. The question of Chyna was raised because someone wanted Steve Austin to ask about whether she would ever be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Triple H danced verbally around the issue and never said the word “porn” or “adult film” or stated in any way what Chyna did; it was left unspoken or assumed. And he said, more than once, that there wasn’t any issue from WWE’s side and that he wasn’t judging her for her life choices – but what if his eight-year-old kid Googles “Chyna” and finds out about the porn?
This isn’t really about Triple H personally: if you look at how women wrestlers are treated in NXT (which Triple H books and runs) versus how they’re treated on the main roster (which Vince McMahon books and runs), it’s night and day: NXT women are allowed to be full, wide-ranging characters, and prove themselves as wrestlers. RAW Divas are eye candy at worst and at best have a choice of “fun-loving,” “bitch” or “crazy” as their character options, are dismissed or ignored by the announcers and treated as an afterthought, wrestling-wise. Clearly Triple H wants women’s wrestling to be a thing that sells tickets, which is both the progressive option and also the monetarily sensible one, and by any standard he’s clearly the person you want in charge of booking and running women’s wrestling overall in WWE (from the available choices, anyway).
But Triple H also wants it both ways. He wants to say he doesn’t judge Chyna for her “life choices,” but he also wants his ostensibly family-friendly corporation to not extend recognition to a sex worker, which is judging her for her life choices. He’s trying to both be Paul Levesque, who probably feels bad about his ex-girlfriend’s career going south and who probably doesn’t care at all that she decided to do porn (or at least thinks “well, whatever you gotta do, I guess”), and Chief Creative Officer of WWE, who has to care about that a lot.1 It’s a shitty, passive-aggressive way to deal with the issue – and of course we could write an entire essay about the sex/violence double standard with respect to “family entertainment,” and many have, so let’s just say we recognize the cognitive dissonance and move on – and that’s entirely on him. Look: I might not agree with a condemnatory attitude towards sex work, particularly from someone working for a company with a long history of questionable behaviour. But it would have at least been honest to simply say “we can’t celebrate someone who did porn” rather than hedging.
- Of course, Triple H tries to have it both ways a lot – witness him saying both that wrestlers have to live and breathe the business 24/7, and then right after that say that Bret Hart cares too much about wrestling. Of course, what he really meant is “Bret Hart is a great wrestler, but kind of a humourless dick.” [↩]