Induction: Hunter Hearst Helmsley – Bow down to the king (or just curtsy)

33 Submitted by on Thu, 26 June 2014, 19:30

WWF, 1995-1997

Believe it or not, there was a time when Triple H was under-appreciated in the WWF. The man born Paul Michael Levesque was brought into the Federation under an embarrassing gimmick like a common grappler and not the King of Kings. That’s because, before he was Vince’s Only Begotten Son-In-Law, he was just another solid worker jobbing to Alex Wright in WCW as a Frenchman.

hhh01

Thus, in the spring of 1995, the world was introduced to Hunter Hearst Helmsley, a “snob” gimmick that saw Levesque trade in his bad French accent for a bad British-ish accent. That’s not to say that the gimmick was meant to bury Helmsley from the get-go; pretty much everyone coming into the Federation at the time was saddled with a laughable gimmick, whether they were in line for a push (like Sparky Plugg, Double J, or Adam Bomb) or simply meant to fill out the undercard (like Mantaur, Rad Radford, or Man Mountain Rock, to name a few). Come to think of it, there was little correlation at all between the stupidity of one’s gimmick and the level of success one was meant to achieve.

hhh02

Unlike, say Mantaur, Helmsley’s gimmick was supposedly a personal dig by Vince McMahon against his snobby neighbors in Greenwich, Connecticut (unless said neighbors actually did construct a labyrinth to imprison a part-man, part-bull creature, and there is no evidence to suggest they did). See, to get back at the snooty “old rich” who stuck their noses up at Vince’s sports entertainment empire, McMahon created a hated character to ridicule the snobs, no doubt making the Greenwich aristocrats spit out the merlot they sipped from their wine glasses at live events or while watching WWF Superstars on Saturday mornings. hhh03
hhh04 Truly, Vince had his finger on the pulse of wrestling fans, who hated people from Greenwich, Connecticut almost as much as they hated Ted Turner…
…Dusty Rhodes… hhh05
hhh06 …and E. Stan Kroenke.
Levesque’s new name derived from famous rich folks. “Helmsley” came from Leona Helmsley, famous hotelier, “Queen of Mean,” and tax evader… hhh07
hhh08 …while “Hearst” came from the famous newspaper family whose heiress Patty was abducted, brainwashed by militants, and turned into an evil degenerate.
Imagine that! hhh09
hhh10 As for the name, “Hunter,” that never struck me as a very highfalutin Christian name; maybe it was the fact that the only “Hunter” I knew at the time had a rat-tail, or that it was the name of one of Cletus’s kids on The Simpsons, but HHH’s first name always stuck out like a “protruding proboscis.” Then again, “Henry” was already taken by the WWF’s resident hog farmer, Henry Godwinn, while Hank, Herbert, Howard, Huey, or Harold wouldn’t have been any better than “Hunter.” But that’s just me; maybe you would have bought into “Harold Hearst Helmsley.”
The WWF presented HHH’s foppish persona with a series of vignettes taken from Hunter’s mansion, wherein he criticized the “riff raff” in the Federation — that is, when he bothered to grace us with his words at all, having refused comment in his first promo. hhh11
hhh12 Hunter wore riding gear to the ring and waved off the lowly fans with his handkerchief…
…sometimes bringing a pipe with him, although this aspect of his gimmick was soon dropped. I’m guessing his Clique-mate The 123 Kid borrowed it and never gave it back. hhh13
hhh14 And let’s not forget about that elegant vanity cane with the horse’s head. I think he called it “Lilian.”
In the ring, he would curtsy after hitting a big move or winning a match. hhh15
hhh16 His finisher, of course, was the Pedigree, referring to his pure-bred lineage and not the dog food brand. (Now that would have been a gimmick! I’m thinking, “Alpo Montoya”)
Fans greeted the Blue Blood with the same warm welcome they’d give any other effete fancy boy. Namely, lots of limp wrists. hhh99
hhh18 Naturally!
The WWF made sure to contrast Hunter with his opponents as much as possible, debuting him against the most slovenly jobber they could find, a certified piece of garbage (although that has more to do with all the sexual abuse Buck Zumhofe would commit than with his physical appearance). hhh19
hhh20 To further drive home the complexity of Hunter’s gimmick, the WWF even sold a shirt with tips on “How to Be a Snob.” I say, “a” shirt because, near as I can tell, only one person ever bought it. Somebody in Titan Towers actually thought fans would hate the Connecticut Blue Blood strongly enough to wear this t-shirt in public and confuse everyone who saw it. Fat chance!
In between complaining about the one Christmas when all he got was a Bentley and how Jim Cornette’s clothing was “just ghastly,” the Blue Blood engaged in ready-made gimmick-based feuds with the hog farmer and the garbageman (but never the plumber, since the bond among the heel locker room was strong enough to overcome socio-economic prejudice). In such cases, Hunter displayed his arrogance, spraying the ring with what may have been the Rick Martel cologne of the same name. hhh21
hhh22 These “class warfare” feuds led to the memorable hog pen match against Henry Godwinn, though not a dumpster match against Duke Droese (and I don’t even want to think about what kind of gimmick match they would have come up with for TL Hopper).
The only time HHH was able to show any genuine personality behind his dandy façade was when he snuck in the occasional reference to his sexual potency via jokes about the size of his “balls” and how he had pleasured Sable. hhh23
hhh24 Otherwise, it was “for the love of polo” this and civility that. Puh-lease!
Perhaps to further remedy the perception that he was a bit — how shall I put this — light in the loafers (and gay), Hunter would eventually bring along a different gold-digger every week to watch his matches from ringside, leading to a feud with Mr. Perfect where Hennig would steal Helmsley’s valet and cost him the match due to the distraction… in every single match! As his New Age Outlaw buddy would say, “Welcome to the dog house!” hhh25
hhh26 Helmsley would later famously join up with Shawn Michaels to form D-Generation X, where he was less likely to give Mantaur etiquette lessons and more likely to ask him for directions to the island of Lesbos.

Regardless, the stench of the old “Blue Blood” gimmick lingers to this day, with Levesque still going by the “Hunter Hearst Helmsley” name despite being a WWE executive, and still executing the “Pedigree” despite the fact that we all know his parents aren’t aristocrats.

hhh27

Then again, now he really does live in Greenwich, Connecticut, is part of a wealthy and powerful family, and fancies himself royalty…

hhh28

…so perhaps the HHH gimmick suits him better than ever.

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He currently runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws and Hasbro WWF figures. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
33 Responses to "Induction: Hunter Hearst Helmsley – Bow down to the king (or just curtsy)"
  1. Sean O says:

    From what seemed like a dumb gimmick in the midcard to being perhaps THE most powerful man in the WWE…

    which means Zack Ryder, there’s hope for you yet!

  2. RD Reynolds says:

    The line “No doubt making the Greenwich aristocrats spit out the merlot they sipped from their wine glasses at live events” actually made me spit out my merlot.

    Just kidding – it was bottled water.

    • John Matrix says:

      I was so taken aback my monocle fell into my champagne flute.

      One thing I remember about Hunter Hearst Helmsley was the really bad English accent and how it would disappear the longer he talked, until he was just speaking in his normal voice.

      Another thing I remember was the Blue Bloods tag team in WCW who were active around the same time HHH was. I wonder if one was ripping off the other?

    • Adam Cota says:

      Because, as we all know, the hoity-toity rich folk would, after their morning tea and horse ride, tune into the Action Zone on Sundays…

  3. The Doctor of Style says:

    Hm, if someone besides the future backstage politician had played him, I’m not sure the ol’ Connecticut Blueblood gimmick would get inducted. I thought it made for an effective heel, with shades of The Model, DiBiase, and Lord Steven Regal (rich, snobby, etc.). I have to give Levesque his due: while it sounds weird to hear him talking snooty after all this time, physically he played the role *very* well. He had the slow, precise mannerisms down pat.

    Seems HHH was a step up from his WCW gimmicks, too. RD already inducted Terra Ryzing and his Dolly Parton hair — and yikes, speaking of Regal, looks like “Jean-Paul Levesque” stole his Bluebloods coat to play some sort of 18th century French stripper!

    • Gypo says:

      But it’s still a dumb gimmick. Same reason Double-J was inducted despite Jarrett actually being awesome in the role – it didn’t really go anywhere or lead to any long-term success for him, and he had to ditch it to make a breakthrough, as did Trips. That’s also why Undertaker or Honky Tonk Man wouldn’t be inducted, because they both went further than anyone would have expected with the gimmick.

  4. Rose Harmon says:

    I had to look up Buck Zumhoff. Probably a good thing that I’m not familiar with him.

  5. Scrooge McSuck says:

    This was always an on the fence gimmick to me since the eventual success the worker had (obviously), but let’s run it down…

    1. He’s snob from Greenwich, CT who looks down on the poor and uncivilized
    2. He’s custom made to feud with HOG and The Dumpster
    3. He didn’t get over a single fucking second until they dropped almost the entire persona and brought Chyna in as his muscle.
    4. The awful faux-British accent… because all rich snobs from Greenwich have British accents?

    • Cliff says:

      Can you really say he wasn’t getting over with the gimmick. He was slated to win the 1996 King of the Ring until he was involved in the MSG Curtain Call Incident. He eventually won it a year later while still playing the aristocrat (albeit with new music and a new robe).

  6. ChrisV says:

    Yeah, I don’t think this was really worthy of induction. It wasn’t a bad gimmick to start out with, especially in the mid-’90s. When you compare it to the other gimmicks mentioned, you’d hardly bat at an eye at this one.

  7. Sir Thomas says:

    If I say it isn’t crap, it’s probably because it’s hard to compete with a wrasslin’ garbage man. Or a lot of the other nonsense that was going on back then.

  8. Anon says:

    I believe Ode to Joy was his 2nd theme in this gimmick.

    I have a How to Be a Snob shirt from Ebay. I paid a price for it which I’d rather not mention.

  9. E-Squared says:

    Does this mean a Ringmaster induction is a given now?

  10. Anonymous says:

    This was one of the worst gimmicks of all time.

  11. The Carpetbagger says:

    I remember when everyone one the internet was bitching abou Hunter not getting pushed when he was in this gimmick, I guess they wished to hard

  12. TortureRackofDoom says:

    This gimmick fit well with a lot of the others of the time, especially with Jerry Lawler and King Mabel (all of whom, I believe, fought as an ill-fated Survivor Series team at SS’95…with Isaac Yankem, DDS!). I stopped watching WWF in early ’96 and was surprised to hear later that Helmsley was not only still around, but was a “degenerate”… I’d consider that one of the stranger transitions between gimmicks without much of a break in-between.

  13. Vealchop says:

    Not enough love for Alpo Montoya.

  14. LockDown2341 says:

    I’m surprised to see this inducted. It never really struck me as Wrestlecrap. I thought the gimmick was great to be honest. Certainly a cut above a lot of things they were doing at the time.

    To each their own I guess.

  15. Stephen says:

    Two new inductions within a matter of days! ‘Tis a golden age of WrestleCrap.

  16. Guest says:

    Alpo Montoya

  17. The Scanian Maniac says:

    I remember Hunter Hearst Helmsley was called Vince McMahon’s “new favourite whipping boy”, like The Honky Tonk Man was in the 80′s, at some point around 1996.

    Was it when he was the Intercontinental champion for four months around that time?

  18. bubba says:

    Would Horatio have fit better than Hunter? Hamlet?

  19. AK says:

    While I always felt HHH was overrated as a wrestler (and I still do today), his theme music was absolutely perfect. I am hoping soon when H has an important match, they start with the standard “It’s Time to Play the Game!” and instead of that obnoxious chortling that usually follows they splice in his old theme music. That would be brilliant. It worked for William Regal.

    I can also totally picture Vince McMahon back in the day blasting HHH’s old theme at 3 am just to piss off his neighbours. That would show ‘em.

  20. Cuthbert says:

    It was a fun entry, but completely didn’t qualify for the site. But, well written and a joy to read. And at least Man Mountain Rock got in, even if in name only.

  21. tdmoon says:

    Pretty good article, but the Alpo Montoya line is what won me over. Laughed harder than I should have.

  22. The Great Sudoku says:

    Alpo Montoya — Funniest thing I’ve heard in a while

  23. Ewa Beach Boy says:

    Little known fact. If you drink 3 bottles of merlot during the first hour of Raw, hours 2 and 3 always make perfect sense. Of course, this also works with a case of beer. Now, I have to admit that this works mostly cause you don’t remember hours 2 and 3 but why quibble with something that works so well.

  24. Formerly From Tokyo says:

    I want that “How to be a Snob” shirt!

    “And let’s not forget about that elegant vanity cane with the horse’s head. I think he called it ‘Lilian.’” – The irony here for me being that he’s rather horse-faced himself.

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