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By Thomas Wheeler

Although I have been a longtime fan of the WWE, I've never really collected many of the action figure products related to them. Although Jakks Pacific has done a superb job with their various figure lines, the sheer amount of WWE material out there, adding in the factors of expense and display space, simply made it impossible to get involved.

However, Jakks Pacific has come out with an entirely new line of WWE action figures, that make for a superb "jumping on" point for longtime WWE fans who are also action figure collectors, that would like to have some WWE figures around. That new line is called "Build 'n' Brawl", and it features 1:18 (about 4" in height) figures of many of the top names in the WWE today. Each figure also comes with a segment to build a small wrestling ring, hence the name "Build 'n' Brawl".

The line has proved to be enormously popular. As I write this review, I have just acquired the last figures from Series 1 that I need, and Series 2 has started to appear in the stores. Need it be said that Series 1 evaporated pretty quickly, and I expect Series 2, and all subsequent series, to be similarly popular.

And perhaps it's no great surprise that one of the most popular superstars in the WWE today, and who has been for some time, would not only be part of Series 1, but also be one of the hardest to find in Series 1. I'm talking about The Game himself -- TRIPLE H.

Triple H's career has been one of the most diverse, personality-wise, in the history of the WWE. He started out as an over-the-top master of elegance, was later part of a group known for its rebellious behavior, and today is basically -- who he is... one of the most dedicated, committed, intense superstars in the history of the business.

Let's take a look at the career of Triple H. His real name is Paul Michael Levesque. His current ring name, Triple H, is an abbreviation of a lengthier ring name which he had during his "elegance" days, Hunter Hearst Helmsley. In fact, some people call him Hunter to this day.

Before joining WWE, Levesque began his wrestling career with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1993, wrestling under the ring name Terra Ryzing. He changed his ring name to Jean-Paul Lévesque before joining the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1995. His initial on-screen persona was that of wealthy sophisticate. He later changed his name to Triple H and adopted an alternative image in the group D- Generation X (DX), a stable known for pushing the envelope. After the dissolution of DX, Triple H was pushed as a main-event wrestler, winning several singles championships. In 2003, Triple H formed another stable known as Evolution, and in 2006, reformed DX briefly with Shawn Michaels.[

I should mention here that D-Generation X was created somewhat in response to the WCW's offshoot group, the New World Order (nWo). However, DX was never as hostile towards the rest of the WWE as the nWo was towards the WCW. The original DX featured Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and several other wrestlers, including Sean Waltman, who had been in the WCW's nWo, but when he returned to the WWE, quickly joined DX.

In one hysterical episode where the WCW and the WWE were actually staging live events in the same area, DX staged a "raid" on the arena where the WCW was having its event, driving an armed military vehicle right up to the underground garage of the facility. It was a hysterical sequence, showcasing the rivalry that existed between the WWE and the WCW at the time. Of course, Triple H was at the forefront of it. This sequence can be found on the "Raw vs. Nitro" DVD, which I highly recommend for any wrestling fan who wants to know what was going on during that particularly tumultuous time in the business.

Back to Triple H's career...

In his youth, Levesque was a fan of professional wrestling, and his favorite wrestler was Ric Flair. No doubt he took great pride in later becoming a close friend of the legendary Ric Flair, and recently was the master of ceremonies over Ric Flair's retirement appearance following WrestleMania 24.

Levesque enrolled at Killer Kowalski's wrestling school in 1992 after it was recommended to him by Ted Arcidi. He joined the Independent Wrestling Federation (IWF), which used trainees from Kowalski's school in their promotion. Here, he became the IWF Heavyweight Champion and an IWF Tag Team Champion with fellow Kowalski trainee, Perry Saturn. It was in the IWF that Levesque started using the name Terra Ryzing.

In early 1994, he joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW), wrestling as a heel. In his first televised match, he defeated Brian Armstrong. He continued using the name Terra Ryzing until mid-1994, when he was renamed Jean-Paul Lévesque.

This gimmick referred to his surname's French origins. He was asked to speak with a French accent, as he could not speak French. During this time, he began using his finisher, The Pedigree.

Lévesque had a brief storyline feud with Alex Wright that culminated at Starrcade. In early 1995, Lévesque briefly teamed with Lord Steven Regal, whose snobby British persona was a good match with Lévesque's similar persona. The team was short-lived, however, as Lévesque soon left for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), after WCW shot down Levesque's request to be pushed as a singles competitor.

As a continuation of his gimmick in WCW, Triple H started off his WWF career as the Connecticut Blueblood, Hunter Hearst Helmsley. He appeared in taped vignettes, in which he talked about how to use proper etiquette, up until his wrestling debut on the April 30, 1995 episode of WWF Wrestling Challenge.

Although he was heavily pushed in the first few months after his debut, his career stalled during 1996. Helmsley was known backstage as one of the members of the Kliq, a group of wrestlers including Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Sean Waltman and Scott Hall, who were known for influencing Vince McMahon and the WWF Creative team. Helmsley was in line to win the 1996 King of the Ring tournament, but he was demoted from championship contender to jobber to the stars (a wrestler who loses matches to make his opponents look better) after the Madison Square Garden Incident, in which the Kliq broke character after a match to say goodbye to the departing Nash and Hall.

Despite the punishment, Helmsley did have several successes following the MSG Incident. He found a manager in Mr. Perfect and was booked to win his first Intercontinental Championship on October 21, 1996, defeating Marc Mero. When Mr. Perfect left the WWF, his departure was explained to be a result of Helmsley turning his back on his manager as soon as he won the Intercontinental Championship.

Helmsley's push resumed in 1997, when he won the King of the Ring tournament on June 8 by defeating Mick Foley in the finals. Later that year, Shawn Michaels, Helmsley, Chyna and Rick Rude formed D-Generation X (DX). By that point, Helmsley had fully dropped the "blueblood snob" gimmick. During this period, his ring name was shortened to simply Triple H.

After WrestleMania, Michaels was forced into retirement due to a legitimate back injury sustained at the Royal Rumble, and on-screen, Triple H took over the leadership position in DX, claiming that his now-former associate had "dropped the ball". He introduced the returning X- Pac (Waltman) the night after WrestleMania and joined forces with the New Age Outlaws (Billy Gunn and Jesse James). Triple H led the "DX Army" throughout 1998, spawning a series of vignettes in which the DX army "invaded" the CNN Building and WCW Offices in Atlanta, culminating in the group nearly crashing an episode of Nitro in Virginia.

(Personally, I would've loved to have seen it happen. It was commented on the DVD that if the WCW had had any brains about this, they'd've let DX in the building and put them on their show. Imagine having some of the top WWE superstars on a WCW show. Would've done wonders for the WCW, which by this time was having to give away free tickets to fill seats.)

By January 2000, already a three-time WWF champion, Triple H had dubbed himself "The Game," implying that he was at the top of the wrestling world, and was nicknamed "The Cerebral Assassin" by commentator Jim Ross.

During the May 21, 2001 broadcast of Raw, he suffered a legitimate and career-threatening injury. In the night's main event, he and Steve Austin were defending the Tag Team title against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. At one point, Jericho had Austin trapped in the Walls of Jericho submission hold. Triple H ran-in to break it up, but just as he did, he suffered a tear in his left quadriceps muscle, causing it to come completely off the bone. Despite his inability to place any weight on his leg, Triple H was able to complete the match. He even allowed Jericho to put him in the Walls of Jericho, a move that places considerable stress on the quadriceps. The tear required an operation, which was performed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. This injury brought an abrupt end to the current storylines involving Helmsley, as the rigorous rehabilitation process kept Triple H out of action for over eight months.

Triple H returned to Raw as a crowd favorite on January 7, 2002 at Madison Square Garden. He was booked to win that year's Royal Rumble to receive a WWF Undisputed Championship match in the main event at WrestleMania X8. At WrestleMania X8, Triple H beat Chris Jericho for the WWF Undisputed Championship.

In January 2003, Triple H formed a stable known as Evolution with Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Batista. The group was pushed on Raw from 2003 to 2004, the height of their dominance occurring after Armageddon when every member of Evolution left the pay-per-view holding a title. Triple H held the World Heavyweight Championship for most of 2003.

Sometime later, Triple H took some time off to deal with a neck injury. He would later battle John Cena for the WWE Championship, and re-team with Shawn Michaels in a reformation of DX designed to pretty much drive WWE owner Vince McMahon crazy. In January 2007, at New Year's Revolution, DX fought Edge and Randy Orton to a no-contest after Triple H suffered a legitimate torn right quadriceps, similar to the one he suffered in 2001 but in the other leg, fifteen minutes into the match. A successful surgery was performed by Dr. James Andrews.

Triple H made his return in August 2007 at SummerSlam, where he defeated King Booker. After his return, he won the WWE Championship at No Mercy after beating the newly named Champion, Randy Orton, making Triple H an eleven-time champion, and most recently won it once again for a twelfth time -- again from Randy Orton -- at the Backlash event in early April 2008.

Although Helmsley has been a heel as often as he has been a hero, and I might be wrong about this, I believe that "The Game" has achieved a legendary status that would make it very difficult for him to ever completely take a total "heel" path ever again. It's like the last couple of times Ric Flair tried to take the low road. It just didn't work. He was simply too well respected and too well liked by the longtime wrestling fans to really get away with it.

Helmsley has portrayed himself for years as a man of dedication, commitment, and intensity. While he may be willing to take the occasional shortcut in the ring, even now, it's hard to disrespect what the man obviously stands for in his career. Besides, he's got one of the coolest ring entrances this side of the Undertaker, and likely the best music.

The figure of Triple H is excellent. The Game is a powerhouse. He's not a massive monster like Undertaker or Mark Henry. He is, simply stated, a man who has exercised, toughened, and honed his body to its physical peak, and is determined to keep it there as best as he possibly can. Other superstars of the WWE have written biographies or autobiographies of their careers. The one HHH wrote is a combination summarized bio and workout book.

Triple H's powerful build is certainly reflected in the figure, with a great many massive muscles -- well, for something that's four inches in height. Triple H has rather long, dark blonde hair, and this required that Jakks do what I call the "Baroness trick" -- making the hair a separate piece of flexible plastic and attaching it to the head so that the head can still turn despite the hair. They've had to do this with several figures already (Edge and Undertaker being the other two to date), and they've done an excellent job of it.

About my only problem with this figure is the face sculpt. I know that Jakks wants to do something expressive and close to some sort of "trademark" expression if at all possible. But this was one occasion when I think they should've done something a little more plausible or practical. Sometimes, during his entrance, Triple H tends to squint. I think it's a sign of his intensity. Obviously, though, he doesn't squint when he's wrestling. It'd be a little hard to go after one's opponent. Unfortunately, the figure is squinting. There's very little visible eye except two painted lines on either side of the nose. Frankly, Triple H deserved a bit better than this.

The figure is outfitted fairly basically, but then Triple H is not a clothes-horse in the ring. He's wearing his trademark black shorts, with the Triple H logo on the front and back, white "tape" wristbands, and black boots. When he's in the ring, The Game isn't trying to impress you with his fashion. He's trying to win, plain and simple.

Articulation of the Triple H figure is excellent. I do tend to think that these WWE figures might be just a little fragile. Unlike similarly-sized lines, such as G.I. Joe or Star Wars, which can take certain structural liberties in order to make a slightly "thicker" figure that will hold up better to play, the WWE figures are very realistic to their real-life counterparts. With that in mind, the limbs are somewhat narrower, and the articulation is on a level of a Marvel Legends figure. That's inevitably going to mean a lot of small parts, and potentially breakable small parts.

HHH is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, double-jointed knees, and ankles. About the only negative thing I can say about any of it is that the ankles are a little delicate and don't move that well, and I am reluctant to force them, but they don't really like to pose at a proper angle for the figure to stand on his own. Not easily, anyway.

I would like to specifically cite the level of sculpted detail. The tiny, individually sculpted fingers on the hands, especially the left hand, on this figure, are remarkable. So is the detail put into the hair. I may not agree with the facial expression, but it does look like HHH, and the detail put into the finer points of the overall figure sculpt is nothing short of incredible.

I don't know how long this line will last. Jakks Pacific's license with the WWE is running out, and will not be renewed. However, for whatever period of time it does last, this Build 'n' Brawl line is a great way for those such as myself who have been reluctant or for one reason or another unable to bring WWE figured into their collection to finally do so.

And certainly, no WWE collection is the least bit complete without The Game, TRIPLE H! This figure definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!