Time to play the Game: WWE legend Triple H set to dazzle Delhi

Provided by WWE

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the pro wrestler known as Jinder Mahal would be the fan favourite at the WWE Raw live event in Delhi on Saturday night.

Mahal - real life Canadian Punjabi Yuvraj Dhesi - ticks the right boxes after all. He is a relatively young (semi) homegrown wrestler, who speaks the local language and who until recently held the WWE championship.

Yet, it's actually Paul Levesque - Triple H to the wrestling world - Mahal's buzz-shaved, 48-year-old, sort-of-retired opponent, who the crowd at the Indira Gandhi stadium will almost certainly be rooting for.

On social media, it's a blowout in favour of the real life Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events, and Creative for WWE, who plays the part of the scheming, insecure, sometime sledgehammer-wielding psychotic 'Authority' on TV broadcasts. In one twitter poll where votes are counted through retweets and likes, a reply said what most of the WWE universe in this part of the globe felt.

"No confusions i'm an #Indian so i support @JinderMahal but grew up watching @TripleH so Sorry guys it's #TheGame time for me."

The responses followed a similar pattern right from the time the match-up was made over a post by Levesque on his Triple H Twitter handle last month. This wasn't entirely unexpected even though Triple H has wrestled increasingly sporadically in recent years, mostly concentrating on his actual WWE back office job.

For a generation of Indian fans - and not just those who browse '90s kids will remember this' listicles - of pro-wrestling, Triple H and his various avatars in DX and Evolution, as the king of kings and as The Game, was the sort of rebel whose gut-kick-followed-by-pedigree villainy you reveled at. This was the guy who probably caused an epidemic of Indian schoolboys to gulp a mouthful of water, throw their head back and shoot a mist-like spray, all to an internal screech of Motorhead's 'Time to play the Game', confident in the knowledge that this was the epitome of cool.

"I don't know. I'm a lot better at being the villain," Levesque said about the prospect of being cheered over Mahal. "It would be interesting to see when we get there. I've been cheered and I've been booed. If the fans want to support me because they have been watching me for the last 20-plus years, that's great."

Come to think about it, Mahal can't really compete with a relationship built over two decades. His run out of obscurity to the WWE title in April didn't really seem plausible, even in an industry that requires you to suspend disbelief with a knowing wink. Mahal's push seemed a cynical business decision, pandering to a potentially massive WWE market, which it obviously was.

Even as he builds the WWE's brand by hosting live events across the world and recruiting and training talent from thereabouts, Triple H, speaking here as the corporate-suited Levesque, seems to have understood a truth about his company. "You could get some support because of nationalism. But once you are in the WWE, you become a global icon," he says.

"When I was in India, a lot of people asked about him (Mahal) and what I thought about him. Did I respect him? A lot of people have mixed feelings about Jinder Mahal as a representative. In some ways he represents India, but a lot of people don't like the way he represents himself as a WWE superstar."

This gives some insight as to why Triple H might appear in the ring in Delhi. Possibly reverting back to Triple H , he continues, "The question was asked so many times that I thought what better way to prove what I thought than stepping into the ring with him. If Jinder wants to prove it to the fans in India, there could be no better way than by doing it against me there."

Perhaps there is an element of truth in that comment. Perhaps Triple H, in his role as a global WWE icon, might help Mahal 'get over' in Delhi, reinforcing the latter's claim to be a threat despite having lost his title belt.

Yet, there is also another, rather more simple explanation. Among the various personalities Levesque juggles is the creator of NXT, the WWE's developmental brand. In contrast to his portrayal as the boss from hell on RAW, Levesque speaks like father figure taking pride in the rookie wrestlers' achievements, handing out belts and posing for pictures. It's possible that this character is a lot closer to Levesque's in real life. Even though he draws a multi-million-dollar salary, at heart Triple H is simply a wrestler who loves wrestling even if it is mostly in live events and not televised shows.

He admits as much. "When I do something in the office, there aren't 10,000 people screaming and cheering. But I still get a lot of excitement watching others do it. When I'm working with these kids who are just starting at NXT and watching them go over and perform to a level they never thought they could, it is a completely different adrenaline rush."

So why does he still wrestle?

"It's still fun for me. It's still something I enjoy. And it's something that I will always enjoy. It's fun to get out there and remember why you enjoy this in the first place."

And so in Delhi, when the crowd likely cheers for him instead of following the script and rooting for the Indian, it's unlikely Triple H will be thinking of the financial bottom line. He will simply be a wrestler back where he belongs.

"I can't wait for the roar," he says.