D-Generation X to be inducted into WWE Hall of Fame

Six members of D-Generation X (clockwise from top left) will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2019: X-Pac, Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Chyna. WWE

D-Generation X, one of the cornerstones of the WWE's Attitude Era and the formative period that led into it, will be inducted April 6 into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2019.

Both key versions of DX will be recognized as a collective group of six, including Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chyna, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and X-Pac.

"I think it's the most meaningful for us all to go in together and to be recognized together," Paul "Triple H" Levesque told ESPN. "Because I think both groups were [just] as impactful."

D-Generation X -- a group of wrestlers who collectively helped bring crotch chops and "suck it" into the pop culture mainstream during the peak of its powers -- was initially formed in 1997 as a trio featuring Triple H, Michaels and Chyna. To Levesque's recollection, it was an idea that had been swirling around for some time before a few key events and decisions allowed everything to slide into place.

"It's a funny thing, because DX was something that, before Kevin [Nash] and Scott [Hall] left, at the time we all talked about using 'The Kliq' as it was -- kind of morphing that into television, since it was so out there anyway," Levesque said. "But things worked out the way they did -- they left, and the timing was right.

"Shawn and I still wanted to do it. Vince saw the value in it, I guess, and finally let us go at it. By that point in time I was looking for a heater, and we had brought Chyna."

Historically speaking, when a wrestler wanted to bring in a big, bruising enforcer, the role was always filled by a man. Chyna, a bodybuilder, broke the mold and subverted conventional wisdom within the wrestling world.

"It was completely different. No one had ever had a female [enforcer] before, especially one like that. It just worked out. The timing was right," Levesque said.

As a trio, Michaels, Triple H and Chyna helped push the envelope as to what was accepted on TV. Their antics, catchphrases and personas made them three of the most recognizable WWE stars of the mid-to-late 1990s. Toward the tail end of their run as a trio, they were all involved in the WrestleMania XIV main event between Michaels and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in 1998 that famously included Mike Tyson in an enforcer role.

"For me, it was the break of a lifetime, right? My career was on the upswing, and then it had its downswing, due to a lot of [different] reasons. That was an opportunity for me to kind of get back on the right path, get out there and show what I could do. Being next to Shawn, the experience was so great, to be around that level of performer. From [The Undertaker], to Bret [Hart], to everybody else -- the learning experience was massive. "

Among this group of six entering the WWE Hall of Fame together, Chyna's inclusion in the Hall of Fame class is likely to garner the most attention. Joanie "Chyna" Laurer left the WWE in 2001 under tense circumstances and never returned. Her post-WWE career included acting, time in the reality television world and several forays into the adult entertainment industry. She died in April 2016.

With the recent push toward expanding the spotlight on women's wrestling, fans have clamored for Chyna's role in WWE history to be better recognized, and her inclusion as part of DX's induction into the Hall of Fame is a major step forward in that regard.

"Look, people believe what they want to believe. When I said a few years ago on the Austin podcast, or show, or whatever you want to call it, there's complexities around it," Levesque said. "But absolutely, definitely deserves to be in there. It'd be tough to pick a female that was more impactful on the business. She did something that was completely so out of left field that it wasn't even being considered when we first brought it up for her to come in. It wasn't even a consideration ... it wasn't an easy thing, and against all odds she did all of that. She earned everybody's trust. She won over the fans. She won over the boys. She did all of it.

"From that standpoint, absolutely 100 percent deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and should probably be more than once -- as a group, but individually as well. There's more complexity to that than meets the eye, but here we are. I'm just happy that it's here. I'm happy for her family, the people that she was close to, that hopefully this is super-meaningful to them. I know it would be to her. It's a great thing -- very deserving."

Chyna was also part of the second version of D-Generation X. After Michaels stepped away from the WWE the night after WrestleMania XIV, Triple H brought together his own vision for DX. He introduced Sean Waltman, who had previously been known as 1-2-3 Kid in WWE and then went to WCW and joined the nWo as Syxx, and had just re-signed with WWE; eventually he'd be known as X-Pac. Later that night, X-Pac, Triple H and Chyna helped the New Age Outlaws win the tag-team championship, and the group was official.

"By then, Shawn had had injuries, and when Shawn stepped away for a bit to deal with his injuries, the timing was perfect. Kid [X-Pac]'s contract was up at WCW; he wanted to come back. The New Age Outlaws had gotten hot, and the combination of the group could just mean more than the individuals -- and it took off again."

The New Age Outlaws -- Road Dogg and Billy Gunn -- had been a part of the DX discussion in the early days of the group.

"You had Jesse James and you had Rockabilly, who were two guys with a lot of talent doing nothing, and we had kind of had a talk with Vince like, 'We'll put 'em together and maybe we do like a bigger group with them. Put them together as a tag and let them kind of run,'" recalled Levesque. "They went together as the New Age Outlaws, they started to get over on their own and they really didn't need to be with us, so we just kind of said, 'Look, let 'em do their own thing and we'll do our thing and if the time is right and it needs to be, we'll put 'em together.'"

As a quintet, DX executed one of the most famous moments in the "Monday Night War" between WWE and WCW when they "invaded" a WCW show that was happening a short distance from that Monday's edition of Raw. Over the next few years the group shifted and changed shape, before ultimately beginning to fade away. Triple H teased a reunion with Michaels in 2002, only to turn on him, but the pair ultimately reformed under the D-Generation X name in 2006 and teamed up a number of times over the next few years. The last time Michaels and Triple H teamed as DX was on Nov. 2, 2018, as Michaels came out of retirement to take on the team of Kane and The Undertaker at WWE's Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia.

When the WWE recognizes a group to go into its Hall of Fame, sometimes it specifies a version of a group -- as was the case when the Four Horsemen were inducted in 2011. When it comes to DX, both versions of the group are linked together in the minds of fans, and while either version could make a case for Hall of Fame candidacy, each legacy is intertwined.

Still, each fan has his or her own concept of what comes to mind when they hear "D-Generation X" -- and it's typically consistent to when they started watching the WWE.

"If you mention DX, depending on your age group and time, I think the unique thing about DX is for a lot of people they see DX and they go, 'It's Shawn, Hunter, and Chyna,' Levesque said. "To an even bigger group, during the prime Attitude Era when everything was the hottest, it was the group of the five of us. It was Dog, Billy, me, Kid and Chyna."

Tickets for the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony at Barclays Center, which takes place the night before WrestleMania 35, go on sale Friday.