WWE star Triple H announces retirement from in-ring action after heart surgery

Triple H, one of the best-known professional wrestling stars of the last several decades, will not perform in the ring again, he told Stephen A. Smith on ESPN's First Take on Friday.

The WWE legend, whose real name is Paul Levesque, went into heart failure last September following a bout with viral pneumonia, he said, and there were moments when he was not sure if he would make it. Levesque, 52, made his WWE debut in 1995 and is a 14-time world champion.

"I will never wrestle again," Levesque, who is also an executive vice president with WWE, said. "First of all, I have a defibrillator in my chest, which, you know, probably not a good idea for me to get zapped on live TV."

Levesque was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2019 with his late-1990s group D-Generation X. He has been a five-time world heavyweight champion, a five-time WWE Intercontinental champion and the winner of two Royal Rumble matches. The New Hampshire native and Connecticut resident was one of the most successful wrestlers of the 2000s.

Levesque told ESPN's First Take that he was suffering from viral pneumonia in September and his wife, WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon, noticed he was coughing up blood. He went to the hospital, where doctors discovered fluid in his lungs and around his heart.

Levesque said doctors told him his heart was working at a fraction of full strength and he was in "bad" heart failure.

"I was nose-diving and sort of at the 1-yard line of where you don't want to be really, for your family and your future," Levesque said Friday. "There's moments in there when they're putting you out for stuff and you think, 'Is this it? Do you wake up from this?' That's tough to swallow and makes you think differently."

His last match took place on an untelevised card in Tokyo on June 29, 2019. His last televised match was a few weeks earlier -- June 7, 2019 -- against longtime rival Randy Orton in Saudi Arabia.

Levesque's last WrestleMania match came in 2019, a win over longtime wrestler and current Hollywood star Dave Bautista.

Most recently, Levesque was noted as being a WWE exec and head of the promotion's developmental brand, NXT.