Introduction to Shawn Michaels
Michael Shawn Hickenbottom was born on July 22nd 1965 in an Air Force Base just outside Phoenix Arizona. With his father being in the air force he had to move around as a child. Not long after being born he moved to Reading England due to a deal with the United Kingdom R.A.F. Not remembering much of the time there due to only being there until a little over 2 years of age, Shawn’s first real memories came when he moved to Camp Springs Maryland. However he did spend some time in Storm Lake Iowa before moving there with his grandmother and mother, while his father got settled in at the Laughlin Air Force Base just outside the Pentagon.
He recalls playing football as being a big part of growing up, but struggled while making plays as he couldn’t tell his left from his right and still struggles with it at times to this day. This was no fault of his own, Shawn was just ambidextrous he says "While this can be advantageous in many ways, but for a child of 6 years old trying to learn his left from his right, it can be very frustrating." Aside from this Shawn would suffer at school because of his surname, it would always draw sniggers from the class and was a constant source of teasing. Shawn never really settled down either until he moved to Randolph, before then he had never had steady friends apart from one in Del Rio. It was in Randolph Shawn started to discover himself.
His first encounter with wrestling was the summer between 6th and 7th grade while sitting at home one day while he was bored. He says "I don’t even remember flipping the channels to see what was on. I just turned on the television and there it was: Southwest Championship Wrestling." After watching the full hour with such stars as Tully Blanchard and Wahoo McDaniels, it was at this moment Shawn fell in love with the world of professional wrestling. He wasted no time in telling his mother when he grew up he wanted to do this. Wrestling wasn’t as highly publicised on television at this time so through a friend and magazines he learned of the other greats in the sport such as: Ric Flair, Harley Race and Nick Bockwinkel. As soon as cable television did come to his area though, Shawn fell in love with Ric Flair a man with which in later times unbeknownst at the time he would make history with.
Thanks to his dad playing golf on the weekends Shawn met a man who ran shows around the San Antonio area called Fred Behrend, after Fred and his father agreed college was a good idea and Shawn kept his grades to a level his father thought of as sufficient the two met up again. It was at this meeting Fred introduced a 19 year old Shawn to Jose Lothario. This was the start of Shawn’s boyhood dream. His dad took out a $3000 dollar loan to pay Jose for the training and Shawn was set, his dad later said to him ‘Son, the idea of walking up to you when you were thirty-five with a wife and two kids and having a job you couldn’t stand and having you look at me and say ‘You never let me try. I know I cold have done that wrestling stuff.’ I couldn’t live with that. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I never gave you that chance."
- For over a decade all Shawn wanted to do was wrestling, it was his dream, his life and his livelihood. It wasn’t until this was taken away from him, until he collapsed during a training session at his wrestling academy and he fell in love, ironically, with a girl from the ‘enemy’ company WCW that Shawn found something in his life other than wrestling. Through Rebecca, Shawn found God and had two children. Cameron Kade Hickenbottom born at 7:09 P.M. on January 5th, 2000 and Cheyenne Michelle Hickenbottom born August 19th, 2004. After his marriage and new found faith in Christianity, Shawn found he could continue with his first love, wrestling.
With Ken Johnson doing all the physical work and Jose Lothario shouting instructions on the outside of the ring, Shawn was finally doing the training. Shawn recalls Ken as being a ‘snug’ worker but loving the contact and physicality of it. For weeks they’d just do move after move never learning how to put a match together. It wasn’t until Jose got Shawn to attempt a back flip off the top rope and to land on his feet that Jose really began to have faith in his abilities, but still never smartened Shawn up to the way a match was worked.
1984 – 1990
It was through Jose that the boy Michael Shawn Hickenbottom transformed into the man Shawn Michaels, with a liking for that name anyway, Jose would call him by that name regularly and it just stuck. Shawn hated the name Michael but had nothing better and had to use Shawn Michaels. This made his mother happy as it kept him true to himself. With his first pair of wrestling boots, black with silver snakeskin tips he was finally ready for Jose to send him into Bill Watts promotion with his main booking agent Grizz Smith, Mid-South Wrestling on October 16th, 1984 in Alexandria Louisiana.
Just knowing the bare basics, where to go, what time to be there Shawn was about to step into the ring. He knew he’d lose with a neck-breaker and he was wrestling Art Crews, other than this Shawn knew nothing. He had no idea what to do out there; he just knew he had to go out there. After a little ribbing in the locker room by Jim Duggan and Rock ‘N’ Roll Express of Shawn’s ring attire being a rip off of there’s it was show time.
From then on Shawn just kept learning during his 6 months at Mid-South Wrestling, whether it was from missing a T.V. taping and receiving a $50 fine for it, before being informed all wrestlers must attend whether booked or not, or with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express taking Shawn under their wings teaching him the ways of the wrestler, then Terry Taylor showing him the ways to work inside the ring helping him to bring out facial expressions. Shawn remembers Terry Taylor as having "A real passion for the art of wrestling." He listened to anybody and everybody willing to give him advice even jobbers like Tony Falk who taught him the carny talk.
After a small problem with Buddy Landell stiffing Shawn in his matches, the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express proved helpful again as they advised him to stiff Buddy back and they would end up having a good match, as this would show he wouldn’t take any crap from Landell. Jack Roberts taught him how to call a match in the ring with code words such as "the office" for reversals. Then it was time for Shawn to move on to Central States Wrestling in Kansas, which was ran by Bob Giegal, and his right hand man Terry Garvin.
It was here that Shawn met Marty Jannetty who would go on to be one of his closest friends inside and outside the business for many years. After Shawn had introduced himself to Marty, Marty offered for Shawn to ride with him and Dave Peterson. It was also in C.S.W. Shawn and Marty teamed up for the first time and they both felt it was just right. Shortly after though, Jose offered Shawn a top spot back in San Antonio in Southwest Championship Wrestling which Jose and Fred had just bought off Tully Blanchard. With a guarantee on a wage and a top spot as the home-town hero how could he resist?
All set for his top push, in the small hall where Texas All-Star Wrestling (Formally SWCW) was recorded, his debut match went successfully against a Mexican jobber. Feeling like he was on the verge of making it in his mind, a thousand miles away of ever dreaming of heading a PPV or wrestling Ric Flair, but making it in his own mind. When Jose was alleviated of his role in TASW and Chavo Guerrero took over. Chavo gave Shawn a good match, but then pushed Shawn into tag team with Paul Diamond. Like Marty, Shawn instantly clicked with Diamond and received his first ever championship when it was handed to him and Diamond by Chavo and Al Madril. Only to lose it three weeks later.
However when the promoter Gary Hart took over the show, he took a shining to the young stars Michaels and Diamond and made them a white-hot tag team. Again during this time Shawn was taken under the wing of yet another veteran Al Madril, riding the road with him learning how to be successful in later years at a slower pace and a love for Elvis Presley which he still has to this day. Shawn and Diamond as the American Force would go onto win the belts one more time on November 17th 1985.
Once again thanks to Jose Lothario Shawn received another shot at making it when Jose advised him to turn down an agent contract offered by Fred and to make some tapes to send off to the World Wrestling Federation and American Wrestling Alliance. The AWA responded positively and snatched Shawn up, with a few sad farewells to Texas and his partner Diamond, off he went to the AWA and one more step to New York where as a kid reading the magazines he naturally assumed was the main place for wrestlers to go.
Was also around this time Shawn would get engaged unbeknownst to himself and his now fiancée, Theresa. Upon giving her a promise ring his and her family announced they were to be getting married. Shawn also purchased his first house as a natural investment from the money he had been saving wrestling, although engaged with Theresa, she still lived at home with her family whilst Shawn lived in his new house. His ‘financial adviser’ as he remembers his dad being to him at the time also convinced Shawn to take out a car to get around easier, a maroon 300ZX.
Birth of the Rockers
Upon arriving at Las Vegas where the Minneapolis based AWA was filmed, he met Greg Gagne the son of legendary wrestler and owner of AWA Verne Gagne. It was here Shawn and Marty would meet again in a casino, and Marty would provide him with some life changing advice, feeling inadequate in the locker room due to everyone else carrying themselves better and being older than Shawn who wasn’t even old enough to drink; Marty told him to grow his hair long, like other wrestlers and Shawn has never looked back.
With a smooth first match in AWA and a couple more under his belt, Marty and Shawn were informed they would be teaming up by Verne. Straight away moving into the same apartment complex and thinking of ideas in a creative manner, the name from a Judas Priest song came to them, The Midnight Rockers. Using Marty Jannetty’s ring attire which consisted of tights and tiger stripes, they were ready to rock and roll all over AWA, hoping no one would think they was imitating another tag team who helped Shawn a lot in the beginning of his career. Shawn remembers Verne as asking him and Marty "Are you sure people won’t confuse that name with rocking chairs?"
The first match they had as a team didn’t go as well as expected, the team they fought were a little awkward as was Shawn in his new gimmick. He quickly realized part of wrestling was having charisma and a natural energy to draw the crowd in, not all about the wrestling ability. Soon however they came into their own and found that chemistry they were looking for. Being one of the first teams to actually utilise the 5-second count, to perform double team maneuvers and keep a constant fast pace through-out the match. It is arguable if they were the first team to do all of this, but they were certainly one of the first teams to put it all together in a efficient manner.
Again Michaels found Buddy Rose to take him under his wing along with Marty, and the ring general that the Playboy Rose was, helped bring along the Midnight Rockers onto a whole other plateau. The feud between the Rockers and Rose & Sommers, the AWA tag team champions, started on April 20th 1986, the first match ended with the Rockers losing to veterans. This would be a pattern for nearly a year, with the young duo always coming up slightly short, this lasted until December 25th 2986 when they finally beat Sommers and Rose in a none title match held inside a steel cage. Then at last they finally captured the gold on January 27th 1987, the show however was just a house show and never shown on T.V. That long feud full of blood, guts and sweat was the defining moment of the pairs career, proving to start them on the road to stardom.
Along the road in AWA, with such masters as Scott Hall and Curt Hennig, Marty found his place to shine amongst the ribbers. Thankfully Shawn and Marty had agreed to stick together through thick and thin, as eventually all of the older veterans would not take a liking to the consistent ribbing. It was also around this time Curt would begin to explain how wrestling politics work. However Shawn does remember as Nick Bockwinkel also helping him tremendously, explaining to him how everyone needs to be able to see everything in the ring, whether in the front row or the nose bleed seats.
After winning the belts, Shawn started to really experience the lifestyle of a wrestler in the 80's. Drinking while not wrestling and getting into the pill scene, Shawn was struggling to deal with being himself. He was no longer Michael Shawn Hickenbottom he was constantly Shawn Michaels. Living alone in his apartment, with just occasional visits from Theresa to keep him sane, which she couldn’t accomplish. In denial of his problems he would tell her he was a wrestler and she just couldn’t understand the way he was living as she didn’t get it. Garnering a reputation with Marty, Curt and Scott as being the party animals of AWA, he just couldn’t escape the world he had created for himself. The office politics also started to get to him with people like Rose teaching the ‘screw the office’ attitude, the Midnight Rockers started to choose what shows they turned up to depending on what the payout would be.
With the AWA declining due to the success of then WWF (Now WWE) everyone wanted to jump ship to the promotion on the rise, luckily having fans in high places such as Pat Patterson lobbying for them, they found themselves with a deal in New York. Shawn’s dream had come true, he had finally made it to the place he had only dreamed of going while reading the magazines as a 12 year old kid. After dropping the AWA belts to Boris Zhukov and Soldat Ustinov on May 25th 1987 it seemed like nothing could go wrong.
On June 2nd 1987 the Rockers appeared at their first T.V. taping for Wrestling Superstars, with a reputation following them everyone knew who they were and seemed rather hostile towards them in Shawn’s mind. With drug testing just put in place things couldn’t have been more stacked against them, things couldn’t have been arranged in a state to make them anymore nervous. Not being used at the taping didn’t help matters, feeling forced to sit alone and uncomfortable in it they watched the whole show. Michaels recalled they were to scared and nervous to introduce themselves to anyone and no one introduced themselves to them either. Being encouraged by Terry Garvin they went to the bar where all the wrestlers hung out, still feeling like all eyes were on them they stood alone until finally plucking up the courage to introduce themselves to Davey Boy Smith and Jim Powers. What happened next depends on who is telling the story, Shawn recalls in his book that Jimmy Jack Funk challenged him and Marty to show him how hard they can party, and after being provoked up Shawn smashed a bottle over his own head and walked out the bar. Marty stayed and is meant to of taken home a girl Jimmy Jack Funk had been hitting on. However in Bret Hart’s book he recalls Marty and Shawn being loud, obnoxious, smashing stuff and getting overly wasted for the whole night. The truth of what happened that night in the bar may never be known.
The next day at the taping in Rochester the bill was the Midnight Rockers Vs Jimmy Jack Funk and Jose Estrada. Shawn and Marty were nervous about the match in case Jimmy started to shoot on them or refused to sell or work the match. The match however went fine and turned out good with them getting the clean win over Jimmy and Jose, everything seemed fine with everyone congratulating them on a good match including Vince himself.
Soon after they heard they had been fired, they arranged a meeting with Vince assuming they had been fired for the night in the bar to tell him their side of the story. Sitting outside his office, Vince called them in both wearing cowboy boots and quipped ‘Nice boots, they are made for walking you know," after a hearty laugh he finished "Just kidding, come on in." After they explained their side of the story to him, Vince explained it just wasn’t the right time for them to be there due to emotions and feelings of the boys and if they don’t like you, you just won’t last in the WWF family, but somewhere along the line the door would be open for them once they have matured. To Shawn, no matter what Vince had said or how much Pat Patterson told them they had so much talent, his career was over, his aspirations had died and at 22 years old he felt like a broken man.
After burning bridges in AWA by leaving on a very obnoxious and self righteous note Shawn was unsure about what his future would hold and where they would go, all he knew was he didn’t like anything other than wrestling. Marty secured them a job in Ron Fullers Birmingham Alabama promotion, with no guarantee and no respect. Really struggling to deal with losing the opportunity in the WWF, Michaels turned more to drugs, drink and sank deeper into depression. He begged Theresa to stay with him and wouldn’t let her go from fear of being alone. After demoralising a girl at a show for the promotion by writing "I Am A Dyke" on her jacket instead of autographing it, Shawn was given his two week notice from there too. He remembers Marty sticking right behind him and the pair turned down the two week notice and quit on the spot.
Shawn took upon himself to actually get the team some work as he’d never done it before and was actually his fault that they were jobless once again. He got them a gig with Jerry Jarrett up in Tennessee. Meeting up with old party friends the Nasty Boys from AWA, Shawn started to get wasted again but out of the fun of it, enjoying the time around them, this was cemented when they got to have their first in the company with the Nasty Boys. This also started a turn in their work ethic, being allowed to turn heel for the first time, he had an open canvas to release all his suppressed anger and depression in a creative manner. Playing a cocky young team with Marty, much like his original singles character would later be, both of them upping their games in the ring being allowed to wrestle a more aggressive style.
When they turned heel against Rock ‘N’ Roll RPM’s, they picked up the AWA Southern Tag Team championship on October 26th 1987. As the feud raged on they would lose the belts shortly after back to the Rock ‘N’ Roll RPM’s on November 16th 1987, just to gain them back on November 22nd 1987. During the time Jarrett was trading the Rockers with Greg Gagne who had heard how hot the Rockers now were again and wanted to use them and give them another chance. Eventually the Rockers would start working full time for the AWA again, as their trips become more frequent to Minneapolis. They held the AWA Southern Tag Team titles until December 27th 1987 when they defeated The Original Midnight Express for the AWA World Tag Team Championship, due to the rulings they could not hold both belts and therefore had to vacate the Southern belts.
The Rockers in the WWF
They held the belts for three months before losing them to Badd Company, shortly after they started working on Verne to give them a guarantee such as other wrestlers had. Verne was having none of it, so once again the Rockers quit, with no job just the thought of going to Japan where they heard people made good money. However again someone was smiling down and Pat Patterson once again lobbied for a return to the WWF. Eventually Vince relented and the Midnight Rockers had their job back. In just under a year Shawn felt his life had hit rock bottom and was now being given a second chance, even if Vince had told them if they did absolutely anything wrong they would be gone.
Meanwhile his professional career was blossoming more and more, Shawn had some personal issues to deal with, like the marriage to his neglected fiancée Theresa. While the arguments continued, and Theresa still wanting to break up, Shawn convinced her to stick it out, again out of fear for himself. Fear of being truly alone and fear of never finding someone else to love him and to always be there for him. They got married at a Catholic church in San Antonio Texas three weeks before he started for Vince. This was followed by a two week honeymoon in the Caribbean, then back to work for the WWF and a second shot at his boyhood dream.
July 7th 1988 at Toledo Ohio was the first match of the Midnight Rockers in the WWF they beat the Conquistadors in a smooth match on a nontelevised show. This time after being humbled before they went round introducing themselves to everyone and shaking everyone’s hand at the bar and the rest of the people the next day at the taping. Shawn recalls how Andre the Giant would not shake their hands for over a year until they wrestled together in a match, it was at this point Andre told Shawn he didn’t like them to start with, but after that he was just ribbing them for a year. It was the Dynamite Kid this time who encouraged them to introduce themselves to everyone as a sign of respect to the boys.
It was during the opening of this stint in the WWF the Midnight Rockers officially shortened their name becoming simply The Rockers. Their program with the Conquistadors lasted a few months having nice tidy matches with them, showing off their skills and their work ethic inside of the ring. Shawn remembers having problems with Demolition as he and Marty felt they wouldn’t give enough in the ring but being to scared to say anything as not wanting to cause a rift with anyone due to what the consequences could be. It was against Demolition Shawn lived one of his dreams in wrestling which was to have a match at Madison Square Garden, the arena of arenas in the wrestling world.
The longer they was in the WWF the more Shawn realized he wanted to be treated like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage and other major stars, travelling first class being mobbed for autographs, that was another goal he set for himself. The first step to this was being on a PPV which on November 24th 1988 they succeeded, just a few months into their second WWF tenure. They were part of a 10 man tag team, which started possibly the best feud they had as their time as a tag team in WWF against the Brain Busters, Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson. This was a dream come true for Shawn who had grown up watching Tully and idolizing him. The Brain Busters were very much renowned artists in the art that is professional wrestling, they helped teach the Rockers the way to put the strokes onto canvas and paint the perfect tag team match. Taking advice from Tully especially feeling drawn to the other native of San Antonio, Shawn used the advice from Tully all the way through his singles career too. It was the philosophy of wrestling which Tully taught Shawn, it’s about who can make the fans scream the loudest and longest, it’s that simple.
The next stepping stone for Shawn and Marty was Wrestlemania V and the Twin Towers, like with the Brain Busters they were on the losing end, but the crowd ate up the match and even with doubts running in Shawn’s mind about their losing streak, he was tearing down the house at every chance and that is all that mattered at that point in time. Theresa had been to the show and as normal things ended up with Shawn and Theresa arguing the night before the event actually took place.
Then a program with the Fabulous Rougeaus kicked off, started by the Rougeaus claiming the Rockers were merely carbon copies and could not do anything as good as themselves. The Rockers attacked them, which ended with Michaels getting struck by Jimmy Harts megaphone in his throat. Michaels remembers Pat Patterson telling them they’d be working 60 minute matches together on house shows, for Shawn this felt like a badge of honour, making him a real wrestlers wrestler, something he could tell his grandchildren about one day. The feud ended on August 28th 1989 at Summerslam, the Rockers teamed up with Tito Santana whilst the Rougeaus teamed with Rick Martell. Although on the losing side of things again, but Shawn was happy as was Marty, they felt like they finally fit in with the WWF family, making good money and having great matches.
- Briefly at the end of 1989, the Rockers reignited their feud with the Brain Busters having yet more matches of high quality with them, finishing with a 2 out of 3 falls match. The Rockers won the match which finally set them on their winning ways in the WWF, although not much happened for them in moving up the ranks, it was a good sign of things to come.
The beginning of 1990 looked positive also for Shawn Michaels with an appearance in the Royal Rumble match. However Shawn only lasted a few seconds in the match when he was eliminated by an on fire Ultimate Warrior, he would go on to learn this had no gauge on his future year, like he thought it did at the time.
From here on it lead a feud with the Orient Express, which at first culminated at Wrestlemania Vl. This match was well received and was considered a technically sound match, which would later be outshone by a further match however.
With that behind them they moved on to varying matches at house show events and a match-up against Power and Glory on August 27th 1990 at Summerslam. Unfortunately for Shawn however, in a motorcycle accident which he claims happened due to an old lady breaking suddenly while he was travelling at 40 miles per hour, jarred his knee. Michaels continued to wrestle but while wrestling Honky Tonk and Valentine his knee buckled, by the time the PPV match actually came around he could barely move it. The match had to be changed, to fit in around this, with the help of a lot of pain pills and Animal of the Road Warriors taping up is knee, Shawn managed to run to the ring where Hercules promptly attacked him with his steel chain. For the rest of the match he spent it on his back on the apron, leaving Marty to wrestle an uphill battle.
This would be the first of many major knee injuries for Shawn in his long illustrious career. He had completely blown out his ACL and torn his medial meniscus, due to worries of missing time in the ring and not getting paid for it and possibly losing the momentum they had gained over the last year, Shawn simply had his knee scoped, instead of having the surgery. In the short run it served him well, he was back in the ring within 6 weeks, but this injury would come back to haunt him later on his career.
Although suffering from an injury, on October 30th 1990, the Rockers received their first WWF World Tag Team championship. In a match which pitted them again the Hart Foundation, they were due to win the 2 out of 3 falls match. This was not meant to be though, the ring ropes snapped half way through the match, the ropes could not be fixed and the match continued. The Rockers won and were rewarded the title belts, they even defended the belts on November 3rd against Power and Glory. Shortly after the whole thing would be stricken from record books, like a lot of stuff in Shawn’s career stories vary on why. The official reason is the match simply couldn’t be aired due to the condition of the ring. Shawn claims the Hart Foundation used politics to keep the titles and not re-tape the match, other people say The Anvil was fired, but they came to some agreement and The Anvil was permitted stay, which one of these stories if either is true, we will probably never know.
On November 22nd 1990 at Survivor Series, the Rockers had a small role on Jack "The Snake" Roberts team Vipers and came up on the losing end of the stick. At the Royal Rumble 1991 on January 19th, the Rockers met up with the new Orient Express, which now consisted of Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond after Akio Sato left. This match was considered maybe the best televised match the Rockers ever had and one of the best tag-team matches to of appeared on T.V. in general. At Wrestlemania Vll, they had another none match against Haku and the Barbarian, the Rockers won the match but it seemed to be there just fill time up on the card more than anything else.
It was just after Wrestlemania Vll that things started coming to a head with Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty. After over 5 years together constantly on the road and in the ring, things were really getting to Shawn and would appear to Marty also. Things got really bad one night while getting wasted with Roddy Piper, and Piper talking about how much potential Shawn had as a singles wrestler, some accounts say Piper was purposely stirring things up. Things broke down in a fight until Piper broke it up. Marty did apologise the next day to Shawn, however Shawn continued to ensue information about making it as a singles competitor, receiving advice from Roddy Piper. He remembers Piper telling him to never ask someone how your match is, as it makes you look like you have no confidence in yourself. This story is also was told by Marty as the police turned up trying to arrest him after the fight, but Randy Savage convinced them not to as it was all part of a storyline, Marty claims this was one of the deciding factors in splitting the Rockers up.
A recurring theme pipes up again, Shawn claims over an incident on a commercial for a Wheaties box they were underpaid compared to other wrestlers, he said he’d back Marty no matter what; unaware Marty would give Vince an ultimatum with no back up plan. Shawn then told Marty that he couldn’t do it and wanted to stay with WWF and go on for a singles career, which Vince had already told him they could do at anytime. Marty was unhappy about this, as he felt Shawn had more potential than himself. Other sources however say it was Michaels who let the side down and instead of sticking with his partner as he had always claimed he would actually stabbed Jannetty in the back with this singles push for himself which he would receive shortly after.
On screen the break up really started at Survivor Series on November 27th 1991, during a 4 on 4 elimination style match when Marty slammed a Nasty Boy accidentally into Shawn, causing Shawn to be rolled up for a pin. Before that in a singles match, Marty had rolled Shawn back into the ring allowing Ric Flair to pin him, both incidents caused Shawn to believe he was being betrayed. The final straw came on the Barber Shop on January 12th 1992, after the Rockers seemingly had made up out of no where Shawn super kicked Marty, throwing him threw a plate glass window on the set. With a bit of convincing Vince let Marty blade causing the blood to flow, following this Shawn ripped in half a picture of the duo and finally Shawn was the singles wrestler he wanted to be back in TASW, albeit not a babyface but a heel.
As soon as this happened, Michaels was then thrown into the 1992 Royal Rumble at the Knickerbocker Arena in Albany New York on January the 19th. In this years event, Shawn’s second he had a better showing of himself lasting around 15 minutes in the match.
1991 – 1992
With his singles career about to start, Shawn was all ready to start his feud with Jannetty after the big break up everyone wanted to see the feud. Due to Jannetty’s ever increasing personal problems it never happened and Shawn was left to begin afresh with no big kick off. The original idea by the WWF was for Shawn to be the "Boy Toy" of the WWF due to him now being paired with Sensational Sherri, who previously had managed Sommers and Rose who helped the Rockers get noticed in the first place, he recalls feeling comfortable around her and her being a very positive and willing person to work with. He remembers, "If Sherri saw that someone wasn’t selling for me, she would yell, "Throw them out here, Shawn." I’d throw them out and she’d kick them with her big old boots and scratch them on their back. They would come rushing back to the ring to be with me where it was safe."
The gimmick the pair used would be Sherri the older woman was infatuated with Michaels, and much like his heel days he played the young cocky and vain superstar, with the beginning of the matches involving Sherri holding a full length mirror while Shawn admired himself in it, followed by her disrobing him. The song that he still uses today ‘Sexy Boy’ as ring music was actually originally sung by Sherri. To further get over his gimmick he would use such phrases as "Shawn Michaels has left the building," and, "I am the greatest living thing on God’s green Earth."
With Jannetty gone, Michaels would wrestle a number of pointless matches finding it hard to move anywhere up the card he became noticed for being a very good seller and making anyone and everyone look good who he was in the ring with. He was supposed to fight Jannetty at Wrestlemania Vlll on April 5th 1992 at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis Indiana. However due to Jannetty being gone, Michaels wrestled El Matador in the opening match-up in a good solid match.
He finally ended up with a program of some sorts even if it was only house shows and not televised, against Bret Hart; this consisted of losing for three months to the Hit Man while trying to capture the WWF Intercontinental championship. This mini feud ended on July 21st 1992 in Portland Maine, in the first ever ladder match in the WWF, which Bret Hart also won. The ladder match had been an old Stampede Wrestling idea which Bret suggested for Shawn and himself to work.
It was after these series of matches while standing around waiting for the meeting that everyone who wanted one, had with Vince at the shows which were taped, Shawn decided to take life by the horns. He had seen Savage and Hogan skip the queue many times, so he followed suit and did the same, he remembers knocking on the door going into Vince’s office and saying "What do I have to do to make it? I want to be one of your guys. I want to be one of those guys that are in everything. I believe I can d this. I’ll do whatever I have to do to get better at it. Just tell me what it is I need to do and I’ll do it. If you want me to work, I’ll g work. If you want me to do something else, I’ll do it. I’ll never say no. I want to be on top. Tell me what I have to do and I will do it." He then remembers Vince just nodding at him and saying "You just did it."
Shortly after a small program started with Rick "The Model" Martel. This feud all started over Sensational Sherri, they both wanted her and she wanted both of them. This culminated at Summerslam 1992 on August 29th at Wembley Stadium London England. The match had a stipulation which was neither man could hit the other in the face, as Sherri was scared they’d ruin each others faces. The match may not have been a classic due to the stipulation; it was definitely another step up the ladder. The match was third on the card instead of the opener, and ended with Michaels chasing Martel away from the ring. Sherri would stay with Michaels for the time being.
His next goal was to win the Intercontinental title, seeing how all the great workers of the time had worn it, Michaels knew it was a must have on his résumé if he wanted to continue moving upwards. On October 27th 1992 at a Saturday Night Main Event’s show, he accomplished this goal against the British Bulldog. He recalls having no prior warning he would win the belt, just Davey Boy telling him when he arrived to the arena he would be winning it all. Just 9 months into his single career Shawn was feeling on top of the world.
With Curt Hennig doing announcing he got a feel for what Shawn was trying to accomplish with his gimmick and what the office wanted Shawn to accomplish. Being old friends from the AWA days also helped tremendously and Curt started to throw in the name "Heartbreak Kid" during his announcing. He suggested it to Michaels who was a little unsure about the name, but started using it none the less preferring it to ‘Boy Toy’, Michaels has never looked back as that name is associated world wide now with Shawn ‘the Heartbreak Kid’ Michaels.
The next step was to fight Bret Hart once again, but instead of it being a house show, it was a one off match at Survivor Series 1992, November 25th at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield Ohio. This however wasn’t just any old one off match, this was the main event, and this was champion versus champion. Shawn Michaels the Intercontinental champion versus Bret Hart the WWF world heavyweight champion. Even if the match was only main event due to unforeseen circumstances with the Ultimate Warrior, the pair took it to task to put on a classic of a match. In many peoples minds the match was a classic, with Bret Hart winning after a 26 minute thriller of a match.
Shortly after Jannetty reappeared on the seen coming out of the crowd on Monday Night Raw, he attacked Michaels trying to injure him with his own mirror, but Michaels ducked and Jannetty smashed the mirror into Sherri’s face instead. This feud would keep building until Royal Rumble, where Sherri would return after the injuries she had sustained from Marty had healed. This would see Shawn sit out of the main Rumble match, and go on second with Jannetty, in a solid match, where Sherri shocked the world by siding with Jannetty instead of long time ‘Boy Toy’ Michaels. Even with Sherri’s help Jannetty still lost the match. Marty did however get some revenge beating up Michaels in the backstage area as he shouted at Sherri for betraying him.
Jannetty couldn’t shake his personal problems, so with the feud open to pick back up at some point, he once again vanished from the WWF. With his life of partying ever increasing Michaels found himself having talks from Vince about it on an increasing basis, but he was young and full of himself, his character wasn’t just a character anymore, Shawn knew in his own mind he was the best and didn’t care what anyone had to say about it.
He now had to concentrate on Wrestlemania lX, wrestling seemingly pointless matches again, the same way he started his singles career, Michaels found himself in a program against Tatanka. This wouldn’t be an easy program though, in a match against Tatanka and the Nasty Boys while teaming with the Beverley Brothers, Shawn separated his shoulder and had to have four weeks off from wrestling. He recalls having a couple of tune up matches before Wrestlemania and the referee knocking his tooth out while handing him the belt after one.
With no build up, any real storyline of any kind Shawn Michaels and Tatanka squared off in the opening match at Caesars Palace Las Vegas Nevada on April 4th 1993 for the 9th annual Wrestlemania. The match far from being a classic was still a solid match, with Shawn losing via count out and managing to retain his Intercontinental belt in that underhanded manner. This however wasn’t Shawn’s only showing as he went on to attack Mr. Perfect after his match with Lex Luger.
While preparing for the feud with Mr. Perfect, Michaels found himself back with Jannetty who had made another go at his WWF career. In an open challenge on May 17th 1993, Monday Night Raw, Marty Jannetty came out in a disguise, accepted the challenge, after removing the gear, he went on to beat Michaels with Mr. Perfect causing a distraction to allow the quick victory.
Michaels secured his soon to be buddy Kevin Nash a job in the WWF after seeing him in WCW while out with his separated shoulder. After some legal milestones it was official Shawn had a new body guard, he was 7 foot tall, 300 lb’s and went by the name Diesel. Both men quickly became friends inside and outside of the ring. With Diesel firmly by his side on June 6th in an nontelevised house show in Albany, Michaels regained his title from Jannetty and finally ended their over 2 year long off and on feud.
Back up to 3rd match on the card, Shawn found himself in a blow off match with Mr. Perfect at Summerslam 1993 on August 30th; this took place in Auburn Hills Michigan. Even though both superstars were renowned for their ability to make others look good, they just couldn’t get it together in a match and had a disappointing showing lasting only 10 minutes with Diesel interfering causing Shawn to win via a count out.
Then disaster struck, Shawn tested positive for steroids in a wellness policy test. Feeling this was unjust and denying until he was blue in the face that he had ever took steroids his relationship with Vince temporarily exploded. Vince was adamant he had to take the six weeks off as did anyone who violated it, Shawn was adamant there was no reason as the test must have been wrong. This dispute ended with Vince telling to Shawn they’d talk about it after the six weeks were up and Shawn refusing to give back the WWF Intercontinental belt. While Shawn was off on screen they explained his absence by claiming Shawn had been lazy and not defended his title enough, and held a battle royal followed by a singles match to decide the new official champion.
On Shawn’s return to the WWF they decided for him to claim he had never lost the belt and was the true champion, still with the belt he never returned it seemed he actually had a claim to the belt now held by Razor Ramon. Before this feud could start though, Shawn had to replace Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler in a match at Survivor Series 1993 in Boston Massachusetts, on November 24th. It would see Shawn and the King’s Knights battle out against the Hart family, on which Shawn’s team would eventually lose following his departure from the ring allowing a count out.
He would also compete inside of the Royal Rumble match for a fourth time, this time lasting even longer than his previous one with just under 30 minutes on the clock. He recalls seeing Mr. Perfect in one and bumping all over the place nearly getting eliminated a thousand times but always managing to hold on, and he figured if he could do this then the camera would always be on him, so Shawn took his good friends idea and pulled it off without a hitch.
The feud with Razor Ramon his other good buddy from the AWA days really kicked off from then. With Shawn claiming to be the champion and Razor also claiming to be the champion everyone wanted to see the true champion crowned. The only way the WWF could see fit to do it, was to raise both belts high above the ring for the second ever ladder match in the WWF, this match took place at Wrestlemania X at Madison Square Garden on March 20th 1994. This match undoubtedly shot Shawn into stardom, with Diesel being banned from ring side a few minutes into the match for interfering; Shawn was left alone with Razor. Although it would be Razor to go on to win the match, the match goes down in the history books as a classic and both men came out looking stronger than ever. This would be Shawn’s first 5 star match rated by Dave Meltzer, only four WWF matches have ever been awarded that rating, this was the first one.
Just after April 1994 the inevitable happened, Theresa asked Shawn for a divorce. Their marriage had been rocking and rolling to disaster from the moment they were told they were engaged rather than actually saying they were. Both parties seemed to realize it was a miracle they’d lasted this long and once Shawn calmed down he realized it was for the best. All Theresa asked for was the car, some belongings and enough money to help her start her new life and that was it, the marriage was over, the divorce settled.
It was around this time Shawn came up with an idea for the "Heartbreak Hotel" a talking segment similar to Roddy Pipers Pit of a few years ago. It would appear mainly on WWF Superstars but if gave Shawn a chance to heal from some of his nagging injuries and show himself in a new light as someone legitimate on the microphone as well as in the ring. With Diesel still by his side the talk show went on. Diesel was starting to wrestle more, so Shawn took this as a chance to accompany him to the ring and stay in the spotlight with out a proper wrestling role. Shawn also helped Diesel capture the Intercontinental championship off his own rival Razor Ramon.
Being bored of not being in the ring, Shawn had an idea for him and Diesel to win the Tag Team championships; with Vince’s approval it was set. After several months with barely any action in the ring apart from a couple overseas tours. Shawn got back in the ring and he and Diesel beat the Head Shrinkers. The good times wouldn’t last though, the next night at Summerslam 1994, Shawn accidentally super kicked Diesel costing him the title against Razor Ramon, with Walter Payton in Razor’s corner, and he held Shawn’s leg restricting him from breaking up the pin fall.
It was prior to this that Scott Hall had told Shawn the super kick should be his finishing move as it was the best move he had. It had been a debate between the group outside of the ring which would be called ‘The Kliq,’ as to what Shawn should use as a finisher. The group of friends consisted of Shawn, Kevin, Scott and Sean Waltman (The 1-2-3 Kid) at the time.
The feud between Shawn and Diesel kept being teased for the next several months, until finally at Survivor Series November 23rd 1994 at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio Texas; Shawn’s home town, it happened. During a five on five elimination match, he accidently super kicked Diesel one too many times. Diesel finally snapped and chased Shawn from the ring side area all the way to the parking lot only escaping thanks to a car being available to speed off in.
This would be the biggest feud Shawn had ever had in the WWF; he was going to end up headlining Wrestlemania Xl against his buddy Diesel. First, though he had to win the 1995 Royal Rumble match. He entered number one, Davey Boy entered number two and the pair lasted the entire match, they were the last two left, when Davey Boy clotheslined Shawn over the top rope seemingly for the win, Shawn held on, he dangled for a long time, even though Vince had previously instructed him not to. He then pulled himself back up over the top rope and eliminated Davey Boy while he celebrated what he and everyone else thought was his victory. This was the first time anyone had ever entered at number one and go on to win the whole thing.
For the next few months the WWF concentrated on building Shawn up for his world title opportunity at the Hartford Civic Center in Connecticut on April 2nd 1995 for Wrestlemania Xl. During the months between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania, Shawn acquired a body guard named Sid. Unlike Diesel, Sid wasn’t just a big man, he was a big man who looked like he wanted to hurt people, with him in Shawn’s corner people really started to doubt whether Diesel could hold onto the title. The match itself although it was a good solid match didn’t have the desired effect due to one spot where Diesel kicked out from Shawn’s finisher on a count of one, this seemed to earn Shawn some sympathy from the crowd and even with Sid’s influence at ring side Shawn lost the match. This was also the match where Diesel was accompanied to ring by Pamela Anderson and Shawn by Jennifer McCarthy.
The next night on Monday Night Raw Sid turned on Shawn, power bombing him three times, with Diesel coming to the ring for the save. Shawn was officially turned face, with Vince seeing the mistake made at Wrestlemania, he gave Shawn six weeks off to make out Sid had really injured him and would welcome him back as a babyface.
It was during this time off the controversy really began for Shawn and the Kliq, with Paul Levesque starting for the company and asking for permission to hang out with the already formed group, the fifth and final member was in place. According to other wrestlers the Kliq held people back and would bad mouth, ridicule and bash to Vince McMahon the ones they didn’t like. Shawn however claims this never happened, he says that although they were very outspoken they only ever told Vince if someone really couldn’t wrestle. If they didn’t like someone but they could wrestle, Shawn says they would tell Vince so. He also admits to trying to stay on top, but he also wanted the best on top with him so things didn’t get stale.
Now Shawn was back and adored by fans world wide, but like much of his singles career there appeared to be no plan for him, wrestling a couple of matches with Sid, then going on to qualify for the King Of The Ring on June 25th 1995 only to go to a time limit draw with Kama. Feeling impatient and like he was going nowhere all over again Shawn admits he did have a dig at Vince exclaiming "you turned me face for this?"
Shortly there after at the second ever In Your House on July 23rd 1995 the WWF threw Shawn a bone and allowed him to beat Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental championship, making this Shawn’s third reign.
Next up was the rematch from over a year earlier; Shawn Michaels versus Razor Ramon ladder match number two. Shawn remembers both men were unsure about doing the ladder match and that Vince stipulated there could be no violence using the ladder due to new policies. So, when it came for the two friends on and off screen to battle it out in the match prior to the main event, they knew they had to pull out all the stops. Through-out the match they used the ladder as a weapon but seemingly accidentally. Depending who you ask the second ladder match is preferred to the first, although the first acquired more accolades. With Shawn winning this time around and a show of respect from Razor after the bell, Shawn was set as the babyface and ready to move on to bigger challenges.
There would be another controversial event even if it was just on screen controversy. It was In Your House 3, September 24th 1995 after patching up their differences on screen thanks to Diesel coming to Shawn’s aid when Sid attacked him, Diesel and H.B.K. would defend both their belts against the tag team champions Owen and Yokozuna who would in turn defend the tag belts. However Owen wouldn’t make the show due to a family casualty so Davey Boy took his place, towards the end of the match Owen would appear and get pinned by WWF champion Diesel. Shawn and Diesel were stripped of the titles though due to Owen not being a legal participant in the match.
Then disaster would strike Shawn all over again, while out at a bar one night he would find himself wasted and getting attacked by a group of men, able to crawl back to his hotel where Sunny and Chris Candido would take him to hospital, he’d be left with a concussion and other minor injuries. With not much time before the next In Your House Vince decided Shawn would vacate the title to Dean Douglas who would then lose it to Razor just minutes later. Many including Douglas believe the Kliq politicked their way to keeping the belt with-in there off screen group of friends as they disliked him, but like most other accusations Shawn denies this.
He would next wrestle at the Survivor Series 1995 in a four on four elimination style match where his team would be the victors after his own team member Sid again viciously attacked him. The only member of his team being eliminated was Sid.
Michaels would then wrestle Owen Hart on an addition of Monday Night Raw, this would prove to be one of the most memorable storylines of this period in wrestling. It was kept from everyone and only those who needed to know would be told of what would happen. During the match Owen delivered on enziguri to Michaels, from which he later collapsed in the ring from. The show ended with Shawn unconscious of the floor and no commentary the whole arena shocked and unsure as to what had just happened was real or scripted. It all seemed very real especially after Shawn and J.R. had done an interview going into detail about the seriousness of the injuries he had suffered during the beat down in the parking lot of the bar.
For the next month or so on screen was talked of Shawn having to retire from the severity of his concussion followed up by the post-concussion syndrome caused by Owen Hart. It was discussed how he had come so close to winning the WWF title but now would never be able to due to Owen causing him an early retirement. While all this was going on for the fans to see behind the scenes it was talked of Shawn winning the WWF title at Wrestlemania Xll.
To huge fan fare and much speculation to the actual condition of his health Shawn reappeared just before the Royal Rumble 1996, he threw his hat into the mix and stated he would win it. There were many neigh Sayers the biggest of all being Owen Hart who claimed he would put Shawn out once and for all if he came across him in the Rumble. So on January 21st at the Selland Arena in Fresno California, Shawn entered the Royal Rumble with number 18, Owen would attempt to end Shawn’s career with the enziguri again leaving him on the floor for part of the match but with the whole arena behind him he came back to finally eliminate good friend Diesel from the Rumble match and earn his opportunity against Bret Hart at Wrestlemania, making him the second back to back Rumble winner.
First though, he had some unfinished business to take care of against Owen Hart at In Your House 6. It was built up by Owen challenging him for his slot against Bret at Wrestlemania. Shawn being the face with more guts and pride than brains accepted the challenge. The match took place on February 18th from Louisville; the whole match was based around could Shawn beat the man so intent on ending his career, who had come so close to ending it before. With Owen hitting the enziguri one more time in the match and Shawn barely kicking out it looked like it was all over, but Michaels fought back managed to avoid a second one and attained victory with his patented super kick.
It was set Shawn ‘Heart Break Kid’ Michaels versus Bret ‘Hit Man’ Hart at Wrestlemania Xll on March 31st 1996 from the Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim California. For the next several weeks it was built up around Shawn’s boyhood dream, how from the age of 12 this was all he ever wanted. Jose Lothario was brought in to be Shawn’s mentor to run up for the big match, while off screen his girlfriend at the time Themis helped him with his physical training. Shawn remember how he and Bret got on around this time, there was no bad blood or any hard feelings, he remember Bret as always being a loner and keeping himself to himself and the two of them set out to lay out the best match they could, which was decided by Pat Patterson as being a one hour iron man match.
The match in many peoples mind was a true classic, others consider it as being a bit slow in places, whether they were for or against it everyone agrees it was a turning point in the history of the WWF. It started with Shawn Michaels gliding down from the rafters into the middle of his on screen Kliq, the audience, and then Bret Hart came out to the ring. The match went the full hour with no pin falls, submissions, disqualifications or count outs. Therefore Bret stayed the champion, until President Gorilla Monsoon came down and stated there would be overtime, Michaels had barely hung in for the last 40 seconds in Bret’s sharpshooter and now they would start all over again in sudden death rules. Bret was in solid control when out of no where Michaels hit his super kick, still fazed from the beating he couldn’t get the cover, and both men returned to their feet where Michaels hit it again and got the pin fall. He kneeled in the ring clutching the belt crying before he finally got up and celebrated his victory, the completion and surpassing of his boyhood dream.
Outside of the ring Shawn learned that his good friends Scott and Kevin were going to WCW for a big money offer, Waltman would go before them. This made Shawn realise it would be just him and Paul, now known as Triple H, left in the company left out of his group of friends the Kliq.
Before Razor and Diesel would leave though it was time for one last match between Shawn and Diesel at In Your House 7: Good Friends Better Enemies. The match was to be a no holds barred match for the WWF championship, with a rival promotion ECW on the rise and WCW becoming a serious threat, Shawn and Diesel wanted to do something special, they pleaded with Vince to let Diesel put Shawn through the announcers table, eventually he succumbed and it happened. Pat Patterson also had the idea of Diesel attacking old school wrestler Mad Dog Vachon and stealing his prosthetic leg to be used as a weapon, which would end with Shawn using it as a make shift super kick for the 1, 2, 3.
Then it was time for Scott and Kevin to leave, this would once again create huge controversy through-out the WWF locker room as much of what the Kliq did. A week before the next pay per view on May 19th at Madison Square Garden, it was the last night of the Kliq, after the main event which was Shawn versus Diesel in a steel cage the Kiq came down and embraced in the ring to say good bye one last time. The problem with this show of respect and love was at the time Triple H and Diesel were heels while Michaels and Razor were faces which broke the law in wrestling known as kayfabe. Shawn claims Vince knew about it and was okay about it, but a few days later was getting heat about it so he made Shawn and Triple H apologise to everyone and Triple H, Hunter, was put on punishment for the next year to make the boys and agents happy, whether this is the exact order of events we probably will never know.
Then it was time for In Your House 8: Beware of Dog on May 26th 1996. This pay per view is also full of disaster and controversy, due to a storm outside the power was very unstable and no one knew if it would stay on for the entire show or not, due to the uncertainty of the situation Michaels and Davey Boy just wrestled to a no contest, and the pay per view had to be redone two days later to make up for the bumbled first take.
The next PPV was King Of The Ring 1996 on June 23rd, which saw the rematch between Shawn and Davey Boy, this time with no pressure of power failures looming, it came out much more successful with a nice little ending where two referees were counting Owen Hart, Davey Boys partner, pulled one out of the ring but the second official counted to 3 anyway, making Shawn the winner of the match.
Then it was In Your House: International incident on July 21st 1996, the scheduled match was Shawn, Ahmed Johnson and The Ultimate Warrior versus Vader, Owen Hart and Davey Boy, but the Warrior had to be replaced by Psycho Sid. Michaels would lose his match for the team when Vader pinned him after a Vader bomb.
Yet more controversy followed on August 18th 1996's Summerslam, it is felt Shawn refused to lose to Vader in the match, which Shawn adamantly denies saying he was never asked to lose. The match however was a good solid match as most of Michaels’ were during this period; however he recalls shouting at Vader during the match for messing up a spot. He recalls being under a lot of pressure at this time was WWF were losing the war against WCW and he took a lot of the responsibility on his own shoulders as the world champion, which caused him to snap at a lot of people. The match however proved to be one outlining Shawn’s courage after losing twice, once by count out and once by disqualification with Vader’s manager, Jim Cornette, demanding it be restarted on both occasions, only for Shawn to go on and win it.
Feeling the stress from being the company’s flag bearer Michaels was thrown into a one time match with Mankind at In Your House 10: Mind Games, on September 22nd 1996. This match is often forgotten from Shawn’s career but is considered a real star of a match; it is even remembered by Mick Foley in his book saying "I don’t think I’ve ever been that good again. This match is also on the short list of the three best things I’ve done in wrestling." In what was essentially a 26 minute brawl, Shawn won by disqualification and then only being saved after the bell by Sid attacking Mankind’s ally Vader and the Undertaker popping out from a casket.
It was around this time at the end of 1996 that Shawn Michaels famously appeared in the magazine for homosexuals called Playgirl. It was a constant source of ribbing afterwards, Michaels claims he was unaware that it wasn’t for women and didn’t realise until doing a signing for it and being greeted by not your typical male wrestling fan. He was also split up from now best friend Hunter to try and enforce some kayfabe as Shawn was still a face while Hunter a heel, no longer able to ride with his buddy, he found himself truly alone for the first time in his wrestling life.
The following PPV, In Your House 11, took some pressure off Michaels as he was only featured in a dark match against Goldust, which he won, as the whole thing was built around Undertaker Vs Mankind in a buried alive match.
- Survivor Series 1996 from Madison Square Garden, November 17th. This match was possibly the worst of his championship reign wrestling the big man Sid who Michaels remembers as being very uneasy to move around and wrestle with. The match is often forgotten from his reign and rightfully so, it was the match he lost his belt in and the match the fans really turned on him. Times were changing with the NWO beginning to run rampant in WCW the rebel face was officially the man to be going with. The crowd booed Michaels during the match and made himself and the office doubt whether he was still the man to go with, as ever Michaels would drink and pop pills to push away his problems still getting as wasted as he did back in the days with Jannetty if not worse so.
In Your House 12 was another easy show for Michaels again in a dark match this time against Mankind, again this match Michaels went over in.
The Royal Rumble 1997 from his home town San Antonio Texas proved much more promising for Michaels as he regained his championship from Sid. During this match we continued to see a more aggressive side of him which we had first seen with Vader and then even more so with Mankind. Michaels won the match when he hit Sid in the face with a camera from ringside.
It was also around this time he had started calling his finisher Sweet Chin Music, this had actually been stolen from announcer calling a baseball came who Michaels heard exclaimed that Roger Clemens had delivered some ‘sweet chin music’ with his pitch.
What happened next in Shawn’s match is probably the second most controversial thing he has ever done in his career. It was running up to Wrestlemania Xlll and he tweaked his knee; he went to see a doctor who told him he could never wrestle again and would need a knee replacement. Devastated by the news he went further into drink and pills, he had nothing outside of wrestling. Shawn would vacate the belt on Thursday Raw Thursday a special edition of Monday Night Raw, this was filled with much speculation, had he really suffered a career ending injury? Did he not want to lose to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania? According to Shawn both were true, he had been told he couldn’t wrestle again, but he openly admits he didn’t want to lose to Bret, he notes that even if he didn’t want to there was no getting out of it unless Vince said so. It was on this edition of Raw Shawn gave another speech to remember, talking of what the doctor had said and how he’d lost his smile travelling up and down the road, which he actually got from something his mum had said to him.
Michaels’ recalls around this time it was when rumors started to fly of him being a homosexual and how Bret was burying him and his family in newspapers and dirt sheets, all apparently for the good of their feud. Michaels told Vince for these reasons it was why he wouldn’t work with Bret, but admits he would have if pressured, due to his knee injury the situation never arose. It is still ascertained by the Hit Man that all this was faked to get out of dropping the belt.
Vince with the help of Steve Austin convinced Shawn to visit a doctor called Dr. James Andrews, a man well known for his work with athletes and had just repaired Steve’s knee. Andrews informed Shawn he could rehab it and attempt to go back to work as it would do no more real damage as the other option was for a replacement anyway. With rehab and motivation Shawn returned to the ring on May 25th to capture the tag team titles with Steve Austin from Davey Boy and Owen Hart. Michaels recalls doing his back flip off the top rope purposely to annoy Bret and other people to make them say his knee injury was definitely faked.
Michaels and Austin would also fight at King of the Ring 1997 in a good showing of 22 minutes which went to a double disqualification when both men attacked referees; this was another example of Shawn’s more aggressive in ring mentality and character, his way of trying to stray from the white-meat babyface.
More controversy struck as the mud slinging between Shawn and Bret continued culminating for now in fight backstage, both men account the fight in their advantage but the general idea is Shawn was took down by Bret while he had Bret in a face lock, it is disputed to whether Bret actually landed a punch before this. They do both agree that he tore a lump of hair from Shawn’s head. As a result of this fight Shawn was suspended, it was explained on tapings that Shawn had been suspended for 4 – 6 weeks and the tag team titles were officially vacated on July 14th 1997. Shawn also didn’t appear on In Your House 16 which was a week prior to the vacating of the titles.
A lengthy meeting took place between Shawn, his dad and Vince following this debacle, Shawn had had enough and wanted to leave WWF and go to WCW with his friends, he was upset he couldn’t ride with Hunter anymore, he remembers being miserable that he made everyone else miserable and just wanted to go with his friends where wrestling could be fun again. During this meeting Vince confronted him about his pill problem but Shawn adamantly denied he had one. In all reality Shawn was more into pills than ever before, he was beginning to reach the bottom of the slippery slope. Vince would convince Shawn to stay with the WWF explaining he could make it fun for Shawn again and that WCW would never be able to use a guy like him appropriately.
After another long talk with Bret and Shawn trying to put their differences aside with Vince as the intermediary it was decided they would work together at Summerslam 1997 held in New Jersey on August the 3rd. They however would not be wrestling; Shawn was the special guest referee for Hart Vs Undertaker. If Undertaker would lose his championship if Bret won and Bret would never be allowed to wrestle in America again if he lost. It was publicised that Shawn would have to be an impartial referee or face never receiving another championship opportunity. Towards the end of the match Hart would spit in Michaels face, to which he would retaliate by wildly swinging a chair missing Hart and striking the Undertaker; reluctantly he would count the 1, 2, 3 as Hart pinned the Undertaker for the belt.
Just after Summerslam Michaels was finally allowed to turn heel again, he loved being a heel and he knew the fans loved to hate him for being a cocky obnoxious punk. He was finally allowed to ride with his good friend Hunter again and wrestling started to become fun. A program being set up with the Undertaker leading from the chair shot, Michaels cut a program on Raw which lead to his heel turn. With a tag team match on Raw teaming Hunter and himself against ‘Taker and Mankind, the seeds for one of the most recognised teams in history was born. With Chyna already in the picture managing Hunter, D-Generation X was about to be born. Chyna would also begin to date Hunter off screen in a real life relationship making the threesome very close and tight knit.
The build up for the formation of D-Generation X continued as the weeks passed, with Michaels battling Undertaker at In Your House 17: Ground Zero, the match would eventually be thrown out due to it breaking down into a brawl, with Hunter and Chyna coming down to aid Michaels in fending off the man from the dark side the Undertaker.
At One Night Only filmed in Birmingham, England from the NEC Arena on September 20th 1997, D-Generation X was officially born. With original members, Chyna, Rick Rude and Hunter helping Shawn Michaels capture the European title from British Bulldog to make him the first ever Grand Slam winner. DX was booed out of the arena hardly a fan enjoyed the way Davey Boy had just been robbed just a few miles from his home town, the ring filled with garbage being thrown at the group who still hadn’t got a name.
The next step was Michaels versus Undertaker the rematch, due to the group Michaels held and their interference in the previous match it was decided a new structure, more deadly than anything ever seen before would be created. The Hell in a Cell was born. Locking Shawn and Undertaker inside leaving Hunter, Chyna and Rude outside to watch as Shawn would be decimated. Leading up this the on screen pranks of the group was similar to those of off screen, very sophomoric and crude. It’s remembered how Shawn went to the ring wearing just tight fitting shorts on a dare filled with gauze tape and started using what would be a famous sign of DX; the crotch chop.
The Hell in a Cell would take place at In Your House 18: Badd Blood, on October 5th 1997, in the Kiel Center St. Louis Missouri. Michaels recalls the Undertaker stating this was possibly his favourite match ever to wrestle, and Shawn remembers being very proud of the match himself. The match would start with both men inside the Hell in a Cell as time would pass though they had conjured up a way to escape the seemingly impossible to escape cell. With Undertaker controlling much of the match, he back body dropped Shawn over the ropes onto a camera man which Shawn then beat up further. The medics would arrive and remove the name injured camera man from the ring area and the cell, this gave Shawn the opportunity to break out the cell while the padlocked door was open. Undertaker followed Shawn in quick pursuit using Shawn as a javalin, ramning him face first into the side of the cell further opening cuts on his head. Momentarily escaping Shawn started to scale the huge cell structure again being followed by the relentless Dead Man, while on top of the cell the audience went crazy, nothing like this had ever been seen in the WWF before. Undertaker press slammed Shawn onto the structure before Shawn could roll to the edge of the cell and attempt to climb down the cell, ‘Taker however as always would catch Michaels whilst dangling from the top of the cell hanging on for dear life, slowly and methodically ‘Taker stamped on Shawns fingers forcing him to let go and take a big bump through the announcers table. The Undertaker then retrieved Michaels after making a slow decent down the cell, returning to the ring Undertaker inflicted more punishment on Michaels hitting him with a steel chair leaving Michaels in a bloody mess on the canvas. However the lights would go out and Kane, Undertakers storyline brother would make his debut in WWF ripping the now padlocked door off it’s hinges, entering the ring, causing fire to explode from the ring posts and then tombstoning the Undertaker after which Kane departed leaving Michaels to gain the victory. This was Michaels second match to receive the 5-star rating from Dave Meltzer and is the only one ever to do so, it is considered by many as the most well told story in a Hell in a Cell as it is the original version of the match, although the Undertaker versus Mankind is more remembered.
Still nameless the group of Chyna, Michaels, Hunter and Rude were finally Christened when Bret Hart kept referring to them as degenerates, Vince Russo would take Bret’s comments and turn the into D-Generation X and on October 13th 1997 on Raw, Shawn officially christened them by this name and it would be the first time they used their soon to be trademark and very over slogan "Suck It." Going on Shawn would reignite his feud with Bret Hart as he would take offence to DX’s sophomoric humor and antics on screen, both men still had ongoing issues with each other off screen and this was carried on screen in one of the most intense and real feuds ever to be screened on TV building up for their match at Survivor Series 1997. Their antics at time were extremely borderlining on truly offensive, however looking back on it Michaels remembers everything being done just to gain heat as the original intention was for D-Generation X to be a heel group. Two of the more memorable segments were DX playing strip poker, until the Head Bangers came out to interrupt only to be viciously attacked by DX clad in boxer shorts and not much else. The other was Shawn inserting Bret’s Canadian flag in his nose and using it as a handkerchief. Another incident not so commonly remembered was Shawn making a reference to Bret having an affair on his then wife with manager Sunny, in an on screen promo which Michaels stated Bret had seen "Sunny Days", this kind of thing was not done bringing personal life on screen.
With all the controversy to happen through-out Shawn’s career what would happen next at the Molson Center Montreal Canada on November 9th 1997. It was Shawn Michaels versus Bret Hart one last time, the last time it would ever happen, Bret was going to be going to WCW after this match. The incident about to be written would haunt Shawn Michaels for years and still does to this day with angry responses from audiences in Canada whenever he goes there to wrestle no matter if he is a face or heel. With Bret as the WWF champion and him leaving to go to WCW, it was important in Vince’s eyes for him not to have the WWF championship when he left as he feared a similar situation to when Alundra Blaze left with the womens belt and threw it in the trash on Monday Night Nitro. Bret refused to lose the title to Shawn in Canada, he felt as his character was so pro-canadian and he was seen as a hero there, on top of the personal off screen feud with Shawn that he could not lose to him in his home country for sake of face and incase it tarnished his tenure in WCW. Whether McMahon planned to do a swerve in the match before the night he spoke with Shawn and Hunter it remains unknown, but Shawn admits to suggesting the swerve on Hart for the sake of the company and said he’d do whatever he had to do to make it right for Vince, Hunter agreed. It is also unknown how many people knew about the job, it is known Vince, Hunter, Shawn, Jack Brisco knew about it prior to the night of Survivor Series, Earl Hebner, the referee, found out on the night. It is believed Earl told his brother who in turn told Jack Lanza, this however is not known for definite. Pat Patterson, Vince’s normal closest confident was kept in the dark due to his close relationship with Bret it was feared he’d tell Bret and try to work the whole situation out. Shane McMahon is also believed to of known and Sgt. Slaughter, another of Vince’s close confidants. It was decided though between Shawn and Vince it would take place and Vince would take as much blame as possible instructing Shawn to deny any involvement in the planning. Shawn would do as instructed for several years before he finally admitted he knew it was going to happen. Michaels and Hart had a long talk on the night of Survivor Series discussing their past and apologizing for all they had done to each other, acting very courteous to one another, they went over the layout of the match together with help from Pat Patterson. Bret suggested Shawn put him in his own move the sharpshooter which would then be reversed, a light went off in Shawn’s head and he knew this was the spot where the bell would be rung and Bret would leave without the WWF belt. Shawn would go and discuss the finish with Vince and then after his approval Shawn would inform Earl Hebner of what would happen during the match.
It was now time for the match, Shawn entered first jeered and booed by the capacity crowd which exceeded 20,000. He would again perform acts on the Canadian flag such as wiping his rear with it, once again pick his nose with it and eventually hump the flag totally desecrating it. Bret would come down to a standing ovation besides a few smart fans who chanted "You sold out", knowing his departure to WCW was imminent. Bret was completely oblivious to the fact Shawn, Vince and Hebner were about to screw him out of his world championship and his last match in WWF. In the gorilla position just behind the stage curtain Owen Hart, Davey Boy, Jack Brisco, Hunter and Jim Neid-Hart all congregated as if they knew something was going to happen, which of course Brisco and Hunter did. The match was basically a brawl for the first half, battling outside the ring, in the audience and everywhere except for the ring. When they got into the ring for a period of time at last it was nearly time for the sharpshooter spot, with WWF agents all round the ring already just in case, in storyline it had been explained they was there to protect Shawn from the audience and because the feud was so intense. Vince and Sgt. Slaughter (Then commissioner) would appear at ring side also several minutes before the decided spot happened. It all went to plan, Shawn put Hart in the move and remembers shouting "Ring the bell", Hebner signalled for the bell to be rung and Vince also shouted for the timekeeper to ring the bell at the same moment. Hebner ran from the ring, Shawn acted surprised and angry as Vince shouted for him to take the belt and leave. Meanwhile Bret spat at Vince and tore up the whole ring side area smashing equipment and anything in sight.
That was the beginning of Shawn’s 3rd WWF championship reign, after being escorted from the ring by Brisco, Hunter and Chyna, Michaels remained in the corner of the locker room looking bewildered. Hart confronted Michaels and asked if he had anything to do with what just took place, as instructed Shawn denied any knowledge and swore to God, he has now expressed his remorse for doing so, although says he doesn’t regret the actual act as it was right for the company. Bret’s wife had an argument with Hunter regarding what had happened, Bret would punch McMahon, Shawn recalls Vince telling him beforehand Bret would punch him and would take a dive for him as he owed Bret that much. Bret however remembers hitting Vince squarely and knocking him out legitimately. When Shawn, Chyna and Hunter left the arena they had to run across the street to their hotel avoiding angry mobs of Canadian fans. That was the end of the day, the day that changed history the most infamous match ever in the WWF, possibly the one match that will overlook Shawn’s many accomplishments in the industry. One thing that will always be remembered is that all men involved in this situation believed they were doing the right thing, including Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Shawn has since come out and apologised for lying about the situation and claimed he should of told him the truth after the match, Bret has always refused to even consider forgiving Shawn, until late 2009 when Bret admitted he has finally cooled down and would now forgive him if offered an apology.
To commemorate the official new era of D-Generation X, the next In Your House would be named after the group. Leading up to the PPV, they performed skits in the ring using a midget Bret Hart making him tap out to the sharpshooter and became all round more derogatory. Off screen Shawn was struggling more and more with pain especially in his back which he recalls had bothered him for some time, he had to pop pills just to get up in the morning. The boys in the locker room however once the situation was explained to them by Vince were supportive over the "Montreal Incident", but DX member Rick Rude actually left the company of the whole situation. At In Your House: D-Generation X Shawn was pitted in another one off match against Ken Shamrock, this match ended in disqualification after the rest of DX interfered and attacked Shamrock, in what would be one of the more forgettable of Shawn’s matches.
Post In Your House, Shawn who was the WWF and European champion was forced by DX’s main rival, then commissioner, Sgt. Slaughter to defend the European title against Triple H, in an attempt to make them fight and split up DX. This would turn out to be an unwise move as for the first time in his career Shawn simply laid down for Hunter to cover him and pick up the pin fall, becoming the new WWF European champion on the December 22nd edition of Raw.
The Royal Rumble 1998 would see the final chapter in Shawn Michaels versus the Undertaker taking place in a casket match. In the weeks prior to the PPV Shawn had teased that Kane would be joining DX much to ‘Takers dismay. The week before though Kane attacked DX and saved the outnumbered ‘Taker from a beating on Raw. The actual match at the Rumble showed ‘Taker dominate Michaels for much of the match until fellow DX members got involved. Shawn would take a back body drop over the top rope and hit his lower back on the very edge of the casket; he thought nothing of it until two days later. As the match continued ‘Taker took over control again until Los Boricuas came down to help DX, as it all looked done for the man from Death Valley, Kane would appear cleaning the ring of all extra superstars, only to then turn on ‘Taker choke slamming him into the open casket for Michaels to pick up the win and retain his WWF championship.
Four days later Shawn woke up in agony he could not move. He remembers not even being able to get up to get the phone; instead he had to drag it by the cord to him so he could call his parents and ask for help. His parents rang for an ambulance and made their way to his house, being met by Shawn on the floor who had attempted to crawl to the door which he recalls as being approximately 10 feet away from his bed and his parents living a 25 minute drive away. At the hospital the doctors informed Shawn he had two herniated discs in his back and had completely crushed one. Unhappy with this Vince asked Shawn to see a doctor who had operated on another athlete who had a broken neck; this doctor would inform Shawn he could never wrestle again. For the second time in his career Shawn had been told it was all over for him. It was at this time it seemed so evident something Randy Savage had said to him many years ago about slowing down, Shawn rebutted with "I’m Superman," if the doctors were right another match could turn him into Christopher Reeves. Still dedicated to the business and what had become his whole life he told Vince he would still perform at Wrestlemania XlV and get surgery afterwards. He would have to spend all of February rehabbing his back unable to work a match, simply show up at recording for vignettes.
During the lead up to Wrestlemania, boxer Mike Tyson joined the group as some what of an honouree member, this also helped alleviate some of the attention off Shawn as well as bring big amounts of publicity to the WWF. Due to the situation he was in Shawn was popping yet more pills and becoming a real pain to deal with, making threats of no shows if not getting what he wanted. It is rumoured that ‘Taker made a symbolic threat to him in case he refused to put Steve Austin over. He remembers Vince giving him his own personal locker room for the night as a way to say thank you for doing what you are doing and acknowledging how hard the situation must be for him.
The match itself, which took place in Boston on March 29th, wasn’t a classic but it turned out better than anyone could’ve ever imagined. It is visible through-out the match that Shawn is in agony as he wrestles and even had trouble pulling off certain moves; the most memorable was his signature flying forearm where he could hardly jump off his feet. The show went on however, Austin got the pin fall as Mike Tyson turned on DX proving to be aligned with Steve, after the bell rang Michaels argued with Tyson and Tyson laid him out with a punch to the jaw, followed by Austin covering him with an Austin 3:16 shirt. Shawn had officially just passed the torch to Steve to take the Attitude Era, that he and Hunter had been instrumental in starting, and to run with it and take it to all new heights.
Now with his career officially over Shawn had nothing to do, his whole life had depended on going out to the ring and performing. His doctor informed him, his best option was to continue to try and rehab his back and avoid surgery if possible. For the next several months he attempted to rehab it, in November 1998 he took up the role of commissioner in the WWF making appearances on TV for a short period of time before feeling the need to get away again, he was however the official commissioner until June 2000. He took up hunting enjoying the time outside with nature helping him feel like he was accomplishing something again and buying a season ticket to see his beloved San Antonio Spurs. His back kept causing him constant agony though reducing his ability to move around properly and as he had done for over a decade he turned to popping yet more pills to get away from the reality of the pain.
1999 – 2002
In January 1999 his doctor finally admitted he had to have surgery, although it would further reduce his mobility it would take away the pain and eventually he may be able to live a normal life again. The surgery scheduled for 3 hours actually took closer to 4 and a half due to more damage in his back which hadn’t shown up on the MRI he originally took in January 1998.
Just before his surgery Shawn had started to watch Monday Night Nitro keeping up with his old buddies Scott and Kevin, doing this he saw a beautiful Nitro girl who went by the name of Whisper on screen. He told one of his buddies who owned a gym where wrestlers would go to train if in that area of this girl. Several weeks later his friend contacted him with her number as she’d been in the area; this was much to Shawn’s annoyance as he thought it was a really embarrassing situation. He eventually gathered the courage to call her and leave her a message on her answer phone which she returned and proceeded to be the start of a long conversation and a relationship. Several months later on March 31st 1999 Shawn and the Nitro girl Whisper, Rebecca, would get married at Graceland Chapel in Las Vegas.
Soon after Shawn would open his wrestling academy, The Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy, and take over a local promotion renaming it the Texas Wrestling Alliance. With Jose and his former trainer, Ken Johnston, by his side Shawn began training aspiring wrestling, three of which are well known names inside the wrestling world, Garrison Cade, Brian Kendrick and Bryan Danielson. This would not last long though as Shawn recalls remembering he felt bad taking money from people who he could see had no chance at making it in the profession. His drug habit was just as bad still popping pills, the Academy would end for Shawn when passed out during one of the training sessions. The operation was successful though complete with TV time for the students.
His drug habit also affected his home life as he’d pass out and make life hard for Rebecca, whom was pregnant with their first child. His child was born early 2000, and his pill popping continued. Shawn would make a brief appearance in WWF during May 2000 where he would officiate an iron man match between The Rock and Triple H, the next month he finally relinquished his commissioner role over to Mick Foley.
Life went on over the next year much the same, Shawn was being a sports caster for the local San Antonio news and he would continue with his pill popping. When Cameron, his son, was around one Rebecca threatened to leave him if he didn’t stop his ways for their own son’s safety. With help from Rebecca showing him religion and God, Shawn started to practice religion and regularly go to church with her; he also read numerous books that Rebecca bought him to help him grasp what he needed to do.
Vince asked Shawn to come back as part of the NWO in late 2001, but Shawn turned down the offer as he felt he needed to continue his soul searching for God, his pill habit was significantly lower but he was still taking them recreationally.
Shawn dove further into his religion studies with the guidance of Rebecca, his friends were telling him he had to stop pills, Kevin convinced him to call up Hunter and apologize for an incident where Shawn had ate out Hunter for no reason over a year ago. After an incident at home with pills, Shawn finally put his foot down and begged God for forgiveness and help to quit pills. That was the beginning of the new Shawn Michaels, he had been born again.
In June 2003 Shawn came back, as a new man and to a whole new organisation now known as the WWE, as part of the NWO in a non-wrestling role, unsure of where this was going no one knew what would happen. Unfortunately for Shawn’s buddy Kevin, he tore his quadriceps and that put him out of the picture. Shawn had the idea of a one off street fight match with Vince, when Vince spoke to Hunter about this the idea was born for Hunter versus Michaels in a one off match as a main event.
The storyline played out with DX reforming, Shawn Michaels and Hunter, however while in the ring Hunter turned on Shawn and pedigreed him, this was followed by a brutal attack in a car park the following week. In retaliation Shawn would issue a challenge to Hunter for an unsanctioned match at Summerslam 2002. So on August 25th 2002 from the Nassau Veterans Memorial in Uniondale New York, Shawn Michaels stepped in the ring for the first time in a little over 4 years against his best friend Hunter. No one had any idea how the match would be, how Shawn would cope, but the match turned out better than anyone expected just like his last match. Michaels won the match only to be attacked afterwards by Hunter with a sledgehammer.
Shawn would then take off a few months to see how he felt after wrestling, but truth be told he felt good. He sat at home playing with Cameron spending time with his wife Rebecca, his body was a little stiff and sore but nothing had gone wrong. Vince would call and ask him to do a promo threatening Hunter that he could come back at anytime and attack him. The following week Vince would call and tell him the promo was so well accepted they wanted Shawn to wrestle at Survivor Series and win the World Heavyweight championship belt.
On November 17th 2002 from Madison Square Garden Survivor Series took place, with the first ever Elimination Chamber. Shawn Michaels, Kane, Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho, Booker T and Triple H all took part in this match. Vince had told Shawn how it just felt right the old boy coming back from a career ending injury to win the belt back at MSG, so that was the plan. The match didn’t go quite as expected but was still well received ending with Michaels delivering sweet chin music to Triple H and pinning him to be the last man standing and the new champion. Shawn described this feeling as unlike all other wins, this one was just simply nice.
On December 15th from Florida Shawn and Triple H would meet again at Armageddon in a two out of three falls match. Triple H would win the first fall against Michaels, a street fight, with Michaels winning the second, a steel cage match; the third fall was a ladder match which Triple H would pick up the win in. The match went very successfully and Michaels showed he could still be the Show Stopper at any time he so wanted to, even if he lost the match. Feeling pretty banged up from the match though Shawn requested time off with just promo appearances until Wrestlemania.
A program was set up between Michaels and Chris Jericho, Chris Jericho who grew up watching Michaels and had been a long time fan, would be playing the role of a cocky younger wrestler who felt he could out wrestle, out perform and do everything better than his once idol. This made it easy for Michaels to spend more time at home as he could just cut promos on Chris while Chris would try and prove his point against other wrestlers. This would really kick off the Royal Rumble with Jericho and Michaels being the first two participants, with the help of Christian Jericho bust Michaels open and eliminated him, later in the night Michaels would return and cost Jericho by getting him eliminated from the match
Michaels next PPV would be at Wrestlemania XlX, his first one since he lost the belt against Steve Austin back in 1998. The match was very well received and Michaels was looking even more like the old Show Stopper with every performance. It is considered by many that the two stole the show, with Shawn winning the match and a show of sportsmanship after the match where both men hugged only for Jericho to turn on him again and low blow Michaels.
Michaels would have a long talk with Rebecca regarding returning full time as he felt really good and like he could. Both would look to God and talk to him to find sanctity in their answers. Rebecca showed great encouragement for Michaels to return and Michaels found his answer by praying to God and he decided to return to the ring full time.
- His program would continue with Jericho, it would cross paths with Booker T Triple H, Ric Flair and the return of Kevin Nash. Due to situations on Raw Shawn had come to save Booker T while Jericho, Triple H and Flair beat him down. This would prompt the return of Nash to further save Michaels. So at Backlash 2003, Michaels, Nash and Booker would face Triple H, Flair and Jericho, the match go well and the team of Michaels, Nash and Booker would lose after some foul play at the hands of Triple H.
Given the way the brand extension had worked giving Raw and Smackdown alternating PPV’s apart from the four major ones, it gave Shawn time to break into the full time role of wrestler slowly and easily; only having one PPV every two months to contend with. This allowed him more time with his family and slower storylines meaning not necessarily wrestling every week on Raw, the brand he was assigned to. At Insurrextion the PPV from Manchester England, he would only accompany Kevin Nash to the ring for his street fight with Triple H which Nash would lose even with Michaels at his side.
Continuing on with the feud revolving around Triple H and his group Evolution Michaels would wrestle Ric Flair at the next PPV Badd Blood on June 15th 2003, this was brought on during an episode on Raw where Michaels managed the Hurricane and Flair managed Randy Orton, leading to Flair and Michaels brawling outside the ring. Michaels would go on to lose this match thanks to interference from Randy Orton.
He would be at Summerslam 2003 in another Elimination Chamber including Triple H, Goldberg, Randy Orton Chris Jericho and Kevin Nash. This match was thrown together by at the time on screen authority figures on Raw Eric Bischoff and Stone Cold. Shawn Michaels would be eliminated third by Goldberg and didn’t have too much to do in the match.
At Unforgiven 2003 Michaels would continue the feud with Evolution battling Randy Orton in a singles match appearing only 3rd on the card, it left the rest of the performers that night a lot to follow. The match was billed as "Legend Vs Legend Killer" due to Shawn Michaels’ legendary status in the company and Orton’s gimmick of defeating legends which was one of his first infamous legend killer matches. This time Orton only narrowly won with the interference of Flair passing him some brass knuckles and distracting Michaels.
At Survivor Series 2003, Michaels would be on Team Austin which consisted of, himself, Booker T, Rob Van Dam and the Dudley Boyz versus Team Bischoff, Chris Jericho, Christian, Mark Henry, Randy Orton and Scott Steiner. This match came about due to the ongoing power struggle as General Manager between Steve Austin and Eric Bischoff, with all the wrestlers involved having intertwining feuds, the match looked to be a raucous battle. Whichever team lost their respective GM lost their role as co-authority figure; it came down to Michaels and Orton, with Michaels losing due to interference from Batista hitting Michaels with his Batista bomb.
At Armageddon 2003 Michaels would do battle with Batista seeking revenge for the attack at the prior Survivor Series, this would be a continuation of the Michaels versus Evolution feud, on a Raw between the two events Shawn would be forced to team with Jericho who walked out on him, but Michaels still picked up the pin fall. He would also pick up the pin fall at Armageddon after escaping a Batista bomb and delivering his own sweet chin music.
Next up was the Royal Rumble from Philadelphia Pennsylvania on January 24th 2004, still battling with the Evolution Shawn found himself back against Triple H his once long term friend. Since the friendship had gone sour on screen, the two had fought on many occasion, this time would be just like the others in the sense it was a brutal encounter. This match isn’t always remembered but was in fact a very well played out fight; it took place in a last man standing match. They would do battle for over 25 minutes until both were so badly beaten neither could make it up for the 10 count, and the match ended in a double count out. The audience may not have liked the ending, but it went to show how both men wanted the belt just as badly as the other.
Next up for the Show Stopper, Michaels recalls he was now back to his best at this time, he would demand a rematch against Triple H due to the indecisive nature of their last match. Benoit however was the winner of the Royal Rumble that year and placed his claim against Triple H for the belt after defecting from Smackdown. Austin who still had power would make a triple threat match between Shawn, Hunter and Benoit as the main event at Wrestlemania XX from Madison Square Garden on March 14th 2004. The match itself was fantastic a real show of wrestling ability and passion between the three combatants, it would be a back and forth affair of who was going to pick up the victory. The match would end after Benoit disposed Michaels from the ring leaving it just himself and Triple H, Triple H would attempt to pedigree Benoit only for it to be countered into the crippler crossface which Triple H would subsequently tap out to, making Benoit the new World Heavyweight champion. After this match it was no doubt Michaels was back to his best.
At Backlash 2004 there would be a rematch of the triple threat match from Wrestlemania, the three would again do battle in a great match not quite reaching the peak of the month before but still an awesome match none the less. It took place in Edmonton Alberta Canada. Shawn remembers suggesting he loses the match via tapping out to the sharpshooter, knowing the Canadian fans hated him anyway from the ‘Montreal Incident’ he thought it would be a great away to get Benoit over even more. The match went as planned ending with Triple H outside of the ring and Michaels submitting in the centre of the ring to Benoit syncing back on the sharpshooter.
Michaels would receive another rematch on Raw against Benoit; losing due to Triple H interfering this would then cause Michaels to attack Triple H the following week. Bischoff would suspend Michaels then lift the suspension the week after, Michaels and Triple H would keep brawling still feeling the score had not been settled in their near year long feud. This would lead to Bischoff making a Hell in a Cell match at Bad Blood. In another hellacious face off between the pair it would again be full of blood and death defying stunts and manoeuvres against each other, putting their own bodies on the line to finally destroy the other. Triple H would somehow gain the advantage towards the end of the match hitting a quick pedigree to finally gain the win after nearly 50 minutes of non-stop action. The next night on Raw Triple H and Shawn Michaels were forced to shake hands by Jim Ross who tried to amend the once strong friendship, Kane however would attack Michaels crushing his throat with a steel chair, forcing him to be stretchered out in an ambulance.
In reality Michaels had requested time off to spend some time with his wife Rebecca and son Cameron, Rebecca was pregnant and due to have their second child who was born in August giving Cameron a little sister. Michaels would take time off until September.
Kane would receive a gift from Eric Bischoff where he could pick any opponent of his choosing to fight at the September 2004 PPV Unforgiven, Kane would choose Shawn Michaels as he felt that he had cost him his match against Benoit for the World Heavyweight title at the Bad Blood PPV. In a near 20 minute match, Michaels and Kane would do battle in a no disqualification match, like many of his battles since his return this would also be a bloody affair. Kane would attempt to strike HBK with a steel chair only to have it sweet chin music’d back into his own face followed by Michaels picking up the 1, 2 and 3.
The WWE was about to do a new idea called Taboo Tuesday where the fans would decide who would wrestle in what matches and certain stipulations. A few weeks previous to this event Shawn legitimately tweaked his knee in a match with Ric Flair on a show in Europe; he would keep wrestling on it just as little as possible. It was decided that Shawn would be the third choice with Edge and Benoit to see who would fight Triple H at Taboo Tuesday under the audiences vote. The threesome would have a triple threat match on Raw the day before the PPV which was being held on a Tuesday. Michaels would injure his knee more severely during this and would barely make it through it. Barely able to walk he and the WWE could only hope the fans wouldn’t pick Michaels to fight Hunter. This would not be the case and Shawn wrapped up in tape and a heavy knee brace just to make it out to the ring had to wrestle in a 15 minute match for the World Heavyweight championship. It wasn’t the prettiest match ever but Shawn made it through the match, which would end when Edge interfered spearing Michaels allowing Hunter to pick up the pin fall.
The next day he would find out he had torn his meniscus in his leg, this would require surgery and a couple months off work, this put doubts into Michaels mind as to whether he was too old to be competing regularly but also was a positive as he got to spend the holiday with his family. The surgery was fairly simple and went successfully.
Shawn would return at the beginning of the new year and be made the official for the World Heavyweight title match at New Year’s Revolution between Triple H, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Batista, Edge and Randy Orton. Michaels only real altercation in the match came when Edge speared him by accident, on recovering Michaels would super kick him causing him to be eliminated by Jericho. This would go on to set up a feud between the two, with Edge claiming Michaels screwed him out of the title.
Michaels and Edge would kick off the Royal Rumble in the opening match in a solid opening match capturing the audience’s attention the way it should do. It was very back and forth both men gaining and losing the advantage, Edge however would pick up the win after countering a sweet chin music into an electric chair drop position which in turn was countered by Michaels into a victory roll, only for Edge to roll through and score the victory with the aid of the ring rope he held on to. Michaels was also entered into the Rumble match itself this year where he would eliminate Kurt Angle, only for Kurt Angle to return and illegally eliminate Shawn. This would be the start to a feud leading up to Wrestlemania between the two.
Shawn and Kurt would exchange attacks between each other on their alternate brands over the next several weeks, with Kurt claiming he is better than Michaels ever was and setting out to prove it. Kurt would win a ladder match, convince Michaels old manager Sensation Sherri to remix Shawn’s music ‘Sexy Boy’ into ‘Sexy Kurt’ and so on with the one up-man-ship.
During this time Michaels would contact his old buddy Marty Jannetty to come back in part of the storyline. Michaels recalls attempting to help Jannetty find God and help him with his ever lasting personal demons. The two would become friends again, never as close as they were before but still they reunited for one match on Raw as one off Rocker reunion. This would be to introduce Jannetty to the crowd so Jannetty could put Kurt over on Smackdown to prove he was even better than Michaels in that aspect.
Wrestlemania XXI soon rolled around at the Staples Center Los Angeles California, on April 3rd 2005. Shawn Michaels versus Kurt Angle was 5th, Shawn recalls neither knew who would win the day before at which point Michaels offered to put Kurt over for the good of the company even losing to Angles ankle lock submission. The match went on for nearly 30 minutes and is considered by many as a wrestling classic, several have said it is possibly the greatest match to ever have been performed on any stage anywhere in the world. It was another back and forth encounter causing many false finishers and spectacular wrestling, finishing with Angle locking on the ankle lock after a long and agonising struggle Michaels finally had no choice but to submit.
The following month at Backlash, Michaels would end up living another dream after wrestling with Ric Flair he found himself in a tag team match with Hulk Hogan. This was led by Michaels being attacked by Muhammad Hussein and Daivari, he would end up begging Hogan to come back and fight off these anti-American speakers. Eventually Hogan would be persuaded and the two would team up against Hussein and Daivari getting the victory in a pretty average mach.
A note worthy match would be the following night during the Gold Rush tournament Shawn Michaels fought Shelton Benjamin in which Michaels would be the victor in a classic match on Raw. This was a qualifying match for a number one contender spot against the champion; Michaels would be knocked out in the next round by Edge.
At Vengeance in June 2005, Michaels would do battle once again against Kurt Angle in a rematch from Wrestlemania XXI, this time Michaels would be the victor after escaping an ankle lock and performing sweet chin music, although it was not as good as the original this was still a very well received match.
Michaels would go on to tag with Hogan again versus Kurt Angle and Carlito, HBK and the Hulkster were successful but post match Shawn would lay Hogan out with a sweet chin music. This would be a heel turn no one expected after being a face for two years since his return in 2002. Michaels would challenge Hogan to a match at Summerslam and perform various skits against Hogan proclaiming him old and past it. Michaels as over the top as he was back in his DX days actually found himself being cheered by segments of the crowd and couldn’t get over fully as a heel.
The match at Summerslam on August 25th 2005 was dream match for many fans seeing two legends battle each other in the main event. Hogan would eventually win the match after taking Michaels best arsenal of moves and mounting a come back in traditional Hogan style. When the match was concluded they shook hands and HBK informed Hogan he just had to know who the better man was. Off screen it is rumoured Michaels purposely over sold all of Hogan’s moves in an attempt to mock the legend who is known for not selling, this is thought to be because Michaels was unhappy jobbing to the Hulkster who is passed it, this has never been confirmed however.
His next feud would be against Chris Masters it would start with Masters trying to steal Shawn’s heat on a Raw episode. Michaels would then attempt to break the master lock challenge leading to a match at Unforgiven. Michaels would ultimately win the match after finding a way to break the seemingly unbreakable hold and delivering sweet chin music. This certainly was not one of Michaels better matches and even he struggled to bring out the best in Masters
Michaels again found himself in the title hunt, after winning a qualifying match to put himself in a triple threat match with Big Show and Kane the winner to face John Cena. Michaels won the match and went on to face Cena the next week on Raw only for the match to be interrupted by Angle jealous of Michaels championship match. This would lead to Taboo Tuesday where Angle would fight Cena with the fans choosing a third participant; they would vote for Michaels. After a 15 minute battle Shawn would find himself getting FU’d by John Cena and lose the match.
At Survivor Series 2005, Michaels would be the captain of Team Raw also containing Big Show, Kane, Carlito and Chris Master versus Team Smackdown captained by Batista with Randy Orton, Rey Mysterio, JBL and Bobby Lashley. Michaels would end up being the last remaining Raw member against Rey, JBL and Orton. He would eliminate Rey then JBL only to be distracted by JBL so Orton could hit the RKO leading to a Team Smackdown victory.
Shortly after Survivor Series Vince McMahon started cutting on promo’s on Shawn blaming him for the ‘Montreal Incident’ and scrutinising Michaels for the part he played in it. Michaels would claim McMahon should move on as he had.
At New Years Revolution Michaels found himself in his third Elimination Chamber match thanks to Triple H hitting him round the chair allowing him the disqualification win over the Big Show to qualify for it. Michaels wouldn’t last an awful lot of time in this one either, only pinning Angle and then going on to be pinned by Carlito to be the third man eliminated.
Prior to this PPV Vince had declared if Michaels lost a match on Raw to Shelton Benjamin he would lose his place in the match, HBK would win the match though. This year at the Royal Rumble Michaels would only appear in the actual Rumble match, entering at number 25, he would be eliminated 12 minutes later by Shane McMahon who was not an entrée in the Rumble, but snuck in to dispose of Shawn after Vince’s music played to distract Michaels, further embedding the Michaels McMahon family feud.
On Raw Vince would announce that at Wrestlemania he would fight Shawn, he then tried to humiliate Shawn as much as possible on the remaining weeks of Raw before Wrestlemania. He would have his daughter drug Shawn later requiring Shawn to take a public drug test, however Michaels would throw his urine in the face of Vince and Shane. Michaels was put in a match with the Spirit Squad inside a steel cage where Shane would get involved attacking and bloodying Shane. At Saturday Night Live prior to Wrestlemania Shane would wrestle Shawn locking him in a sharpshooter while Vince called for the bell mimicking the ‘Montreal Incident’ claiming he had screwed Bret and proved could screw Shawn whenever he wanted. Another embarrassment came when Shane knocked Shawn unconscious and forced him to join the Vince McMahon ‘Kiss My Ass Club’.
Michaels and McMahon would do battle in a No Holds Barred match from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont Illinois on April 2nd 2006 at Wreslemania XII. The match not your typical classical match was still very entertaining as Shawn proceeded to destroy his boss even with Shane attempting to interfere only to be thwarted by Michaels. The match would end with Vince’s head in a trash can on a table and HBK diving off a ladder with his signature flying elbow followed by sweet chin music for the victory. Michaels would perform the DX crotch chop during his match with Vince before diving off the ladder; meanwhile Triple H would also perform the crotch chop during his match.
Continuing the feud with the McMahons Shawn would find himself at Backlash in a match teaming with ‘God’ against Vince and Shane McMahon; this was Vince’s way of mocking Michaels’ new found faith. Due to interference on the part of the Spirit Squad after a well fought battle by Michaels the 7-on-2 odd were to much for even he and ‘God’ could handle and Vince pinned him ending this No Holds Barred match.
The feud continued after Backlash pitting Michaels in 5-on-1 handicap matches against the Spirit Squad, the Spirit Squad would work on his knee injuring it. McMahon would order Triple H to end Michaels’ career but Triple H refused and attacked the Spirit Squad, McMahon also failed to make Triple H join his ‘Kiss My Ass Club’. As a result Triple H would be put in a gauntlet match against the Spirit Squad, however his plans would again fail as Michaels came out to save Triple H and reunite D-Generation X.
At the annoyance of Vince McMahon due to DX reforming at the next Raw PPV, Vengeance he would put them in a 5-on-2 handicap match against the Spirit Squad. Michaels and Triple H would beat the Spirit Squad fairly easily with both men scoring a pin over a member simultaneously. Shortly after McMahon would pit DX against the Spirit Squad again in an elimination style match this time on Saturday Night Live, DX would again win this match with much ease.
DX would keep taunting Vince and the McMahons using juvenile pranks of yester-year and be a constant thorn in his side. The pranks would include such items as spray painting Vince’s private jet and limo, referring to Vince liking dicks and cocks using them as double meanings so they seemed innocent.
At Summerslam the pair of DX again did battle with the McMahons in a tag team match, before the match even began Vince had the Spirit Squad attack them; they again were quickly disposed of. Finlay, Regal, Mr. Kennedy and Big Show would then attack DX, they gave the McMahons the advantage then the bell finally sounded. The McMahons had control for a short while before DX mounted a come back going on to win the match when Michaels super kicked Shane, then Vince into Triple H’s pedigree for the fall.
In continuation of the storyline Vince added Big Show to the equation due to his good work at Summerslam and again when he aided the McMahons on a Raw after the PPV. DX would now face the McMahons and Big Show in the Hell in a Cell at Unforgiven 2006. The most memorable moment of this match came when Big Show was knocked unconscious over the ropes and his trunks were pulled down while DX inserted Vince’s head up his ample crack. DX would go onto win the match after hitting Vince with a sledgehammer.
Due to Edges manipulating words he would convince Randy Orton that Triple H was the reason neither of them were the world champion, this would lead them joining together as Rated RKO. Thus they would do battle with DX in order to rid the WWE of DX, Edge would convince Vince to allow them do battle at Cyber Sunday with the audience choosing the special guest enforcer either Eric Bischoff, Vince McMahon or Jonathon Coachman. The audience would vote for Bischoff to officiate the match, DX had the win but Bischoff would prevent the referee from counting, as Michaels pursued Bischoff he was laid out by Edge with a steel chair, allowing Randy Orton to hit RKO on Triple H and get the pin as Bischoff counted.
The feud would continue on to Survivor Series where Team DX, DX, the Hardy Boyz and CM Punk battled Team Rated RKO, Rated RKO, Johnny Nitro, Mike Knoxx and Gregory Helms. Team DX would seemingly breeze past Team Rated RKO, no members of Team DX were eliminated leaving Randy Orton last in the ring for them to have some fun with before delivering sweet chin music then the pedigree for the win.
To kick off 2007 at New Years Revolution, DX would fight Rated RKO for the World Tag Team championships; this would come about after their long feud and a 6 man tag match on a previous Raw including Ric Flair with DX and Coachman with Rated RKO. Triple H would injure his quadriceps during this match legitimately, after it quickly broke down in a brawl ending in a no contest and DX beating Rated RKO down into a bloody mess finishing them off by driving each member through an announce table.
Due to Triple H’s injury it would mean he was out of action for seven months, Michaels though would uphold the DX image and temporarily team with John Cena to continue the feud with Rated RKO. Michaels would take out Orton with a con-chair-to during a handicap match against Rated RKO a couple of Raw’s before the Royal Rumble.
At the Royal Rumble from San Antonio Texas on January 28th 2007, Shawn would just participate in the Rumble match itself, entering number 23 and lasting to be one of the last two in the match; the other being the Undertaker. This would be a brief reunion of their feud from 1997 – 1998, they would battle in the ring for nearly 10 minutes before ‘Taker finally eliminated Michaels to win the Rumble match.
The day after the Royal Rumble on January 29th Shawn Michaels teamed up with John Cena to dethrone Rated RKO of the world tag team championships. On the lead up to Wrestlemania, Shawn would beat Edge and Orton in a triple threat match to become the number one contender against Cena for his world title. Shawn and Cena would continue to team up with each other against Rated RKO, while Edge and Orton tried to persuade Cena that Shawn would turn on him as he had done every other partner in the past. In the midst of all this Cena and Michaels would team up to fight ‘Taker and Batista at No Way Out a rare appearance for the Raw boys on a Smackdown PPV. Cena and Michaels would ultimately win the match after tossing Batista from the ring, HBK hitting sweet chin music on ‘Taker followed by the FU by Cena for the victory. Meanwhile on Raw Rated RKO would continue to try and show Cena Shawn’s true colors, Shawn would be adamant he would never turn on Cena all the way until the last Raw before Wrestlemania in a rematch against Undertaker and Batista, super kicking Cena allowing the Dean Man and the Animal to puck up the win.
Then came Wrestlemania XXIII from Ford Field Detroit Michigan in front of 80,000 fans on April 1st 2007; John Cena versus Shawn Michaels the main event. The near 30 minute match wasn’t quite a classic but was close to it, with Shawn the obvious ring general in the match he guided Cena through a great match that was back and forth at times, it really looked like Michaels was going to pick up the win for his 5 world title reign, before Cena slapped on the STFU, HBK refused to give up battling to the ropes forcing the hold to be broken; then disaster struck Cena reapplied the hold with Michaels in the centre of the ring, it was to much for even Mr. Wrestlemania to withstand as he tapped out to Cena.
The day after Wrestlemania Michaels and Cena were forced to defend their titles in two ten team battle royals, which the Hardys would eventually win the second one after Michaels eliminated his own partner Cena. Michaels the next week would square off with Orton for the number one contender spot on Raw for Cena’s title but both men’s shoulders were counted down so the match called a draw. Edge would claim he was the number one contender as appointed by then man in charge Jonathon Coachman but Michael Pena an honouree General Manager would overrule this and make the match a Fatal Four Way between Cena, Michaels, Edge and Orton.
At Backlash 2007, in the Fatal Four Way match it started off fast and furious with Michaels on the assault, it would continue its fast paced action for the following 15 minutes until Edge speared Orton after Cena countered a RKO, this was followed up by Cena FU’ing Edge and Michaels super kicking Cena. Unfortunately for Michaels as he collapsed after the super kick, Cena landed on Edge counting as a pin fall the referee awarded the match to Cena who retained his belt.
The PPV’s were now full time again with every brand, Smackdown, Raw and the more recent ECW all performing on each PPV, this would now be the real test of Shawn’s health as he was back on an official full time WWE schedule.
He would once again pick up another knee injury causing him to need more time off for surgery; this again proved a positive for Michaels being able to spend yet more time with his children. First he would fight Randy Orton at Judgement Day 2007, a continuation of the long running feud these two had off and on Orton claimed he could beat Michaels any time he wanted. During Shawn’s interview segment before the match Orton attacked him, leaving Shawn in a crumpled heap. However he would make it out to ring only to collapse similar to the Owen Hart incident, causing Orton to win by the match being stopped; Orton would continue the assault on Michaels putting him out of action until October with an on screen concussion.
After some time off to recuperate and spend time with his family Michaels finally returned on the Monday 8th edition of Raw in October 2007, he returned with a bang and a super kick to end Raw hitting Randy Orton square in the face, continuing their ongoing feud. At Cyber Sunday Michaels would fight Orton in a good match that looked like he would win while he set up for sweet chin music but Orton deliberately got disqualified with a low blow to Michaels as he tuned up the band.
Their feud carried on until Survivor Series 2007 where Orton would lose the belt if he got disqualified and Michaels could not use his signature move sweet chin music. Due to the stipulations Michaels was forced to use a more submission based approach to the match against Orton to avoid losing for using his favourite move. With frustration Michaels went to hit the sweet chin music but stopped himself, this momentary delay gave Orton all the time he needed to snap on the RKO for the victory.
Next Michaels would enter in a feud with Mr. Kennedy another young brash superstar looking to out do him bragging how he is better than the original Show Stopper. The pair met at Armageddon 2007 where Shawn would set out to injure Kennedy’s hand early in the match leaving it a constant source of pain through-out the match. Whenever Kennedy went to gain momentum Michaels would resort back to the hand, until finally hitting sweet chin music putting Kennedy out of his misery.
Michaels would enter this years Royal Rumble at number 2 battling it out with the Undertaker who was number one creating a rematch from the end of the previous years Royal Rumble. Shawn would eliminate the Undertaker after 30 minutes in the Rumble match only to be eliminated moments later by his rival at the time Mr. Kennedy.
At No Way Out 2008 Michaels would wrestle would wrestle in his fourth Elimination Chamber match along with Triple H, Jeff Hardy, JBL, Chris Jericho and Umaga. Shawn Michaels would last to the final three in this match, to determine the number one contender for the WWE World Heavyweight championship at Wrestlemania. He would be eliminated after Jeff Hardy hit a twist of fate followed by a pedigree by Triple H.
At Wresltemania XXIV the Citrus Bowl Orlando Florida on March 30th 2008 infront of 74,000 fans Michaels would have the most emotional match of his career on and off screen. He was set to fight Ric Flair in Ric’s last ever match, the story line for many months had been if Ric lost he would have to retire from wrestling. Shawn who grew up idolizing Ric and had become good friends with him since his return to WWE had been booked to beat Flair in his last match. The off screen friendship was brought on screen to show how conflicted Michaels was about fighting Ric and knowing he would beat him as he felt he was superior to Ric at this stage in his career. Reluctantly Michaels accepted after much provocation from Flair. Flair and Michaels both recall the match as being one of their favorite matches they have ever competed in. The match would be a big success both participants bringing the best out of each other, Michaels would show reluctance through-out the match to pull the proverbial trigger, each time Flair would take advantage. Finally at the end of the match Michaels mouthed the words "I love you" before tuning up the band and delivering sweet chin music to the Nature Boy. Immediately HBK would leave the ring allowing his once idol to get the ovation he deserved for his long and illustrious wrestling career.
The next night on Raw there would be a big send off for Flair where Shawn and Flair would hug showing no hard feelings, Shawn showed remorse for what he had done and Flair forgave him; however Batista couldn’t and would challenge Michaels to a match at Backlash.
When Michaels and Batista faced at Backlash Chris Jericho would be the special guest referee, after Michaels and Jericho had a confrontation ending with Jericho tasting sweet chin music. Towards the end of the match while escaping a Batista bomb Michaels would feign a knee injury causing Jericho to stop Batista acting up on the injured Michaels, only for Michaels to recover and super kick Batista for the win, HBK however would limp out of the ring.
This would lead to Jericho versus Michaels at Judgement Day after Jericho accused Michaels of faking his knee injury; Michaels claimed it was real and limped all the way through a tag match with Jericho. On the next week of Raw Jericho apologised to Michaels and Michaels revealed his injury was indeed faked when again super kicked Jericho. Batista would reveal he intended to hurt Michaels for faking the knee injury to garner a victory. The match at Judgement Day would be a well fought contest with both men exchanging near fall attempts and ending with Jericho putting Michaels in the walls of Jericho, until Michaels got to the ropes up on attempting to reapply it Michaels would counter it and roll Jericho up getting the pin fall, after the match both men would show sportsmanship and shake hands.
At One Night Stand 2008, Shawn would do battle with Batista in a stretcher match with Batista intent on keeping his promise to hurt Michaels. Jericho would end up at ringside seemingly supporting Michaels and interjecting himself into the match stopping Batista from winning numerous times. Even with Jericho’s assistance though Batista picked up the win leaving Shawn looking like a mess on the stretcher as he rolled it over the finish line.
Chris Jericho would attack Michaels on his talk show the Highlight Reel claiming Michaels was a fake and a hypocrite, a shameful Christian and hero to children everywhere. During this attack Jericho would drive Michaels face through his TV screen on the set causing a mass of damage to Michaels’ eye. This would cause him to miss a couple of months of action returning to the Great American Bash 2008 to face Jericho in a single match. During the match Jericho would viciously attack Michaels eye with the help of Lance Cade behind the referees back, the referee would eventually stop the match awarding it to Jericho saying Michaels could no longer compete.
At Summerslam 2008 Michaels would return to address the audience and give a retirement speech due to his injuries and most importantly his eye injury, Jericho however would interrupt claiming Michaels was selfish and should never be able to look his family in the face again for being a hypocrite and a coward. As Michaels and his wife Rebecca who was with him left the ring Jericho pulled Michaels round and swung to hit him, Shawn however moved and Jericho accidentally punched Rebecca in the mouth. Off screen the spot was planned for Jericho to strike Rebecca but Jericho over swung and legitimately hit her, there were no hard feelings as all parties new accidents could happen.
Michaels returned on Raw to shut Jericho up from bragging about how he had no remorse for punching Rebecca in the mouth; Michaels would challenge to an Unsanctioned match at Unforgiven which Jericho would accept. The following week there was a contact signing between the two men which ended in them both brawling around the ring.
At Unforgiven the match took place with Lance Cade intervening in he match after the two had already battered one another, Michaels would overcome the odds though driving both men through an announce table with his elbow drop. Michaels would pull a broken Jericho into the ring and continue to beat his limp carcass until the referee stopped the match due to Jericho being able to defend himself similar to what happened to Michaels at the Great American Bash
Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho would finish their feud at No Mercy in a ladder match, a match Jericho claimed he was better at than Michaels ever could have been. The match was a well fought contest ending with Jericho getting the fluke victory when he and Shawn traded blows at the top of the ladder when both man fell off Jericho grabbed the belt before he fell moments after Michaels fell. Jericho and Michaels would have one last match however on Raw in a Last Man Standing Match which JBL would interject himself in attacking Michaels allowing Jericho the win.
Michaels wouldn’t feature much during Cyber Sunday he was a candidate for special guest referee but Steve Austin was voted in instead. Michaels would make a brief appearance attempting to count Jericho’s shoulder down while Batista pinned then faking a super kick on Jericho before JBL came down and attacked Michaels.
- At Survivor Series 2008 Team Michaels with Cryme Time, The Great Khali and Rey Mysterio battle Team JBL with Kane, MVP, John Morrison and The Miz. This was due to the feud which had been slowly building with Michaels and JBL with seemingly random attacks on each other. Team Michaels would win with only Cryme Time being eliminated from his team.
Shawn had a bit of light time over December doing light work being allowed to spend some time with his family of the holidays, he was also suffering with a slight tear to his triceps but non-the-less he officially entered into a program with JBL. JBL offered Shawn a contract to sort out his money worries for life due to the financial market nearly bankrupting Michaels. All Shawn had to do was ensure JBL won the world title off of John Cena at the Royal Rumble, Shawn was also no allowed to enter the Royal Rumble match. Shawn reluctantly took the offer, in a Fatal Four Way prior to the Rumble match to decide the number one contender for the championship when it came down to Shawn and JBL, HBK would show great conflict in laying down for JBL to get the pin fall, so JBL simply kicked Michaels in the head for the pin.
During the Royal Rumble 2009 championship match between JBL and John Cena, Michaels accompanied JBL to ringside as his employee. The match went quite smoothly with Shawn managing to stay out of it until the referee got knocked out, his conscious obviously bothering Shawn he climbed into the ring a super kicked both men, then placing JBL’s arm over Cena and leaving the arena. Cena would kick out though and go on to beat JBL.
Michaels would have to explain to JBL that he did all he could for him to win the match still obviously having trouble with his conscious. JBL offered Shawn a once in a life time opportunity a match at No Way Out, if Michaels wins he gets to keep the money from the contact and can do his own thing, if JBL wins he gets to own Michaels’ name and likeness and everything to do with it. Michaels reluctantly accepted and the two squared off, with all on the line Michaels brought out his ‘A game’ and became the Show Stopper we hadn’t got to see properly for several months now. After a 13 minute match Shawn would defeat JBL and become a free man again to be the Heart Break Kid and never have to worry about money again.
Next up would be Wrestlemania XXV; to get to his match there Shawn would first have to defeat JBL again on Raw followed by the undefeated Vladimir Kozlov the following week. Successfully defeating both men Shawn earned the right to fight the Undertaker and attempt to finally end his undefeated streak at Wrestlemania. This would be a rematch many fans had wanted to see for over a decade when they first competed in 1997 and 1998. The match had been teased at since the 2007 Royal Rumble when the two were the last remaining participants and had been teased ever since with the two occasionally crossing paths and having a few words for each other. In the build up to their match Shawn kept out thinking the Dead Man proving that, he the light could beat the ‘Taker, the dark. It was all based around Michaels been a man of God and ‘Taker being a man of the dark side. Michaels came out at Wrestlemania on a giant pedestal which slowly sank from the skies, all dressed in white to Godly music, when he met the floor he threw off his white clothes and revealed his true self and ‘Sexy Boy’ kicked in the P.A. system at the Reliant Stadium in Houston Texas on April 5th 2009. The Undertaker came down next to his normal demonic entrance theme full of smoke and lightening in his black attire. The two would go on to have what many consider to be up there with the Shawn versus Angle match of Wrestlemania XXl. They battled for 30 minutes mainly at a fast pace with many false finishes teasing the possibility of Shawn being the man to end the undefeated streak, Michaels kicked out of the tombstone and ‘Taker kicked out of sweet chin music, it would take a second tombstone to finally finish Michaels off. Both men received a standing ovation from the audience and everyone back stage.
Shawn would then take more time off to recuperate from several real nagging injuries and the toll that hellacious fast paced match had taken on him full of bumps as if he was 25 again. He would use this time to spend with his family do Bible readings for his local churches in San Antonio and appear on Trinity Broadcast Channel along with fellow wrestler Sting.
Shawn would not return to the WWE until just prior to Summerslam when Triple H would go looking for Shawn to reform D-Generation X as he needed help fighting off the Legacy. They would play skits on Raw showing Shawn in his ‘new’ job as a chef, ending with Michaels quitting and super kicking everyone in sight. The duo would return on Raw only to be attacked by Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibease of Legacy and left lying in the ring. At Summerslam 2009 DX would face Legacy in a tag team match which DX would win easily.
At Breaking Point the next PPV DX would have more trouble against Legacy in an anything goes submissions count anywhere match, the Legacy would divide and conquer DX laying waste to one so they could focus on the other finally making Shawn submit as Cody lay on a figure four on Shawn using the ring post for leverage and Dibease slapped on the Million Dollar Dream for added effect, with Triple H barely crawling down the ramp Shawn had no choice but to submit.
DX would continue with the sophomoric pranks as they had done now for over a decade while Legacy would continue viciously attacking DX between PPV’s the next PPV would show the end of the feud when the two teams met in a Hell in a Cell. Again Legacy divided and conquered managing to lock Triple H outside the cell after starting the match before the bell rang locking themselves in with Shawn, after what seemed like an eternity Triple appeared with bolt cutter to let himself in the cell, he would clear house lock Dibease outside. Triple H and Shawn would mutilate Rhodes before pinning him finally letting Dibease in just to receive sweet chin music and a pedigree for all his effort.
The next PPV Bragging Rights would be to determine who the superior brand is, Raw or Smackdown? With a 7-on-7 elimination match with Team Raw captained by DX with Cody Rhodes, Mark Henry, Big Show, Kofi Kingston and Jack Swagger versus Team Smackdown co-captained by Chris Jericho and Kane with R-Truth, Matt Hardy, Finlay and The Hart Dynasty. The match seemed to be in Raw’s favour for the majority of it, until the Big Show turned on Team Raw leading to a Smackdown win, which we would later find out was due to a deal cut with Smackdown General Manager in return for a World Heavyweight title match.
Michaels would find himself back in the hunt for the WWE championship in the month of November at the fourth biggest pay-per-view of the year, Survivor Series. It was during the era of the guest hosts on Raw and it would be this that secured Shawn the championship match when Kyle Busch and Joey Lagano announced it would be a Triple Threat match, John Cena defending against both Triple H and the Heart Break Kid. John Cena would retain the title by pinning Triple H after using the Attitude Adjustment to plant Shawn on top of the Game.
At the last pay-per-view of the year D-Generation X would team back up to challenge Jeri-Show for the tag-team championships picking up an on-going rivalry between Shawn & Chris Jericho, not to mention giving DX a chance for retribution against the Raw turncoat. In the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match that main evented the event of the same name would see the due in green pick up the Unified Tag Team Championship belts.
As you would expect Shawn Michaels would be an entrant in the annual Royal Rumble match for a spot against either the WWE or World Heavyweight Champion at Wrestlemania XXVI. This would not be the reason Shawn wanted to go though, in the build up to the event Shawn became some what obsessed with winning the 30 Man bout to get the chance to battle the Undertaker in a rematch from the previous year. With the Undertaker declining to just accept Michaels' challenge, Shawn was extra determined to win the match.
Shawn Michaels would enter in the prestigious match at number 18 and manage to make his way into the final four participants. It would not be though as Batista eliminated him, Shawn looked to be on the verge of a break down and ready to snap at anytime, he eventually was persuaded to leave the ringside area after attempting to make his way back into his match.
In February following the Royal Rumble Shawn realized he had one more opportunity to get to Wrestlemania and fight the Undertaker if he could get inside of the Raw Elimination Chamber. Shawn failed to get into either Elimination Chamber though, but he was not satisfied with that. At the actual show Michaels would interfere in the Smackdown title match costing the Undertaker his World Heavyweight Championship.
The following night on Raw Shawn Michaels would storm down to the read and in an emotional state he would cut a promo challenging the Undertaker once again demanding that he accept and taunting him by saying he had cost him the championship to ensure the match would take place. The Undertaker appeared and agreed to fight Shawn on one condition, and one condition only. If HBK lost the bout he would have to retire and never compete again, Shawn Michaels agreed even with his best friend Triple H advising him it was a mistake. During the build-up to Wrestlemania the two would also add that the encounter should have no disqualifications and no count-outs to make sure there is a definitive winner.
Rightfully so in his second attempt to end the streak, Shawn went on at Wrestlemania last. Standing in the ring opposite from the Dead Man. In an emotional roller coaster the two did battle for over 24 minutes, in an encounter that may not have been quite as good as the previous event, but it certainly felt as good at the time as millions of people watched waiting to see the conclusion. With plenty of false finishes leaving both the HBK and the Undertaker fans on the edge of their seats in anticipation, something not easily achieved in the modern era of wrestling. In the end it would be Shawn whose shoulders were pinned to the canvas for the one, two, three for the final time in his career.
The following night on Raw was dedicated to Shawn Michaels and featured a big celebration for him as a farewell featuring many superstars coming to the ring to pay homage with him, it even featured a rare show of respect by the Undertaker tipping his hat to the Show Stopper. Unfortunately the farewell would be cut short as Sheamus came out to attack Triple H, continuing their feud.
Shawn has made sporadic appearance since his retirement. On December 11, 2010 he appeared at the Tribute for the Troops show from Fort Hood, Texas. A satellite video of him accepting a Slammy Award on December 14, 2010. Three days later he announced he would be a WWE ambassador going forward in a long term deal with the company.
On January 10, 2011 he made a live appearance on Raw where it was to be announced he would be an inductee into that years Hall of Fame ceremony. He got to show a Sweet Chin Music can be conjured up at anytime still, when he connected with Alberto Del Rio's chin when the Mexican Bret Hart provoked Shawn Michaels a bit too much.
Shawn's best friend, Triple H, would be competing against the Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXVII, so Shawn went to Raw on March 28 to speak to voice his opinions on the encounter.
It would be on April 2, 2011 that he officially became Mr. Hall of Fame when Triple H inducted him the WWE Hall of Fame, there would be a partial reunion of the Cliq that night on stage as Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman joined the duo.
June 27, 2011 would see Shawn Michaels save Diamond Dallas Page on Raw by kicking Drew McIntyre in the face, as well as a confrontation with CM Punk and laying out both David McGillicutty and David Otunga.
2012 would see Shawn Michaels be slightly more active as he became involved in the rematch between Triple H and the Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXVIII. Originally he showed up on the February 13, 2012 edition of Raw to advise him not to accept the challenge. Since the Game ignored Shawn and accepted the match anyway, Shawn was made the special guest referee in a bout that would also be made a Hell in a Cell contest. The match became known as an 'End of an Era,' and Shawn Michaels would count down Triple H's shoulders raising the Undertaker's hand in victory after a great display by the referee battling with turmoil on whether to screw the Undertaker or not, becoming physically involved at times. In the end the three legends would walk up the ramp together and all posed at the stage.
August the 6, 2012 would see a Shawn Michaels Appreciation Night for the live crowd carried on into the storyline as Shawn was confronted by Brock Lesnar who was engaged in a storyline with Triple H. The confrontation would result in Shawn getting his arm broken so that he couldn't be in the Game's corner at Summerslam.
Shawn would make a brief appearance on the January 24, 2013 edition of NXT to announce the tournament to crown the first ever NXT Tag-Team Championship. After the show there would be a live reunion with the entire DX, minus Chyna, and the Kevin Nash also joined them.
The next time Shawn would appear on our televisions in WWE capacity he wound up in the corner of Triple H at Wrestlemania XXIX in a return match with Brock Lesnar. This came about following an appearance from Shawn Michaels on April 1, at Raw. I'm sure this short run back was worth it for the Sexy Boy just to deliver the Sweet Chin Music to Paul Heyman. He has continued to appear on and off, including as a special panelist on pay-per-views on the WWE sportscaster type set-up.
Other than WWE work Shawn has taken part in a lost Christian work helping with his local Church and doing all sorts of charity help. He has been seen in the crowd of his local church run by John Hagee, the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. With fellow born again Christian and professional Wrestler, Sting, they have appeared on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. He also started up his own television show called MacMillan River Adventures where he takes the viewers through various hunting expeditions. During the course of the show he has had such guest as Michael Cole, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Jim Ross. The program has also led him to releasing his own line of hunting equipment.
The argument on who the greatest in-ring performer of all time will go on forever. There are only a handful of names that will forever be mentioned when that topic is discussed and one of them names is Shawn Michaels. Whether he was a young tag team wrestler wowing crowds with the fast paced tandem action of the Rockers, or as a young brash singles competitor making a lame gimmick like the 'Sexy Boy' work, or as the arrogantly flamboyant superstar of the mid-90's pioneering the Attitude Era, or as the born again Christian of later years putting on Wrestlemania moment after Wrestlemania moment, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest all-round in ring performers of all time.
By Jimmy Wheeler