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Shawn Michaels

Shawn Michaels
Mr. WrestleMania

In a world where nicknames get thrown around fairly liberally, Shawn Michaels has earned many monikers that can never be disputed: "The Showstopper," The Headliners," "The Main Event," "The Icon," "Mr. WrestleMania."

In the years prior to 1988, the World Wrestling Federation was ruled by the likes of Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and King Kong Bundy. These men represented what the ideal WWF Superstar was at the time—broad-bodied and freakishly strong. In June 1988, a young team called The Rockers made its WWF debut against a duo comprised of the masked Intruder and ring veteran Iron Mike Sharpe. The vision of the ideal WWF Superstar was about to change. (Continue Reading ») | (Barber Shop Break-up ») | (A Childhood Dream Realized ») (Retirement? No, Rejuvenation! ») (The Showstopper's Final Steps Into The WWE Hall of Fame »)

SHAWN MICHAELS FEATURES

The Rockers

After opening eyes while competing as the Midnight Rockers in the American Wrestling Association (AWA), Michaels and Jannetty made the move to the World Wrestling Federation in 1987. The good-looking tandem had dreams of dominating the stacked tag team division. The company, however, saws things differently, as they fired the team after only two weeks.

With their tails between their legs, Michaels and Jannetty left, never knowing if they would get another opportunity of greatness. The high-flying duo continued to work their game for the better part of a year before WWF officials agreed to give them another look in July 1988. This time, they took advantage of the situation. After dropping the word "Midnight" from their name, The Rockers took the WWF by storm, proving themselves as true tag team specialists.

Michaels and Jannetty became staples on World Wrestling Federation programming, dancing their way to the squared circle with the uproarious beat of fast-paced drums blasting over the arena loudspeakers. Once the bell rang, however, their breath-taking aerial ability made them instant favorites with grappling fans. However, it was their glistening smiles and handsome good looks that made them even more popular with the female fans.

Just five months after reemerging in the World Wrestling Federation, The Rockers competed at their first pay-per-view event—Survivor Series on November 24, 1988 at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield Township, Ohio—and it was there that Michaels and Jannetty proved that they were the tag team specialists they claimed to be in the months leading up to the show. On the biggest stage of their young careers, The Rockers stood face-to-face with great duos as The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) and Demoliton (Ax and Smash) and even eliminated The Bolsheviks (Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov) from the contest before being disqualified in controversial fashion.

Barber Shop Break-up

By 1992, Michaels believed his union with Jannetty was holding him back from true greatness. So he severed their relationship in one of the most memorable scenes in WWF history. While guests on Brutus Beefcake's Barber Shop, Michaels superkicked Jannetty straight through a window. The kick marked the end of the popular tag team and the beginning of an iconic singles career.

On his own, the egotistical Michaels adopted the nickname "The Heartbreak Kid." With Sensational Sherri by his side stroking his ego, HBK went on an unbelievable tear that saw him capture his first WWF title when he defeated the British Bulldog for the Intercontinental Championship in October 1992. The win over the Bulldog marked the first three Intercontinental Championship reigns for Michaels. Over the course of these reigns, HBK competed in some of the organization's most athletic and dangerous encounters, including the landmark WrestleMania X Ladder Match against Razor Ramon. With each passing match, it became obvious that he was destined for greatness.

A Childhood Dream Realized

In January 1996, he last eliminated Diesel to become a back-to-back Royal Rumble winner. The victory put HBK back in the main event of WrestleMania and gave him the opportunity to accomplish his boyhood dream of becoming WWF Champion. At WrestleMania XII, he faced Bret "The Hitman" Hart in a grueling 60-minute Iron Man Match that required sudden-death overtime to deliver a conclusive winner. Michaels scored the win after landing Sweet Chin Music and became WWF Champion.

In 1997, Michaels teamed with longtime friend Hunter Hearst Helmsley to form the most controversial faction in WWF, D-Generation X. Together, HBK and Helmsley spat in the face of authority while their unparalleled popularity set the bar for all future factions. As a member of DX, HBK captured the European Championship, making him the first-ever Grand Slam Champion in WWF history (he held the Intercontinental, World Tag Team, and European titles during his career), but it was a WWF Championship victory over Bret Hart at the 1997 Survivor Series that will forever be remembers for its controversial conclusion. With Hart caught in a Sharpshooter, referee Earl Hebner called for the bell, despite the fact that "The Hitman" never submitted. The incident, which became known as the "Montreal Screwjob," remains arguably the most infamous event in WWE history.

Retirement? No, Rejuvenation!

Back injuries forced Michaels into early retirement in 1998. During this time, he became a very spiritual person, which helped him overcome his personal demons. He also used this time to rest his battered back. By 2002, a reinvigorated HBK got the itch to compete again.

When he returned, Michaels found himself embedded in a bloody rivalry against former friend Triple H. Amazingly, he showed no sign of ring rust, defeating the game at SummerSlam 2002. A few months later, Michaels last eliminated Triple H in an unforgiving Elimination Chamber Match that saw him claim the World Heavyweight Championship.

Over the next several years, the renewed Michaels worked effortlessly to recreate the magic of his earlier years. In typical HBK fashion, he found himself in the spotlight of WWE's biggest matches, including his duel at WrestleMania XXIV where he sent Ric Flair into retirement. Michaels spent the rest of 2008 battling Flair's former protégé, Batista, then engaging Chris Jericho in an incredible personal rivalry that saw Michaels thrown through the Jeriton 6000. HBK ended the year in a financial hole and was forced to work with John "Bradshaw" Layfield until he defeated the former WWE Champion in an All or Nothing Match at 2009's No Way Out.

The Showstopper's Final Steps Into The WWE Hall of Fame

Shawn Michaels looked back on his historic career, then pondered his future, and realized only one thing remained for him to do: defeat Undertaker at WrestleMania. At WrestleMania XXV, HBK and "The Deadman" engaged in a spectacular contest. Though HBK came within inches of victory, he failed to end Undertaker's undefeated WrestleMania streak.

Michaels took some time away from WWE after the loss; however, when longtime friend and D-Generation X cohort Triple H needed a partner to take on The Legacy at SummerSlam, he sought out HBK. Triple H found him working in a cafeteria, and worked to convince him to return to the ring. The reformed D-Generation X stayed together through the summer, fall and winter, and managed to capture the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs. During this time as Tag Team Champion, Shawn Michaels reconciled with Bret Hart, healing a wound ripped open nearly fifteen years earlier in Montreal.

After D-Generation X lost the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship, Michaels demanded a rematch with Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVI. In order to secure the match, Michaels put his career on the line. With no disqualifications, and no count-outs, the battle lines were drawn for a "Streak vs. Career" Match. Michaels was unable to overcome three Tombstone Piledrivers and the man known as "Mr. WrestleMania" lost his final match as a Superstar in WWE. Less than 24 hours later, "The Heartbreak Kid" gave a touching farewell on Raw.

On the eve of WrestleMania XXVII, in front of a capacity crowd, Shawn Michaels' brilliant, quarter-century wrestling career was recognized with induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Always the "Showstopper," Michaels and Triple H surprised the WWE Universe with a reunion of the Kliq when Kevin Nash and X-Pac joined them on stage. While his competitive days are behind him, Shawn Michaels still makes appearances on WWE programming to the delight of his fans worldwide. In 2012, Shawn Michaels became involved in another WrestleMania match involving Undertaker. At WrestleMania XXVIII, "The Heartbreak Kid" donned a striped shirt and officiated the match that became known as the "End of an Era" when Undertaker defeated Triple H in a Hell in a Cell Match.

Shawn Michaels Talks Undertaker And Steve Austin Memories, Reforming Friendships

Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels speaks out

WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels joined The Rack Thursday Night, where he discussed his new book, ”Wrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality the Faith of a WWE Superstar”, his faith, on what he hopes people will take away from reading his book, on reforming friendships upon returning to the WWE, particularly with 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin and the Undertaker, why he chose them to write the forewords to his book, if he has a favorite memory concerning those two and so much more. Highlights are as follows, and you can listen to the interview here.

What does he hope people will take away from reading his new book:

“I have to tell you, and as I stated in the book, I'm certainly no biblical scholar and I'm no pastor, I'm just a guy telling a story of what the Lord did in his life but I've learned the power of testimony over the past several years. So, I'm just hoping that if I'm a guy who stands there amongst many people and raises their hands and goes' hey, just so you know I went through this, I had this problem. It's ok to say you struggled here and struggled there' and that it will help other people do the same and that they'll feel more comfortable knowing that it's ok."

"We live in, and especially in the WWE, in that world that obviously doesn't dead with a lot of truths and there's always wearing a mask, so to speak, and just for a bit being honest with oneself and saying you need help and admitting to that; that's not something that's looked upon as real strong these days but you'd be surprised at what it does and the strength it takes to do it and the strength the Lord gives you to move forward past it.”

Reforming friendships when he returned to the WWE :

“Nothing short of spectacular and that's again, probably one of the… it's always a toss-up about the single greatest thing about my salvation, but one of the things my faith has taught me is that everything in our lives is about relationships and to have the opportunity to be given a second change with these guys, especially again with like 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin and the Undertaker; guys that we weren't necessarily friends or hung out or anything like that, but we had a mutual respect for one another but obviously, because of the way I was before, it drove a wedge and didn't give us an opportunity to have more, more than just that professional respect that you almost have to have and having the opportunity to go back and form real friendships with those guys and more importantly to be at a point in our lives where I can say 'Hey, I'm going to do this book, and it's in an area that you guys may or may not be real comfortable with; it's about my faith. But I want to be transparent, I want to be open and honest and only if you can be open and honest about me, would you write a dedication or would you write something and I want you to be painfully honest. It's ok.'"

"I didn't want people so to speak; I could have reached out to friends: Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, my wife and kids; people I know who will write things about me, but I wanted these guys who could truly give a real assessment of the before and after and honestly, the things they wrote almost brought a tear to my eye. The fact that they said, 'No, not only will I do it, but I'd be honored to do it'; that just meant the world to me because we have traveled some tough roads, these gentlemen and myself, to get where we're at and now to have a friendship and a real relationship that goes so far past and beyond the wrestling business and even sort of the silliness that that business brings to your life. It's nice to have something real and solid with those guys and again couldn't be more thrilled with that.”

Does he have any particular fond memories about either Steve Austin or The Undertaker:

“The irony, well I guess with both of them, is Steve and I had big differences: he was the guy I was dropping the championship to at WrestleMania 14, which was supposed to be the last match that I ever had because I'd injured my back and had been told my career was over and again, to all these years later, to have him be one of the guys that wrote a foreword in this book and to be a guy who we talk on a fairly regular basis about hunting, our deer programs, our ranches and stuff like that.

"And then, of course, with the Undertaker, that's the guy who I ended up ending my career with, my actual wrestling career; I had my last two matches with him and they were just so off-the-charts spectacular and we brought in a lot of our real aspects into it, my faith into it and it was just a wonderful thing. It's an amazing moment to share those very real times with those guys and that's been, as I said, nothing short of spectacular and those are just two I guess fairly long winded but quick stories about those two guys in particular.”

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