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Shawn Michaels: Superstardom and salvation in ink
Shawn Michaels doesn't sugarcoat the questionable decisions made in his distant past. The man known to many as "The Heartbreak Kid" has found peace by embracing the person he once was, and the man he has become. The roadmap linking the evolution of Michaels' past and present? The ink on his skin.
"My tattoos are all symbolic of a long, drawn-out story that helps define who I am. I guess I'd say I got them because I'm an idiot," he joked. "Truthfully, if I knew now what I should have known then -- or however that saying goes -- I probably wouldn't have gotten them, simply because my kids see them."
Aside from a state of Texas tattoo on his calf that illustrates evident pride for his home territory, HBK's tattoos may require some decoding. The most recognizable image he has isn't visible, nor would he permit WWE.com photographers to shoot it for Superstar Ink.
"On my hip, I have a tattoo that says ‘HBK.' It's one that I probably wouldn't have now," he admitted. "But that character has given a lot to me in my life. It helped me grow professionally. I felt I needed to give some tribute, to honor that character, but I didn't want to put it anywhere visible."
In the mid-1990s, when Michaels transformed into "The Heartbreak Kid," he was able to attain levels of Superstardom that created a worldwide celebrity, and earned a reputation as being one of WWE's most charismatic and boisterous Superstars.
"It was 1995, I believe, when I got it done," he said. "That's when I believed I was becoming successful in this line of work, and at that point, I thought I'd go places I never thought I'd go. And I did."
The HBK persona allowed Michaels' true brilliance to shine on both the microphone and the mat. His charisma, style and ability to captivate a crowd are still attributes that up-and-coming Superstars can only hope to emulate in their own careers. Yet there was also a downside: Once the competition ended, those three letters — "HBK" — didn't. Michaels couldn't seem to shake the Heartbreak Kid's less appealing traits. The ink on his arm, the heart and sword, is an allegory of that.
"The heart and sword encapsulates my personality," he explained. "When I was younger, I was always a shy, decent kid. But as I grew older, I got a little harder, that's the snake. And then I did things I'm not real proud of. So that tattoo encapsulates who I was as a person."
Changes in his personal life also changed the direction of his tattoos. The people who were able to diffuse the destructive side of Shawn Michaels took over the spotlight of his body art.
"I have my wife's name on my calf, because she's the greatest woman I've ever known," he said. "One of the things with tattoos is that you're not supposed to get women or your wife. But I knew this was the woman I would stay with for the rest of my life. I'd chop my leg off at the kneecap before I let her leave."
He also has the letter "R" on his finger, another tattoo dedicated to his wife, Rebecca.
"To me, it's a real commitment," he asserted. "When I met her, I knew she wasn't getting away."
The bracelet circling his wrist is for his son.
"That little boy impacted my life in an unbelievable way. A lot of people feel that way when they have children, but he's such an amazing part of my life spiritually," an emotional Michaels stated. "He has changed who I am as a person. I put that [bracelet] on there as a reminder of what an amazing impact he has been for me."
Michaels also has a daughter, which means he'll be getting another tattoo for her, right?
"I'm always contemplating putting my daughter somewhere, but I don't want to encourage them to get tattoos," he said with a smile. "I also don't want her to ask when she's 16, ‘Hey, why am I not on there?' I haven't made a decision yet; I can only say we'll see."