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HBK's journey home
1997. San Antonio. In front of his hometown crowd in the Alamo Dome, Shawn Michaels captured the WWE Championship from Sycho Sid at the tenth annual Royal Rumble. By the night's end, not only did HBK reclaim WWE's richest prize, but secured the resounding laud of his native Texans.
Ten years later at the same event in the same city, a different Shawn Michaels returns home as one of 30 men in the Royal Rumble Match with the chance to "stop the show" once again. With his recovering best friend, Triple H, watching anxiously from home and the support of an entire city, Michaels is walking into one of the most emotionally charged nights of his career.
"Up until two weeks ago, it was going to be another Rumble and it was going to be in my hometown which is special," Michaels said. "Over the last couple of weeks, I feel just this unbelievable wave of momentum that was not there probably three weeks ago."
Since The Game was taken out of action, Michaels has been on a one-man mission to destroy Rated-RKO. This two-on-one quest has proven to reinvigorate HBK and given him a newfound motivation.
"I now have this ‘reborn reborn' feeling of momentum," Michaels explained. "I feel an enormous wave of momentum that's got me excited in a way that I haven't been since I returned. I realize that I can actually have it all again."
Tonight at the Rumble, Michaels can certainly gain a tremendous opportunity to compete for championship gold at WrestleMania 23. All he needs to do is outlast 29 other men in the Royal Rumble Match. He has done it before -- twice -- but tonight, a new man walks into the San Antonio arena. This is a Showstopper much different than the one from a decade ago.
"Years ago," he said, "I was so volatile and you were worried about how I was going to react. I've got all that under control and I have achieved an awesome balance."
In his reborn state, Michaels said that he no longer constrained by the damaging and overly competitive hunger to be better than everyone else.
"[Now,] I don't allow myself to get that way," he added. "I think it's prideful. Pride comes before the fall, and I don't want to have falls in my life. So, right now, I'm excited; it's a good wholesome excitement. It's definitely different than years ago."
Despite the weight of this profound January night in Texas, Michaels said he remains focused and intent on putting on a show like no other in his hometown.
"[My primary goal] is the same thing it always is: to do well." Michaels continued, "For me, everything has always been about the performance."
Michaels unquestionably has his sights set on the Rumble Match, but regardless of the outcome, he is determined to entertain like only he can.
"For me, there's zero value in winning much of anything anymore," HBK revealed, "and I think that works to my advantage. It doesn't have to do with wins or losses or titles. To me, it's always about performance."
And if that performance can generate a victory in the 30-man Royal Rumble Match, WWE fans will witness the Showstopper's journey towards the apex of sports-entertainment in the main event at WrestleMania.
"Fifteen years ago, I was a machine and I knew it," described a retrospective HBK. "I knew that to get in there with me for 30 or 40 minutes, you're going to have to pack a lunch. And everybody else knew that too. I'm starting to feel that way again."
In a town where he once stood as a wide-eyed spectator at the age of 16, Michaels can triumph again in San Antonio. In just hours, Michaels will tune up a band of 14,000 rowdy and proud Texans in the over-the-top-rope war. Could this be Michaels' night?
"I'm not going to let you down," Michaels spoke, directly from the heart. "My job is to perform well. Everything else always gets accomplished in that. And, like I said on Raw, may God have mercy on everybody else."