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WrestleMania Diary: Shawn Michaels, Day 2
MEDIA MORNING, 8:16 a.m.
A sleek, sunray soaked Excursion transports The Showstopper from his hotel to the Georgia Dome’s World Congress Center for some media intermingling. Joined by fellow Hall of Fame Inductee Sunny as well as Wade Barrett, Sheamus, Christian and others, Shawn barely settles in before he’s herded off to conduct a live interview with the local Fox TV network, WXIA.
Engulfed by visual memories of so many WrestleManias gone by – Caesars Palace in 1993, SkyDome in 1990 – Michaels’ trademark charisma (an arguable admiral rank to that of the captain mere yards away) makes the early morning meet-and-greet with the rapt reporter more like banter between reacquainted friends.
Referring to the new, HBK-inspired attraction at WrestleMania Axxess, Shawn facetiously boasts before signing off from the pre-festivity Axxess booth. (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)
“You have to understand, I’ve got my own section,” he lightheartedly states. “You wear enough silly stuff, you get your own wing.”
“NOW, IT’S STARTING,” 8:26 a.m.
Shawn continues several paces away from the local Atlanta reporter toward a gaggle of journalists and media from around the globe, including Poland, France and the United Kingdom. He passes by relics like Andre the Giant’s suit and a framed WrestleMania VIII program, likely revisiting some very special moments in his 26-year career. Emotions percolate and stir genuine feelings for responses to countless variations of questions from interviewers, many of whom expose their WWE fanhood following their Q&As.
Before one energetic media member produces a posed photo with The Showstopper from the previous year’s WrestleMania, the Rosetta Stone-less Texan does his best to recite a German phrase – “Jetzt gehts los” (“Now, it’s starting”), for those watching in Deutschland.
Shawn shifts from network to radio to print journalist, landing on a subtly, suitably named press marker for the Chinese media in attendance. HBTV inquires about HBK’s retirement and career highlights, segueing into WWE’s marquee event this Sunday.
After some parley, Mr. WrestleMania divulges his predictions for the main event match winners on The Grandest Stage of Them All: World Heavyweight Champion Edge, John Cena and – perhaps the most difficult call for him to make – The Phenom.
LIVE ON THE “HAIR,” 9:59 a.m.
As part of the media frenzy, The Showstopper checks in with an Atlanta FM rock station whose radio DJ whipping boy takes his WWE fandom to an extreme, asking Superstars to buzz off sections of his short strawberry blond hair and sign their name in the freshly manicured bald area. At the conclusion of his on-air discourse with a panel of radio hosts, HBK happily obliges and adds his three iconic initials to the sophomoric kidder’s scalp.
CLOTHES MAKE THE MAIN EVENT, 10:28 a.m.
Even in retirement, Shawn Michaels is recognized as a pillar of WrestleMania’s grandeur, which is exactly what makes the Mr. WrestleMania attraction a requisite feature at Axxess.
Long before the doors of the venue are opened to the WWE Universe, the very soon-to-be Hall of Famer approaches a rotating platform celebrating The Showstopper’s most unique attire – memorable, HBK admits, for better or worse.
“[Years ago,] I knew I wanted to wear the biker hat,” Shawn confirms, peering at an outfit he brazenly wore in the mid-1990s. “It was sort of ‘Village People dropout,’ but you just knew that was going get people to notice and hate me, which it did, I think.”
The cap, along with motorcycle boots and variations of his leather jacket, were the only salvaged articles of clothing from a post-Rockers marketing pitch to have Michaels compete as “The Idol.”
“I liked the look, but couldn’t stand the name,” he candidly details. “I hated the idea of being typecast or set into a mold. I wanted to be Shawn Michaels. I was given advice once by Roddy Piper, who said, ‘Don’t ever stop being who you are.’”
Taking the sound advice from a veritable entertainment legend, Michaels cultivated an unparalleled career, simply based on being himself. He fulfilled his inner cowboy by way of elaborately decorated chaps that would evolve into the ring gear dreamt up by his wife and worn by Shawn throughout the final years of his WWE career – all in hues that would be associated with HBK for years to come: Black, red and white … with the occasional association with neon green. (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)
GO FIGURE, 11:05 a.m.
Although displaying more restraint than a sticky-faced little boy with his face pressed against a toy store window, Shawn Michaels’ excitement is evident as he gets in tight and close for a sufficient glimpse of Mattel’s masterpiece-like HBK action figure. The miniature plastic replica of Michaels’ WrestleMania XXV ring gear is an appropriate addition to the world champion toymaker’s Defining Moments line of WWE products.
Protected like a museum relic as priceless as the moment it represents, the glass encased toy substantially surpasses the detail and realism of his first-ever action figure from the 1980s.
“There are a number of pivotal moments in one’s career,” Michaels says, “Your first title, your first check, your first pay-per-view. Getting your first doll – of course, they’re action figures now – was always big,” he adds, describing the hard plastic, spring-loaded toy of himself as a member of The Rockers. “That’s when you feel like you’ve made it.”
According to The Showstopper, his mom’s collection includes one of almost every Shawn Michaels figure, which his children always want to see. He admits that when it comes to Cameron and Cheyenne’s own collection, Mr. WrestleMania doesn’t always come out on top.
“Daddy gets to win when it’s my daughter; I’m defended to the hilt,” HBK says. “When it’s my son, he just wants to beat me up. [Cameron’s] at the ‘throwing me under the bus’ stage … but every now and then, when someone asks him who’s his favorite, he has very secretly said, ‘My daddy’s one of the greatest that ever wrestled.’”
MUSIC TO HIS EARS, 11:48 a.m.
When WrestleMania comes to town, so do the revered names of sports-entertainment’s present as well as those from its most distinguished past. Enter Jimmy Hart.
In a touching encounter, The Mouth of the South showers The Showstopper with praise and congratulations on his impending induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, alongside the likes of Hart himself. Sans signature megaphone, the sunglassed managerial genius describes his elation for Shawn’s massive moment on Saturday, especially since it has been Hart’s own music that’s accompanied HBK for his entire WWE singles career.
Shawn respectfully absorbs the flattery and recalls his utter fright the day he learned it would be his voice laid throughout the track of his camp-gone-epic entrance music.
“We went into the studio, knocked it out and even did the backup, SEXAY BOY!” recollects a high-pitched Hart, who both wrote and composed Michaels’ theme song. “I’m telling you, when he gets inducted, it’ll be like me getting inducted again.”
It won’t only be Jimmy who reacts with such enthusiasm on Saturday. Despite the lyrics which Shawn and his famed career have certainly outgrown, the familiar sound of The Showstopper’s tune will signal an unrivaled roar. It’s a tune the WWE Universe has learned to love, some even guilty of singing it solo when no one’s looking. It’s the tune that’s now as iconic as its associated performer – the star of the 2011 WWE Hall of Fame class.
PARENTAL CONTROL, 5:12 p.m.
"Somebody tell him he's not funny!" exclaims the salt-and-pepper haired woman with a broad smile beaming. Behind her is a gentleman who looks strikingly similar to The Showstopper, The Main Event. There's a reason for the resemblance. This view beholds the parents of the incomparable Shawn Michaels.
As he alluded to yesterday, HBK is joined today by his closest family, including his parents, Rebecca, Cameron, Cheyenne and more. Hugs abound and booming laughter suggest that this impromptu reunion may have been long overdue. It's clear that their presence enlivens The Showstopper and on this meaningful weekend of friends and family, the main event is their proudest moment shared.
LIGHT IN THE DARK, 6:07 p.m.
Naturally, The Showstopper is pulled away from his family moment for his scheduled meeting with WWE producers for on-camera interviews. Discussing two of the ring's most celebrated names, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin - both extremely relevant pieces in HBK's career.
All mic'd up, Shawn relives his pre-Showstopper days in Mid-South Wrestling beside DiBiase, then segues into the Attitude Era's peak with Stone Cold - who ended HBK's career the first time around in their WWE Title Match at WrestleMania XIV - behind the wheel. He cites his "real life issues" with WWE and with himself in the late '90s, then moves into discussions of shared faith with DiBiase.
The honest discourse concludes with Michaels in a carefully lit seat, offering only a brief moment of silence before HBK cuts in with a line that draws chuckles from all in earshot.
"I want to get my ring so bad," he exclaims, "it's the only reason I came."
WHAT FLOOR?, 7:07 p.m.
Quickly heading up to his suite before an informal cocktail party for all WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2011 Inductees, HBK's elevator ascent is halted in between the lower level and the top floor. In strolls a candid Pat Patterson, who selects his floor, greets The Showstopper, but then threatens to press all the number-emblazoned buttons, just because he can.
The wildly laughing first-ever Intercontinental Champion is immediately seized by Shawn until a "ding" - almost a third of a ring bell - breaks the hold and the mentor and mentee say goodnight, 24 hours before Michaels joins his longtime teacher in the Hall of Fame.
HEARTBREAK HOTEL, 7:10 p.m.
"You look great," Shawn says as the red door of his hotel suite swings open to reveal his gorgeous wife of 12 years (and one day).
Serenity permeates the air of the multi-room spread, currently child-free. The Heartbreak Kid gets a download on any family transpirings missed while keeping up with his schedule. Rebecca finds relief from the slew of animated kids movies in her Hall of Fame-bound husband on the eve of his ceremonious induction. However brief, their interaction is sustaining in an enjoyably turbulent weekend back in the WWE spotlight. Mutual teasing turns into serious discussion about plans for what remains of the evening.
"The kids ... the in-laws ... my text message ... the emails ... t-shirt."
Their words waft in between subtle glances that suggest a stronger connection than they'll let on. With no ground left to cover and the time evaporating, Shawn must exit again, but only temporarily.
Then, before vanishing out toward the hall and the rest of the universe, The Heartbreak Kid contests his widely used namesake by taking one step in and connecting lips with his bride. His anxiety is null and the immensity of tomorrow night suddenly seems far less overwhelming. The WWE Hall of Fame awaits. It can only get better.