WrestleMania Diary: Shawn Michaels, Introduction
It was uncomfortably silent when Shawn Michaels warily toed the aisle for the first time in his career on Oct. 16, 1984. In an undersized arena that’s possibly no longer standing in Texas today, a Lake Charles crowd devoid of reaction met Michaels, a sandy-haired youth with a pure and charming smile as he crossed through the ring ropes.
More than two decades later, an attending audience that’s exponentially larger – plus a worldwide viewership watching from home – will sit in a respectful awe when HBK, a veritable ring marvel, is inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Richly inspired by his athleticism, showmanship and expression of genuine heart, the WWE Universe will embrace The Showstopper’s high honor as he’s rightly exalted for performing like no one else in all of sports-entertainment.
In one night, his legendary ladder top leap, fulfillment of the boyhood dream and repeatedly masterful dances on The Grandest Stage of Them All will be celebrated in grandeur – on the eve of WrestleMania XXVII, appropriately enough.
Michaels’ squared circle career was born just months before Vince McMahon hatched WrestleMania – two phenomena that evolved in parallel until Michaels seized the event as his personal stage for excellence. Christened “Mr. WrestleMania” after consistently unforgettable performances, HBK completes his grandest ambition at The Show of Shows this year, but this time there is no championship, no rivalry, no battleground. This time, it’s simply a guaranteed glory that Michaels has undisputedly earned over the course of a 26-year career.
Journey with WWE.com for its annual WrestleMania Diary, following a WWE Hall of Fame Inductee for the first time ever, and traverse beside Shawn Michaels for his finest of moments and the full festivities of a tremendous week in Atlanta, concluding with the 27th edition of WrestleMania.
BUILT BY ASSOCIATION
All it took was the initial exposure to Joe Blanchard’s Southwest Championship Wrestling in the HemisFair Arena to convince Shawn Michaels. Raucously cheering for the likes Bruiser Bob Sweetan, Michaels, a self-admittedly shy youth, conjured a dream to chase and a passion to fulfill from the sound of the very first ring bell.
Introduced to and trained by Jose Lothario, Michaels’ squared circle apprenticeship earned him a spot on the roster of the American Wrestling Association (AWA). Here, Shawn was first paired up with an equally energetic competitor with a comparably frenetic ring style: Marty Jannetty. As the Midnight Rockers, the young tag team kicked off their careers, ascended their division ranks, captured the AWA World Tag Team Championship and readjusted their aspirations to a larger pond with much bigger fish in the World Wrestling Federation.
ROCKIN’ OUT, ROCKIN’ IN
Following an invitation by WWE officials, Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty landed on the doorstep of Vince McMahon’s vastly growing franchise in June 1987 where the pair clashed with Jose Estrada & Jimmy Jack Funk in their first-ever WWE match. Despite an unsavory first impression among fellow Superstars that led to Jannetty & Michaels’ dismissal, the revitalized, less rebellious Rockers were welcomed back to WWE on July 7, 1988.
The rugged road to the truest proving ground in sports-entertainment would pay off in spades as The Rockers – with their neon fringe and heavily teased hair tresses – propelled themselves upward among the most prolific tag team specialists in WWE history.
A REAL GLASS ACT
Ironically similar to a crack in a glass windshield, a trivial incident between Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty led to a much more severe fracture during a visit to Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake’s Barber Shop in late 1991. Michaels’ ego grew too large for The Rockers and Shawn initiated his solo career in a most despicable fashion: Superkicking his benevolent tag partner and then projecting Jannetty through a pane of glass.
Representative of their shattered union, the shards of the window lay strewn about the carpet of Beefcake’s set and around Michaels’ betrayed former friend. With a proud collar pop of his leather bomber jacket, The Heartbreak Kid – as “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig later dubbed Michaels while in a commentating role – was introduced to the world.
“CLIMB” DOES PAY
However contemptible his actions were in The Barber Shop, the split of The Rockers was the first step up a very tall ladder for Shawn Michaels. After capturing the Intercontinental Championship from The British Bulldog in 1992, The Heartbreak Kid reigned in his singles career and only continued his ascent upward … until he leapt from that ladder’s peak at WrestleMania X.
Michaels met Razor Ramon in Madison Square Garden that night for the Intercontinental Title in a revolutionary Ladder Match that many have referred to as one of the best bouts in WrestleMania history. Using the lofty aluminum apparatus to uniquely batter one another, HBK and Ramon commanded the attention of the WWE Universe. Time slowed in New York City and the show came to a breath-baiting halt when Michaels soared from the peak of the ladder onto his rival, forging a quintessential ‘Mania moment and amassing early equity for his future “Mr. WrestleMania” namesake.
CLING OF THE RING
Reviled yet recognized by the WWE Universe as an exceptional performer, Shawn Michaels entered the 1995 Royal Rumble Match with his usual bravado and detestable swagger. The Sexy Boy/Boy Toy kicked off the 30-man clash as the No. 1 entrant beside the second competitor, The British Bulldog. More than an hour later, the same two Superstars looked across the ring to see the foe with whom they started the match. That is, until Bulldog powered HBK over the top rope, seemingly securing his WWE Title opportunity at WrestleMania.
However, leveraging both the match rules and the ring ropes, The Heartbreak Kid precariously dangled above the arena floor – and instant defeat – with only one boot touching. As “Rule Britannia” signaled Davey Boy Smith’s supposed triumph, Shawn steadied his balance, slipped back into the ring and ambushed the swindled Bulldog, who was knocked from his mounted celebratory position on the middle rope to the outside.
Michaels made history with his start-to-finish feat and his Rumble accomplishment situated him in the main event of WrestleMania XI against former best friend and bodyguard, WWE Champion Diesel. Though unsuccessful against Big Daddy Cool on The Grandest Stage of Them All, The Heartbreak Kid rebounded with a back-to-back Rumble Match victory in 1996 – a year in which Michaels would simply not be denied.
The WWE Universe has often heard the impassioned echo of the McMahon-uttered statement, “the boyhood dream has come true,” in the most definitive WrestleMania retrospectives. This declaration aptly encapsulates the emotions fueling Shawn Michaels as he looked down at the reflection of his own tear-welled face in the luster of the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XII.
The long-awaited 60-minute clash between Michaels and Bret “Hit Man” Hart culminated in overtime with dual doses of Sweet Chin Music to the defending WWE Champion. After more than an hour of alluring competition between sports-entertainment’s finest technicians, The Hearbreak Kid met his destiny and clutched the rich prize he’d sought for so long, a gleaming manifestation of the dream that’d finally been fulfilled.
LEADING THE NEW GENERATION
Among the leather chaps and mirrored ornamentation of his flashy ring garb, the WWE Title around his waist completed Shawn Michaels’ signature style as the leader of WWE’s “New Generation.”
The Hearbreak Kid’s career continued to flourish with successes against a bevy of challengers including Sycho Sid, Vader and Mankind. But the taxing confrontations associated with the role of WWE’s premier Superstar wore heavily on Michaels’ body, especially given the nature of his infamously high risk techniques
Though very much a “Superman” of the ring, the WWE Champion displayed a much more deeply human side to the WWE Universe when he revealed he’d lost his smile. Forced to repair his deteriorating knee, Michaels relinquished his prized WWE Title and went on a mission to both heal and retrieve his absent grin, making a permanent connection with WWE fans in the process.
BREAK IT DOWN AND OUT
The Showstopper ultimately located his smile by the end of 1997 … at the expense of each and every authority figure (and then some) in WWE. With the formation of D-Generation X, Shawn Michaels and his best friend, Triple H, revolutionized sports-entertainment with their edgy, unruly and unrelenting exploits and played a critical part in the onset of the Attitude Era, as well as WWE’s Monday Night War victory over WCW.
Leaving an indelible neon green mark on WWE, DX said and did whatever it wanted to whoever it wanted, defying everyone from WWE officials to revered Superstars like Bret Hart. As the WWE Universe quickly grew to understand, HBK & The Game had two words for anyone who stood against them or any future iterations of the rebel faction – though none were more potent than those including its core members.
A proud D-Generate marching into WrestleMania XIV, The Showstopper would compete in his last match for four years against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. With Triple H by his side, Michaels lost bout, the WWE Title and the spotlight in a single night, which ended with a knockout punch from celebrity guest Mike Tyson.
STRONG, COURAGEOUS, VICTORIOUS
He left the ring with Triple H beside him, but when Shawn Michaels returned to action in 2002, his best friend was now his greatest nemesis. A D-Generate converted into a pure family man, HBK came back to WWE and proved that when it comes to the squared circle, above all he is a peerless performer.
With biblical passages encouraging him to “be strong and courageous,” Michaels reemerged and clashed with The Game at SummerSlam. Their unfinished business carried into Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden for the debut of the Elimination Chamber, years after the back surgery that doctors argued would preclude Michaels from ring action forever.
In New York City’s famous arena, HBK conquered five other Superstars – among them Triple H and Chris Jericho – to capture the World Heavyweight Championship and utter a truly remarkable statement: The Showstopper is back.
Compensating for time lost while away from the stage he was born to walk, Shawn Michaels quickly reestablished himself as The Main Event, particularly when the setting happened to be The Show of Shows.
After his return in 2002, HBK continued to set the standard when it comes to competing at WrestleMania. Chris Jericho. Kurt Angle. John Cena. Even Mr. McMahon. Against some of WWE’s greatest names, even in instances of defeat, Michaels’ consistent level of performance at The Biggest Spectacle of All has been rivaled only by the parallel progression of The Undertaker’s flawless WrestleMania winning streak. This, perhaps, is why The Showstopper versus The Phenom was an event that not even divine intervention could deter.
THE SHOW STOPS
Once and again a second time, Shawn Michaels challenged The Undertaker on The Grandest Stage of Them All in clashes for much more than any championship at WrestleManias XXV and XXVI. With his honor, his legacy and, ultimately, his career in the balance, The Showstopper sought to bring down The Deadman and his mythic streak. The result: Two matches that no one in the WWE Universe – Superstar or spectator – will ever forget, and, moreover, a somber yet dignified end to Shawn Michaels’ prolific career.
In Phoenix on March 28, 2010, the show was officially stopped. But this would be no epitaph. Rather, despite the loss to The Undertaker, HBK stood rapt by the adulation of the 72,000 present in the stadium and millions watching worldwide.
Michaels’ career was further celebrated on a poignant edition of Monday Night Raw just 24 hours after his final match at WrestleMania. His emotions slightly obscured beneath the brim of his cowboy hat, the proud San Antonian Showstopper stepped away from what he’d always done best with a proud, contented wave.
One year later, the celebration of a brilliant career brings Mr. WrestleMania back to WWE on a suitably radiant weekend. For all the championships he’s chased and performances he’s sought to exceed at The Show of Shows, this WrestleMania brings with it the greatest honor Shawn Michaels could ever envision: Induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.