Heartbreak and triumph
With their contrasting in-ring styles and clashing personalities, John Cena and Shawn Michaels were hardly ideal tag team partners. However, that didn't prevent two of the most decorated and beloved Superstars in WWE history from attaining the World Tag Team Championships on Jan. 29, 2007 -- the same night Michaels vowed to defeat Cena for his WWE Title. Never fully trusting one another, Cena & HBK just barely coexisted, earning this unlikely tandem the No. 3 spot on WWE.com's list of "Heated Pursuits in WWE History."
One night after HBK was one man short of winning the 2007 Royal Rumble -- where he was eliminated by The Undertaker -- he nevertheless vowed to become the next WWE Champion at WrestleMania 23. This bold claim got the attention of then-titleholder Cena, a Superstar with whom Michaels had never seen eye-to-eye. As the pair stood in the ring and pontificated the possibility of facing one another at The Show of Shows -- even though The Deadman had just earned an opportunity to compete for the title of his choosing, including the WWE Title -- they were confronted by World Tag Team Champions Randy Orton & Edge, a tandem that utterly despised both Cena and HBK. When the team calling themselves "Rated-RKO" seemed poised to charge the ring and brawl with the two multi-time WWE Champions, the devious Mr. McMahon appeared on the TitanTron and instead proposed a match to show his "appreciation" for the WWE Universe. It would be Cena & HBK vs. Rated-RKO for the World Tag Team Championships on Raw.
That night, the impromptu alliance of Cena & Michaels vanquished Rated-RKO, a loss that would plant the seeds of unrest in Orton & Edge's partnership and lead to the team's demise. Yet distrust also continued to brew between the new World Tag Team Champions over Cena's WWE Title, as Michaels made it clear at the onset that he would not rest until the biggest prize in sports-entertainment was fastened securely around his waist.
Facing the very real threat of Sweet Chin Music from his co-titleholder week after week, Cena had no choice but to remain on his guard whenever HBK was in the vicinity. After all, Michaels wasn't exactly known for having healthy relationships with his tag team partners in the first place, a harsh discovery made by Marty Jannetty after that infamous trip through Brutus Beefcake's "Barber Shop" window back in 1992.
Besting both Orton and Edge to become the No. 1 contender to Cena's title at WrestleMania 23 after The Undertaker chose to instead challenge Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship, "Mr. WrestleMania" continued to play mind games with his tag team partner, finally leveling him with Sweet Chin Music just six days before their WWE Title collision. The growing tension between these two fan-favorite Superstars culminated in an explosive confrontation at Detroit's Ford Field, where a record-breaking crowd of more than 80,000 members of the WWE Universe witnessed The Champ and The Showstopper tear one another -- not to mention their already-shaky partnership -- apart.
In spite of an aggressive offense -- which included nailing Cena with a piledriver onto the steel steps at ringside -- the veteran HBK was unable to secure a victory with his signature Sweet Chin Music. Instead, at the end of a brutal contest, Michaels found himself on the receiving end of Cena's STF. Although Cena retained the WWE Title when Michaels eventually tapped out to his excruciating submission hold, retribution remained on HBK's mind after the bout.
"You won and I lost, and I don't like it," Michaels said to the WWE Champion the following night on Raw. "John Cena, you might have won last night, but you are not the better man!"
The World Tag Team Champions were about to come to blows just 24 hours after their monumental WrestleMania encounter, but Mr. McMahon's Executive Assistant, Jonathan Coachman, intervened to announce that Cena & HBK would defend their titles in a 10-Team Battle Royal that night. The reluctant tandem won the match, only to learn that they would be forced to compete in a second 10-Team Battle Royal immediately following that initial victory. It was during that second bout that HBK finally turned on Cena by tossing The Champ over the top rope, eliminating them both and costing them the World Tag Team Titles.
Weeks after that stunning betrayal, Cena and Michaels collided yet again in a brutal hour-long, non-title match on Raw, after which Michaels stood triumphant. The Showstopper faced Cena for the WWE Title once more at Backlash, this time in a Fatal 4-Way Match with Orton and Edge. After Cena successfully retained his championship against three of WWE's top Superstars, The Champ and HBK went their separate ways.
Though their World Tag Team Championship reign lasted just a few weeks, Michaels & Cena's uneasy partnership provided some of the most defining moments in either Superstar's career.