HBK to Flair: "I'm sorry... I love you."
There comes a time in every man's life when the unthinkable is asked of him.
For Shawn Michaels, that moment arrived during WrestleMania XXIV on March 30, 2008. As more than 70,000 fans looked on in nervous anticipation, Michaels entered the ring to battle his longtime friend and mentor Ric Flair in a "Win or Retire" Match.
Initially, Michaels simply could not bring himself to uncork Sweet Chin Music on the Nature Boy, who had so heavily influenced his career. Flair, however, would have it no other way. The 16-time World Champion longed not for sympathy, but for an honest measure of his own talents.
With tears pooling in their eyes, each man tacitly acknowledged the inevitable: While Flair's legend would live forever, the time to hang up his robe had arrived.
Undoubtedly with a heavy heart, Michaels looked across the ring at his opponent and mouthed those memorable words, "I'm sorry… I love you." He then stepped from the corner and lulled both Flair and his 35-year career to sleep with a decisive, though saddened, chorus of Sweet Chin Music. It was a selfless act that earned HBK the No. 1 spot on WWE.com's List of "Rough Side/Soft Side Moments."
In the end, Michaels knew that while he would have to live with the knowledge of ending his friend's legendary career, he also understood that by being the one to take it from Flair, he had given him something far more precious that day: The respect deserving of such a man. Moreover, the respect deserving of "The Man."