A new de-generation
As you well know by now, D-Generation X is back in its original form. But are they better than ever? Well, that depends on who you ask. No matter the answer, there's one thing that's certain…this time, they're a little different.
You see, back in the late 1990s, DX was a bit, well…raunchier than they are now. Triple H and Shawn Michaels were anti-authority rulebreakers who would do anything to get a rise out of the establishment…and I do mean anything. From playing strip poker in the ring to delivering a Christmas full moon, their sole intent was to embarrass those they were rebelling against.
But now, despite the fact that the band is back together, it's playing a bit of a different tune. The anti-establishment attitude is still there, and WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon would probably be the first to tell you that. These days though, the raunchy, juvenile, sophomoric antics of the past have been toned down into a more intellectual rebellion.
A lot of that has to do with just how much the members of DX have changed over the years…and that's something that even HBK and The Game will tell you themselves.
"(Triple H) and I are different guys now, so the concept itself obviously is going to come across differently," Michaels told me. "I think that was inevitable and I think we knew that when we started it. We didn't want it to be the same obviously; I mean you don't want to put the fans through just a rerun. You certainly have to do your best creatively to try to bring some subtle differences to it."
The Game added that "when we did it the first time, DX was based out of anger and we didn't care, we didn't think. If we wanted to do it, we just did it. We didn't care if Vince liked it or didn't, if fans liked it or didn't or if critics liked it or didn't. If people were offended by it, it didn't matter, we did it. Now it's a little bit different. Then, people found it entertaining; I think people still find what we're doing entertaining, it's just we're trying to do it in a different way now."
While a lot has changed since the origins of DX, one of the key factors in the evolution of DX is Michaels' personal faith. HBK is now a born-again Christian, and his faith has changed him in every facet of life. He'll even be the first to tell you that the Shawn Michaels you see in 2006 is a much different man than Shawn Michaels was in 1997.
"Well, everybody knows, obviously my faith and becoming born again was the one and only impact on my life," Michaels said. "A lot of other things changed as a result of that, and I knew there were a lot of questions coming to do with the DX thing. They obviously asked me beforehand what I'd be comfortable with and what I wasn't comfortable with and I knew this going in."
When Shawn Michaels steps through that curtain every night, he becomes the Showstopper. Shawn is an icon in the industry, but these days his reputation with God is much more important to him than anything else. There's a lot of give and take in sports-entertainment, and while Michaels realizes this, he does the best he can to stay true to himself.
"I've done my best to stand strong, but I set out some guidelines of things I wasn't going to do," Michaels said candidly. "They slowly try to creep them in and I slowly do my best to fight them off, and they say OK and they back off for a week and then they try to creep back up again. It's a non-stop struggle, and everybody's trying to…"
Shawn took a moment to compose his thoughts before continuing.
"You know, this company has a product to put out, obviously DX has sort of an image to uphold. Really, I've tried to do my best to do that and still stay true to my beliefs and it's been difficult. I know that there have been a lot of people who have come down on me and I've taken a lot of heat for it; I'm used to that. Thank goodness me getting heat on myself for various reasons is no different now than it was 10 years ago, although it may just come from a different sect or a different group of folks. There are two roads: a road to righteousness and a road to destruction, and as I've always said, I try not to beat anybody over the head with it. But I like to think I'm staying true to my faith."
Michaels and Triple H have been the best of friends for the better part of a decade. And while they are totally different people at this stage of the game, Triple H understands that together they can come up with something everyone is comfortable with.
"I try to always... I've always got it in my mind to try to not offend Shawn's sensibilities, but yet stay true to who I am because I don't necessarily have the exact same feelings toward a lot of things that Shawn does," he admitted. "That's not good or bad, but I still want to do what I believe is DX and what I believe is entertaining, and if Shawn's sensitive to it, then we adjust accordingly."
What does he mean by that? Well, look no further than DX's Independence Day celebration on the July 3 edition of RAW. Since they were banned from the building, DX had a barbecue outside the Wachovia Center. But even something as subtle as looking away when girls were flashing the partygoers was a bit uncomfortable for HBK.
"(When) we did the barbecue, I was out of the circumstances that I was not comfortable with. When the show was over, I felt like gosh, it doesn't really matter if you're in them or not, Shawn, it still represents you in some way shape or form."
While it was tough for Michaels, he was able to find solace in the fact that he's simply playing a role.
"Even if people don't want to recognize it, they have to have to understand that when I'm on TV, I'm someone else," Shawn said, but he also admitted that there's a duality to that. "Now, my Christian brothers and sisters love the faith-based Shawn Michaels, like I was pre-WrestleMania…they like that. But when I do the DX version they say ‘oh well, that's not good.' What they have to understand is even the good version that they like, that's not even who I am in real life. For what it's worth, I'm a ton more to the right of that, but I can't come on that strong on TV, because I don't know if that's entertaining or exciting to people. I always try to tell people that you can't get mad at the guy that plays Satan every year at the Christmas pageant and accuse him of backsliding. You know what I mean? The guy's going in there, he's got a job to do, he does his role as Satan, and that's that, and that's what I do when I come to work. But I always try to at least leave a glimmer of my faith out there in everything."
So what exactly does that mean for the fans?
"I guess to answer your question, I try not to use profanity. I try not to do any of the sexual stuff, and more than anything I try not to do stuff that I'd have a problem with my kids watching," he admitted. "But even though I'm not doing any of the mooning, I think it's still sort of funny. For whatever it's worth, gosh, maybe I'm not as good a Christian as some folks, but I think as a church we turn a lot of people off because we come across as if we've got things stuck in our backside. I've still got a very good sense of humor, you know; I'm one of those joyous kinds of Christians and I think you ought to be able to laugh and have fun. My children don't watch it (WWE), they're too young. That isn't to say that I'm ashamed of my job by any stretch. There are a lot of things that I don't allow my children to watch or my children to do; they're children. And that's my job as a parent is to guide them until the day when they can guide themselves."
So with that said, there's still one other big part of the DX equation, namely Triple H. But as one of Shawn's best friends, The Game knows there are lines he doesn't need to cross.
"Well there's a lot of Shawn that's changed over the years, and there's a lot about Shawn that hasn't changed over the years; the drama queen side of him is still in full force," he laughed. "What's funny is that with Shawn, it takes a little while for these things to brew. We did the (barbecue) stuff all day, and I knew he was uncomfortable with some of it, but he never said anything. Then after the show was over and he left, I don't know if somebody talked to him or just in his mind he started thinking about it, but he started thinking, ‘Oh my God, what did we just do? I'm implicated in this whole thing.' Even though he wasn't there for any of the stuff that I did, it just all caught up to him."
So how does Triple H deal with it all?
"It's just one of those things where he tries to be sensitive to his faith, not offending any people that watch the show or anything like that. And there are some things I agree with that Shawn says; you don't have to do certain things to make things funny," he admitted. "There are comedians, and then there are comedians who do vulgar stuff. They're both funny; you don't have to do it (vulgarity) to be funny, but sometimes it's appropriate. And I like to think we do it when it's appropriate; if it's not appropriate, then we don't have to do it. I think both Shawn and I are talented enough performers, whether it's wrestling or entertainment-wise, that we can deliver something that is entertaining and yet family-oriented, or however you want to look at that."
This change is evident in everything they are involved in, right down to the new DX merchandise.
"(The new T-shirt) was a compromise. The first ones that they had were very graphic. And I want to let you know how big a nerd I am: I looked at it and I didn't even know what it was," Michaels confessed. "My wife had to explain it to me. And I said, ‘oh my goodness,' so I had to call and say, ‘hey, I don't know if you guys know this, but I'm the same guy that you do the crosses for,' and they go, ‘oh we know, we know, this is just an idea that Hunter had and he just wanted us to run it by you,' and I said ‘it doesn't work.' So we came to a compromise, and again, the compromise was the animated figures on the front with the crotch shot, but they didn't even let me know about the mooning on the back."
But going back to that give and take, Shawn understood.
"I've been in this business for a long time, so I don't take anything personally, I don't take offense to much of anything, again. It is not supposed to be easy, it isn't, and I'm cool with that, and we move on. But I think it's a nice little compromise. So I think it's more about entertaining. And that's why I felt like we didn't need to go in those other areas. And I recognize there's still some entertainment value to that, but I don't think you have to go there. Also, trying to stay true to the performer, you know, my character has been based around my faith and my family, not nearly as conservative as I am in my real life, in my personal life, but still staying true to it I thought it was not creatively wise. I mean, all of a sudden, what, am I all of a sudden not married? I all of a sudden don't care about what my children think? I needed to stay true to my character in that respect, just to stay consistent. Otherwise, I think it insults our fans, and I think our fans are more sophisticated than ever. I think you can't just all of a sudden walk out and be somebody else the next day. It's been an interesting ride, it really has, and it will continue to be that and I want to continue to do the best job that I can and just hope that everyone remembers Jesus saved me…but I'm not him. I'm doing my best and I will forever stumble, but because my character does something on TV, try to grasp the fact that in my real life, I'm as committed and devoted and as dedicated to my faith as I possibly can."
In 1997, DX behaved how they did because they were comfortable doing so. In 2006, things are a little more chaotic, but that's okay. Times change and people change….but regardless of that, DX will still be in your face, kicking ass and taking names later.
Check out the new DX illustrated T-shirt