Staring into a mirror

Staring into a mirror

From the way Mr. Kennedy and Shawn Michaels have torn into each other over the past several weeks, it's easy to say that these two men are polar opposites. One is a cold, brazen loudmouth whose heart has been frozen by the winters of his native Green Bay, Wis., and is determined to prove that he is the future of sports-entertainment. The other is a legendary future WWE Hall of Famer from San Antonio, who smiles warmly when he looks back on his career and is humbled by the unwavering support of our fans over the years.

Kennedy is the up-and-coming lion who wants to show the world at Armageddon this Sunday that Michaels' time in the spotlight is over. But HBK is not about to let anyone -- especially someone as disrespectful as Kennedy -- use him as a steppingstone. However, the root of HBK and Kennedy's hatred may be a little more complicated. When Michaels and Kennedy look at each other, they may see their reflection. Whether they'd like to admit it or not (Kennedy sure wouldn't), The Showstopper and the former Mr. Money in the Bank winner, are, in many respects, mirror images of one another.

Once upon a time, Shawn Michaels was a cocky upstart who craved the limelight and whose brash words enraged legends and fans alike. He no longer wanted to share the spotlight with his longtime Rockers partner, Marty Jannetty, and literally superkicked him to the curb. He called himself a "Sexy Boy" -- hell, he even sang his own entrance music -- and proclaimed himself the future of the business. HBK dubbed himself "The Showstopper" because he believed he could steal the show.

And the problem was Michaels was right. More established Superstars had a monopoly on higher profile, main event matches, but fans would talk about HBK. However, stellar matches and bravado didn't necessarily translate into gold for Michaels early in his career.

In 1992, long before the Montreal Screwjob, he battled Bret Hart at Survivor Series for the WWE Championship and was forced to submit to the "Hit Man's" Sharpshooter. HBK's battle with Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania X redefined the Ladder Match, but he didn't win the contest. The following year, he battled Diesel for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XI -- and fell short again. HBK's full breakthrough didn't come until he defeated Hart for the WWE Championship in a WWE Iron Man Match on the grandest stage of them all at WrestleMania XII.

Now, just like HBK in 1996, Kennedy finds himself at a career crossroads. He is on the cusp of greatness, but he is in a must-win situation. For more than two years, Kennedy has called himself the future of WWE. He has defeated seven former World Champions, held the United States Championship and is a former Mr. Money in the Bank winner. But he hasn't gotten the one victory that would propel him into the upper echelon of WWE and back up his many, loud boasts. A victory over The Showstopper this Sunday at Armageddon would give him that.

Whether Kennedy likes it or not, it's put up or shut up time. A loss to HBK at Armageddon this Sunday could mean that all the trash Mr. Kennedy has talked wasn't even fit for a landfill. He must defeat a man who is not unlike himself: A cocksure Superstar who is not above the pressures of the big showdown.

However, if Mr. Kennedy can't manage to overcome the arrogant man that he is, in a sense, he could wind up years from now shaking his head and wondering what might have been. In short, Kennedy has seen the enemy, and it is he.

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