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WrestleMania Diary: Shawn Michaels, Day 4
THE SHOW DOPPELGANGER, 10:39 a.m.
It’s just about 12 hours since standing on stage as the latest addition to WWE’s venerable Hall of Fame and HBK has the same swagger to his step that he did prior to induction … save for the final, unnerving moments before his speech.
Finally relieved of the mounting stress from his grand moment, Shawn Michaels says he initiated a new day by allowing the previous night’s events to truly sink in.
“I looked at my ring, I looked at the gift that Hunter got me, then I got to reflect on all the nice things that people said about me,” HBK explains. “I’ve never seen more grown men cry than I did last night. I was touched by the fact that it was an emotional moment for so many other guys.”
His emotions are far more balanced now, just in time for a VIP signing at WrestleMania Axxess, where a costumed doppelganger HBK is waiting to meet his Showstopping idol. Traveling 800 miles to Atlanta, Randy Latza manages to stand out among some very colorful WWE Universe members. Latza accessorizes his makeshift black leather studded chaps with his scarlet sunglasses and matching teardrop earrings – both heart shaped. The only person more excited than the Pennsylvania native is Michaels, who is thrilled at the sight and eagerly kicks into his signature HBK pose. Make that two.
“I’ve been watching Shawn since his AWA days and I knew that he was going into the Hall of Fame, so I said let’s do this right,” Latza says. “This is a day I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.”
AUSTIN EMPOWERS, 1:01 p.m.
Thirteen years back, Shawn Michaels competed in what he’d thought was his final match ever. The world knows now that this wasn’t the case. And maybe, just maybe, his opponent that night at WrestleMania XIV knew that HBK might one day return. But that clash isn’t a topic of discussion between Michaels and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin this afternoon inside the Georgia Dome, home of this year’s Show of Shows.
The pair of wily Texans converge at ringside while a handful of WrestleMania XXVII competitors – John Cena and Big Show among them – chill under the domed roof overhead, discussing testosterone heavy topics like hunting, crossbows and all things Texas.
“You knocked it out of the park,” Austin tells HBK following Michaels’ poignant address at the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony last night. The encouragement continues to pour in Shawn’s direction this weekend.
Although this evening boasts a card of some still fairly fresh WWE faces, there is also this significant presence of the past. A sizeable chunk of that history lies in the Attitude Era, the champions of which are conversing right now at this moment. In 1998, the D-Generation X and Austin 3:16 movements permanently altered the landscape of sports-entertainment. Years later, these instrumental personalities stand matured face-to-matured face and exchange pleasantries mere feet away from a torch bearer of today’s generation of Superstars in Cena.
TALKING THE WALK, 3:32 p.m.
There is ample speculation attached to Shawn Michaels’ presence at WrestleMania tonight. Sure, The Showstopper vowed to stay in retirement this time last year. He even spent an entire week refuting the WWE Universe’s pleas for one more match. Still, his comments linger from last Monday’s Raw in which he boldly doubted that his best friend, Triple H, could conquer The Phenom on The Grandest Stage of Them All. Many wonder if HBK could actually live with the fact if The Game was to do what Michaels couldn’t in two attempts: Sever The Undertaker’s undefeated streak.
As if purposely trekking down a ramp designed for him, Mr. WrestleMania steps down the colorfully decorated aisle – like many memorable times before – from the mouth of the grand stage back toward its base. True to form, Michaels buddies up with a longtime WWE crew member, who extends a congratulatory greeting to The Showstopper. Shawn lingers around the ringside area, up and down the ramp, thanking even more Superstars, production staff and others who continue to applaud his poise at the Philips Arena.
Standing at the epicenter of WrestleMania XXVII, many thoughts must race through the brain of The Main Event, who’s since moved over for different combatants to fill that role.
PREACHING THROUGH THE CHOIR, 4:40 p.m.
It’s an unorthodox visual to see HBK loosely perusing a WrestleMania stadium like your typical member of the WWE Universe, which frankly, he’s always been.
During a rehearsal session involving a throng of gospel singers, Shawn checks in with his Flip camera to record a message for visitors to his website. According to Michaels following the vocal rendition of John Cena’s theme song, he is perfectly content being a spectator today.
“Sometime before this event, I told everybody that I was Mr. WrestleMania,” HBK explains, “the guy you were going to remember when this show was over. Tonight, I’m ready to go out there and wave and that’s about it.”
He’s danced on this stage so many times and, for many, this “WrestleMania air” would cause a relapse in the desire to dance again.
“I’m excited to just watch,” Michaels reaffirms. “And right now, no, there’s no itch. I’m allowed to be a part of this as much as I want, and you see how much I’m a part of it. That’s how much I want. If I had the itch, I’d still be in there.”
ALL ACCESS, 7:13 p.m.
Not just anyone can sit in one of these cushy, swiveling seats on the other side of the curtain. But with 26 years and an unrivaled match library, The Showstopper has more than earned his pass. Shawn pulls up an unoccupied space beside WWE Executive Vice President Stephanie McMahon in what’s essentially her road office … that just so happens to adjoin with that of her father, Vincent Kennedy McMahon. In formal attire for the WWE Hall of Fame Inductee presentation later this evening, Shawn’s usual charm and wit offer brief relief for his good friend during show production.
STAGE PRESENCE, 8:42 p.m.
For one last time, a tuxedo garbed Shawn Michaels steps on stage during this unforgettable weekend, a good portion of which rightfully commemorated an iconic Superstar with indelible talent. Beckoned by the legendary of Howard Finkel to stand in the center of a five-point star on the red carpet adorning the stage, Shawn mentally captures this event in which 71,617 people express their gratitude to him. And it’s reciprocated.
“[My faith] has put me in a permanent state of thankfulness,” HBK states. “It humbled me in a huge way and brought a peace and a joy that I didn’t have before. It also got me in touch with the fact that I’m here for something and that wrestling is just a part of it.”
Although a large part of his life, the lion’s share is sitting in the skyboxes over the Georgia Dome floor.
BRINGIN’ IT UP, 8:51 p.m.
Departing the stage for the contest between Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler, Shawn Michaels is already disrobing in lieu of his more comfortable attire: Cut-off button-down shirt and, like a proud Texan, his cowboy hat. HBK opens the door of a private locker room to find WrestleMania Host Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson electrifying a very small audience. Close quarters serendipitously force a professional encounter between The Great One and The Showstopper that skews more personal. Their first meeting all weekend – and in years, for that matter – provides Johnson with an opportunity to ask Shawn about retirement.
“Fishing, hunting, going to get Cold Stone ice cream,” Michaels says, describing his favorite “kid-in-him” activities as a ring retiree. “Honestly, the biggest thing is having treat night any time we want and not having to wait till the pay-per-view’s over and daddy’s home from Raw.”
PUT INTO PERSPECTIVE, 9:11 p.m.
On his way to the skybox area where his family awaits him, Shawn Michaels grins fast as he meets WrestleMania celebrity Pee-wee Herman. HBK continues on his big adventure up to suite B90 where Rebecca, Cheyenne, Cameron and more than a dozen family members are watching history made in the Georgia Dome. This includes his seated father, who closely watches Shawn’s plainly refreshing interaction with 11-year old Cameron, bedecked in head-to-toe John Cena gear.
“[This weekend] has been a confirmation of my feeling that [Shawn] is the greatest entertainer WWE has ever had,” passionately states HBK’s father, who took out a loan nearly 30 years ago so that The Showstopper could be trained under Jose Lothario. “Of course it was worth it. It gave him the opportunity to pursue his vision of the future.”
The love expressed appears to be genetic in its trickling from HBK’s dad down through Michaels to Cheyenne and Cameron, much like “The Colonel” (as Shawn has affectionately referred to his father) has done in raising four children.
Concluding his thoughts, Michaels’ dad rises to his feet just in time to see an epic arrival of WWE’s greatest warriors. Undertaker. Triple H. No Holds Barred.
PHENOM TAKES FRIEND, 9:32 p.m.
A strong majority of the skybox is in staunch support of The Game for his joust with the spirit who claimed victories over HBK at two consecutive WrestleManias. The most fervent favorers of Triple H are Michaels’ loyal children, who expressed their wish “to see the streak end” earlier this morning at WrestleMania Axxess. (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)
The rugged battle rages on and Shawn descends the stairs for a closer, unimpeded look at his best friend’s clash with the only demon HBK couldn’t overcome. Michaels watches his chum struggle to take down The Deadman, despite multiple Pedigrees, steel chair swings and even a Tombstone.
Hell’s Gate, however, locks The Game in a realm of unenviable torment until Shawn’s prophecy is fulfilled. Symbolically watching WrestleMania from a further distance than he has in years, HBK witnesses his friend fall to The Undertaker as the tally reaches 19-0.
Shawn Michaels was right. And so is Cash when it comes to The Undertaker. Perhaps there is no grave that can hold his body down. Fortunately for the befallen Triple H, there’s also no force in the world – supernatural or not – that can keep The Showstopper from his friend of 15 years tonight.
The collision of “two old war horses,” as Michaels describes, has come and gone and left considerable damage in its strife-ridden path. But still, there is a tranquility in the atmosphere that restores The Game when he sees HBK.
Kevin Nash, Sean Waltman, Ric Flair, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Each man to cross Shawn's path this weekend has played an integral part in the evolution of The Showstopper, but none more so than The Cerebral Assassin, who shares with Shawn a history far richer or extensive than some careers in WWE today. Like blood-tied brethren, they carve another memory among so many other milestones – a good deal of them celebrated over the course of WrestleMania week.
Truly, these past few days bear evidence that the dreams HBK once envisioned as a young boy in San Antonio have not only been fulfilled, but also unmistakably surpassed. More importantly, however, the conclusion of this week entailed a dark and indestructible creature bringing Shawn Michaels and Triple H even closer together tonight.
After the WrestleMania XXVII performance given by his best friend and his gravest challenge, the retired Showstopper steps away freely, finding solace in the realization that in his absence, the show will go on.