THE JOHN REPORT
A Tribute to Shawn Michaels
My favourite wrestler of all-time is Shawn Michaels. As a tribute to this living legend I am going to give you a comprehensive look at his life as a pro wrestler. It will chronicle his journey from tag team wrestler to being regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of this business. Also, it will only be a look at his WWF career although he did have a run in the AWA before he landed in the WWF. If, at any time, you notice that I missed something important about his career please email me at email@example.com so that I can correct it the next time I write about him.
You will learn about Shawn from his days as a Rocker to his last match against Steve Austin. Grab a drink and get ready to read this long tribute to the showstopper, the icon, the main event. The one, the only Shawn Michaels.
Three Time Intercontinental Champion - Defeated British Bulldog on October 27, 1992 - Defeated Marty Jannetty on June 6, 1993 - Defeated Jeff Jarrett on July 23, 1995 at In Your House 2
Three Time Tag Team Champion - With Diesel defeated The Headshrinkers on August 28, 1994 - With Diesel defeated Owen Hart & Yokozuna on September 24, 1995 at In Your House 3 - With Steve Austin def. Owen Hart & British Bulldog on May 25, 1997
One time European Champion - Defeated British Bulldog on September 20, 1997 at the UK PPV One Night Only
Notes: He also won the Royal Rumble in 1995 and 1996. He is the only Grand Slam Champion in WWF history meaning he's the only man to win all four major titles in the WWF. The Hardcore & Light-heavyweight title would be a fifth and sixth title but they are not considered major titles.
They were both young men who were just getting their start in the wrestling business, as they tried their best to make a name for themselves. A lot of people do not know this but the Rockers never did win the tag titles although they teamed for more than three years. They had won the tag belts at house shows although they never were recognized on WWF TV as the champions nor are they listed as champions in the PWI Almanac. They were a team that gave fans exciting wrestling featuring plenty of moves that were not common to North American fans. They were doing hurricanranas and moonsaults before anybody else in the WWF and they earned a reputation as the best high flyers in the WWF. One of the best tag team matches of all time featured Michaels and Jannetty in a Royal Rumble 91 battle against the Orient Express (Pat Tanaka and Haku). I suggest you get your hands on this tape because this was one of the best tag team matches of all-time.
The Rockers alliance ended when Shawn turned heel by throwing Jannetty through a mirror in Brutus Beefcake's barber shop segment. It was one of those moments that will be etched in the minds of wrestling fans forever. It was the start of something special, it was the start of Shawn Michaels singles career as a heel.
His first taste of WWF gold came in a match against the British Bulldog on October 27, 1992 when Shawn won the Intercontinental title. A month later wrestled Bret Hart at Survivor Series in a match he lost for the WWF world title. This was the first of three PPV matches these two had. It did not really have as much hype as you would expect although it was still a classic match.
Shawn IC title reign lasted for seven months, ending when he lost it to his former partner Jannetty in May '93. Although he did lose the title, he regained the title only a month later. He never lost the belt in a match though. He had to give it up due to "not meeting certain contractual obligations." In a span of a year he held the Intercontinental Title for 11 months. Shawn only lost IC title once and that was to Jannetty. He was stripped of it in '93 as well as in '95 when he couldn't compete due to getting attacked outside of a Syracuse nightclub in October of '95. I'll have more on that story a bit later on.
He was stripped of the IC title in '93 because he was in a contract dispute with WWF management. Because of the dispute, he did not defend the title within thirty days so he was stripped of the title in reality and in terms of storylines.
Being stripped of the IC title turned out to be a good thing for Shawn because of what happened at WrestleMania X. After coming to terms with management, a feud was built up between Shawn and Razor Ramon (the IC champ at the time) over who was the real IC champion. For storyline sake, Shawn carried around the IC title that he was stripped of a few months earlier. He claimed that he did not lose the IC title so the WWF decided to hang both IC titles from the ceiling and have a ladder match. The first ladder match saw Shawn losing the match to Razor in a match that determined the "real" IC champion. Despite the loss, both men came away winners because it was arguably the best match in the history of the WWF at the time.
Due to the success of the first ladder match, Shawn went on to have another ladder match with Ramon on PPV, this one coming at Summerslam '95. This time Shawn came in as the face, walked in with the title and also walked out with the title still around his waist. I will have an article detailing the WrestleMania X ladder match in the future because it was one of the best matches that I have ever seen. Not only are these two of the best matches in Shawn's career but they are the two of the best matches in wrestling history. After people saw these matches it seemed obvious that Shawn wasn't just good in the ring, he was extraordinary.
The next night on Raw, Shawn was powerbombed by his "bodyguard" Sid Vicious who claimed that Shawn was stealing his spotlight. With every powerbomb the sympathy for Michaels grew. He took a short break in order to sell the powerbombs and when he returned he was one of the biggest babyfaces in the company.
At the July '95 IYH PPV Shawn captured the IC title for the third time in a matchup against Jeff Jarrett. To this day the pop that Shawn received at the end of the night was one of the loudest that I have ever seen. I think it was important to Shawn because it was the first title he won while he was wrestling as a face. He defended the title at Summerslam '95 against Razor Ramon in the aforementioned second ladder match. This time around, they were both babyfaces and after twenty-five minutes of showstopping action the two hugged in the ring to the delight of the crowd. Sadly, all of that jubilation was quickly forgotten due to an unfortunate incident that took place a few months later.
Shawn Michaels, Davey Boy Smith (British Bulldog) and Sean Waltman (X-Pac) were at a bar in Syracuse. At some point during the evening the three WWF wrestlers were confronted by a pack of men. Nobody really knows how many men were there although it is believed that it ranged from anywhere between 8-14 of them. When they left the bar these men met them out by their car and began provoking them. A few of the men held back Smith and Waltman while the others attacked Shawn probably because he was the Intercontinental Champion at the time and the most famous of the three. On WWF TV, they said that nine men attacked Michaels although nobody really knows if that is true. For the purpose of storylines, they did not mention that Waltman and Smith were there. The extent of Shawn's injuries are not fully known although most believe that he had minor injuries because of the assault.
He appeared at the October '95 PPV and forfeited the title to Dean (Shane) Douglas who in turn lost the belt to Razor Ramon. At Survivor Series '95, Shawn took an enziguri kick from Owen Hart that forced Shawn to suffer from "post concussion syndrome." In reality, Shawn was 100% healthy by that time and only sold the Owen Hart kick so that he can return in '96 as the federation's top babyface. I repeat, it was an angle, he did not really suffer an injury from Owen during that match.
To this day nobody really knows the extent of Shawn's injuries although we do know that he was beat up outside of a nightclub in Syracuse, New York.
The Kliq, Shawn's fans, was formed in late '95 after Shawn started getting sympathy babyface heat which was a result of the attack in October. It was also pushed by the WWF after Owen Hart nailed him with an enziguri causing HBK to suffer from post concussion syndrome. This was just an angle to get easier babyface pops for Shawn. It worked because when Shawn came back to the ring in January '96 he was by far the most popular wrestler in the WWF as he proved to the world that he can carry a company.
Prior to wrestling in the main event Shawn had to beat Owen Hart to get revenge for putting him out of action for a couple months. After he beat Owen at the February '96 PPV it was onto WM12 where he would face Bret Hart for the second time on PPV.
This was the Iron Man match that lasted over 62 minutes. It was a superb match by both men as they wrestled gallantly for 62 minutes without getting a pinfall. I always felt that if the match was 45 minutes instead of 60 it would have been the greatest match ever. Because of the extra fifteen minutes there were times when the crowd was silent and the action was slowed down by rest holds. Everything between the resting was dynamite and so was the ending to the match. Shawn won it with his "Sweet Chin Music" (a Super-kick) and as Vince McMahon said it best: "Shawn Michaels has just turned his boyhood dream into a reality." Finally Shawn Michaels became a world champion.
In April '96, Shawn had a memorable match against Diesel in what was probably Kevin Nash's best match ever. It was a no-holds barred match that signified the start of the WWF going to the extreme in their matches. Better yet, it was the start of the "attitude" era. Shawn showed Nash the door that led to WCW and began to take on all comers who wanted a shot at his coveted world title.
Shawn's next feud, May and June '96, was against the British Bulldog. This one became heated after the Bulldog falsely accused HBK of stalking his wife Diana. Shawn ends up winning this feud at King of the Ring '96. That great match is often overlooked because it was the same night that Austin 3:16 was born. Although the feud was not legendary it did provide several good matches and it elevated a deserving competitor in The British Bulldog.
At Summerslam, HBK faced another big test who turned out to be Vader. At the time Vader was made to look as if he was unbeatable especially after pinning Shawn in a tag match at the July '96 IYH PPV. In this match Shawn turned the tables and won with a moonsault in a 20 minute match that was one of Vader's best matches in the WWF. Vader actually won the match by countout on two separate occasions but his manager Jim Cornette ordered the match to continue which led to Shawn's victory. The highlight of the match was probably when Shawn took a Vader powerbomb on the concrete floor, which was something few people would do four years ago.
At the September '96 PPV, Shawn participated in one of the most brutal matches that I have ever seen. It was a wild brawl against Mankind that provided some of the craziest bumps in the careers of these two amazing superstars. As Mick Foley said in his book, this was the match that Foley was most proud of in his illustrious career. It was arguably Mick Foley's greatest match and is among the top four matches in Shawn's career. Sadly, both men retired before they turned 35 years old due to their willingness to take suicidal bumps. Simply put, this was another great match that is often overlooked due to the fact that it was on a poor PPV and it ended with a DQ finish. No doubt about it, this was one of the best matches that I have ever seen anywhere in the world.
At the Survivor Series in November '96, Shawn went into battle against yet another monster, Psycho Sid. Sid ended up winning the title from Shawn thanks to the fact that Sid knocked out Jose Lothario and then nailed Shawn with a video camera to win the title.
Shawn ended up winning his title back at Royal Rumble '97 in front of his hometown crowd in San Antonio to be the WWF champ for the second time. On both occasions Shawn proved why he was such a great wrestler because he was able to carry a pile of crap like Sid to a good match. Is there anything he can't do?
Shawn's role in the WWF during this time was very important because of the lack of success the WWF was having in the mid '90s. Wrestling in the United States was suffering in '95-'96 due to the WWF's tendencies to produce characters with outrageous gimmicks rather than promoting good wrestling. After Kevin Nash's unsuccessful world title reign in '95, highlighted by horrible feuds with Mabel (Viscera) and Sid, Shawn was given the title for nearly eight months. While Shawn's reign was in full force the WWF's former champion Bret Hart took a seven month leave of absence to think about his future in wrestling. Without Bret around to produce good matches and with Austin and Foley climbing the WWF ladder, Shawn seemingly carried every PPV during the year. His matches with Bulldog, Vader and Mankind were all very good.
He was so productive during this time period that many critics offered the same praise to him that Ric Flair was given several years earlier. They said that Shawn could carry a broomstick to a **** match which backs up my claim that 1996 was as good a year that any wrestler has ever had in the history of wrestling. It came at the perfect time because without Shawn as their leader who knows where the WWF would be today. Wrestling would not be where it is today without all of the hard work put in by the Heartbreak Kid when the business was struggling to keep its head above water.
At King of the Ring '97, a year after Austin won KOTR, the tag team champions participated in a one on one match. As far as I know, this was the only one on one PPV match that these two had against eachother when they were healthy. It ended up being a short match that ended in a no contest finish that I am still complaining about to this day! I understand the WWF's position at the time because they did not want either man to do job. I assume that they felt that Michaels and Austin had several other PPV battles ahead of them but sadly that never came to pass. Due to Shawn's back injury and Austin's neck injury the only other time they wrestled against each other one on one was at WrestleMania XIV in what turned out to be Shawn's last WWF match.
In July, the team was stripped of the titles due to some sort of injury that Shawn had experienced. I believe the knee injury from earlier in the year began flaring up on him although that is not known for sure. He sat out of the Canadian Stampede PPV in July '97 due to the injury. The main event of Stampede was a ten men tag where Shawn was rumored to be pinned which forced his critics to once again claim that he was avoiding doing a J.O.B. Although the Austin/Michaels team did not last for a long time it was fantastic to see two of the best wrestlers of all time on the same team.
At Summerslam in August '97 he played the role of referee in the Hart/Undertaker world title match when he "accidentally" cost the Undertaker the match. This was when he turned heel, this was when he released the monster known as DX.
Shawn Michaels defeated the British Bulldog at the UK PPV "One Night Only" for the European title on September 20, 1997 making him the first grand slam champion in federation history. He beat the Bulldog in his own country and then went on to heat up his feud with Bret Hart.
Bret was a big time heel in his role where he bashes America in every speech while HBK was attempting to be a heel by doing cheap tactics and basically anything for the win. This was one of the things that led to the downfall of Bret Hart. It is believed that the European belt was given to Shawn because Vince McMahon wanted to punish Bret for refusing to do the job at Survivor Series '97. Since The Bulldog is Bret's brother-in-law, McMahon felt that by punishing Bret's family member it would lead to Bret changing his stance on the Montreal finish. Shawn walked away with the title even though he was never scheduled to win the belt in the first place.
Meanwhile, Degeneration X was growing on people quickly. They were doing such a good job as heels that Shawn had vaulted himself over Bret in terms of being the number one heel in the company. This caused a lot of tension between Shawn and Bret because Bret was promised the spot as the #1 heel because he was willing to do the anti-American angle.
Before the famed Survivor Series '97 match, Shawn wrestled in a match that was just as memorable as the more popular Montreal match. It was the first ever Hell in a Cell match against the Undertaker at the October '97 PPV called Badd Blood. This match changed Shawn's career forever as he proved yet again that he was the best man to introduce a gimmick match. Just like he proved during the ladder match in '94, Shawn was able to produce another five star performance in a gimmick match that nobody had seen previously. He took a huge bump when he fell from three quarters high up the cage onto an announce table that waited about 10 feet below. He ended up winning the match, thanks to the debut of Kane, in what was one of the most brutal matches anybody has ever seen. For the fourth year in a row Shawn delivered one of the greatest matches in wrestling history. Without Shawn, ladder matches and HIAC matches would not exist. He set the trend and now everybody is doing their best to follow the model provided by the greatest wrestler to ever grace a WWF ring. The HIAC match was so good that I wrote a full length column about the match which you can read by clicking HERE.
Whatever role Shawn Michaels played in this match is unknown to this day. The only ones that really know are Vince McMahon, Bret Hart and Shawn himself. In my opinion it really does not matter what role, if any, Shawn played in this whole situation. It was an issue between an employee, Bret, and his boss, Vince. Sure, Shawn could have been in on it but does it really matter what role Shawn played in this whole thing? It is something between Vince and Bret so instead of sitting here and speculating on the behaviour of Michaels I think it would be best if I just moved on.
One thing we do know is that Shawn and Bret did not like eachother during Bret's last year in the WWF. The biggest reason is probably because of the perception that Shawn refused to job to Bret at WrestleMania 13 as originally scheduled. To add heat to an already hot fire, the two men often made shoot (meaning real) comments about one another on camera. The rivalry came to a head in June '97 when Shawn and Bret apparently participated in a pull apart brawl backstage at a WWF show. Although the relationship between the two deteriorated in the summer of '97 it seemed as though they were able to look past their differences. By the time Survivor Series '97 came around they were on good enough terms that they were willing to change in the same dressing room. In recent interviews, Bret has said that he really doesn't blame Shawn for everything that happened because, in Bret's view, everything Shawn did was because of the orders of Vince McMahon. Nobody really knows what the relationship between Shawn and Bret is today but I doubt that any of you will be seeing them having a drink in your local bar. In the battle between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels I think it's pretty obvious that Shawn was the winner out of the ring AND in the ring.
In the WWF, Shawn's current role is as the Commissioner although he is not active within the WWF today. His time is spent with his family and his wrestling promotion so the chances of Shawn having a permanent role within the WWF is slim. However, there is a good chance that he will have "guest appearances" because the name Shawn Michaels still is a popular one with wrestling fans worldwide. When he does go back it would be in a non wrestling role because his surgically repaired back will not allow him to wrestle again on a full time schedule. Regardless of what you may see or hear, do not expect Shawn Michaels to wrestle on a full time basis again. He retired at age 32 still in the prime of his wrestling career. His last match came during an April 4, 2000 TWA show in a match that he won. He proclaimed that it would be the "last match" of his glorious career. He had always said that he wanted to retire before the age of 35 but I doubt he envisioned that he would walk away from the business due to a career ending injury.
Now that you know the history of Shawn Michaels I will take a few moments to talk about some of the things that made Shawn great.
There are some men who are great on the mic or great in the ring but not good at both. Shawn was an exceptional to the rule, he was a great worker and a very capable mic worker. He's definitely one of the most charismatic, flamboyant personalities to grace the business and his character was so great he had the uncanny ability to turn heel or face within weeks (to date he's had 9 heel/face turns). To me, that's what makes a wrestler great, the ability to get the fans to cheer for you one night and boo you the next. You can ask wrestlers themselves and they will tell you that the fans are the ones who determine whether a wrestler makes a heel turn or turns face. Only the legends of wrestling can be the top face and the top heel in their wrestling careers. Shawn excelled in both areas because, to paraphrase his friend Triple H, he was that damn good.
He also was able to pull off such high risk moves like a moonsault, hurricanrana, suicide dive, missile dropkick and his patented elbow off the top rope. The ability to deliver an exciting match night after night, no matter the opponent, was one of the things that made Shawn so good.
For five consecutive years, 1993-1997, Shawn was the best wrestler in North America and possibly the entire world. If you asked people like Mick Foley, The Undertaker, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Vader, Sid and Jeff Jarrett who some of their best matches were against I can almost guarantee you that they will say it is Shawn Michaels.
Although there are many things to be proud of I'm sure there a few things Shawn wishes he could have done. Shawn cannot say that he beat Steve Austin in a one on one televised match for the title, nor can he say that he ever beat Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair on PPV but he can say he beat Bret Hart two out of three times in Pay Per View matches. Something Shawn can be proud of is the fact that he has always stayed true to the WWF. Shawn's loyalty towards the WWF is something that I admire the most about him.
They criticize him for the ways that he lost the titles he held. He lost the IC title twice without being pinned for the title. He has held the tag titles three times although he never actually lost the belts in the ring. As far as the world title goes, he did lose the belt twice in the ring with the other time being the infamous "losing my smile" incident in February '97 that was caused by the knee injury.
Even though he is probably my favourite wrestler of all time I have to wonder about all the rumors that I have read about the man. Some of them could be true although nobody really knows which ones are true and which ones are just propaganda. I will not jump to conclusions so unless I hear the real stories from Shawn himself. As far as I am concerned, everything I mentioned in the previous two paragraphs shall remain as rumors. The phrase, innocent until proven guilty, has a lot of validity even in pro wrestling. I can understand why some people may have a problem with Shawn though I am not one of those people.
I'm 24 years old and I was born and raised in London, Ontario, Canada. As you probably know, Canada is basically WWF country so I grew up with the WWF. I have been watching wrestling since I was 8 but I really didn't understand the business until I was about 14 years old so that would be around 1990. The only way I can make a decision as to who is the best wrestler I have ever seen is by basing it from 1990 until today. Having not watched WCW until 1993 I do not think I can make a judgment as to how good Ric Flair or Sting are. I know that Flair's best days were prior to that so this before you bash me just remember that this is the best wrestler that I have ever seen.
The choice of some people for greatest WWF wrestler ever may be Hulk Hogan. However, he does not appear on my short list due to the fact that he was never a good worker. I appreciate everything he did for the wrestling business but when you put it all together he is not one of the best ever. I always enjoyed watching Randy Savage work because he was another one of those guys that could wrestle a good match as a heel or a face. His feud with Ricky Steamboat in '87, Savage was the heel, culminated in one of the greatest matches ever. His feud with Flair in '92, Savage was the face, also provided one of the best matches and feuds in wrestling history. He would make my top six list along with the Undertaker and the recently retired Mick Foley although three people really stand out in my eyes.
In the end, my list comes down to Steve Austin, Bret Hart and of course, Shawn Michaels. After looking at tapes of Austin, Hart and Michaels I have come to the realization that all three brought the kind of electricity to the ring that fans didn't think was possible. Steve was a great technical wrestler who had to change his style because of a terrifying neck injury. After the injury he changed his style so much so that he evolved into a great brawler. He's a hard-nosed guy who is working his ass off even though he is dealing with a neck injury that would put him on the shelf if he was in another sport. Bret is probably the best technical wrestler ever. He may not have the flamboyant attitude or personality of Austin or HBK but very few men can match his in ring ability.
As I said in the above tribute, Shawn really knew how to captivate the audience in the ring and outside the ring. He is undoubtedly the most athletic and entertaining wrestler that I have ever seen. If I had to pick one wrestler as the best wrestler in WWF history, possibly wrestling history, I would have to say that it is Shawn Michaels. Yes Regis, that is my final answer.
If you have any questions, corrections or comments on this bio I would love to hear it so please don't hesitate to mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will reply to you as soon as possible. Thanks to the PWI Almanac 2000, Scott Keith's Wrestling FAQ and HBKHeaven.com (I work there!) for all the other Shawn Michaels info that I needed to complete this tribute. In a few days I will post some reader feedback on this article. In one week's time I will write a column about Shawn's twenty greatest matches. Before I go, please remember one thing:
Shawn Michaels was the best wrestler that ever lived. Period.