During his early years, Shawn Michaels knew only one speed: “100 miles per hour,” he once replied during an interview with CBN.com. And while life eventually pulled him over, The Heartbreak Kid likely knows his often obtrusive, rebellious and unmanageable early lifestyle helped him rise to unimaginable heights in the wrestling world. After all, no wrestler is born with the nickname Mr. WrestleMania. They have to earn it. They have to take risks. They have to make enemies and then form the correct alliances.
Michaels made enemies when he first joined the WWE. However, he also aligned himself with one of the most powerful men in the wrestling business, Vince McMahon. While most wrestlers would line up in front of McMahon’s office door to discuss various items on their agenda, Michaels once cut the line, walked into the bosses’ office and asked him what he needed to do to make it to the top. McMahon replied back, “You just did.”
Michaels’ tenacity both in and out of the ring eventually made him a Hall-of-Fame wrestler. From humble beginnings where he’d first watch wrestling on television and then craft his own wrestling moves in his friend’s back-yard swimming pool, to eventually making his mark in the American Wrestling Association, Michaels earned the right to have half-a-dozen nicknames.
While we’ll discuss some “facts” you might already know, we’ll also take a deeper look into those facts. For example, how did his tag-team with Marty Jannetty and their fall out provide Michaels with the opportunity to set off on a successful singles career? If he had never walked into McMahons’ office, would he have ever been a part of some of the greatest wrestling matches of all time?
Sound off below and tell me what I missed! I always enjoy the feedback.
10. Michaels Became a Member of the nWo
While Michaels was one of the few wrestlers to never leave the WWE for the once juggernaut WCW, he did join one of the organization’s original groups. That is, he joined the nWo after the WCW disbanded and the group’s members signed on with the WWE. Michaels was announced a member on a June 3rd, 2002 edition of Monday Night RAW. Interestingly enough, it was not the first time Michaels teamed up with a couple of nWo members. He is actually best friends with two of the group’s founders, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.
9. Playgirl Called in 1996
There’s not much to say here besides, is anyone surprised? At the height of Michaels’ career in the mid-1990s, he was going “100 miles per hour in the ring, out of the ring, partying” and “didn’t see anything wrong with it.” Michaels became addicted to the fast life and formed the image of a bad boy and charmer. It’s no wonder he missed the sign that read, “Do your homework before you pose for magazines usually aimed at men.”
Michaels claimed he thought the magazine was aimed at women. Not that posing in a magazine aimed at a particular audience is bad, but Michaels’ ignorance played right into the hands of his rival Bret Hart. Upon hearing of Michaels’ photo shoot, Hart would question Michaels’ masculinity. While the bitterness between the two played out in the ring, it was often unscripted back stage.
8. The Rockers Were the Original D-Generation X
After dropping out of college, Michaels met wrestling legend Jose Lothario and began to wrestle in the mid-south circuit in Louisiana. During this time, he met up with eventual long-time tag-team partner Marty Jannetty. After Michaels sent tapes of his matches to the major wrestling companies, the American Wrestling Association contacted Michaels and proposed that he and Jannetty team up again. Together, they formed the team called The Midnight Rockers.
Despite McMahon‘s initial concerns about the duos’ reputation, the WWE signed both to contracts in 1987. Their tag-team name fit them well. In an interview with CBN.com, Michaels described himself and Jannetty as “Partiers…also partiers bordering on troublemakers though.” McMahon eventually fired both after they fought another wrestler in a bar; although Michaels claimed in his autobiography the incident was a misunderstanding.
In 1988, the WWE gave the two a second chance and renamed the duo The Rockers. However, the company always booked Michaels and Jannetty as mid-card talents and the two struggled to capture tag-team gold. While they did beat the Hart Foundation for the tag titles, The Rockers never officially held the Championship. As legend and Jannetty have it, McMahon stripped them of the titles because the two put feces down the back of a passenger onboard a flight. Long story short, the passenger happened to be in a gang. The WWE’s creative team explained that the two forfeited their titles because the turnbuckles collapsed mid-match, but many believe the duo was punished for their in-flight scare.
7. Align Yourself With the Most Powerful Groups to Succeed
Michaels acceptance into the nWo on Monday Night Raw on June 3rd, 2002 portrayed the full circle of his career up to that point. During the mid-1990s, Michaels was part of an influential WWE backstage group called the Kliq. At the time of the group’s disbanding, group members Kevin Nash and Scott Hall left for the richer WCW to form their own group, the nWo, while other members, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Sean Waltman (X-Pac, who wrestled in both companies) stayed with the WWE to eventually form different versions of D-Generation X. Both became the most influential and controversial groups in wrestling history.
6. Michaels Was First to Wrestle in Many Legendary Matches
Have you wondered why Michaels had nicknames like “The Icon” or “The Main Event?” Simple. He took part in Ladder Matches, Elimination Chamber duels and Hell in a Cell bouts before the events became fixtures on WWE pay per views. In fact, he was the only wrestler to take part in each of those matches’ debuts.
While risky and entertaining ventures, did these distinctions really help HBK earn the title “The Icon?” They are a start; however, what really placed HBK into a stratosphere by himself is this: He won every one of those matches. More so, in the WWE’s first ever ladder match, Michaels faced Scott Hall, one of his best friends, at WrestleMania X and put on a show for the ages. Pro Wrestling Illustrated voted the contest as the Match of the Year.
5. Mr. Wrestlemania? How about Mr. Match of the Year
The names fit Michaels well. Mr. WrestleMania. The Showstopper. The Main Event. The Icon. After all, he’s proven to millions that he can put on a legendary match and entertain on the mic. But do you know why Michaels has earned the right to these names?
The Heartbreak Kid has been in 11 Matches of the Year, as awarded by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Ten of those matches have been at WrestleMania. Four consecutive matches between 1993 and 1996 won the title, and during the dwindling days of his career between 2004 and 2010, he took part in seven consecutive Matches of the Year.
If there were ever a more consistent performer in the history of the pro-wrestling business, please let me know. Despite his injuries and his personal problems outside the ring, Michaels always performed for his audience at a high level.
4. Love for the WWE Runs Deep
Inducted into the 2011 WWE Hall of Fame by his best friend Triple H, The Heartbreak Kid is one of the few wrestlers to never jump to rival WCW during the height of the organization’s power. Even during times of personal uncertainty, such as when many of his best friends had signed with WCW, he stayed with the company that helped him “make it big,” as Michaels once delicately put it to McMahon. However, there was a time when he did think about leaving the WWE. After all, the WCW was lucrative and on the rise. While contemplating his future, Michaels didn’t know his departed friends would eventually form the nWo, one of wrestling’s most influential groups that would help WCW’s Nitro program beat WWE’s Raw program for 84 consecutive weeks.
Would he have stayed with the WWE, if he had known WCW would become so dominant? During an interview with Busted Open Radio, Michaels defended his decision to stand next to McMahon.
“There were times when I was going through my very tough times, just let me go, just let me go. He [McMahon] would say ‘No, look you would be miserable, they wouldn’t do with you what needs to be done. They wouldn’t know what to do with you, and the fact that they put that kind of time into me.’ That was really the end of it, that’s why I always sound like a company man.”
3. Problems Never Held Him Back Long
Michaels formed a reputation in the ring that haunted him outside the ring. While the formation of D-Generation X and its aftermath only heightened his problems, the issues began to appear well before he joined with partner Marty Janetty.
The problem with Michaels didn’t end when McMahon fired the two. He partied hard and bathed in drugs to suppress his disappointment. Before long, the drugs became an addiction. Michaels admits “it became more of an anger thing, giving up.”
When Michaels met his wife Rebecca and had his first child, he began to shift gears. He slowed down and took a right-hand turn to church. In the early 2000s, Michaels became a born again Christian.
2. Michaels Helped Plan the Most Elaborate Scheme in Wrestling History…
Or, so some speculate he was part of the scheme. While many believe the Montreal Screwjob was an actual, unscripted event, evidence suggests otherwise. Many believe Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon devised a plan to keep pace with the formidable WCW. Bret Hart would lose the WWE Championship to Shawn Michaels, and all parties involved would win.
Supposedly, the Montreal Screwjob severed relationships between Hart and McMahon. Hart and Michaels’ relationship had already been breaking. According to storyline and rumor, McMahon felt anxious that Hart would retain the belt and take it with him to the WCW when his WWE contract expired. To ensure that didn’t happen, McMahon ordered officials to “ring the f***ing bell,” as Hart struggled not to tap in Michaels’ rendition of Hart’s sharpshooter submission hold. Hart never tapped, and the ultimate controversy was born.
It’s hard to tell if it was a real screw job or a big plan by the three of them.
1. The Heartbreak Kid Hated The Hitman
Whether or not their in-ring banter and duels were fact or fiction, what matters is how the wrestlers actually felt about each other outside of the ring. Simply put, throughout their rivalry, their off-camera relationship deteriorated to the point that most parties could not tell whether the wrestler’s on-camera jabs were real or fake.
Upon reentering the WWE with Marty Jannetty as The Rockers, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart began to form a rivalry, which would eventually affect the future of the WWE. The Rockers and Bret Hart’s group, the Hart Foundation, would battle a number of times for tag-team supremacy, and when Michaels and Hart sought individual stardom their rivalry continued.
Around the mid-1990s, Hart began to represent what the WWE used to be and he hated the direction it was going in. In an interview on the 1998 documentary Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows, Hart expressed his disdain about turning heel and the imaginary “kayfabe” world that was leaving him mercilessly behind. Michaels represented the company’s future. His brashness and partying lifestyle fit the upcoming Attitude Era of the WWE.
By the time Hart was ready to abandon the WWE for the fruitful WCW, his relationship with Michaels had disintegrated completely. Their on-screen banter was now likely real. Following Michaels’ return from a knee injury, Hart called Michaels out in the squared-circle and challenged him to a 10-minute match at the King of the Ring. During their exchange, Michaels knocked Hart for his supposed real relationship with Sunny, who Michaels had a real, nine-month relationship with.
“We are going to find out once and for all if Bret “The Hitman” Hart can get beat like a man. Because Bret, believe me, you couldn’t go 10 minutes in any situation, if you know what I mean. Even though lately you’ve had some Sunny Days, you still can’t get the job done.”
However, Tammy Lynn Sytch, better known as Sunny, denounced any intimate relationship with Hart. “As soon as we [Michaels] and I stopped seeing each other, all of a sudden, for some reason he got in his warped mind that I was seeing Bret Hart…Bret and I were friends.” The bitter jealousy and anger between Michaels and Hart boiled over into a real backroom brawl, which the Honky Tonk Man believed to have happened because of their “personal vendetta” towards each other.
While WWE’s creative team scripted an apology between Michaels and Hart during a 2010 RAW program, we beg to ask, was that apology actually scripted or was it real?