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Monday, October 8, 2012

"The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels : What Makes Him Great...

Firstly, I know the ‘wrestling’ I am talking about is scripted. Secondly, pro wrestling is hybrid of acting, performance and wrestling….and only few gifted “artists” can do this. So, read on…..

*Added few videos with the article, magically disappeared. :(

Shawn Michaels (Michael Shawn Hickenbottom)

July 22, 1965 in Chandler, Arizona, USA
Brought up
Berkshire, England & San Antonio, Texas, USA
Jose Lothario
Active Wrestler
1984-1998, 2000-2010

Nicknames - Heartbreak Kid, Showstopper, Headliner, The Icon, The Main Event, Sexy Boy, Mr. Wrestlemania. 

Shawn is 5 feet 10 Inches (Billed 6’1” :p), he never got satisfactory grades in school and college, his only passion was wrestling. He is a college dropout (Southwest Texas State University).  Till early nineties average main event wrestlers were humongous, complimented by steroids.  Shawn shared his ambition with his family, obviously hard time convincing his near ones…this is the hardest step when you want to pursue career in an unconventional field. First you have to convince yourself and then your family that you want to live your passion….and yes you are gambling with your future at stake. 

Early Career & Struggle

Then Shawn met many agents, promoters, bookers and send his tapes to many others. Got ordinary response because of his normal build, for quite some time and finally began his career with American Wrestling Association (AWA) and Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF), 1984. He competed as a jobber in singles but the Tag Team Divisions in couple of promotions provided some scope, he formed 2 tag teams in separate promotions American Breed/American Force (with Paul Doamond) [TASW] and The Midnight Rockers (with Marty Jannetty) [CSW, AWA]. Won tag team titles in CSW and AWA. 
The Midnight Rockers were popular in children and ladies soon received contract from WWF and now renamed “The Rockers” performed there from 1988-1991. Although, they were popular (Declared Tag Team of the Year 1989 by Wrestling Observer Newsletter, #33 Tag Team of PWI Year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated, 2003) and fan favorites but at that time many wrestlers refused to “job” for them because of their size. They often lost and despite being one of the top tag teams for long time in WWF they never won the titles. Once, they won against Hart Foundation but due to change in contract and script the match was never televised citing the breaking of top rope as not counting the match as legitimate. 
Trendy Baba Faltu Trivia : In a song of (then Hit bollywood movie) “Waqt Humara Hai” (Sunil Shetty and Akshay Kumar dressed asand even dancing like The Rockers). 

Singles Career

Finally, his wrestling capability overshadowed his build. He started his singles career as cocky, self obsessed “The Heartbreak Kid” (midcard). The top level-main event and mid card WWF roster was very dense because of the collapse of many regional and national promotions like WCCW, but after few months Michaels won the Intercontinental Championship and had a great feud with his ex-tag team partner Marty Jannetty, (Won Match of the Year, 1993 by PWI).

He competed in classic Ladder Match at Wrestlemania X (1994) against Razor Ramon for Intercontinental Championship again winning the Match of the Year Award. As a face he won 2 Royal Rumbles (1995, 1996…later giving him title shot against WWF Champion Bret “The Hitman” Hart).  He won WWE Championship at Wrestlemania XII in an epic ‘overtime’ sixty minute Iron Man Match. 

Two incidents The MSG Curtain Call Incident (where the wrestlers broke the fourth wall) and the Montreal Screwjob are also inseparable part of Shawn Michaels career. 

Affiliates : The Kliq group, DX, The Corporation, NWO. 

He suffered back injury during a Casket Match against Undertaker which forced him to retire and take non-wrestling roles (1998-2000). Then made his comeback to active wrestling in 2002 and soon won WWE Heavyweight Championship, though, he was a transitional champion. Since then he promoted talented mid-card wrestlers until his retirement in 2010.

What Makes Shawn Michaels Great?

1)      -  Return:

Nobody in the history of wrestling returned to the same level, with same athleticism, reflexes and stamina after the kind of injuries HBK sustained. Michaels competed in hundreds of matches and made regular appearances on RAW.

P.S. – He completed over 20 Minute main event of Wrestlemania XIV (1998) with injured back and helped a lot pushing Steve Austin.

2) – Titles after Return:

HBK became transitional Heavyweight Champion just after his return in the first ever Elimination Chamber Match. After that WWE management tried to make him solo IC, WWE, American, Champion on several occasions but Michaels refused and backed young talents even losing to them in the initial phase of their mainstream career (in #1 contender matches, tournaments, even PPVs, etc) for their push (Randy Orton, Carlito, Chris Masters, Jonathan Coachman, Spirit Squad, Edge, Daivari, Abdullah, etc). He held few tag team titles for developing stories, feuds. 

Around the same time few talented wrestlers like Edge surpassed the number of title reigns by HBK within 3-4 years but still……even if he defeated such wrestlers they were obviously non-title matches. His excellent win-loss record dropped below 70% due to him working for other wrestlers. 

3) – Trainer and Mentor:

During his first retirement HBK opened Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy (now Texas Wrestling Academy) training many young wrestlers as HBK thought his career was over. Popular wrestlers among them are –

*) – Paul London
 *) – Daniel Brian
*) – Lance Cade
*) – Matt Bentley (Michael Shane)
*) – Veronica Stevens

4) – Charismatic & Inspiring Figure

WWE.COM : "Ask any Superstar on the WWE roster who the most gifted sports-entertainer of all time is and nearly everyone will have the same answer — Shawn Michaels."

HBK is favorite wrestler and one of the idols of Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho, Triple H, Chris Masters, C.M. Punk, Harcore Holly, Cody Hall, The Undertaker, Steve Austin and many more. Many wrestlers (with a good number of women wrestlers) quoted : “I started wrestling because of Shawn Michaels.” 

5) – Promos:

One of the best wrestlers when it comes to cutting promos. Seriousand giving a message as a Face, Comical-Mocking (DX), Villainous-Heel (after split of The Rockers, after Montreal Screwjob, and as a part of Attitude era Corporation’s Commissioner, etc making him most hated as a character and person within a month). He is stil hated in Canada. 

[Kurt Angle Vs. HBK Promo Video]

 6) – Storytelling:

Involved in multiple memorable months-long feuds right from the beginning of his career. Like for example, a face against jealous Kurt Angle (who won Atlanta Olympics Gold in 1996 but HBK got all the limelight as he won the WWE Championship around the same time). After promo HBK continues the story in match, he is defeated in WM match but he wins the re-match and story goes on for another N/C Iron Man Match for next PPV. That’s why HBK won :

*) – WWE Slammy Award (Record 11 times again).
*) – 3 Feud of the Year Awards by PWI & Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards.

7) – Match Quality & Duartion

*) – PWI Match of the Year Award (Record 11 Times, consecutive 7 times from 2004 to 2010).
*) – 6 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards for his Matches.

HBK is one of the best in art of selling. He makes his opponent look good and had some great matches against wrestlers with limited move-sets Khali or non-wrestlers like Vince, Jonathon Coachman, Shane Macmohan. The average duration of match is also very high. His stamina..... its like he can perform non-stop high flying action with technical wrestling for days.

Marty Jannetty says – “Irrespective of the outcome people remember one thing…..Shawn Michaels was in the match.”

*Must Watch* the Fans reactions on every move of wrestlemania 25 Match (HBK vs. The Undertaker) [Story Book Career HBK Video]

8) - Trendsetter 

HBK was part of first match of following major televised innovative match types
*) – Ladder Match
*) – Iron Man Match
*) – Hell in a Cell Match
*) – Elimination Chamber Match

Let me tell you one thing, it’s very difficult to make something memorable when there is no prior “exact” standards, example set. You can complete formality as a senior wrestler and just give an appearance or you can moonsault, frog splash, fall from the Cell’s top, unexpected "flying" entrance, become a crimson mask in your very first match after 4 years, etc. HBK nailed every new match type and created few benchmarks for others. He sparked the attitude era with DX and played a significant role in building the stardom of Steve Austin. Also adapted to PG Era in his own style with couple of hell turns also.

Officially rated #1 of top 50 Superstar all time (2011) by WWE.

9) – Actor

I think HBK is one of the gifted actors. There is some voice issue but other than that he is amazing. I remember him imitating Hulk Hogan and ROFLing literally, DX stunts, Interviews.  Imitated Macmohans and others. Appeared in few episodes of these TV series - South Beach, Baywatch, Pacific Blue. He is now hosting Macmillan River Adventures (now soon in its season I seriously think in his prime he could have done few blockbuster movies. Even now he can play a character actor or a multistar movie hero. He sang his theme song...so maybe once in a while....

 "You don't even know enough to know,that you don't know.... you know !"

10) – Loyal:

Appeared in the very first RAW, Shawn Michaels is the second superstar after The Undertaker in terms of number of years with WWE as an active wrestler (1988-2010) with a gap of 4 years but was active in non-wrestling roles and now works as a ambassador for WWE. Like others he also got an offer from WCW in 1990s.  

10) – Role Model:

He is a born again Christian and a Bible Teacher at a San Antonio Church. Since his return (2002), he refrains from smoking, drinking alcohol. He motivates viewers through his speeches and online messages, is into charity and a true family man.

Notes for Critics - 

*) – Shawn was average Draw for WWE during his Push.

Nope! If we calculate his WWE Championship reign and his actual dominance its 1996-1998, cut short by his injury, that too shared with Bret Hart, The Undertaker, Sid, Steve Austin, British Bulldog, etc. It is a coincidence that WCW was strongest during this time and it was trying new, unique things and buying top stars like anything….so for few years WCW got attention and even surpassed WWE for many weeks in Nielsen ratings (Monday Night Wars). This divided the target audience.

*) – Eager, Arrogant, stole ideas, hold booking powers, ruined careers.

He won his first WWE Championship at almost 31 years. ("The Boyhood Dream for Shawn Michaels has come true!") There are so many independent promotions that till the time you reach thirties….you have so many championships, palmares but as I mentioned Shawn’s youth was an era of 6 feet 5 Inches Steroid backed musclemen reducing the number of pushes he got in the singles division till 1996. His actual push in WWE was limited to less than 18 months in total. Compare with today’s Sheamus, Punk, Cena, etc. 

He did so much in rest of the 20 years of his active wrestling career. Careers of wrestlers are never dependent on one promotion that too within the window of 2-3 years of Shawn’s mainstream appearances. Bret Hart was already established main event wrestler. Honestly, Bret was also responsible for Montreal Screwjob, he refused to drop his title to HBK and was going to WCW, Vince only worked according to the probability and consequences of Bret showing WWE belt on WCW (it was a gamble). Whatever happened in past, at that moment you were unprofessional given you were at the top in 2 companies. Everybody is into politics....those who succeed are always blamed.

*) – Drugs, Steroids and Violence?  
Yes! 2 decades ago. Look at few of his close friends then like Razor Ramon, Chyna….and even others, you know what I mean!

"I am going to give you a show that you have never ever seen before why?...... because I can !"

Thank you! Shawn. :)

[Colorful Song with HBK Video]

-          Mohit Sharma (Trendster / Trendy Baba)

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