Everyone knows when it comes to WrestleMania, HBK is your guy. The main event, the showstopper, the heartbreak kid, Mr. WrestleMania, he's quite the performer in the ring. He even shows little signs if any of his old age. He's put on the show in a slew of matches from Bret Hart, to Stone Cold, to Kurt Angle; heck, even the chairman Mr. McMahon himself.
Around WrestleMania season HBK is jolly himself. It's like his Christmas. We can hear the band tuning up miles away, but this year there is silence.
HBK had supposedly made decisions that came back to haunt him. He was wild and reckless in his younger days. He didn't invest his money well, and when the recession came, he could no longer support his family. Shawn Michaels gets a helping hand from the one of last people you would expect...JBL. His "Wall Street/Texan stockbroker" gimmick finally paid off and was useful in a story.
HBK portrays himself in dire need of help and has nowhere left to turn but to his own enemy. The fans would turn on HBK, who knew what he was doing made him sick to his own stomach. JBL had wanted to return to WrestleMania in Houston, Texas, his home state, the returning conquering champion. All HBK was to do was make sure that was to happen...at any means necessary.
I had it out for this angle every chance I got. I later grew to appreciate it, as it is an original story...if not the closest he has to one. HBK still has it and puts on some great acting. It's almost like a movie. The story was inspired by The Wrestler, starring a certain someone who won't be facing Chris Jericho this year at WrestleMania.
Triple H, one of Shawn's closest friends, tried to help out HBK, but his pride was too big to be in debt to his dear old friend. Cena tried talking some sense into HBK heading into the Rumble match, where HBK would be in JBL's corner. The former Doctor of Thuganomics would not be beat even after tasting some sweet chin music.
HBK seems as great as ever. I still love him the same as I did all those years back. He isn't one of the Superstars that must have a title (see Triple H, Batista). In fact, since his historic comeback in 2002, HBK has only held two titles. He was briefly tag team champion with John Cena, and he was the Heavyweight World champion after winning the first-ever Elimination chamber.
He hasn't lost a step in the ring...not at all. He gets more hang time than Matt Hardy. His elbow drop still looks great, and he can still flip over the turnbuckle when he's thrown there. Every match he has is as stunning as his last.
When he spring boarded moonsault for the top rope to the announce table when he faced Angle at Mania was amazing. He lost the match, but he sure made it worthwhile. The same can be said he faced John Cena at WrestleMania as well.
What other 40+ year-old superstar can do the things that HBK does today? Maybe Flair, but he's retired, and maybe Undertaker, but he might blow out a knee or something. My respect for HBK has done nothing but grown over the years, and he's definitely still going strong.
What about this year's WrestleMania? All signs point to JBL as his opponent, but there is also that promo he had with Undertaker at the Rumble. It may not be enough evidence to start screaming "TAKER VS HBK WM25," but it sure does raise eyebrows.
HBK is one of the few wrestlers that I've never seen utilized wrong (at least to me), and WWE does a good job with ol' HBK. We should have a better sense of his direction following No Way Out. Will he kick JBL's teeth down his throat again? Will another encounter with the deadman be on the horizon?
One thing for sure is no matter who it is, come WrestleMania time HBK will have the band tuning like it's brand spanking new. He'll put on a show that you haven't seen before, and when he's really fired up, every and any night is WrestleMania. When he headlines his Hall of Fame class years from now, it just might be the best one ever.