Shawn Michaels doesn't need pro wrestling.
As a legend, and once upon a time the face of a major wrestling promotion that far-too-often retires its legendary performers before they retire from sports entertainment, Shawn Michaels enjoyed arguably the most graceful retirements in WWE history.
His exodus from the rock-star lifestyle of pro wrestling continues, and while promoting Deuce Brand watches, Michaels sat down for an informative, in-depth and at times surprising interview about life after wrestling and the monumental 1,000th episode of RAW.
Michaels' second life couldn't be any different than the over 25-year pro wrestling career that so strongly defined him. As opposed to the fast-paced, non-stop existence where WWE superstars are forced to stand out from scores of fellow egomaniacs and personalities, Michaels' chief hobby of hunting has interjected the very tranquility that eluded him for the better part of 25 years:
"I'm not a very good famous person (laughs). I enjoyed the theatrics and the physical demands of everything that went on in the ring. But I was, initially, a relatively shy kid. I think that's probably what attracted me to hunting is that it was such a polar opposite of the other, and it was that opportunity for peace and quiet and to decompress.
"I love wrestling, and I think there was something in me that needed to come out and I was very fortunate to allow it to come out in the WWE and make a living doing that, and I enjoyed every second of that. But at the same time I thoroughly love the the peace and quiet of [hunting] and the solitude and just sort of being away from the hustle and bustle."
Despite being at peace with his post-wrestling endeavors, Michaels' passion for pro wrestling still resonates, clearly shining through as his first love with an outside possibility of an old flame being rekindled.
It's clear that "the Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels doesn't need wrestling. Whether he wants it is an entirely different conversation.
Given the relentless dedication one has to have to his craft in a business where top stars are taken off the road by injury (or when their smile disappears) rather than by choice, it isn't terribly surprising that most legends abstain from keeping up with pro wrestling on TV once their career has wrapped.
It's safe to say that WWE's longest-running weekly television show is not on in Shawn Michaels' home come Monday night.
Shawn Michaels is more of an NCIS guy.
In an ongoing quest for a more well-rounded lifestyle to make up for a life that revolved around the WWE for so long, Michaels has made it a point to explore other areas of interest.
"I missed a lot of regular TV shows for years and years and years. So a lot of it is just having other interests and allowing myself to have that.
"You sort of get—or at least I sort of get—in this box where you never get off of this wheel and you really don't have any interests, or hobbies or things of that nature outside of this one area. For me, being in retirement, it was just having the opportunity to watch other stuff and do different things.
"At least you want to take the time away and not be around it or think about it that much because it took up so much of your time before. I don't watch it, not for any particular reason, but if nothing's on or I've seen a program that I'm watching I will click over, it just doesn't happen that much because there's so much programming out there and I do have other interests.
"I like learning new stuff, also, and I can sit there and watch shows on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel or stuff like that and learn something new. I think once you've gone through such a long stage of learning one thing, you're not as well-rounded as you'd like to be. For me, it's just a new interest in learning things that are fresh and enjoyable things for me."
As discouraging as it sounds to the average fan, the ease in which Michaels has been able to distance himself from the at-times deceptively dangerous world of professional wrestling following voluntary retirement is a success story in and of itself.
Shawn Michaels was featured on the first-ever episode of RAW in 1993, and is now set to kick off Monday Night RAW 999 episodes later.
After surviving the test of time through multiple eras, Michaels is still relevant and will still earn one of the bigger pops in what should be a pop-fest in St. Louis come July 23.
Two-and-a-half decades after starting his pro wrestling career, and almost two decades after his debut match on RAW, however, Michaels is just as astounded with WWE's longevity on Monday nights as critics who refused to give the viability of Monday night wrestling a chance.
"I can remember thinking how unbelievably strange it was, Monday night, and boy was I wrong. I was from the era of Saturday night and Saturday morning, those were your wrestling times. The idea of going on Monday night it just seemed like such a blah night and in prime time.
"I have to be honest; I never thought it would become as big and huge as it did, and I obviously couldn't have been more wrong."
Predictably enough, one of Shawn Michaels' favorite RAW moments involved Degeneration X, however it was a moment that did not involve Michaels himself.
Michaels spoke of what came to mind when he thought of some of the all-time greatest RAW moments, and as he mentally took himself to the DX army's memorable invasion of WCW Nitro, he became caught up in brief bouts of reminiscent laughter.
"I wasn't involved in it, but I remember thinking 'God, that's brilliant.' For some reason, it's the funniest thing and it makes me chuckle to this day, was Road Dogg's helmet—and the holes are cut out of it—so his hair can come through.
"It's the little detail stuff like that and it's so insignificant and so extremely stupid but that's just the kind of humor that I enjoy. So for me, it wasn't one that I was involved in it was that one."
One of Michaels' greatest career frustrations was being sidelined for the majority of a period considered by many to be the second golden age of professional wrestling, which is cruel irony in that Michaels was a driving force behind WWE's eventual decision to change their attitude. However on this particular night, Michaels was perfectly content as a viewer.
"I've never been so caught up in it that I thought part of me was going to die if I wasn't around it. I thought that was just so funny that my friends were calling out my friends like everybody is in on it except the people that were watching at home.
"At that point of my life, there were so many other things going on that were eventually all leading to stuff a ton more positive in my life.
"A lot of people don't really grasp that concept that we can live without it but I think there are more guys that do that don't. We thoroughly love and enjoy our time but moving on is an okay thing."
RAW has changed considerably from its inception and eventual boom during the late 90's into the 2000's, both of which were periods where Shawn Michaels contributed to the WWE's success.
Many hardcore fans are vehemently opposed to the direction of RAW, which transforms into more of a televised social media hub with every tweet, as the WWE chooses not to embrace social media but rather give it a crippling bearhug through deals with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tout and Shazam.
Michaels, who grew up watching pro wrestling and idolizing Ric Flair, now falls into the category of old-school observer as a new generation of superstars are now on the rise.
Yet, unlike many dedicated fans who share acrimony towards WWE's social media involvement, Shawn Michaels finds little fault in Vince McMahon's new vision:
"I don't know enough about what their game plan is but I know the vision or the visionary that runs the place. I think [Vince McMahon] has always tried to be ahead of the curve.
"I was wrong about the first Monday Night RAW, and I think a lot of people were, but it worked out.
"One thing about social media is that now everybody has an opinion, and whether it's relevant or not, they have one. There's still one guy steering that ship, he has done a pretty good job, and I do know he's only doing everything he can for the benefit of the company.
"For whatever reason, unbeknown to me, social media certainly has a huge part not only in WWE but in all of programming. Every show I watch on television now has a little hashtag thing. I watch Criminal Minds and they've got the hashtag Criminal Minds. I watch NCIS and they've got the hashtag NCIS.
It's certainly out there and if Vince McMahon thinks that's the future of television programming, then he's going to be on to something pretty special."
WWE's involvement with social media has become so serious, it wouldn't be a surprise if the new WWE logo had a hashtag in front of it.
The question that will plague Shawn Michaels as long as he is healthy, not to mention a former wrestler, is when he will come out of retirement for at least one more match.
A victim of his own success and late-career heroics, Michaels rode off into the sunset with his final WWE match to date—at WrestleMania XXVI against the Undertaker—being one of his finest.
With seemingly much left in the tank through an active post-wrestling lifestyle, combined with his in-ring brilliance when we last saw him compete, Michaels continues to leave the door open for a possible return.
Despite his insistence of moving on and investing his time in hobbies outside of professional wrestling, there still seems to be a faint itch that developed as the Heartbreak Kid discussed a possible return.
"If I were allowed to pick, I could pick a host of them. He's not currently there now, but you always want to throw The Rock in there, but it would be hard not to want to get in there with Punk or Bryan. Those are two guys that I could do something very special with, those two. Certainly any area that I lack due to knees and injuries, things like that, they'd be more than likely to make up for it.
"At the same time I also think to myself I'd go to Taker, Hunter and Jericho. My old faithful, man, because the proof is in the pudding and nobody could be able to tell a story like one of those guys just because they've been doing it for so long and there's so much history but it would be a toss up.
"The table is already set for Taker, Hunter and Jericho. People can say 'Well, yeah, that's been done' but one of the answers to that is obviously you've got a ton of history to build on.
"The other, with a Punk or a Bryan, there's no history but obviously it's new, it's something fresh, it's something I think would probably be incredibly interesting."
One can only hope.