Many may consider the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels to be the greatest professional wrestler of all time. His career spans three decades, coming out of the tail end of the territory days and thriving in a giant's world as a smaller performer.
Michaels, who now makes his living as a TV host for an outdoors program, also spent some time as a trainer down in Texas. One of his biggest fans, and now his greatest pupil, is primed to headline SummerSlam for the WWE title.
Daniel Bryan, who grew up in Washington state, drove to the Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy in San Antonio to learn from the master. This relationship is widely known throughout the Internet Wrestling Community, but has yet to find its way into Bryan's on-screen persona.
Today, WWE.com posted an interview with HBK himself, discussing his time training Bryan.
Heck, I knew at first glance what a talented young man he was. He came in good, for heaven’s sakes. His work ethic, his integrity, his dedication, all of that stuff was all phenomenal from the get-go. And honestly, he had an understanding that it was going to be tough. He knew it was going to be a long road for him, and none of those things bothered him.
Like Bryan, Michaels was an undersized wrestler on his way up. When he was a teenager, Michaels began touring the territories and was perceived as a talented hand in the ring. However, he was often considered too small for primetime.
After the success of the Rock 'n' Roll Express, Michaels teamed up with Marty Jannetty to form a similar team with the name The Rockers. As The Rockers, they toured the territories before landing in the WWF. Michaels tossed Jannetty through a plate glass window, took on the Heartbreak Kid moniker and rose to be the biggest star in the planet.
After a run as a midcard heel, battling an array of challengers for the Intercontinental title, Michaels moved up the card. He won the Royal Rumble and faced Diesel at WrestleMania XI. He followed that up by again winning the Rumble and facing Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII in the legendary Iron Man match, which concluded the Boyhood Dream storyline.
Right now we may be witnessing a similar evolution for his much-heralded student. Bryan ran for some time as a heel before the crowd forced a turn following his infamous 18-second title defeat at WrestleMania against Sheamus.
Now, he's the hottest act in the company and riding that wave to the main event of SummerSlam.
Many expect Bryan to win the belt at SummerSlam, but I don't think he's quite ready to carry the belt on an extended reign. I'd love to see Bryan have the title snapped from his grasp at SummerSlam, build the anticipation and hold off until he scores a Rumble win of his own and faces off against a formidable challenger for the belt at WrestleMania XXX.
Either way, Bryan has proven himself as one of the WWE's future stars over the last few months. You could perhaps say he's the leader of a new generation.