WWE: Are We Able to Criticise the Legacy of the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels?

Cec Van GaliniAnalyst IIIMarch 5, 2011

Don't get me wrong, I am a big Shawn Michaels fan. My very first live PPV was WrestleMania XII, and for some they don't come better than this. Shawn in his prime and at his very best, barring, of course, his matches with The Undertaker.

And yet now that his career is over, and there is nothing more to write about, we as wrestling fans have a duty to assess and debate his career.

Every wrestler has highs and lows, and its how they are collected together that forms a legacy.

So are we able to criticise one of the greatest wrestlers in WWE history?

In many ways this article is not about Shawn Michaels. But rather on how we as fans see wrestling, and what we look for in a legend. Shawn is just the perfect example.

In Roman Catholic law, there are processes in place to stop people being made Saints too early after they die.

There are processes, tests and steps that the person must adhere to, at least five years after their death. It is all designed to avoid "popular yet undeserving sainthoods."

In wrestling, we may be somewhat guilty of doing the same. We remember someone too often because of one event or simply by a populist perspective. We do not see the long-term impact or take a critical line because it goes against the grain of public opinion.

Shawn is a multi-dimensional superstar who was a fresh-faced rocker, to rebellious heartthrob, Heartbreak kid, Degenerate, Retiree, General Manager, Returning Veteran, Degenerate, Retiring Hero. And in this career, he achieved almost everything there is to achieve, including four world titles.

Some will rightly place him in the top 5 of their all-time favourites with many having him at the very top.

And yet the other side of his character, as will surely be there for all wrestlers is a wrestler who was a member of the Klique, part of the controversial DX, involved in Montreal, and who refused to put over certain wrestlers, most notably Bret Hart at WrestleMania XIII.

We seemingly have overlooked these because Shawn came out, after his initial injury-related retirement, and made amends. He put on a series of matches, many of which he lost, that helped WWE, including matches vs. Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and of course the Undertaker.

His reformation of DX lacked the distasteful antics of the mid-1990s, he shook the hand of Bret Hart and, of course, retired with grace at WrestleMania XXVI.

The legend was created from the minute the referee's hand made the three-count that night in Phoenix at WrestleMania XXVI.

In these final years, Shawn turned his career around and although some will forever remember him for some of his darker moments, the vast majority will remember him fondly and in a positive light.

Revisionist history will always seek to undo this and that might happen in years to come as books are written and stories are told, but at least for now, Shawn Michaels is a hero.

But what of other superstars, where are they in this revisionist world, are they likely to turn their careers around?

There are many that seemingly divide the wrestling world. Triple H, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Randy Orton and of course, John Cena.

The man who is the face of the PG era, John Cena has divided fans more than perhaps any other superstar. The divide is largely, though not exclusively, generational, but it is there at every event.

"Let's go Cena........Cena Sucks", its almost like a choir singing in perfect harmony.

Reasons for the division are well known, but the question remains as to whether he can actually win his doubters over. Can Cena become a champion of the people and retire, in around 10 years, with complete adulation?

To do it requires great change. Firstly, he must learn how to lose. Its perhaps the hardest thing to do as a wrestler but the greatest athletes are those that are able to lose and lose for the company.

Doing what is considered right for the business and giving something back to the fans and their opponents.

There must also be a radical overhaul of his character, and the much talked about but seldom to be believed, heel turn. All superstars become heels and for Cena to avoid this, will always count against him.

Even Bret Hart was a heel and there are few bigger family-friendly faces than he.

The match quality must also improve and for some, his mic skills as well. What he must do to convince his critics, is to offer a more rounded form of wrestling and wrestler. He must shake off the old image and continually reinvent himself.

Wrestlers like Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, and Bret Hart survived because they changed their characters, they became heels, they changed attire, they chased different titles, they were involved in different promos and angles. They continuously sold their character to the wrestling world.

Wrestlers like John Cena who are divisive have the potential to win over their critics, just as Shawn Michaels did. They have the ability to become heroes to many, and not simply for their in-ring prowess. 


Very simply; they do more things that are positive than negative.

We as fans will criticise and analyse our wrestling heroes, its only right that we do. And when we find a superstar that did more for the business than they took away, then they become a hero.

Some like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair are borderline cases, where do they stand on this debate? That can only be answered when they finally retire, but it is surely an important debate for the future.

But for now, it is simply enough to say that Shawn Michaels has answered many of his critics and in the final years of his career, changed his wrestling image. The negatives are there, but the positives appear brighter, and that is how he will be remembered.

That night in Phoenix ended it all, the ups and downs, the good and the bad. It was a career that many followed from the very beginning, and what a journey it was.

There are many lessons to learn from his career, and one reason why in this reporter's opinion, Shawn Michaels must always play a role in wrestling, be it on the sidelines as a manager, as a creative writer or simply as a wrestling trainer.

Wrestling needs heroes and in Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Roddy Piper et al, they have a long list, all waiting to be called upon to pass their years of wisdom on to the next generation.