I had a dream. In my dream, an unidentified English-speaking being, perhaps an alien from Uranus, visited Earth for one day. After exploring various stores, this being, who I will call Ura, overhears three people speaking about an upcoming wrestling event.
Ura, being new to the planet, has no idea what wrestling is. After the three people leave, Ura spots me. He asks me, “What is wrestling?” I, being extremely friendly, take Ura to my house, and say, “Have a seat; you’re in for a treat.”
I first explain to him that pro wrestling is a sport that takes fantasy worlds composed of larger-than-life superstars with athletic gift in the form of high-flying aerial ability and mat technical acumen and blends them with striking storylines. It is a spectacle, and the pageantry is unlike any other professional sport.
I tell Ura that there have been a number of wrestlers to come and go—some forgotten, some pretty decent, some really good, and even some, quite great. But there has been only one to be spectacular, and he is simply the best.
Ura’s eyes grow large in anticipation of hearing who this spectacle of amazement is. I say, matter-of-factly, “Why Ura, his name is Shawn Michaels.”
I begin by telling Ura of Shawn’s beginnings as a tag team specialist, with an incredibly skilled partner, named Marty Jannetty. After six years of enhancing various tag team divisions, Shawn set out on his own to wrestle in singles matches.
Even prior to becoming a main-eventer, Shawn was stealing the show. Ura asks me what do I mean, so I show him. We watch as Shawn and Razor Ramon create wonders with a ladder in WrestleMania 10’s famous ladder match for the IC title; then we watch another ladder match, one more recent, pitting Shawn against the gifted Chris Jericho.
Ura notices that the matches are remarkable but is disappointed that Shawn lost. I say to my new friend that Shawn made a career of putting others over and making his opponents look incredible while he still looked amazing. To illustrate, I show Ura six matches: Shawn vs. Marty Jannetty (1993); vs. Jeff Hardy (2008); vs. John Cena (2007); vs. Kurt Angle (2005); vs. Austin (1998); and vs. Triple H (2004).
Ura is impressed that Shawn was capable of losing so gracefully, while allowing his opponents to shine, but Ura wants to see Shawn victorious.
At his request, we watch five matches: we first watch as Shawn wins his first world title against Bret Hart in the classic Ironman match (1996); next, is Shawn vs. Shelton Benjamin at Raw for the Goldrush Tournament (2005); afterward, we watch Shawn vs. Chris Jericho in Shawn's first WrestleMania out of retirement (2003), followed by Shawn vs. John Cena at Raw in London (2007), and then Shawn’s emotional goodbye to Ric Flair at WrestleMania 24 (2008).
I explain to Ura that though Shawn was victorious in those incredible matches and others, he was also victorious in his personal life. Early on in his singles career, Shawn was, by most accounts, difficult to work with and very angry. During an extended break to care for a back injury, Shawn married a wonderful woman and through her help, he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior.
Which HBK match has set the standard for wrestling?
With his Lord guiding his life, Shawn was a changed person; when he came back in 2002, he had purpose and a new way of viewing himself and treating people. Ura and I watch the reformed Shawn in his highly acclaimed comeback match against Triple H at SummerSlam in 2002.
At the conclusion of this match, I tell Ura that Shawn’s revived career began with that match with Triple H, but it ended in 2010 against The Undertaker in perhaps the greatest sequel match ever.
After several hours of watching the showman and showstopper, Shawn Michaels, Ura now has a firm idea of what wrestling is all about. But there is one more stop to make, and this last stop is one that completely encapsulates every component of the sport.
It is the match that defines the sport, and it is the answer to Ura’s original question: what is wrestling? I tell Ura that wrestling is Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 25.
I wake up, and now that I think of it, most of it wasn’t a dream at all. Shawn’s position as the exclamation point in professional wrestling has clearly been cemented through his stellar matches, his charisma, his mic skills, his fan interaction, his persona, his tumultuous career and his legacy.
In 1989 Tina Turner released the highly successful song, entitled “Simply the Best.” Part of the lyrics from the chorus says “You’re simply the best—better than all the rest.” These lyrics sum the total of the character, The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels.
This Saturday at the Hall of Fame, the night before WrestleMania 27, Shawn will take his place in this elite group of past performers who have left their mark on the industry of professional wrestling.
From setting the standard for innovative matches to being the standard of the sport, from being the embodiment of controversy to becoming an example for all to follow, from enduring the hatred of the entire wrestling community to becoming one of its most beloved, from founding a stable group to leading an entire generation, Shawn is in a stratosphere all his own.
His induction into the Hall of Fame symbolizes the modern-day marvel that is Shawn Michaels. He is the greatest performer in the history of pro wrestling; he is simply the best.