The sound of that name sparks an array of numerous emotions. From the awe of controversy, the humor of a promo, to the admiration of a matchup, Shawn Michaels is synonymous with each and every wrestling fan in some way.
Prologue: a fan's humble beginning
Until 2002, Shawn Michaels was practically a stranger to me. As a hardcore WCW Fan, World Wrestling Federation was more of a common enemy instead of fresh alternative.
Besides this, the presence of the Undertaker spontaneously struck fear in yours truly. All of these factors eventually led to me avoiding the WWF until WCW folded in 2001.
WrestleMania X-7 was my first WWF pay-per-view. Simply put, the event was the greatest of all time and successfully retained my WWE viewership. It wasn't long before I was enamored by the familiar tune of Rockhouse by Frank Shelley.
The New World Order had made its infamous presence felt. As I rejoiced at the sight of Hogan, Hall, and Nash, I failed to realize that the reunion would be short lived.
Hogan would breakaway from the group with the help of The Rock.
Hogan's departure was a blessing in disguise as Shawn Michaels returned after a four year hiatus. Like I stated above, aside from numerous video games, Shawn Michaels could've shook my hand in front of millions and I'd simply ask the question, “Who are you?”
As HBK's feud with Triple H progressed, I found myself intrigued by the commodity known as Shawn Michaels. In my opinion, talk was cheap, and it was put up or shut up time for Michaels come Summerslam 2002.
The Showstopper went into Summerslam as the underdog. Michaels was stretchered out as the winner. In what can be described as valiant, brutal, and pure magic, Shawn Michaels beat Triple H, in the process, gaining a fan in yours truly.
The Underdog: Boyhood Dream
While I'll be the first to rank Shawn Michaels as the greatest in ring performer of all time, there's another aspect of Michaels character that I adore. Shawn Michaels was an underdog.
At 6'1" and slightly over 200 pounds, Shawn Michaels wasn't Vince McMahon's preference. It's no secret that McMahon admires muscular, tall and agile Superstars.
Simply put, HBK debuted with Marty Jannetty as the Rockers in 1988. Michaels didn't win the WWF Championship until 1996, four years after Shawn split from Marty. HBK spent eight years working his way up the ladder before he finally received his comeuppance.
Can you imagine eight years of frustration?
Besides The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels is unmatched in the longevity department. When Michaels retired last year, he and Taker were the only two Superstars to have been with the WWF since the first episode of RAW.
This feat is extraordinary considering the level of showmanship displayed in his final match at WrestleMania 26.
His opponent, The Undertaker, is famous for his ability to adapt as the WWE changed with time. On the other hand, Michaels possessed the ability to perfect each aspect wrestling. Shawn could fly, mat wrestle, submission and throw knife edge chops with the best of them (Ric Flair).
How many current WWE Superstars can do this? Daniel Bryan? (trained by Michaels)
When describing the showmanship of Shawn Michaels, fellow B/R Writer Chinmay wrote it best.
“For years, HBK delivered performances mortals can only dream about. Matches of the year were his routine. He was no doubt the best in the business, but he transcended his own aura and brought out the best of his opponents.
When he faced the outstanding performers like Bret Hart, Jericho or the Undertaker they did not delivered matches, They created a memory for us that we will keep close to our hearts till our last day”
Correcting the mistakes
Shawn Michaels wasn't always the Showstopper we know and love. In the '90s, Michaels used his superstar status to book matches in his favor. As the leader of the Kliq, Michaels became one of the biggest backstage politicians in pro wrestling history.
Michaels is infamous for attempting to thwart to budding super stardom of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in favor of Triple H.
Shawn was also known to have struggles with addiction.
However, Michaels changed his ways for the sake of his wife and kids. When Michaels returned in 2002, he won the World Championship once.
Michaels refused to win a World Championship for the remainder of his career. Instead, HBK spent numerous years putting over younger superstars for the sake of business.
For this, Michaels has my utmost respect. Shawn didn't have to put over others while winning the World Championship on five additional occasions. Michaels realized how his mistakes plagued the WWE and his loved ones.
The Showstopper did everything to right his wrongs.
A star is born...today
Michael Shawn Hickenbottom was like any other kid. The youngest of four siblings, Hickenbottom possessed a natural taste in sports. Like most kids of that era, Shawn was in mystified by the rush of battle on the gridiron.
Michaels excelled in the sport, playing football until his high school graduation. After high school, Michaels followed the traditional path. Shawn enrolled in Southwest Texas University before dropping out to pursue a boyhood dream.
Shawn Michaels has left the building
With his induction into the 2011 WWE Hall of Fame, it's safe to say that Shawn Michaels will never grace the squared circle again. Michaels possessed the ability to draw the emotions of every pro wrestling fan through a match.
Simply put, a Shawn Michaels match told a story that can never be duplicated.
I still remember the millions of hearts breaking when Shawn fell to the Undertaker at WrestleMania 26.
In closing, I'd like to say happy birthday to Shawn Michaels. There was never anyone better.