Professional wrestling is not considered by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences as a viable option for television awards. The prestigious Emmy awards are reserved for episodic television, such as Heroes, House, the Law & Order franchise, and comedy series including Everybody Loves Raymond, 30 Rock, and Pushing Daisies.
It is also highly unlikely that Vince McMahon, notorious for his preference to adhere to kayfabe, would submit his performers for any acting categories if the chance arose.
Unfortunately, this attitude combined with the stigma of professional wrestling in the entertainment industry will prevent one deserving man from receiving recognition for his outstanding performances.
In a 20 year career, the audience has been treated to a range of emotions and personas, from the cocky youngster blessed with astounding talent, to the rebellious degenerate, to a man of principles with a temper, angry, righteous, vengeful, and a proud warrior.
Last night, Shawn Michaels showcased his talents in another direction—that of the victim.
The show kicked off with Rey Mysterio, Jr. calling out Shawn Michaels for costing him the Race to the Rumble match with JBL. Like many of the fans, Rey knows that Shawn is fundamentally a great person who is in a horrible situation. All he wanted was for Shawn to give him his shot at the Fatal Four Way Elimination match back.
Michaels spoke only two words in the entire segment, but conveyed deep emotion through his countenance and body language. Sorrow for the necessity of his actions the week previous, grateful for Rey’s understanding, and deep gratitude for the offer of an honorable option to rectify the consequences of his employment for JBL were all evident in his fluid facial expressions.
When JBL rendered his acceptance of the terms null and void, he bowed his head with disappointment and communicated his apology and plea for further understanding to Rey with sagging shoulders and pained eyes.
Interestingly, Michaels has discussed in his autobiography that there were periods of his career where his only respite was in the ring. For those paying close enough attention, he showed the audience that he was comfortable in the ring, but on the apron was another story. He fidgeted, he hung one leg over the second rope, and his discomfort was evident.
The end of the match saw Michaels nearly kick JBL’s teeth down his throat, courtesy a little Sweet Chin Music. He operated on instinct, conflicting instincts, as he wanted to be the Showstopper, but remembered his position and his obligation as an employee.
What followed can only be described as brutal, but highly effective.
JBL looked at Shawn with hard eyes and then deliberately turned his gaze down to the mat. Shawn allowed the realization of what JBL was asking him to do dawn in his own eyes. He begged for his pride and was denied.
Twice, Shawn seemed to realize that he had no choice and went to one knee, before trying to appeal to his employer. Reading his lips as he spoke was one way to see what he wanted to convey, but reading his facial expressions and his body language articulated his feelings more than words could hope to achieve.
His final conflict saw him slowly, hesitatingly, lie down on the mat, recognizing his utter powerlessness as he closed his eyes. Yet, he tried once more to salvage his pride in his abilities in the ring. JBL obliged with the Clothesline and left the ring as the Number One Contender to the World Heavyweight Championship.
But the real story was back in the ring, as Shawn sat up, shoulders hunched and shivering, a broken man.
JBL stripped Shawn of his pride and his dignity. The evidence of this new development in the storyline isn’t that JBL is now the opponent for John Cena at the Royal Rumble; rather, it is in the performance of Shawn Michaels that taps into the emotions of the fans.
On April 28, 2008, Chris Jericho presented Shawn Michaels with a Best Actor in the WWE award. Jericho meant it to be mocking, but he was absolutely correct.
There are plenty of issues with the storyline between Michaels and JBL. None of them matter, however, when the camera turns on Shawn Michaels and he delivers such stellar and believable performances.
Shawn Michaels is one of the best in-ring workers in the WWE and he is one of the most versatile actors to grace professional wrestling in its history. It is a shame that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will never have the pleasure of awarding him the accolades that he richly deserves.