WWE: Is Shawn Michaels the Greatest of All-Time?

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterApril 5, 2012

Photo from garyttpoirier.blogspot.com
Photo from garyttpoirier.blogspot.com

Of all the legends and icons who have ever competed in a wrestling ring, Shawn Michaels is the greatest performer of all-time. 

A great wrestler is an amalgam of several people; a comedian and an actor, an acrobat and a powerlifter. Michaels was all of those things and more, the rare complete package. 

The Rock may be a better mic worker and Bret Hart may be a better technician, but not by much.

The Showstopper was equally as entertaining doing a promo as he was flying from the top rope. 

A master of his body, an innovator and a warrior, Michaels fused technical wrestling, Lucha Libre-inspired moves and unparalleled storytelling to build a Hall of Fame career.

Mic Work

Michaels was a powerful and emotive actor, as well as one of the funniest men in wrestling. 

Charisma emanates from that deep, gravelly voice. 

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It certainly wasn't a stretch for him to play the cocky and brash rebel.  The thinly veiled version of himself was one of the most engaging characters we’ve ever seen.

He was a Frankenstein's monster-like combination of Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Buddy Rogers and Gorgeous George. 

As a member of DX, he added a whole career's worth of hilarity to his resume. 

The Heartbreak Kid was a part of some of the most memorable and hilarious backstage antics in wrestling history. 

Any highlight reel of the greatest moments in wrestling television has to include him mocking Hulk Hogan, his impersonation of Shane McMahon and him Superkicking a guy named Stan

Tag-Team Brilliance

WWE fans first saw Michaels as one half of the exciting Rockers. 

He and Marty Jannetty weren't just another talented team competing in the golden age of tag teams, they started a revolution.

The Rockers brought a dynamic energy to their matches and didn't settle for the same tired routine most guys were doing.  They innovated; they inspired.

Their creative double-team moves dazzled fans. 

When it came time for Michaels to go out on his own, he broke apart the Rockers in momentous fashion.

Sending Jannetty through the barbershop window is one of the most iconic moments in WWE history. 

Tag partners turn on each other all the time, but fans will never forget the broken friendship, the broken glass, the shock of seeing Michaels Superkick Jannetty. 

Contributions

Michaels made history time and time again. 

He wrestled in the first WWE ladder match, the first Elimination Chamber match and the first Hell in a Cell.  Would those gimmick matches have taken off had Michaels not put his Midas touch on them?

Bret Hart filled Hulk Hogan's shoes admirably when the '80s bled into the '90s. 

Michaels took Hart's position as WWE's top man.  Even as bigger and bigger stars fled for WCW, HBK stayed with McMahon's company.

He was a major part of keeping it afloat.

Before his long absence from 1998 to 2002, Michaels helped catapult Steve Austin's career with a gutsy and amazing performance at WrestleMania XIV. 

No doubt Austin would have been a major star regardless of who he won the title from, but Michaels vs. Austin was the catalyst for the birth of the Attitude Era. 

After recovering from his back injuries, Michaels spent the better part of the next decade being the best wrestler in the world.

Nearly everything he did was magic.

Feuds with Triple H, Chris Jericho and The Undertaker were among the most intense and enthralling feuds fans have ever seen.   

Great Matches

Is there a wrestler whose greatest hits list is harder to narrow down?

Whether in a street fight, a standard wrestling match or in the Elimination Chamber, Michaels produced classics like no one else. 

He turned wrestling into grand theater. 

Michaels' ability to sell moves and his flair for creating drama in a ring made anyone he was facing look like the greatest wrestler ever.   

The number of stars whose best match was with the Heartbreak Kid is a long one.  Chris Jericho, John Cena, The Undertaker and Bret Hart's career would not have been the same had they not gone up against Michaels. 

Who else could have produced such a compelling match with The Great Khali?

Pro Wrestling Illustrated awarded him Best Match of the Year award 12 times including seven in a row from 2004 to 2010.

Wrestling Observer Newsletter gave him their version of the same award four times. 

In the biggest moments, on the biggest stages, Michaels rose to the occasion like no one else.  He earned the Mr. WrestleMania nickname by consistently being the performer we talked the most about after the event.

Closing Thoughts

There are those who think The Undertaker is the greatest ever, but take away Hell in a Cell at Badd Blood '97, WrestleManias 25 and 26 and the argument for The Dead Man is weakened severely. 

Those classics would not have been the same with anyone other than Shawn Michaels.

Photo by David Soto
Photo by David Soto

Some will argue that wrestling's biggest star ever, Hulk Hogan was the greatest.  The Hulkster's shoddy ring work has to bring him down from the top spot.

Steve Austin will get many votes as well. 

Michaels' career was longer and in those extra years that HBK had, he added a healthy dose of unforgettable moments and iconic matches to his resume. 

Kenta Kobashi, Bret Hart, Lou Thesz, The Rock, Mitsuharu Misawa, Bruno Sammartino, Antonio Inoki and the legendary Ric Flair all have viable cases to be named the greatest. 

But Michaels entertained and amazed at a level that no one else has. 

Spanning several eras, Michaels' career boasts crowning achievement after crowning achievement. 

There will likely never be a wrestler like Shawn Michaels, but it will be fun to see the next generation try to match his triumphs.