WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels has created one of the most impressive pro wrestling resumes in the history of the business. With his charismatic persona, ability to be both a high-flyer and a ground technician and a look that spawned his "Sexy Boy" gimmick, it would seem as if Michaels would have ascended up the championship ladder rather quickly.
However, he had to overcome many obstacles and compete in hundreds upon thousands of matches before he could call himself the best in the WWE.
Many of us remember the valiant year that Michaels had in 1996. On his quest to win his first WWE Championship, he won the Royal Rumble match to defeat Bret Hart in arguably the greatest Iron Man match in pro wrestling history. It was certainly a well-deserved achievement, as Michaels worked hard for a dozen years to achieve his boyhood dream.
However, this was not Michaels' first attempt at winning the WWE Championship defended by the same person. Four years earlier, Michaels shocked the pro wrestling world by turning on his Rockers tag team partner, Marty Jannetty. The level of shock made him one of the most hated wrestlers in the WWE but also propelled him into main event status.
At Survivor Series of the same year, Michaels had an opportunity to become the WWE champion, competing against Hart for the title. Earlier in the year, he competed against Hart for an opportunity to win the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match but was unsuccessful.
Now, with the Intercontinental Championship in hand after defeating the British Bulldog, Michaels was looking to accomplish a feat only achieved by the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI a couple of years ago: holding both the WWE and Intercontinental Championship. In a hard-fought match that lasted nearly 30 minutes, Hart successfully defended his title.
Although it would take him four more years to become champion, Michaels was certainly put on the main event map with the lesser-publicized 1992 feud with Hart, and the two continued to build one of the most controversial rivalries in wrestling history.
In WWE's Greatest Rivalries: Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels, a documentary on the WWE Network, both agreed that their earlier matches were doing nothing but gaining much respect for each other in and out of the ring. Then, when offensive jabs mixed with backstage politics, the professional and personal relationship became much more volatile.
Thankfully, they have patched up all the controversy in the following years of their first series of matches, and there is a peaceful ending to an intense rivalry. Undoubtedly, Bret Hart versus Shawn Michaels is one of the best feuds ever presented in the WWE.
Chris Featherstone is a featured writer for WrestlingINC and We Are Wrestling. Be sure to listen to the Pancakes and Powerslams show, which airs every Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET on Blog Talk Radio. Follow @cravewrestling on Twitter and join the Crave Wrestling fan page on Facebook.