As kids, we associate ourselves with heroes.
We are inspired by these heroes. Kids find them in sports stars, fictional characters and everyday people.
Wrestling has the ability to create characters that people can relate to. Our desire to see them succeed keeps us watching every week. We often forget what initially made us fans.
At the age of six, I began watching wrestling. My earliest memories of the WWE are of Chris Jericho as Undisputed Champion, Edge entering the ring and Booker T scissor kicking Big Show off the top rope during a cage match.
However, there was one wrestler that transcended sports entertainment: The Rock. As a kid it's unsurprising that I was drawn in by The Rock's charisma.
The Rock kept me glued to the screen, and it was The Rock vs. Hogan feud that ensured I would be a wrestling fan forever.
Being a young fan, there is no insider knowledge. There is no information on the history of the WWE. Everything I knew about wrestling was what I saw on WWE TV. Believing it was real allowed me to fully enjoy it.
Unfortunately for me, I was unaware that The Rock was on his last run in the WWE and was soon to depart to Hollywood.
In Australia, SmackDown was only shown for half the year (for some unknown reason). Because of this, I grew up watching RAW. The RAW feuds were always more important to me than SmackDown feuds.
The first pay-per-view I watched was SummerSlam 2002. I ordered it to see The Rock vs. Brock, however, I also wanted to see Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels.
At this time Shawn Michaels and Triple H were at the beginning of a two-year feud.
The Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H feud was amazing. During mid-2002, the only information I had was that Shawn Michaels was a top wrestler before he was injured, and he needed four years to recover before he made his miraculous return.
I had no clue of Shawn's personal issues, all I knew was what the WWE production team and the storyline told me.
There are moments in wrestling history that are burnt in your memory. Jim Ross stated during a promo video that "Shawn Michaels and Triple H: They're closer than most brothers."
When Triple H betrayed Shawn Michaels on RAW, he became the most hated heel in wrestling and maintained that status for three years. I literally hated Triple H for over three years.
After SummerSlam 2002, Shawn Michaels became the hero I referenced earlier. The match was unbelievable, and as a kid, the ending was unforgettable.
Triple H strikes Shawn twice in his injured back with a sledgehammer. With that, Triple H completed his transformation as the top heel in wrestling.
Shawn Michaels proved he could still compete at the top level. He was better than anyone else in the ring. Shawn had the innate ability to wrestle great matches with anyone. It's why they call him the Showstopper.
Shawn was injured for months before making his return weeks prior to Survivor Series 2002. HBK personified the returning hero. For me, the only thing I ever wanted to see was Shawn winning the World Heavyweight Championship.
I didn't watch Survivor Series, however, the following night on RAW I heard the unforgettable words:
"Shawn Michaels! Shawn Michaels is the World's Champion!"
J.R.'s words were repeated numerous times in promos recapping the first ever Elimination Chamber.
Shawn Michaels had won the world title in only his second match back in the WWE. More importantly, he had triumphed over Triple H.
A month later, I watched Armageddon 2002 to see Shawn Michaels defend his World Heavyweight Championship against Triple H in Three Stages of Hell: A street fight, a cage match, and a ladder match.
My illusion was shattered when Triple H pulled down the championship at the top of the ladder. Little did I know, Shawn didn't need the world title, nor did he want the world title.
The next two years, Triple H dominated RAW. He was consistently in the main event and often champion. I watched him feud with the likes of Scott Steiner and Goldberg.
However, to me, the feud between him and Shawn was above anything else. The hatred between them was above the world championship. Whenever they encountered each other on RAW, it was apparent that their feud was never close to being over.
There was nothing more I wanted to see than Shawn Michaels triumph over Triple H. In early 2004, the feud was reignited. Shawn had Triple H beaten, however on a technicality, Eric Bischoff announced Triple H as the winner.
Shawn had pinned his own shoulders down when pinning Triple H. This led to their Last Man Standing match at Royal Rumble 2004. This is one of my favourite matches—and truly a great match.
They beat each other senseless, to the point where the match ended in a draw, when neither man could stand up.
Weeks later, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Chris Benoit were booked in a triple-threat match at WrestleMania 20—the first WrestleMania I would watch.
I popped for Benoit's victory, however, the months following the focus would be on the final days of the Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels feud.
While their hatred would carry on until the DX reformation in 2006, Bad Blood 2004 was the last stage in their feud. A Hell in a Cell match.
They worked what I believe to be one of the best HIAC matches ever and bookended their feud beautifully.
At the time, I was disappointed that Shawn was unable to beat Triple H.
When I was six years old, I found a hero in the WWE named Shawn Michaels. Personally, I see his feud with Triple H as the best of all time.
The hatred between them seemed real, and their feud had a legitimate backstory. I watched RAW fanatically for three years to see Shawn Michaels, and unknown to me at the time, see Triple H.
Years later, I feel lucky to have seen Shawn's return match at SummerSlam 2002 and his last match at WrestleMania 26.
They are two of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Shawn and Triple H made me want to be a wrestler when I was young.
This is my first official article as a WWE Featured Columnist, and I felt it should serve as a tribute to Shawn Michaels and Triple H, while also mentioning The Rock—my three favourite wrestlers.
Let me know if you enjoyed the HBK vs. HHH feud as much as I did.
Thanks for reading.