After spending more than four months at home recovering from knee surgery, Shawn Michaels stepped right back into the WWE title picture last month and filled the void left by John Cena, who had gone down with a torn pectoral muscle.
Michaels, 42, faces WWE champion Randy Orton this Sunday at the Survivor Series pay-per-view. A DVD on his career titled The Shawn Michaels Story will be released on Nov. 27.
I spoke with Michaels in a telephone interview yesterday.
Q: There were reports that you were considering not coming back to WWE on a fulltime basis while you were out. Is there any truth to that?
A: The fulltime stuff, yeah, that crosses my mind on a daily basis. I am guilty of fluctuating back and forth. When I’m home, especially, for that amount of time, I just don’t like leaving. I still enjoy the job. I just see me slowly doing it a heck of a lot less as I move into the future. That’s something that I’m certainly even trying to do at this point. I wouldn’t say that I’m back even fulltime now, nor do I plan to take on a fulltime schedule with my current return.
Q: You returned right after John Cena’s injury. Did you come back early, before you were 100 percent, because you felt the company needed you?
A: I did. My wife is the one that noticed [Cena’s injury]. She said, “It looks like his arm is hurt.” I got a text from John the next day saying that he had torn his pec. So I said to my wife, “I get the feeling we’re going to get a call here.” Sure enough, the next morning I got a call. They wanted to see how I felt, if I thought I could come back early, and I did. I feel OK. My knee had bothered me a couple times, but it does that. I don’t really see it as a problem. And therein lies the question of the fulltime schedule. I think a fulltime schedule would probably be too much on me physically, but at the same time, I’m certainly healthy enough to do what I’m doing. And, yeah, I knew as soon as John went down that the roster was getting a little thin and I fully expected the call. I’m still a soldier. I will always have that in me as far as the company. The business can be rough and people can say what they want to about it, but I have a sick sense of loyalty to the WWE and I’m going to have that until the day I die.
Q: When you see ex-wrestlers as they get older, a lot of times they are in rough shape physically. With all the injuries that you have suffered and the wear and tear from years in the ring, are you at a point where you start to think about quality of life from a physical standpoint?
A: I’ve thought about that before, but – maybe it’s faith – but I don’t think that’s going to happen to me. I take incredibly good care of myself now. I think for a guy that’s 42, I still heal and recover extremely quickly. I’m real aware of my limitations and I try not to push them. I’d like to think I’m a little wiser. Again, I think if I were foolish enough to try to take on the full schedule and wrestle 250 nights a year like I do at the pay-per-views like I did when I was 30, then, yeah, I think you’re probably correct in assuming that when I’m 60 or 70 I’m going to be barely able to move. I think I’m going to be just fine. I feel great.
Q: So, at this point in your career, do you have to balance working a smarter style with still being Shawn Michaels and wanting to steal the show?
A: I definitely try to do that. It’s a humbling process. There used to be a time when, if there was a doubt about whether I could do it, I just said, “Let’s go ahead and do it anyway.” That isn’t the case now. I’m strong enough now personally to say, “You know, I don’t think we need it. Let’s not take the risk and find other ways around it.” Also, I think the company is trying to get back to wrestling a little bit more, which, coincidentally, works out well for a guy who doesn’t want to be breaking himself apart each and every night.
Q: You’ve spoken in the past about being difficult to deal with when you were on top in the '90s and the fact that you caused Vince McMahon to have quite a few gray hairs. Do you feel like what you’ve done over the past five years has changed whatever negative perception there was of you, and is that something that’s important to you?
A: Sure, it’s important to me, but I’m also aware that there are some people that just won’t see that and won’t care about it. I’m aware that you just can’t change some people’s thoughts and opinions of you. For me, that is where my faith has really helped me wonderfully and steadfastly. I worry about the approval of one guy, and from there, it’s my wife and my children. Other than that, if the person that you see on a daily basis is not enough for you to respect me and know that there has been a change – I’m fully aware of the error of my ways and have admitted to it and apologized and confessed it and done everything I can, but if you still want to have resentment or anger or bitterness towards me, I’m cool with that, too. But that stuff usually punishes the person that has that emotion, not the guy you’re angry at.
Q: Randy Orton, your opponent on Sunday, is a young guy with a lot of talent and charisma, but there have been times outside the ring when he has shown his immaturity. Do you see any of yourself in him?
A: Yeah, and we’ve talked about that before. I’ve said to him, “You remind me of me.” And then all you can do is say, “Make no mistake about it, I was wrong. I was going in the wrong direction and doing the wrong thing.” I definitely think Randy has had a great turnaround in the last several months. Some things are only going to come with time. He’s still young, and it’s very tough sometimes for a young person to think real long-term. From my perspective, I just talk about a healthy lifestyle and a healthy professional life. But you’re only with them a few times a month, and some things are only going to happen with time and maturity.
Q: A lot of wrestlers have said that the best match of their career was with you. Do you have a favorite match or opponent?
A: I have a number of them. The previous statement, to me, is just the greatest compliment that I’ve ever had. That’s what I will hang my hat on when my career is over with, that so many guys said that. And that’s why it’s so hard for me to pick just one. The reason they are those guys’ favorites is because so many of them were my favorites. There’s my match with Mick [Foley] at Mind Games, my match with Undertaker, the ladder match, of course. I thoroughly enjoyed my hour match with John [Cena] and thought that was special. I had what I thought was a great match with [Chris] Benoit and [Chris] Jericho. There really is a big list for me. My favorite guys to work with would be all those same guys. The Undertaker is just such a pro and he’s so smooth and fluid for a big guy. And not because the matches are the best or everything goes well, but I so appreciate talent. The enjoyment for me is watching him as we’re out there. I love to see people that are gifted and can do things that I can’t do, and he does that. It’s the same reason I enjoy Tim Duncan, at 7-foot, the way he moves across the floor and can hit a bank shot from 20 feet out.
Q: You and Triple H got back together as DX for one night on Raw recently. The two of you obviously have great chemistry. Which do you enjoy more, teaming with him in DX or working with him as an opponent?
A: That’s tough. I enjoy the silly stuff, but we get to do that behind the scenes if we want, and I’m actually more comfortable doing it there. I guess I’d have to say in the ring, because he’s a guy like Undertaker that I can go in there with and it’s almost like taking a night off; I don’t have to think because I know he’ll do it all if I ask him to. At this point in my career, that’s enjoyable, the idea of going out there and saying, “I’m not going to do anything; I’m going to listen.” That’s fun because it’s just so rare.
Photos courtesy of WWE.com