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March 27, 2010

Q&A with Shawn Michaels

Shawn Michaels, one of the most celebrated stars in WWE history, could be wrestling his final match on Sunday at WrestleMania XXVI. He’ll be facing The Undertaker in a highly anticipated rematch from last year’s WrestleMania, and if Michaels does not end The Undertaker’s WrestleMania undefeated streak, he will be forced to retire.

I conducted a phone interview with the man known as “Mr. WrestleMania” last week. Among the topics discussed were whether he is ready to legitimately walk away from the business, his feelings about Ric Flair wrestling again, and what his backstage meeting with Bret Hart in January was like.

shawnmaniaxvii.jpg

You and The Undertaker had what a lot of people say is the greatest match in WrestleMania history, and perhaps one of the greatest matches, period. Do you feel pressure to top it? Can you top it?

Yes there’s the pressure, and I’m not sure [laughs]. Heck, Kevin, you and I speak every year about this time, and I guess it’s a good thing that you ask me, “Well, can you top last year?” I always tell you I’m certainly going to do my best. I do have to say, last year — there aren’t many times I’ve come out of the ring when I haven’t felt like, “Oh, you know, I could have done something better.” I look back at things and I can be real critical of myself — I could have changed this or changed that. That’s one that I don’t know that I can say that with. So we’re there again wondering if Taker and I can do it. I think that with the stipulation and some of the changes, that helps you out. I think what really helps is the emotional connection that both Undertaker and I have with the WWE fans — I think that goes a long way for us.

I think The Career vs. The Streak, the inevitability of that stipulation and knowing that something has to come to an end, helps a bunch and will obviously add to our match. Physically or time-wise will all of those things be the same, I don’t know, but I think as you know, the most important thing to me is for the story and all of that to be profound, and at the end of all of it you go, “Wow, that was special.” I think after a couple days people can go back and analyze it and look at it and go, “Well, you know, it wasn’t as good here, it wasn’t as good there,” but we really have to make sure that we focus on the instant reaction of impacting the audience, and hopefully if we do that, we will have done our job. But it’s a tall order. Believe me, we all are aware of that.

What was going through your mind when The Undertaker had that horrible landing on the dive over the top rope? Did you think that something tragic had happened?

I was pushing one guy and didn’t actually see the impact, but I remember looking over and seeing the little indention and obviously being concerned, but he was moving, so I figured that was good. You hear the gasp of the people. Unfortunately for The Undertaker, we sort of get accustomed to thinking he’s 10-feet tall and bulletproof, and a lot of times that works against the poor guy. I think certainly that’s something that we’re aware of and cognizant of that, even in respect to one another. We’re two guys that a lot of folks see as warriors who can do everything under the sun, and we can pull one another aside and know otherwise. We can do our best, but all you can do in a situation like that is give each other a squeeze and let each other know we’re moving on, and it’s like everything — we’ll worry about it afterward.

Can you describe what it was like to meet with Bret Hart backstage when he made his return?

As he has mentioned, it was pretty brief as far as what we wanted to do out there. That was very brief because we did want it to be as real and as fresh as it could be. In addition to talking to one another about that, it was very open and very honest, and I certainly have to say from my perspective, nice. It was important to me to talk to him face to face. All you can do is sort of bare your soul in front of somebody and let it go from there, and that’s certainly what I did. I remember way back when I first came to WWE and how we used to get along, and it was nice and it was pleasant. And to have that now is nice. I know for a lot of people it may seem strange, but for he and I it’s a nice place to be. I look back on my return in 2002 and so many things have gone full circle, and to be where he and I are at now, it’s one of those things where you say, “Man, second chances are really nice.” Everybody doesn’t always get them. You know me, I’m a little deep and a little goofy about that stuff, but it’s important. In a strange business and in a business that, heaven forbid, you show your heart, you’re going to be called a bunch of stuff and made fun of constantly, but for me, it was nice and it's a great place to be with him.

Did you have any trepidation at all about being face to face with him? He had said on more than one occasion that if he ever saw you again he was going to punch you in the face.

I guess there is a certain amount of that, but I suppose that’s one of those areas where that rebellious attitude that I had years ago allowed me to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t ordinarily do, and although its toned down and not nearly as obnoxious as it once was, it’s still there in the form of boldness. I have to be honest: It helps knowing that if it does happen, it’s halfway justified or understandable. I’m really way OK with stuff like that. There was the, “Hey, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” but the desire that something was going to happen is better than it being out there forever and never truly resolved.

What are your thoughts on Ric Flair wrestling again? Are you disappointed? Did he talk to you about it?

He did call me. He called me once to let me know he was going to do the [Hulk] Hogan match in Australia. He wanted to know if it was OK and I of course told him that it was. Then he called me again when he was going to sign with TNA and asked the same thing. There’s nothing you can say. I certainly don’t have what it takes to look at somebody and say, “Don’t go make a living.” I told him that, for me, nothing can take away that special moment. It will still always be to me that I had Ric Flair’s last match. I tried to do the best job I could for him. I think it was a special moment. Anything after that [pauses]. I feel for him, but I’m certainly not angry or disappointed or anything. I would like to think that Ric probably would have liked that to have been his last match, too. The fact that it couldn’t be, I understand. Those are circumstances that I certainly can’t control.

One of the things you have to understand is that if you’re going to be a friend of Ric’s, you sort of know that there’s some baggage that comes along with that. Certainly the older I get the more I’m learning about conditional situations, and the difference between that and unconditional — unconditional friendship, unconditional love. All those types of things we can talk about but it’s a whole other thing to put them into action. I do my best to put them into action. I want what’s best for Ric, even if Ric might not always be aware of what that is, I still want that for him. Nothing will take away from that moment. It’s sill truly special. I still wear my watch every day, so it’s still something I’m really proud of. [Note: Michaels had matching diamond Rolex watches made for he and Flair to commemorate their match.]

Can you talk about what life was like for you between 1998 and 2002 — the four years that you weren’t wrestling — and the changes that you made?

I didn’t go through a lot of missing the ring and missing being out there. The anger was more about not being able to finish something on your own terms that you started. Being forced out — even if its your own fault — is probably the area where I struggled the most. It never really occurred to me that, “They’re going into the biggest economic boom we’ve ever had and you’re missing it,” because I’ve truthfully never done it for the money. I mean it was a plus, but it wasn’t the main reason. The start of the change for me came with meeting Rebecca. Starting there, seeing something that was more important than you and more important than wrestling and more important than having to leave something when you didn’t want to. And then the stakes got upped with the birth of our son. Again, there’s something else that’s more important than you, more important than wrestling. That slowly led to my salvation, and that’s the ultimate to where you sort of find out that it isn’t all about you. I think for me, everything that I went through came from a severe case of insecurity. Insecurity comes from wanting affirmation, and I think the idea that through salvation I had this affirmation from the end all be all of dads and fathers.

Again, for me, it was constantly seeking someone’s approval, and trying to find that in wrestling and wrestling matches and then even trying to find that in Rebecca and then in our son. As wonderful as all of those were, they’re not going to measure up. You end up putting what sometimes is put one me in the wrestling business — an unattainable standard. Rebecca’s a human being, my son’s a human being — they’re flawed. And seeking approval in the wrestling business — heck, it’s a flawed business, it’s just not going to happen. So the idea that you then go to Almighty God for your affirmation and the realization that, “I like you for the way you are.” I can remember us reading a book to our son when he was very little, and it was, “God made you and God doesn’t make mistakes.” So for whatever reason, as screwed up as I was, he built me this way for a particular reason, so then the only thing was for me to figure out what that reason was. I think through time I’ve slowly started to figure that out.

That’s why I came back. I had a gift to do this. It just wasn’t used in the right way. If we’re not a good steward of what God gives us, he takes it away. I think that’s what happened. I wasn’t a good steward of the gift that he gave me in this line of work. I abused it so he took it away. I’ve tried to come back and use it in a positive way. It’s him, family and then your job. I work on being a good husband and a good father after that, and then what’s left over from those things, I apply to my work. It’s not the end all be all anymore, but I still feel like I’ve done a good job at it and I’ve been faithful at it. But everybody does understand that at 11:06 on Monday, I’m done. You can call all you want during the week, but I don’t take part in it and when I show up Monday, I will be there and I will do my job to the best of my ability, but then after that I’m done again.

I’ve read that one of the reasons you have always wanted to be on Raw and not Smackdown is because the Smackdown schedule would conflict with your bible study group. Is that true?

Yeah. Tuesday nights was my Bible study, Wednesday was mine and my son’s that we went to, and my wife and daughter’s. It would throw a monkey wrench into that, and that’s a big part of our life. You can switch my schedule around but I may not be the employee for you that I’ve been — you tell me which one you want more [laughs]. Yes, that is the reason. I also understand that I get held to a different standard than other Christians do in this business. It isn’t like I’m the only one. But other ones can play bad guys on TV and people can say it’s a character. I do something and they go, “Oh, he’s compromising on his faith.” [laughs]. Heck, I get in trouble with a bunch of church folk every time I do the DX thing. I know that people are as sure as they’re standing there that they know about my life, they know who I am and they know how I am — and that’s cool. All I can do is tell them at the end of the day is, you don’t [laughs]. What you see on TV and even what you see in the airport, when I walk out the door, Shawn Michaels takes over. But unless you’re inside this house every day, you don’t know. And that’s OK. But it’s important that my wife and children get the man that they bargained for.

First, how banged up are you at the moment? Second – and I realize that you can’t give anything away about Sunday’s match — do you feel like you're ready to retire?

One, I feel OK, but getting banged up and certainly getting to the point where feeling OK is not always good enough anymore. The bottom line is that’s why I agreed to the stipulation. I’m ready for whatever decision people want to make. With a lot of guys there’s a lot of anxiety and emotion when they make that decision [to retire]. I don’t want to say it’s not emotional, because it is, but I feel very peaceful about it. I guess that’s why I feel no matter which way the pendulum swings, it’s OK. It’s like laying there on the machine and the machine’s keeping you alive and you just know when somebody’s at peace with going and they flip the switch. It’s important to me to not jerk the fans around — I don’t want to do that. So whatever decision is made I’m going to go with that. I suppose in a perfect world I’d like to be able to say farewell and do a little go-around and say goodbye, but if that isn’t in the cards, that’s OK, too. If I gotta go, I’m gonna go, and I will be up front. If I come back, I’d look at people and go, “It’s because I need the money.” [laughs] I feel like Shawn Michaels, that character, could get away with that, and that would be the only reason.

I don’t think I’m going to go through the “He’s gotta have that feel. He’s gotta go back to it.” I think you can have that stuff without getting in the ring. Heck, I can still walk out there and do something and get to kick somebody and get that feeling, so I don’t necessarily buy into that one. I will tell you this, Kevin, honestly, as much as I enjoy the question every year of how are you going to follow last year, it gets to be a tough thing to live up to on a regular basis, and I mean that with as much humility as you can say it with. I’m very thankful that I get that question, but it’s just, you know, you get to be 44 and it gets harder to do. It’s like a guy on a wire, for the first time he looks down and he realizes he’s on a wire. All these years I’ve been going along and I’ve never really looked down from the wire. And then you wonder, “Well, if I slip will they catch me or will they watch me fall?” I’ve got an opportunity that most people don’t get — to go out with my head held high and be able to hear, “He didn’t stay around too long. His last “x” amount of years were really special.” I don’t know anybody that gets that opportunity. That’s important to me and I’d like to do that before I slip on that wire.

To read a Q&A with Michaels from March 2008 click here

To read a Q&A with Michaels from November 2007 click here

Photo courtesy of WWE

Posted by Kevin Eck at 7:00 AM | | Comments (29)
Categories: Q&As
        

Comments

After reading this I now firmly believe this is the last match for HBK. What do you think Kevin, you you feel that from the tone of his voice? I wish he would have had had 1 last run as wwe champion and put one of the younger guys over in a classic to drop the belt. But hey thats just me!!

RESPONSE FROM KE: He sounded sincere as far as staying retired whenever he does walk away.

Why do I feel like he will be wrestling Ric Flair in TNA in the near future??

Thanks Kevin, really enjoyed that. I hope, perhaps selfishly, that this isn't the end for HBK.

Great Article as Always. I like reading the interviews done by fans because they ask the questions other fans want to know, for example, the Smackdown and bible studies.

Although one question I would love to know the answer to. "What do his sons friends think of their friends dad being a pro-wrestler?" It is the only question I have not seen asked over the thousands of interviews I have read over the years. I know kids are normally off limits for a reason but I would honestly love to know the answer.

It's nice to see that Shawn's calmed down a bit over the years and that he and Bret have found some kind of peace between them at last.

Great stuff, start to finish. You can clearly see how devoted he is to his family, if that wasn't already evident from the past. It also just goes to show how good some of these guys are at the acting side of what they do.

Noticed the end of his answer to the first Hart-related question got cut off after "but for me."

Brilliant interview.

What an amazingly grounded person he's turned out to be. I think after he loses to UT, he's going to retire, and he's one of the few that will really stay retired. The only he'd come out of retirement would be to do a favor for a friend.

And it'd be nice if he went out before he loses another step physically and can't to that trademark kipup.

i have just one word kevin!!! "wow"
i have been shwan;'s fan ever since i started watching wrestling.! but that was shawn michaels as a wrestler. but to really read about him, what he feels about the wrestling business and his life, its just great.. i guess now i am a fan of 'micheal hickenbottom' as well!

One blog I read asked an interesting question. What is more valuable? Shawn Michaels' career or Undertaker's winning streak. It mentioned Undertaker competing in 17 wrestlemanias is more impressive than him winning all his matches.

I would like to see Shawn Michaels win, but I believe he different from other wrestlers because if he retires I believe HBK is not coming back.

One reason I believe HBK has a slim chance is he has never really cleanly defeated the Undertaker if I recall. There was intereference in their Hell In a Cell and the Royal Rumble matches back in the 90's. If one person was going to end Taker's streak I has to be Mr. Wrestlemania. You can't give it to Triple H he hasn't had his "wrestlemania" moment yet. You can let a young guy like the Miz or Sheamus beat him because we have no idea if they will be around ten years from now or if they will become future HOFamers. I don't want Taker's streak ened to a guy who might become a has-been.

There was a reason why Flair lost to HBK at Wrestlemania 24. If Flair was going to retire why not lose to arguably to best in-ring performer in WWE history.

That was a really good interview

Thanks, great interview.

Nice interview!

Here is my big prediction for Wrestlemania.

HHH turns heel to counter act Orton's ongoing Face turn.

HBK loses to Undertaker. HHH (who lost to Sheamus earlier) may come out and somehow cause HBK to lose the match.

Or even better, after HBK loses, HHH comes out to egg the crowd on in cheering HBK. Then when HBK is not looking, kick to the midsection and pedigree on HBK. Show closes with HHH getting his Wrestlemania moment (as a HEEL)!

After, all its been a while since HHH last unexpectedly turned on his "friend".

You wanna play the game??????


God you're such a HBK mark. Asking him questions and not chanting "what" repeatedly. Insinuating Bret Harts bark's worse than his bite? Call yourself a journalist? Why do they pay you to write this drivel... etc...

Just getting those out of the way seeing how there seems to be an idiot on every post nowadays.

This is a great, honest interview. I can't wait for the match, and I just hope that if it ends as we all expect, Shawn gets a send-off to rival Ric Flair's the next night on Raw. He has been the greatest performer in the history of Wrestlemania and he thoroughly deserves to go out on a high!

Before reading this, it just didn't occur to me that Shawn would be totally fine with retiring at this stage of his career. Really adds some insight to his match tomorrow night.

Great stuff, Kev. I had the feeling the last couple weeks that either HBK would win, or they'd find some loophole and have the streak and Michaels's career remain intact. I just didn't think they were building up anywhere near the amount of hype one would expect for HBK's last match. We all remember the Flair hype a couple years back - there really hasn't been any of that.

After reading this piece, however, I think this may be it. Michaels seems to be in a good place, and while I selfishly am not ready for him to retire yet, I would love to see him go out while he still has plenty left in the tank, unlike so many other wrestlers and athletes in general.

What a lovely guy he is. Great interview, Kevin. Hope he doesn't retire, but I'll be happy for him if he does.

I hope he loses to Undertaker and stays retired. I really liked the Q+A and hopefully his answers show he's ready to retire.

I CNA TELL Y THAT FOR MORE THAN 25 I HAVE WATCH WWF NOW WWE SHAWN IS ONE OF THE BEST AND IN MY MIND I HOPE HE WINS, BUT LIKE SHAWN SAID FAMILY FIRST LAST AND ALWAYS AND I AM GLAD HE CHANGED HIS LIFE. TO SHAWN UR WIFE IS VERY LUCKY BUT I KNOW U WILL SAY U ARE THE LUCKY ONE. GOD BLESS AND THANK U FOR 25+YRS U ARE TRUELY THE HEART BREACK KID

Really Wonderful article ... After reading this i got to a conclusion that Shawn is Going to loose to Undertaker & retire .

We Should appreciate his 28 years of Efforts to entertain us.
Thanks u Shawn...God bless

Great interview! I've been watching Shawn since the Midnight Rocker days. I love watching pro- wrestling but it is Shawn Michaels that has made me continue to follow the industry. The Rockers were my favorite tag-team as a kid. I was in the Richmond Coluseum when he "passed out" in his match with Owen. From then on I knew he had the "drama" of the buisness down. I was so happy Shawn won the WWE Championship in the Iron Man match. That Championship match was great wrestling drama and that wasn't even the "screw job". In the infancy of DX I saw Shawn and Hunter get the Richmond crowd so heated by "mooning" everyone that a riot almost broke out. I had bruises on my back and arms from the items being thrown ringside since I was in the second row. It was awesome. A few months later everyone was cheering DX for "mooning". His match at WrestleMania against Steve Austin was hard to watch because most people knew Shawn was really hurt. I think he proved there how tough he was. However the best pro-wrestler ever had been retired in his prime. It was only the interview skills of Austin and The Rock that kept me interested in wrestling. Four years later lightning struck twice. Shawn's career after his absence was even more impressive than the first half. As I grew into adulthood and got married I introduced my new wife to the wrestling world. Her first wrestling show was WrestleMania 23. I never told her my favorite wrestler and she had never watched a show before. She instantly picked Shawn Michaels as her favorite about 2 minutes into the match with Cena. She said "no one moves like him". We got the chance to meet HBK last year. It was great to see that he is so down to earth despite being an all time great. If this is Shawn Michaels' last match I will be disappointed not to see him on RAW every week but happy that he went out on top. He hasn't lost a step in the ring and he deserves to spend time with his family.This is much different than his first retirement but I think still in his prime. If this is not his last match, I look forward to more Shawn Michaels for as long as he wants to be the in the ring.

great interview... Pratik said it best, Wow.

If Sean loses tonight I am gonna have to struggle to keep my composure.

I am not ready for the retirement of the Showstopper. He's been a reason to tune into RAW for so many years, I just can't picture it without him. Good luck HBK, God bless, and if this is the end, thank you so much for all you've done over the years.

Kevin, it may not be high praise exactly, but that interview was 100% better then anything Michael Cole did on the "My Journey" DVD. Can't believe it's over.

Im gonna miss you Shawn. You have been my very favorite ever since i started watching wrestling. Thanks for all the years of enjoyment you have brought to wrestling. To TNA i go now.

micheals is the most charismatic wrestler in the wwe ever since. His match with the phenom at wrestlemania 25 was the most outstanding matches ever seen and i expect this match also 2 be the best match ever .so wat if micheals lose the match no on e can change the phase that he is the best there is , the best there was and the best there ever will be. No men would be ever born on the who can compare shawn,s stength and his will

ut is a loooooooooooooserrrrrrrr

hey wwe is nothing without shaun michaels even though he retired he has to come to wwe to see his fans and i rly want to see him but i don't think this is easy cause i live in egypt i hope to go to america but it is hard so shaun michaesls we ( MISS YOU SOO BAD ) WE CAN'T JUST SEE U ON WWE plz come back please (i thank god you were alive after your injury)

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About Kevin Eck
The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Eck blogs about professional wrestling.
E-mail Kevin.
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