Welcome back to another edition of Cases For The Greatest here at the MWC Blog.
This is where I examine some of the wrestlers who are often viewed by some or many as the greatest pro wrestler of all time and why they have an argument in being so.
It's the Heartbreak Kid himself; Shawn Michaels!
Ring Name: Shawn Michaels
From: San Antonio, Texas, USA
Weight: 225 lbs.
Trained by: Jose Lothario
Debut: October 10, 1984
Retired: March 28, 2010
WWE Championship (3x)
World Heavyweight Championship (1x)
WWE Intercontinental Championship (3x)
WWE World Tag-Team Championships (6x)
WWE European Championship (1x)
1995 & 1996 Royal Rumble Winner
First Grand Slam Champion in WWE History
WWE Hall of Fame Inductee (Class of 2011 & 2019)
Multiple "Match of the Year" Awards from PWI
1984-1988 - After training, he wrestled for multiple NWA territories in Texas and the AWA.
May 15, 1985 - Formation of "The Midnight Rockers" with Marty Jannetty in NWA Central States.
1988-1991 - The Rockers would go on to become one of the most notable tag-teams in the WWF during this time.
October 30, 1990 - Defeated The Hart Foundation for the WWF World Tag-Team Championships, but the reign is not considered official by the company.
December 2, 1991 - The famous incident at Brutus Beefcake's "Barber Shop" segment where Shawn Michaels literally and figuratively kicked Jannetty out and began a solo career.
1992-1996 - Birth of the "Heartbreak Kid" persona, wrestled mostly as a heel. Also the formation of The Kliq.
March 31, 1996 - Won the WWF World Championship for the first time after a classic 60 minute iron man match against Bret Hart in the main event of WrestleMania 12.
August 11, 1997 - Debut of D-Generation X with Michaels being one of its founding members.
1998-2002 - Darker years of HBK's career. Had his initial retirement and hiatus from wrestling with ocassional appearances with the WWF. Also founded the Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy.
2002-2009 - Return to the company having high profile feuds with the likes of Triple H, Chris Jericho, John Cena, Kurt Angle, and The Undertaker among many others.
March 28, 2010 - Streak vs. Career. WrestleMania 26. HBK's final match of his career against The Undertaker.
April 2, 2011 - Induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Would be inducted in 2019 again as a part of DX.
November 2, 2018 - After several years from retirement, HBK returned to the ring once more in a tag match between him and HHH vs. Taker & Kane. Would rather forget about this honestly.
Shawn Michaels has an interesting case as a wrestler. If we are going to talk about his career, he really had two "peaks" that are drastically different from one another! The 90's heel HBK where he had famous matches against the likes of his fellow Kliq members and Bret Hart, then you got later on in the 2000's the "rejuvanated" HBK who is now a veteran but can still go with the best of them.
If we are going to look at it from a performance perspective stand point then yeah, only a few, if at all can match Shawn Michaels' skills in the ring! Right from the beginning even in his early years as a tag-team with Marty Jannetty it is known that he could wrestle well. This is large impart to his top notch athleticism especially in his prime! In a lot of ways, HBK paved way to many of the wrestlers today.
Back then the stigma of "pro wrestling is an upper body business" was still strong. With the likes of Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior being prominent faces then you got gigantic figures like Andre, Bundy, and Studd on the other side of the spectrum. But Shawn Michaels has proved that you did not need a large roided up body to convey stories in the ring and perform to get the crowd either to cheer or boo you, all you need is a little bit of everything, but his weren't "little" so to speak.
With the majority stuff out of the way let us take a look at the "two versions" of Shawn Michaels. First was in the 90's. HBK was the at the top of the world in terms of being one of the best performers, perhaps the greatest in all of North America! Whether in a technical match up or highflying affair, he could mesh with anyone's style. The way he sells his moves is just on par with over the top and realistic! I think he's definitely in the top 3 sellers of all time along with Mr. Perfect and Ricky Morton!
But what makes the 90's HBK stand out is paving the way for how wrestling is being performed today in any form of matches. Whether it's just a typical singles or tag match or a match involving stipulations and gimmicks, HBK really pulled off something different each time that many who followed after him would copy or take something out of! A unique style of telling stories in the ring quite unheard of before at least in the States.
Then we get to the 2000's HBK. After a hiatus from the ring, Shawn returned to the WWE and in my opinion turned out like a fine wine, became better with age! His matches around this era are simply unforgettable but it may also be admittedly bias on my part since this is the era of wrestling I grew up in. The rivalry with Triple H was great and all of his matches with Jericho, Angle, and of course The Undertaker are nothing short of iconic!
Bret and HBK will always be intertwined with one another but personally my favorite rivalry and I think is even better is HBK and Taker. The two managed to pull off a wonderful storyline continously in a span of two years. Everytime they get in the ring together, it feels like magic is about to happen, you know you will see something special. Their match at WrestleMania 25 is regarded as the greatest match in Mania history, after all both men are pretty much synonymous with the event itself!
What makes Shawn stand out from the rest though is the emotions. Every time he shows any sort of emotion against an opponent in the ring, you believed in it. It doesn't look like acting, it looks natural. Evident most especially against Ric Flair in the Nature Boy's retirement match. The drama supplemented is just about right to convey the story well along with the moves being executed. A lot of these things are common now from what I observe, especially in high profile puroresu matches, but there's just something the way HBK does it that just fits the right proportions.
Like with every case we've looked at though there will be some cons and well it is no secret that HBK's biggest detriment to being called the "GOAT" for some was his attitude. Drugs, sex, alcohol, he lived a rockstar lifestyle during the top of his run in the 90's. His persona as the Heartbreak Kid was true and doing business with him could be a pain for some as well documented by many of his peers through the years. He is a one of a kind performer but he can be choosy to who he works great with sometimes.
This would cause Shawn to not really feel like the "clear top guy" during the post Hogan era. Yes he was a heel I know, but there was a point where he could have clearly been the one waving the WWF banner and be seen as the new top face because he could work both roles well but his way of dealing things off the ring would be against that from happening. The New Generation Era was short lived and was one of WWE's darkest years with awful blue collar gimmicks and cartoonish characters, but Bret managed to stand out and be seen as clearly the new top face of the company, it was never Shawn Michaels. He could have been but wasn't.
Despite it all, a lot of people still respects what he did in the ring. I couldn't stress it enough but Shawn Michaels was an outstanding performer! Professional wrestling became both competitive and dramatic in his style, but he was able to balance both elements well without going overboard (sometimes.)
A well rounded athlete with a lot of charisma to make the fans react to anything he does. An attitude that fits and paved way for a new era. Blazed the trail for a plethora of professional wrestlers in the world today. Often imitated but will never be duplicated.
That is why he has a Case for the Greatest!
PREVIOUS: BRET HART
COMING NEXT: JOHN CENA
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The name is Super Mastodon. Been a wrestling fan throughout my life, and I share my interest with you here, at the MWC Blog.
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