Shawn Michaels may not be the most popular pro wrestler of all time, but in my estimation, he's the absolute best between the ropes. His greatest run came between 1994 and 1997 when he broke away from long time tag team partner Marty Jannetty and The Rockers to begin his singles career. It took some time but it wasn't long before Michaels became The Heartbreak Kid (HBK) and was winning the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) championship at WrestleMania.
Everything was cruising along nicely, too, until Michaels met Undertaker at Royal Rumble 1998 in a casket match. It was in this match that Shawn took a bump to the outside on the casket where he injured his back bad enough that he was forced to retire from active competition. He would sit sporadically make appearances for the company over the next couple years, acting as commissioner and special guest referee from time to time but his wrestling career was thought to be over.
That is until this date in WWE history (June 3, 2002) when he returned to Raw as the newest member of the reformed New World Order (NWO).
The NWO had made its way to WWE in Feb. 2002 when Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall signed contracts with the company after their old deals with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) ran out. The idea behind bringing the group in was sound enough, thinking they could capitalize on another invasion type angle (seeing as they failed so massively with the first one), but there were far too many factors working against it.
The faction worked heel but Hogan was turned babyface by the fans who treated him like a returning hero. At WrestleMania 18, his match with The Rock in Toronto left WWE no choice but to turn him for good. Scott Hall's drug and alcohol problems were as bad as ever and he was fired by the company after the infamous plane ride from hell. That left only Nash and he took over as leader and set about finding new members while WWE tried its best to keep the group going.
So Michaels was called in after 18 months away and together, they tried to recruit Triple H to turn the NWO into the living embodiment of their backstage group in the mid 90s, The Kliq. "The Game" never did make the move, however, and it wasn't long after that Nash suffered a biceps injury. He was out of action for weeks and upon his return, immediately tore his quadriceps on Raw in a tag team match, leading to Vince McMahon coming out the next week and officially disbanding the NWO.
Michaels entered into a program with Triple H right after and at SummerSlam 2002, Michaels had his first official match since his back injury and retirement years before. He would go on to wrestle for almost another decade, retiring after losing to Undertaker at WrestleMania 26 in March 2010.
Watch Michaels return to WWE as a member of the NWO after the jump.