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This Day in Wrestling History (July 22): Happy Birthday Shawn Michaels!

shawn michaels survivor series 2002 world heavyweight championship

It's a happy 52nd birthday for Michael Shawn Hickenbottom, but he is best known to wrestling fans as "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels.

Born in Chandler, Arizona, Michael was the youngest of four children in a military family. He briefly resided in Reading, Berkshire, England the family moved to San Antonio, Texas, where Michael grew up. He didn't like the name Michael too much, so his family and friends eventually called him by his middle name, Shawn. Obviously, it stuck. Being in a military family, Shawn moved around quite often.

His athletic career began age six when he played football. He decided on wanting to become a pro wrestler at age 12; later, he performed a wrestling routine at the high school talent show, complete with fake blood. Shawn was the captain of the Randolph High School football team. Following graduation, he attended Southwest Texas State University, but decided to pursue wrestling full-time after dropping out.

Hickenbottom began to train under Mexican wrestler Jose Lothario. It was during training he would adopt his ring name Shawn Michaels. His professional wrestling debut came for Mid-South Wrestling on October 16, 1984. Though it was a losing effort against Art Crews, many veterans came away impressed with the young Michaels.

Two months later, he would debut for the Dallas-based World Class Championship Wrestling. Soon after, he debuted for Kansas City's NWA affiliate, Central States Wrestling. Shawn along with Marty Jannetty would briefly hold the Central States Tag Team Championship in May 1986, defeating—then losing them to—The Batten Twins (Brad & Bart). Following that stint, he returned to Texas for Texas All-Star Wrestling. He teamed with Paul Diamond as the American Breed, later American Force. The two feuded with Japanese Force (Toshiaki Kawada and Ricky Fuyuki).

Shawn Michaels, at the time just 20 years old, would debut for the American Wrestling Association in 1986. He again teamed with Marty Jannetty as The Midnight Rockers. The duo had a four-month run as AWA World Tag Team Champions in early 1987, defeating Doug Somers and Buddy Rose for the titles.

The next year, The Midnight Rockers were signed by the World Wrestling Federation. Their stint would last all of two weeks before they were fired for their involvement in a bar fight; something that Michaels claimed in his 2005 autobiography, Heartbreak & Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story, was a misunderstanding. The duo returned to the AWA, but a year later, Michaels and Jannetty would get a second chance with the company.

The Midnight Rockers—renamed The Rockers as WWF owner Vince McMahon wanted their talent to carry WWF-exclusive ring names—rejoined the WWF in the summer of 1988, debuting in July at a live event. The duo proved quite popular, especially among children and women. They were a popular midcard act for over two years, including participating in the main event of the 1989 Survivor Series (the duo were both eliminated, but their team went on to win the match).

On October 30, 1990, the duo defeated The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart) for the WWF Tag Team Championship. The title change was to cover for Neidhart's pending exit from the company; however, Neidhart agreed to a new deal and was rehired. The championships were soon returned to the Hart Foundation. To cover for this (the match was never aired on television), WWF explained that a turnbuckle broke during the bout, thereby negating the result to a no contest. The turnbuckle did break, but not nearly to an extent where it could have been problematic.

The duo remained together until December 1991 when during The Barber Shop, Brutus Beefcake's talking segment, Michaels superkicked Jannetty then threw him through a plate glass window (it's often speculated that Jannetty jumped, but that's another matter). While Marty had moderate success following the breakup, what Shawn did was an entirely different story.

At the suggestion of Curt Hennig, Shawn Michaels adopted the nickname "The Heartbreak Kid", a nickname that would stick with him for the remainder of his career. With the nickname came a new persona, a cocky, vain villain. He would be accompanied by a mirror-carrying Sensational Sherri, who had become infatuated with him in storyline. Sherri would even provide the vocals for his singles theme, "Sexy Boy". Following his bouts, his departure was announced with "Shawn Michaels has left the building", a take on the "Elvis has left the building" phrase that followed the singer's performances.

His first big singles feud capped off at Wrestlemania VIII when Michaels defeated Tito Santana; the two feuded when they eliminated each other from the Royal Rumble match a few months prior. Soon after, Michaels would contend for the WWF's two singles titles, the WWF Championship and the WWF Intercontinental Championship. He failed in his first ever opportunity, losing to then-champion Randy Savage in Sheffield, England at UK Rampage (the match aired on Prime Time Wrestling in June 1992).

That summer, he challenged for the WWF Intercontinental Championship in the company's first ever ladder match against Bret Hart at a Wrestling Challenge taping (the bout would be made available on several Coliseum/WWE Home Video releases), but was not successful. But Shawn's first championship would soon come.

It would be the Intercontinental title from The British Bulldog at Saturday Night's Main Event on October 27, 1992 (the bout aired two and a half weeks later). Soon after, he challenged Bret Hart for the WWF Championship in the main event of the 1992 Survivor Series, with Hart again getting the better of Michaels.

Around this time, the Michaels-Sherri union broke up, and Shawn would feud with his former tag team partner Marty Jannetty. The on again-off again feud (the feud was put on hold twice due to Jannetty being fired—first for assaulting a cop in 1992, then for working a match under the influence of alcohol in the 1993 Royal Rumble) culminated in the spring of 1993 when Marty defeated Shawn for the Intercontinental Championship on Monday Night RAW, then Shawn winning it back three weeks later with the help of his bodyguard, Diesel.

In September 1993, Michaels was suspended for testing positive for steroids. To cover for the suspension, WWF explained that Michaels did not defend the Intercontinental Championship within a 30-day period, thereby giving the company the right to strip him of his title. While he was away, Michaels was courted by WCW, but opted to return to the WWF instead. He made several appearances in the Memphis-based United States Wrestling Association before returning to television at the 1993 Survivor Series as the substitute for Jerry Lawler in the Hart family versus Lawler's Royal Knights match (Lawler at the time was dealing with statutory rape charges).

While Michaels was away, Razor Ramon had won the Intercontinental Championship; Michaels contended that since he was never beaten for the title, he was still the rightful champion and he even had the belt to prove it. The feud lasted until Wrestlemania X on March 20, 1994, where both Michaels' and Ramon's title belts were suspended above the ring, with the belts only reachable via a ladder. Razor Ramon would go on to defeat Michaels in the bout, one voted Match of the Year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated and Wrestling Observer Newsletter readers, and was the first WWF bout to receive the full five-star rating from the latter publication. Michaels largely was away from the ring following the bout to heal nagging injuries; during his time on the sidelines, he began his own talk show segment, Heartbreak Hotel.

Just before Summerslam in August 1994, Michaels and his bodyguard Diesel won the WWF Tag Team Championship from the Headshrinkers. The next day at the event, Diesel lost the Intercontinental Championship to Razor Ramon; Michaels accidentally superkicked Diesel late in the bout, which led to the title change. The duo would be on shaky ground for the next three months, until Survivor Series that November when Michaels again accidentally superkicked Diesel in the face. No longer able to coexist as a team, Michaels and Diesel broke up.

Shawn would win the 1995 Royal Rumble match and take on his one-time best friend and bodyguard Diesel (who had won the WWF Championship just three days after Survivor Series). Michaels recruited a new bodyguard in Sid for the bout, but Shawn lost the title bout at Wrestlemania XI. The next night, Shawn was attacked by Sid. The attack was a write-off for Shawn to transition to fan favorite status.

Michaels returned to the ring just over a month later. Around this time, Michaels began referring to his fans as "The Kliq", a reference to a backstage group of the same name. The Kliq, which included Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, the 1-2-3 Kid, and later Hunter Hearst Helmsley, were perceived to have a major influence on the company, having premium storylines centered on them. The perception, which Michaels himself disputed, caused friction in the locker room.

In July 1995, Michaels defeated Jeff Jarrett for his third WWF Intercontinental Championship. He successfully defended it at Summerslam in a ladder match against Razor Ramon, a rematch from Wrestlemania X. In October, Michaels was the victim of an assault outside a bar in Syracuse, New York.

The assault prevented him from defending the Intercontinental Championship, forcing him to forfeit it at In Your House 4: Great White North to Dean Douglas; Douglas would be defeated for the title less than a half hour later to Razor Ramon. This is an oft-cited example of The Kliq's perceived influence. The next month, Michaels received a storyline concussion and collapsed in the ring following an Owen Hart enzuigiri. Michaels was written off in a teased retirement angle; this was done to cover for Michaels returning from injury too soon.

Shawn actually would return though, because retirements don't last forever in wrestling. He would win his second Royal Rumble match in January 1996, garnering him a WWF Championship match at Wrestlemania XII. Jose Lothario, Michaels' trainer, would become his on-screen manager. Michaels would challenge Bret Hart for the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania in a one-hour Iron Man match. The bout went to a scoreless tie, but the match was ordered to continue by then-WWF President Gorilla Monsoon. Michaels would win in the overtime to capture his first WWF Championship.

About a month and a half later, Michaels along with fellow Kliquers Razor Ramon, Diesel, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley would be involved in an incident known as "The Curtain Call". Razor and Diesel, who were leaving for WCW, joined Shawn and Hunter in a group hug. Diesel and Helmsley were heels at the time, meaning two faces and two heels hugged it out in public, pretty much breaching kayfabe. This was seen as controversial at the time.

Michaels would go on to hold the title for most of the remainder of 1996, losing it to his former bodyguard Sycho Sid at the 1996 Survivor Series, only to win it back at the 1997 Royal Rumble. A few weeks later on a special episode of RAW (Thursday Raw Thursday), Michaels forfeited the WWF Championship, citing a career-threatening knee injury. His "lost my smile" speech was seen as controversial, as it was perceived as a way to get out of a planned WWF Championship rematch at Wrestlemania 13 against Bret Hart (Michaels allegedly had issues with losing to Hart). Michaels really did get surgery on his knee from famed orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. In May 1997, Michaels returned to the ring, winning the WWF Tag Team Championship with Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Around that time, the rivalry between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart had gone beyond the boundaries of the ring. Both men throughout the year frequently took personal jabs at the other; Hart frequently called out Michaels on faking his knee injury, while Shawn infamously accused Bret of having "Sunny days", implying that the married Hart had an affair with WWF manager/commentator Sunny. The comment resulted in a backstage fight between Michaels and Hart just hours before a RAW is WAR taping; the fight resulted in Michaels being suspended and forfeiting his half of the WWF tag titles. Shawn would return later that summer.

At Summerslam in August, Shawn would referee the WWF Championship match between the Undertaker and Bret Hart. Late in the match, Michaels took away a steel chair from Bret Hart; Hart responded by spitting in Michaels' face. Michaels went to hit Hart, but hit Undertaker instead. Michaels was forced to count the fall (under threat that he could not wrestle on American soil if he didn't), awarding the WWF Championship to Bret. The next night, Michaels claimed the chairshot was an accident, but fans weren't quick to buy it.

Soon after, Michaels joined forces with real-life friend and fellow Kliquer Hunter Hearst Helmsley (known interchangeably as Triple H), Hunter's then-girlfriend Chyna, and Rick Rude to form D-Generation X. At One Night Only in September, Michaels defeated The British Bulldog for the WWF European Championship, making him the company's first ever Grand Slam Champion. Fans in Birmingham, England were so incensed at the outcome, they littered the ring with trash, essentially cementing Michaels as a heel.

The Undertaker soon turned his attention to Michaels. The two had a pair of PPV bouts; their first at In Your House: Ground Zero went to a no contest. Their return bout at In Your House: Badd Blood would be the company's first ever Hell in a Cell match. Despite Michaels falling off one of the cell's sides through an announce table, he triumphed when Undertaker's brother Kane debuted and attacked him near the end of the bout. The bout, rated five stars from Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Dave Meltzer, resulted in Michaels becoming the next challenger for the WWF Championship.

Michaels' rivalry with Hart and his pro-Canadian stable, the Hart Foundation, culminated at Survivor Series in November; the bout is noted for its infamous conclusion. Michaels hooked the Sharpshooter, Bret Hart's finishing maneuver, while Vince McMahon at ringside signaled for referee Earl Hebner to ring the bell. Michaels won his third WWF Championship thanks to the incident known now in wrestling lore as the "Montreal Screwjob". Shawn would briefly be a double champion, holding the WWF's world and European championships, but he lost the latter title to Triple H a not-nearly-as-infamous bout in December.

At the 1998 Royal Rumble event, Michaels took on The Undertaker in a casket match. In the early moments, Michaels took a back body drop to the outside of the ring, hitting his lower back on the casket. The drop caused damaged to three discs in his vertebrae (two herniated, one crushed). Michaels went on to win the bout (again with the help of Kane), but the injury rendered him unable to compete. Though he continued to appear on WWF programming, Shawn would wrestle just one more match, a losing effort to Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XIV before being forced to retire from in-ring competition.

Though his in-ring career ended, Shawn continued to appear on WWF programming. In July, he made a surprise return to the company as guest commentator. In November, he replaced Sgt. Slaughter as WWF Commissioner and would join Vince McMahon's stable, The Corporation. His alliance with McMahon was brief; on the January 4, 1999 RAW, he rejoined the stable he founded, D-Generation X. That reunion was even briefer; Michaels was written off so he could get back surgery; by the time he returned, the group virtually dissolved.

Michaels continued in the commissioner role through the spring and summer, then did not appear again until May 15, 2000 when he made himself the special referee for the Ironman match at Judgment Day between WWF Champion The Rock and challenger Triple H. Shawn would not appear again for another month, this time to hand over the commissioner reins to Mick Foley. It would be Michaels' last in-ring appearance for two years.

In 1999, Michaels at the suggestion of his lawyer Skip McCormick opened his own wrestling school, the Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy. Three years later, he gave sole control of the school to co-founder Rudy Boy Gonzalez. Turned out there was a reason for that: he was heading back to WWE. He also briefly took up sportscasting for a local news station in San Antonio.

On June 3, 2002, Shawn Michaels made his first appearance on WWE programming in 18 months as the newest member of the rebirthed New World Order (in a bit of trivia, Michaels was the first—and only—member of the nWo to have no previous experience in WCW). The group quickly disbanded following Nash’s quad injury in July. Soon after Triple H tried to make amends with Michaels. They even came out as D-Generation X as a way to convince Triple H to join the RAW roster. Hunter would then turn on his once-upon-a-time best friend, giving him a Pedigree. A week later, Triple H attacked Michaels from behind in a parking lot and put his head through a car window. This set up an unsanctioned match at Summerslam.

In Michaels’ first WWE match since Wrestlemania XIV, Michaels defeated Triple H, but post-match, Triple H hit Michaels with a sledgehammer. The attack would sideline Michaels until Survivor Series in November, where he would last defeat Triple H in the company’s first ever Elimination Chamber match to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Shawn’s reign as champion was brief, ending just four weeks later when he was defeated 2-1 in a Three Stages of Hell match at Armageddon.

Late in 2002, Michaels began a rivalry with Chris Jericho, a man claming he could be the next Shawn MIchaels. After winning a four-man battle royal on RAW in January 2003, Jericho earned the right to choose his own entry number in the Royal Rumble match. With Shawn Michaels assigned #1, Jericho chose #2. Oddly, the choice worked. Jericho with the help of Christian eliminated Michaels. The rivalry ended at Wrestlemania XIX, with Michaels defeating Jericho. Post-match, the two hugged, then Jericho gave Michaels a low blow.

In December 2003, Michaels resumed his feud with Triple H. Shawn would defeat Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship in his hometown on San Antonio, Texas, but the decision was reversed to a draw with both men’s shoulders down by Eric Bischoff. Angered by the decision, Michaels attacked Bischoff and Ric Flair. The attack resulted in Michaels getting fired—albeit briefly. He would soon be rehired by Stone Cold Steve Austin.

The feud extended into Wrestlemania XX when Michaels along with Chris Benoit challenged for Triple H’s World Heavyweight Championship. Benoit would submit Triple H to win the title. The Michaels-Triple H feud concluded at Bad Blood in June with Triple H defeating Michaels in a Hell in a Cell match. Shawn continued to contend for the World Heavyweight Championship through October’s Taboo Tuesday; Michaels, the voted-in challenger for the World Heavyweight Championship, would again be defeated by Triple H. Following the match, Michaels would be sidelined with a torn meniscus.

Shawn returned in early 2005, competing in the Royal Rumble match. He would eliminate Kurt Angle from the match; in retaliation, Angle illegally eliminated Michaels, then put him in the ankle lock. This set up a interpromotional clash at Wrestlemania 21. In the leadup, Michaels reunited with his longtime partner Marty Jannetty as The Rockers and defeated La Resistance. Later in the week on Smackdown, Jannetty would be defeated by Angle in a singles match. Angle escalated the humiliation by putting Sensational Sherri, Michaels’ one-time manager, in the ankle lock. At Wrestlemania 21, Angle would defeat Michaels, submitting him with the ankle lock.

The next night on RAW, Shawn Michaels was attacked by Muhammad Hassan and Daivari. The next week, Michaels demanded a handicap match with Hassan and Daivari. Bischoff would refuse his request, but would give his match a go if he could find a partner. He pleased for Hulk Hogan to return for one more match. His pleas would be answered the next week when Hogan saved Michaels. The superteam of Hogan and Michaels would defeat Hassan and Daivari at Backlash. Soon after, Michaels resumed his feud with Kurt Angle after Angle joined the RAW roster in the 2005 draft lottery, with Michaels defeating Angle at Vengeance.

On July 4, Michaels and Hulk Hogan would team again, this time defeating Kurt Angle and Carlito. Post-match, Michaels superkicked Hogan, making him a villain for the first time since his in-ring return in 2002. The next week, Michaels superkicked Roddy Piper during a Piper’s Pit segment and formally challenged Hogan to a match at Summerslam. The bout gained infamy for Michaels’ overselling (allegedly as a way of lashing out at Hogan for shortening a planned months-long feud to a single PPV match). Hogan went on to win the match, and the two shook hands post-match, essentially making Michaels a fan favorite again.

After briefly feuding with Chris Masters (including being the first man to score a clean pinfall over him), Michaels hovered around the WWE Championship title picture, but would run into a string of a bad luck, including being on the losing end of the deciding fall in the Smackdown versus RAW match at Survivor Series. Soon after, he would incur the wrath of Mr. McMahon.

In late December 2005, Vince McMahon praised Shawn Michaels for his part in the Montreal Screwjob. Michaels said he was only being loyal to his company at the time, but he has since moved on, and McMahon should do the same. McMahon did not take the slight well, putting him in unusual situations and dialing up interference on behalf of Michaels’ opponents. One noticeable example was during the 2006 Royal Rumble match. Vince McMahon again tried to interfere, but the distraction caused Shane McMahon to illegally eliminate Michaels from the match.

In February, McMahon unsuccessfully forced Michaels to retire, then Shawn defeated the Spirit Squad in a one-on-five handicap match. After the bout, Shawn was attacked by the group before being saved by Marty Jannetty. McMahon offered a contract for Marty to return to the WWE, but only if he kissed his ass. Jannetty refused and was forced to take part in Chris Masters’ Masterlock Challenge. Michaels tried to help Jannetty, but Shane McMahon attacked Michaels, forcing him to kiss McMahon’s ass.

At Saturday Night’s Main Event in March, Shane McMahon defeated Shawn Michaels in a street fight via submission in a rehash of the infamous Montreal Screwjob; Vince McMahon ordered the bell to be rung even though Michaels never submitted. Vince and Shawn met in a no holds barred match at Wrestlemania 22, with Michaels defeating McMahon despite interference from Shane McMahon and the Spirit Squad. During the bout’s closing moments, Michaels did the crotch chop. During the show’s main event, Triple H also did a crotch chop.

Claiming divine intervention helped him at Wrestlemania, Vince McMahon again challenged Michaels, this time in a tag match where Vince would team with Shane to take on Shawn Michaels and “God”. The McMahons won the no-disqualification match with help from the Spirit Squad. Three weeks later, the Spirit Squad would injure Michaels’ knee; this was done to explain Michaels’ pending absence to get knee surgery.

The crotch chops from Michaels and Triple H continued throughout the spring of 2006. On June 12, the two reunited as a reformed D-Generation X. The two would feud with the Spirit Squad, with DX defeating the group in handicap matches at Vengeance and at Saturday Night’s Main Event in July 2006. They would defeat the McMahons at Summerslam and again at Unforgiven in a handicap Hell in a Cell match which included The Big Show on the McMahons.

DX would next feud with Rated RKO (Edge & Randy Orton). The two teams met at Cyber Sunday with Eric Bischoff as the fan-chosen special referee. Bischoff allowed the illegal use of a steel chair, leading to Rated RKO being the first team to beat DX in a tag match since their reformation. Revenge would be swift and severe, however, as DX, the Hardy Boyz, and CM Punk swept Rated RKO, MNM, and Mike Knox out of Survivor Series (the only 5-0 sweep in Survivor Series history).

At New Year’s Revolution in January 2007, Rated RKO defeated DX again; during the match, Triple H suffered a torn right quadriceps. Rated RKO declared victory over DX, but Michaels was far from done with the duo; a week after declaring he would deal with Rated RKO, he took out Randy Orton with a one-man conchairto following a handicap match against the duo.

A day after narrowly missing on a third Royal Rumble victory, Michaels and John Cena defeated Rated RKO for the World Tag Team Championship. In February, Michaels would again defeat Edge and Randy Orton in a triple threat match for the right to challenge for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania 23. Cena would go on to retain the title with a submission victory.

The next night, Michaels and Cena, still tag team champions, competed in a pair of ten-team battle royals. They won the first, but during the second, Michaels threw Cena over the top rope, eliminating themselves from the match and costing them the titles (the Hardy Boyz would go on to win the titles). Michaels would be one of three challengers to Cena’s WWE Championship at Backlash, but Cena would retain the title when Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music on Cena, causing him to land on Randy Orton for the pin.

Shawn would next feud with Randy Orton, with Orton claiming he could beat Shawn Michaels. After Michaels defeated Edge on RAW the week before Judgment Day, Orton attacked Michaels, then punted him in the head. He would attack Michaels again during an interview segment at the PPV. The assaults proved too much, as Michaels collapsed during his bout with Orton, leading Randy to win via referee stoppage. Orton continued the assault, giving Shawn an RKO. Michaels would be stretchered out, and would be subsequently diagnosed with a severe concussion. In actuality, it was a write-off so Michaels could get surgery on his knee.

Michaels would be gone until October 8, one night after Randy Orton had won the WWE Championship, giving Sweet Chin Music to the new champion as Vince McMahon watched on. Later in the month, Michaels was the fan-selected challenger for Orton’s title. Orton low-blowed Michaels for an intentional disqualification; however, Shawn did not win the title. The two met again at Survivor Series, but Michaels was forbidden from using Sweet Chin Music in the bout. Without his best weapon, Michaels was defeated by Orton with an RKO

At Wrestlemania XXIV in March 2008, Shawn Michaels defeated Ric Flair with Sweet Chin Music, ending Flair’s legendary career. That would soon incur the wrath of one of Flair’s proteges, Batista, with him calling Shawn selfish and egotistical. The two met at Backlash, with Chris Jericho as the special referee. Michaels faked a knee injury late in the bout, and would use it to defeat Batista at Backlash.

After defeating Jericho at Judgment Day, Michaels and Batista met again in a stretcher match at One Night Stand, this time with Batista winning. Just over a week later, Michaels was attacked by Chris Jericho during The Highlight Reel and was sent through the “Jeritron 5000”. Michaels would suffer a detached retina, an injury that would come into play when Jericho defeating Michaels at The Great American Bash via referee stoppage.

The beating forced Michaels to consider retirement, and intended to announce as such at Summerslam. Chris Jericho interrupted the announcement and went to attack Michaels, but wound up hitting Shawn’s wife Rebecca instead. This led to an unsanctioned match at Unforgiven won by Michaels via referee stoppage. Jericho would recover, however, and win the World Heavyweight Championship scramble match after replacing CM Punk. The two met at No Mercy the next month, with Jericho retaining the title in a ladder match.

In December 2008, the global recession would wipe out Michaels’ family savings (in kayfabe). He begrudgingly accepted a one-year deal to work with John Bradshaw Layfield. Michaels failed to help JBL win the WWE Championship at the 2009 Royal Rumble event, and was chastised for it. This led to an “all or nothing” bout at No Way Out in February. If Michaels won, he would be released from his contract with full benefits and pay. Had he lost, his name and likeness would belong to Layfield. Michaels won.

Two weeks later, Michaels defeated Vladimir Kozlov (the first man to do so), earning the right to challenge The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 25. In a highly acclaimed bout, The Undertaker won, extending his Wrestlemania win streak to 17-0. Following the loss, Michaels took a sabbatical from WWE.

Shawn returned to WWE programming in August, practically living a post-wrestling career (in kayfabe). Triple H was able to convince Shawn to return to the ring and reunite DX to take on Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase, collectively known as Legacy. At Summerslam, DX defeated Legacy. The two teams continued to feud through October.

At TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs in December 2009, Michaels and Triple H defeated Jeri-Show (Big Show and Chris Jericho) for the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship, their first title together. The duo lost the titles in February to The Miz and Big Show in a three-team elimination match.

On January 4, 2010, Michaels buried the hatchet with longtime rival Bret Hart. Despite doubts from some, both Shawn and Bret confirmed it was a very real reconciliation and it was sincere. Hell, the two are even friends now.

Around this time, his obsession over his loss at Wrestlemania 25 to The Undertaker would fully consume him. Shawn wanted to face him one more time. After being turned down, Michaels would cost the Undertaker the World Heavyweight Championship at Elimination Chamber to one of Shawn’s most bitter rivals, Chris Jericho. Undertaker would relent and give Shawn his rematch, but only if he put his career on the line. In another critically acclaimed match, The Undertaker defeated Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XXVI, ending his 25-year career. The next night on RAW, Michaels gave his farewell, parting with a phrase not heard since his early days as the Heartbreak Kid, “Shawn Michaels has left the building.”

In an interview with ESPN’s Bill Simmons shortly after retirement, his decision to retire came shortly before Wrestlemania 25 when a backstage employee asked about his son Cameron. Shawn said he had just turned nine, with the employee saying he was “halfway gone”, in reference to him possibly leaving home after turning 18. The statement cut Shawn deeply. Realizing he did not want to be an absentee father, he came to the decision that the next year would be his last.

Michaels has continued to appear on WWE programming since his retirement. In December 2010, his match won Moment of the Year at the Slammy Awards and had accepted the award via satellite. Three days later, he announced he had signed a deal with the company to appear in an ambassadorial role.

In April 2011, Shawn was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Later that year, Michaels joined Bret Hart and Jim Ross on a DVD chronicling their careers and rivalry, with a focus on the infamous Montreal Screwjob. Hart said that working on the DVD was a cathartic experience, and Ross reiterated that both men were very honest and emotional in the interview. The DVD, Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart: WWE’s Greatest Rivalries, was released in November 2011.

In February 2012, Michaels confronted Triple H about facing The Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXVIII in a Hell in a Cell match, then later announced he would be the referee for the match. WWE celebrated Shawn’s career with Shawn Michaels Appreciation Night on August 6, 2012. At Wrestlemania 29, Michaels had an assist in Triple H defeating Brock Lesnar, with Michaels superkicking Paul Heyman.

In October 2013, Michaels won a fan poll for the right to be the special referee for the vacant WWE Championship match at Hell in a Cell between Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan. Late in the match, Michaels superkicked Bryan, allowing Orton to win. The act essentially turned Michaels heel briefly, and the next night Bryan put Michaels in the Yes Lock. On December 9, Shawn Michaels presented Daniel Bryan with the Superstar of the Year Slammy. Later that night during the Championship Ascension ceremony, Bryan attacked Michaels with a running knee after Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music on CM Punk.

Since then, he’s appeared mostly in panel roles. Michaels did turn face again a WWE tour of Australia following Wrestlemania 31 when he superkicked Bo Dallas.

In late 2016, Michaels became a trainer at the WWE Performance Center. His most recent appearances came earlier this year, first to promote the movie The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, then in March giving Roman Reigns advice on how to beat The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 33.

Hickenbottom, raised as a Catholic, is a born-again Christian. Following his conversion, his ring attire post-2002 often incorporated cross symbols and he often made a praying gesture during his ring entrance. He first married Theresa Wood in 1988, but the couple amicably divorced in 1994. In March 1999, he married Rebecca Curci, best known as Nitro Girl Whisper, at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The couple have two children, Cameron Kade (age 17), and Cheyenne (age 12). Shawn has a cousin, Matt Bentley, in the wrestling business.

Shawn published an autobiography co-written by David Thomas, Wrestling for My Life: The Legend, The Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar in 2015. He hosts Shawn Michaels’ MacMillan River Adventures with longtime friend and hunting partner Keith Mark. Shawn is set to appear in another movie that is in post-production, Pure Country: Pure Heart.

Earlier this year, Shawn was one eleven people inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.

A partial list of accomplishments for the man known as “The Headliner”, “The Showstopper”, “The Main Event”, “The Icon”, “Mr. Wrestlemania”, and “The Heartbreak Kid”:

  • 3-time WWF Champion
  • World Heavyweight Champion
  • 3-time WWF Intercontinental Champion
  • 5-time WWF/E Tag Team Champion
  • European Champion
  • 2-time Royal Rumble winner (1995 and 1996)
  • First Grand Slam Champion in WWE history
  • 15-time Slammy Award winner (including 5 Match of the Year wins: 1994, 1996, 1997, 2008, and 2009)
  • 2-time AWA Tag Team Champion
  • 2-time AWA Southern Tag Team Champion
  • NWA Central States Tag Team Champion

From Pro Wrestling Illustrated:

  • 2000s Feud of the Decade (versus Chris Jericho)
  • 2000s Match of the Decade (versus Ric Flair, Wrestlemania XXIV)
  • Most Inspirational Wrestler of the 2000s
  • 11-time Match of the Year (1993-1996, 2004-2010)
  • 2-time Most Popular Wrestler of the Year (1995 and 1996)
  • #1 singles wrestler in the world in 1996

From Wrestling Observer Newsletter:

  • 2 5-star rated matches (vs. Razor Ramon, Wrestlemania X; vs. Undertaker, Badd Blood)
  • Best Babyface of 1996
  • 2-time Feud of the Year (2004 vs. Chris Benoit and Triple H, 2008 vs. Chris Jericho)
  • 4-time Match of the Year
  • 2-time Most Charismatic (1995 and 1996)
  • 1989 Tag Team of the Year (with Marty Jannetty as The Rockers)
  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame Class of 2009
  • WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2011
  • Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2017

Share your favorite Shawn Michaels moments in the comments below.

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