Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash (Diesel) came together via an assist from Rick Steiner. They would go on to help WWE forge a new identity after a rocky start to the ’90s. Here’s the story of their formation (and eventual demise).
Good Friends, Better Enemies: The True Story of Shawn Michaels and Diesel
The introduction of Kevin Nash to the business was far from unique. Here is where our story begins.
Kevin Nash Gets His Start In The Business
Like many performers before and after, Kevin Nash was encouraged to give professional wrestling a shot by wrestlers who would frequent strip clubs after the shows.
Nash, at the time, was the floor manager of such an establishment in Atlanta, Georgia. And it was Barry Windham, then in WCW, who first suggested that Nash give this new career a try.
"Barry was like, ‘Dude, you need to get into the business,’" Nash explained in the WWE Network program WWE Untold. "I said, ‘What do I have to do?’ and he said, ‘You need to learn how to do it,’ so I went down to this Quonset hut to take tosses and hit wood."
Once hired by WCW, Nash was paired with Cory Pendarvis in a tag team known as The Master Blasters.
The duo’s ring attire, face paint, and distinctive hairstyles instantly reminded fans of the Road Warriors, a legendary tag team that had at the time recently made the jump to the WWF in June of 1990.
Nash (as Master Blaster Steel) and Pendarvis (as Master Blaster Iron) teamed together only a handful of times before Pendarvis was replaced by “Master Blaster Blade” Al Green.
This pairing enjoyed a notable winning streak before a squash defeat at the hands of The Steiners brought their dominant run to an end.
In the years following his WCW debut, Nash would be saddled with a handful of gimmicks.
The first of these, Oz, cast him as a fantastical character from the same universe as the classic L. Frank Baum children’s novel The Wizard of Oz.
The second, and much more notable of these, was Vinnie Vegas, a larger-than-life pseudo-mobster whom Nash played with great humor and wit.
The big man, it seemed, worked better when he was allowed to be himself.
Shawn Michaels Goes Solo
Michaels’ heel turn was complete, setting the stage for his singles run as "The Heartbreak Kid."
Throughout his first solo push, Michaels perfected his new character: a vain, arrogant, and mirror-loving heel whose advances were coveted by his manager, "Sensational" Sherri Martel.
During this time, Michaels, fast becoming one of the most adept and exciting in-ring performers of his age, challenged Bret Hart for the WWF Championship and managed to capture the Intercontinental Championship by defeating The British Bulldog in November ’92.
Like those of the very best showmen, HBK’s arrogant persona was widely considered to be a reflection of his true self. The heat he generated on screen was matched by that which followed him backstage, which a now-reformed HBK admits.
When questioned on the "rumors" of his behind-the-scenes antics, Michaels candidly states, "At this point, the idea that we would still call them rumors is kinda laughable. They’re not rumors, I was a handful for Vince and everybody else!"
Shawn Michaels and Diesel Join Forces
Realizing that he may need legitimate protection and as a means of building on the precarious nature of his on-screen character, Shawn Michaels, now without Sherri’s services, suggested that he would benefit from the employment of a bodyguard. That man turned out to be Kevin Nash.
As Michaels tells it, he saw Nash performing on a WCW show and immediately singled him out as the right man for the job.
"I had seen him on WCW as Vinnie Vegas. I can remember at that time believing that Andrew Dice Clay was the funniest guy. [Nash] sorta had an aspect of that in Vinnie Vegas."
Soon after Michaels knew he had found his guy, he reached out to Rick Steiner to learn more about Nash and his contract situation in WCW.
Once Kevin talked with Rick and heard of the plans Shawn, someone he hadn’t yet known, had for him, he asked for his release from WCW under the pretense of returning to his former non-wrestling job.
Nash was now free to go to the WWF, where he formed an instant connection with Michaels.
Diesel Debuts in the WWF
On his debut, Kevin Nash interfered in a match between Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty to help his new ally win back the Intercontinental Championship.
In this role, he was given the name “Diesel” and repackaged as a silent, thuggish biker who would act like the hired muscle when Michaels needed some extra help in and out of the ring.
As time went on, Nash was given more license to be himself, and he would eventually win the WWF Tag Team Championships alongside Michaels, a feat which marked the first time HBK had held the belts in question.
The "Two Dudes With Attitudes" would also capture the Intercontinental Championship during the first phase of their alliance, beginning an 18 month-hold over the title for The Kliq, with fellow member Razor Ramon being the only other person to share this honor between June 1993 and January 1995.
The WWF Championship Push of Diesel
The alliance between Shawn Michaels and Diesel would dissolve after the 1994 Survivor Series pay-per-view when Michaels accidentally superkicked “Big Daddy Cool.” Diesel would chase Michaels, and despite failing to catch him, the reaction from the crowd turned him babyface.
Michaels’ actions resulted in the team being forced to vacate the titles, with the latter thrust into the WWF title picture.
Seeing Diesel propelled into the WWF title picture before him caused a bit of envy for Michaels, but he maintains that he was happy for his friend.
"We all get in this to have that moment.," Shawn admits. "That’s what you do – it’s the belt. It’s an acknowledgement. It’s affirmation. It’s at that moment when you realise jealousy is going to set in, [but then] you’re overcome with ‘that must be cool for him’ and I got to help with that."
Diesel would win the WWF Championship in an 8-second squash match against Bob Backlund on November 26, 1994.
The quickness of the result, explains Sean "X-Pac" Waltman, was "because the match would have been f***ing rotten otherwise. No other way to do it. And [Backlund] sold that f***ing thing. He’s still selling it. He’s still selling Kev’s finish from that f***ing night in the Garden."
The reasoning behind Vince McMahon pushing Diesel over Michaels at the time is up for debate.
Nash himself has said that Vince "still thought [wrestling] was a big man’s sport."
But with individuals of the size and stature of Bret Hart never far from the title around this era, it could also be suggested that Michaels’ unreliability and reputation, of which his failed 1993 steroid test and subsequent forfeiting of the Intercontinental Championship is a good example, contributed to McMahon’s reluctance to bestow this sort of responsibility upon him.
Shawn Michaels and Diesel would compete against one another for the title at WrestleMania XI, a match now infamous for its energetic start and Michaels’ insistence on performing high spots.
In his WWE Untold interview, Nash states, "I know for a fact that [Shawn was] going to try to blow me up. He was going to try to out-perform me because he wants my f***ing spot. We’re best friends, but I know what his f***ing motivations are."
After taking time off following WrestleMania XI, Michaels rejoined forces with Diesel and would stay with him until Diesel lost the WWF Championship to Bret Hart at Survivor Series ’95. Before this loss, Diesel had the title around his waist for 358 days.
In this mid-1995 run, the duo again became World Tag Team Champions, and Michaels would win the Intercontinental Championship for the third time. Michaels would, again, lose the belt without defending it, forfeiting it after being physically assaulted in Syracuse, New York.
The Boyhood Dream Comes True
With Kevin Nash now strapless, he entered a feud with The Undertaker. The Deadman would even go on to cost him his chance at regaining the title by interfering in a steel cage match between Diesel and Hart at February 1996’s In Your House 6.
Michaels, meanwhile, would win the Royal Rumble for a second consecutive year, eliminating Diesel to earn his shot at the big time against Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII. This contest, a 60-minute Ironman match that would conclude with Michaels fulfilling his boyhood dream and emerging victorious in sudden-death over time, is still spoken of as one of the greatest in pro wrestling history.
Nash, by that time the subject of big-money overtures from WCW, fell victim to The Undertaker in the second-highest match on the card.
A little over a month later, Michaels and Diesel would clash for the title at In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies, a memorable match that made use of legendary onlooker Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon’s artificial leg.
This would be the last time Kevin Nash featured on WWF television until 2002. He and Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) would soon leave for WCW, but not before their controversial "Curtain Call" incident at Madison Square Garden heralded a new era of realism in wrestling and a shocking departure from the industry’s allegiance to kayfabe.
In recent years, The Kliq – consisting of Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Paul "Triple H" Levesque, and Sean Waltman – have reunited on stage at several WWE Hall Of Fame ceremonies, and both Michaels and Nash, who no longer actively compete, appear to be more honest about their storied past.
For these Two Dudes With Attitudes, the dominance that they wielded over mid-’90s WWF is something to be celebrated. And without them, it could be suggested that The Attitude Era may have come about a little differently.
These stories may also interest you:
- Diesel: From Failed Gimmicks to Record-Breaking WWF Champion
- Tales of The Kliq’s Stranglehold on the WWE Locker Room
- The Kliq in WWE – 3 Times They Fought Amongst Themselves
- Shawn Michaels and Triple H – A Feud In (and Out) of the Ring
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