Pro Wrestling Stories

Published on March 23rd, 2018 | by Heishin Ko

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The Evolution of SHAWN MICHAELS Told Through Commentary (1995-1998)

Author: Heishin Ko   /  Editor: JP Zarka

The Evolution of SHAWN MICHAELS Told through Commentary (1995-1998) - A ProWrestlingStories.com Exclusive

The Evolution of SHAWN MICHAELS Told through Commentary (1995-1998) – A ProWrestlingStories.com Exclusive

Welcome back, everyone! We hope you’ve enjoyed a good rest since we last saw you at the tail-end of Shawn Michaels’ 1994.

Related: The Evolution of SHAWN MICHAELS Told Through Commentary (1991-1994)

The last time we saw Shawn, he remained on his hiatus, keeping his participation to the bare minimum during the 1994 edition of Survivor Series, where he would accidentally plant a superkick on the face of his partner, Diesel, souring their friendship for a prolonged period of time, all the way through Wrestlemania the following year. However, we are on the precipice of great change for The Wrestler of the 90s. Indeed, we are about to bear witness to his transformation from being arrogant and conceited to being a resilient and super-heroic role model. By the same token, we will watch Shawn’s star fall from this heroism into a state of degeneration.

Shawn’s story has only just begun.

Let’s continue forward!


1995

Shawn Michaels in 1995

Shawn Michaels in 1995

Royal Rumble Match (WWF Royal Rumble, January 11th, 1995)

Vince McMahon: “And take a look at this, can you believe this? The Heartbreak Kid drew Number 1! Well, you can bet Shawn Michaels won’t be going to Wrestlemania as the number one contender! [Earlier on] Michaels acted like he was PROUD of his number. It’s the luck of the draw, and Shawn Michaels, very unlucky here tonight at the Royal Rumble! And Michaels better get all the glory he can right now…”

[Shawn dances]

Vince McMahon: “Oh please, give me a break…”

Jerry Lawler: “Let me just tell you this McMahon: he loves being the Number 1 draw because of what he’s doing right now! It means that he [gets] all that much longer […] to strut his stuff in front of Pamela Anderson.”

———————–

[After grabbing the ropes to prevent being eliminated by Sione]

Jerry Lawler: “He’s the smartest. I’m telling you he’s the smartest. You could combine the IQs of every man in the ring, and they wouldn’t equal Shawn Michaels’.”

Vince McMahon: “I think the Dumpster could match wits very easily with Mr. Michaels.”

Jerry Lawler: “You’ve gotta be kidding me! That mental midget?”

———————–

Jerry Lawler: “See, look at Shawn Michaels, he’s smart! Look at him!”

Vince McMahon: “He’s hiding!”

Jerry Lawler: “That’s smart!”

Shawn’s almost there! He’s got his long gloves on, and one of them has a heart on them! I didn’t include any more commentary here because Jerry Lawler called him “The Smartest Wrestler in the WWF” in a million different ways. They didn’t really make any mention of how resilient he was or anything like that, but frequently mentioned how he and Bulldog were still in the match so far into it after being the ones to start it off.


Shawn Michaels vs. Gary Sabaugh (WWF Wrestling Challenge, January 29th, 1995)

Jim Ross: “He is the Deion Sanders of the WWF – Shawn Michaels is Primetime!”

Vince McMahon: “No question about that, and he’ll tell you too, if you don’t know. Well, he has got a big head.”

Jim Ross: “This guy, he is so full of himself right now, you can’t even carry a conversation with him.”

???: “Yeah, but you know what? He has every right to be boastful now. He was so awesome last Sunday night in Tampa!”

Jim Ross: “He’s a great athlete, maybe the greatest pure athlete in the WWF. That’s an artful point.”

FINALLY! It only took the better part of two years, but the “straight thrust kick” was now properly set up and used as Shawn’s finisher.


Shawn Michaels vs. Adam Bomb (WWF Superstars, February 11th, 1995)

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, ladies and gentleman, fooling everyone by winning the WWF Royal Rumble, taking nothing away from his athleticism, nothing away from his wrestling skill […]”

[After the match, regarding Shawn’s finisher]

Vince McMahon: “If that boot connects, somebody’s going down.”

Fun Fact: This match was Shawn’s first taped match of 1995, but it aired after the Rumble, and after the match with Sabaugh. This would chronologically be the first ‘taped’ occasion where Shawn uses the as-yet-unnamed Sweet Chin Music. It’s interesting that they note Shawn’s strategy and logic for taking up this match – he is preparing for his match against Diesel, and felt that a match with Adam Bomb would help him prepare because of their similar powerhouse styles and similar size.


Shawn Michaels vs. The British Bulldog (WWF Raw, March 6th, 1995)

[Discussing Shawn’s claim that he needed a bodyguard after winning the 1995 Royal Rumble]

Jim Cornette: “Well, of course, everybody’s after him! Look at him! He’s got everything that a young man could want! He’s got a body! He’s got a brain! He’s got looks! He’s got the money! And most of all, he has got every woman in the world after him, and every man wanting to kick his butt!”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, unquestionably [one of] the greatest athletes in the history of [the WWF].”

Vince McMahon: “This is the first real test of Michaels in terms of his athleticism.” 

Vince McMahon: “Michaels will wear you down. The longer the match goes, the more likely Shawn Michaels is to win the thing.”

Vince McMahon: “What a competitor Michaels is, give credit where credit’s due!”

[After the match]

Vince McMahon: “That same kick, that has knocked even ‘Big Daddy Cool’ Diesel out, unfortunately enough to get The British Bulldog […]”

It is noted on commentary that Shawn is again facing a power-style wrestler in the lead-up to his match with Diesel. On a separate note, Shawn’s finisher seemingly didn’t become a threat til he accidentally started using it on Diesel. During the famous Kliq tag team match on the second episode of WWF Action Zone, Diesel was out for what seemed like forever when he sold the kick, and it has been hailed as a dangerous move ever since. It has been echoed in modern times with Daniel Bryan’s “Knee that beat John Cena”. Also, seeing as I’ve been keeping score on Shawn’s appearance since he won the Rumble, he’s started gelling his usually spiky fringe back now. He’s had that mullet front since 1992/93, so I’m rather happy to see it go. Finally, on a rather humorous note, Jim Cornette said Shawn weighs 240lbs.


Shawn Michaels vs. Charlie Hunter (WWF Wrestling Challenge, March 19th, 1995)

[On Sid being Shawn’s bodyguard, and how it could affect a match]

Jim Ross: “Well, physically or psychologically [Sid’s] gonna make an impact, no doubt about it. I don’t think that Shawn Michaels really NEEDS any assistance as far as athletic ability is concerned. He may be the finest pure athlete in the entire WWF, and if you don’t believe it, just ask him!”

Jim Ross: “Michaels is lean, he is quick, he is ready to go the distance, and that may be a big, big factor when he meets Diesel two weeks from now at Wrestlemania 11”

Todd Pettengill: “Shawn Michaels is like a different guy when he’s with Psycho Sid, too – it’s unbelievable!”

Jim Ross: “He is full of confidence, and I’ve gotta believe that Diesel, at 317 pounds–”

[Shawn delivers the Super Kick to Hunter]

Jim Ross: “– the longer the match goes, the advantage would go to Michaels, and Diesel CANNOT let this happen to him. The Super Kick will put anybody away, INCLUDING the WWF Champion!”

Todd Pettengill: “’Big Daddy Cool’ Diesel is very familiar with that kick. It’s the kick that broke up a friendship and a WWF Tag Team Championship team.”

———————–

[After the Match]

Jim Ross: “These two men are like they’ve been unleashed, they’re unchained, they are ready to step atop the WWF World!”

Shawn set up the Super Kick while waiting in the corner again, so we’re just about to approach the “definitive” Shawn Michaels from the first part of his career. What’s interesting about what Todd said about the Super Kick “breaking up a friendship and a WWF Tag Team Championship team” is how it’s equally applicable to Marty Jannetty and The Rockers.


Shawn Michaels vs. Adam Bomb (WWF Action Zone, March 19th, 1995)

Jim Ross: “[…] this man, Shawn Michaels, who could very easily be the next WWF Champion.”

[Adam Bomb has Shawn in a Bear Hug]

Jim Ross: “Referee is in a great position to see if Shawn Michaels wants to give it up and submit. It might not be the worst idea he could have to give it up and […] prevent perhaps, Todd, even further injury to that lower back and those ribs.”

Todd Pettengill: “I’ll tell ya, Shawn Michaels is no quitter. Let’s see if he can draw a little bit on that strength. “

Jim Ross: “Well, he’s a competitor, great competitive spirit […]”

Jim Ross: “You don’t give Shawn Michaels two chances. […] I tell you what, this guy’s on a roll! Nobody’s hotter in the WWF right now than Shawn Michaels!”

———————–

[After the Match]

Todd Pettengill: “Shawn Michaels, as you said Jim, is on an awesome roll with Psycho Sid! And he — as a team — who knows how far he could go? He is a HOT superstar in the present time!”

Jim Ross: “I wanna tell you something – and Diesel knows this full well, I’ve talked to him: The WWF Championship is a Super Kick away for Shawn Michaels […]. That is a devastating maneuver!”


Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel (WWF Championship, Wrestlemania XI, April 2nd, 1995)

Vince McMahon: “A tremendous athlete, give him credit.”

Jerry Lawler: “And look at that physique! I mean, he has waited for this. He has waited for this, McMahon. He has dreamed for this [sic], he has sacrificed for this. I talked to him earlier – he promised me, he told me to tell everybody to expect the performance of a lifetime out of him tonight.”

Vince McMahon: “Yes, indeed, the Super Kick, ladies and gentlemen, what he’s noted for, as well as his speed, his athleticism, all-around agility, and he is the favorite, not only because of Shawn Michaels’ athleticism, but because of that man right there: Sid, or should we say ‘Psycho’ Sid.”

———————–

[After the Match]

Jerry Lawler: “Shawn Michaels has gotta be devastated. He did exactly what he promised: it was the performance of a lifetime. It was the match of a lifetime.”

 Shawn performed the diving elbow drop from the top rope during this match for the first time since 1991. Furthermore, during the post-match interview, he repeatedly said that he gave Diesel some “chin music” in reference to his finisher – I believe this is the first reference Shawn made to that name. Onwards we go! Or not. The next night, Shawn would be powerbombed three times in a row by Sid, and would not appear on television for the next few months. Remember that trend I mentioned back in 1994?


Shawn Michaels vs. King Kong Bundy (WWF Raw, May 22nd, 1995)

Vince McMahon: “Yes indeed, how about this, King? A standing ovation for the charismatic, controversial Shawn Michaels!”

Jerry Lawler: “Yeah, and look at him. He’s loving it! He’s eating it up with a spoon! I can’t believe it!”

Vince McMahon: “A standing ovation, yes indeed, for truly one of the great athletes in the history of the WWF: Shawn Michaels!”

Jerry Lawler: “Shawn Michaels is a great athlete, McMahon. But all great athletes come to the end of the line!”

Vince McMahon: “And you have to wonder whether or not Michaels let his ego get in the way, once again. You wonder whether or not Michaels should have waited a little longer to make his comeback, 7 weeks maybe not long enough to recover if anyone really does recover [from an attack like Sid’s].”

Shawn’s experiment with growing out his beard in late 1994 comes to fruition here. Also, for anyone who loves that spot Shawn did with Melina where he baseball slides outside and does the confused ‘arm over shoulder’, he debuts that here with Ted DiBiase.


Shawn Michaels vs. Tom Prichard (WWF Superstars, May 27th, 1995)

Vince McMahon: “Listen to this! Look at this! A standing ovation for Shawn Michaels!”

Dok Hendrix: “Women love him! He’s cocky, but he can back it up!”

Vince McMahon: “Michaels is full of himself, no doubt about that! Shawn Michaels: a pit bull, he knows how to entertain you, that’s for sure, but he knows how to get down to the nitty-gritty as well!”

Vince McMahon: “There are only two kinds of individuals who perform like Michaels: those who can get away with it, and those who just don’t care about the consequences. Not so sure where Michaels falls in, maybe a little bit of both.”

[Tom Prichard has Shawn in a sleeper]

Vince McMahon: “This one is history for Shawn Michaels. A gallant effort on the part of Shawn Michaels. A tremendous competitor, Michaels, however, against these overwhelming odds, unable, just unable, that’s it… “

Dok Hendrix: “Bye-bye, good night…”

[Shawn starts fighting back]

Vince McMahon: “No, no, Michaels is still in it! This pitbull is still in the match!”

———————–

[After the match, talking about Shawn’s finisher]

Dok Hendrix: “And that’s what Shawn Michaels calls ‘Sweet Chin Music’, and obviously Dr. Tom Prichard would call it a heartbreaking song!”

Vince McMahon: “Yes indeed, Shawn Michaels – what’d you say? Chin Music?”

Dok Hendrix: “That’s right! Sweet Chin Music! […] And how sweet it is!”

We’re here! It took Shawn Michaels turning face to finally complete his character. Of course, he’s still using taped wrists and fists (white tape rather than black on this occasion), but that slight attire change is bound to come sooner rather than later. Shawn got all of his famous spots in, with the final moves being his classic flying forearm (sans nip-up), the elbow drop from the top rope, and then after an attempted distraction from Jim Cornette and Jimmy Del Ray, a Sweet Chin Music! However, we’re still missing a key ingredient: he hasn’t tuned up the band yet.


Shawn Michaels vs. Rad Radford (WWF Wrestling Challenge, June 18th, 1996)

Jim Ross: “Here comes the Boy Toy, Shawn Michaels. It’s a great ovation, no doubt, for one of the most charismatic, most athletic competitors to ever compete in the World Wrestling Federation.”

Todd Pettengill: “Now normally, when the fans of the World Wrestling Federation scream, it’s equal men and women. When Shawn Michaels comes out, it’s more of a high-pitched scream because of all the women going crazy for the Heartbreak Kid!”

Jim Ross: “As we all know, Shawn Michaels will elevate his level of performance at a pay per view event. He always does. He tells he’s gonna do it, and he does do it.”

Todd Pettengill: “Well how about going from first to last and winning the Royal Rumble? First guy in the ring and then the last man there. That certainly is a demonstration of exactly what you’re talking about.”

———————–

[During a punching battle]

Jim Ross: “Rad Radford is again brawling here, and now Michaels is fighting back…”

Todd Pettengill: “Here’s a guy who’ll brawl with you too: Shawn Michaels.”

Jim Ross: “Radford puts on the breaks and went for a rather lethargic crossbody press that Michaels saw coming, and was able to avoid. Radford should stay on the ground, Todd, that’s where he has been most successful.”

Todd Pettengill: “Well, you’re not gonna beat a guy like Shawn Michaels, telegraphing a move like that – he’s too smart. Even in his physical condition right now — he’s gotta be drained, the pain in the lower back — [he] still has the awareness to recognize that maneuver.”

Jim Ross: “You’re not gonna beat Michaels at his own game, that is high risk. You’ve gotta stay on the ground, you’ve gotta slow him down.”

———————–

[After the match]

Todd Pettengill: “If the Million Dollar Man and Kama are watching this matchup, which you know they are, they gotta be worried. How do you contain Shawn Michaels? He’s extremely dangerous!”

Jim Ross: “Very resilient is the Boy Toy, Shawn Michaels.”

This is the one, fellas. Shawn does the Flying Forearm, the Diving Elbow, and for the first time ever, tunes up the band. Shawn’s attire in this match would later be seen as his Player 1 costume in WWF Attitude. This partially confirms, to me at least, that when Shawn retired the first time, this period was when he was viewed at his kayfabe “best”.


Shawn Michaels vs. Gus Kantarrakis (WWF Raw, June 19th, 1995) @15:48

Vince McMahon: “Michaels, so quick, so much agility, just an athletic prowess second to none in the WWF […]”

Jerry Lawler: “So full of himself. He thinks he’s the center of the universe. Look at him!”

[Shawn gives Gus some Sweet Chin Music on the outside, but instead of taking the countout victory, drags him back into the ring, after which the crowd chants for him to do it ‘one more time’]

Vince McMahon: “This capacity crowd, very much appreciating the flamboyance the skill of Shawn Michaels!”

Shawn’s wearing the zebra pattern gloves now to match his kneepads. Told you it wouldn’t take long.


Shawn Michaels vs. The Brooklyn Brawler (WWF Superstars, June 24th, 1995)

Vince McMahon: “HE IS THE MOST FLAMBOYANT, HE IS ONE OF THE MOST CHARISMATIC SUPERSTARS IN ALL THE WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION, AND HE IS SHAWN MICHAELS, AND HERE HE COMES!”

Dok Hendrix: “He’s been hitting people with more velocity on that Super Kick than ever.”


Shawn Michaels vs. Kama (WWF King of the Ring, June 25th, 1995) (Part 1 / Part 2)

Dok Hendrix: “Let’s not forget, Shawn’s had a lot of success. In 1993, at the King of the Ring event, he successfully defended the Intercontinental Championship.”

Vince McMahon: “Oh yeah, Michaels no stranger to competition. He has come up the hard way, ladies and gentlemen, and he has earned every bit of it.”

Dok Hendrix: “Shawn Michaels is quick. Let’s not forget it was his stamina and this ability of his that made him, and took him to win the Royal Rumble earlier this year. First man ever to start the Royal Rumble and win the Royal Rumble.”

Vince McMahon: “Kama needs to be focused, needs to stay a bit more patient, and Shawn Michaels will do everything he can — and he’s a master at this in terms of psychology — he will aggravate an opponent into making a maneuver. Yes, he’s flamboyant, he’ll get in your face, and then back out of it.”

[Kama has been on the offensive for a while, but Shawn continues to kick out]

Dok Hendrix: “He’s got a lot of courage, the Heartbreak Kid.”

Vince McMahon: “Yes indeed, he does. That courage right now is the reason why, to a certain extent, he’s on the defensive.”

[Shawn nips up]

Vince McMahon: “That’s called resiliency! That’s called heart!”

I’m not too sure what the deal is, but there were lots of weird things leading up to the match beginning. Shawn was cutting his promo, then Ted DiBiase’s music played so loudly that I couldn’t hear Shawn end his promo. Then Shawn came out, but his music started at the guitar solo portion of his song. He showed up wearing his metallic tiled hat to match his entrance gear, the camera cut away, and when it cut back to him, he was inexplicably wearing a blue cap, backwards. What gives?


Shawn Michaels in 1995

Shawn Michaels in 1995

Shawn Michaels vs. IRS (WWF Raw, July 17th, 1995)

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, a man who will take a risk every now and then, so to speak. Unbelievable athleticism possessed by Shawn Michaels!”

Vince McMahon: “Unbelievable resilience from Shawn Michaels. He’s been pummeled by the best, and he keeps coming right back, IN. YOUR. FACE.”

———————–

[After the match]

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, unquestionably the most charismatic individual in all of the WWF, and that’s saying something!”


Shawn Michaels vs. Jeff Jarrett (WWF Intercontinental Title, In Your House: The Lumberjacks, July 23rd, 1995)

[Referencing a line in Shawn’s pre-match promo about not getting any phone calls for his birthday the day before]

Jerry Lawler: “You ever been to Shawn Michaels’ house?”

Vince McMahon: “No, I haven’t.”

Jerry Lawler: “His telephone doesn’t ring, it applauds! He’s got such a big head –“

Vince McMahon: “Well maybe it should!”

Jerry Lawler: “Oh yeah, he thinks he’s the greatest thing going. But I think Double J has shown him tonight that there are other stars in the universe besides Shawn [Michaels].”

I don’t want to transcript this line, but Jerry Lawler basically tries to call Shawn a whiner and makes a straight awful comparison to John McEnroe holding up elevators in his apartment building.

[After taking a back body drop over the turnbuckle to the outside]

Vince McMahon: “What resilience on the part of Michaels, and he’s still walking, and he’s still conscious after that! I don’t believe I’ve quite ever seen an athlete quite like the stature of Shawn Michaels ever in the history of the WWF.”

Shawn’s got a history of debuting a white and gold version of whatever his current attire is for important title matches – namely the ones he’s going to win. In this case, his white and gold attire here signified him becoming a 3-time Intercontinental Champion (tying the then-record for most reigns), and was included as his Player 2 costume in WWF Attitude. We all know what the third occasion was. Perhaps this puts his Wrestlemania 25 attire in perspective, beyond the Light vs. Dark narrative. It wasn’t a title match, but it ended up becoming maybe the most important match of Shawn’s second run. Oh yeah, and Shawn nipped up after a Flying Forearm for the first time, if you’re still keeping up with his evolution.


Shawn Michaels vs. Jimmy Del Ray (WWF Raw, July 24th, 1995)

Vince McMahon: “[…] And you talk about a thoroughbred, you’re looking at one now! The most charismatic superstar in the world today and the newly crowned Intercontinental Champion: it’s Shawn Michaels! Listen to this ovation!”

Vince McMahon: “Michaels knows how to turn on this capacity crowd!”

Jerry Lawler: “Aw, he’s full of himself now that he’s Intercontinental Champion.”

Vince McMahon: “He was always full of himself.”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels is on a tear here in the World Wrestling Federation. Nothing can stop this extraordinary competitor.”


Shawn Michaels vs. Skip (WWF Superstars, August 5th, 1995)

[After trying to pin Shawn with a scoop slam]

Vince McMahon: “You’re not gonna be able to pin Shawn Michaels that way. You’re gonna have to really coil him up in order to get those shoulders down to the canvas.”


Shawn Michaels vs. Jerry Lawler (WWF Raw, August 14th, 1995)

[During Shawn’s pre-match dance routine]

Dok Hendrix: “Work it, baby, work it! Taught him everything he knows, he makes me proud. Chip off the old block, yes!”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, Mr. Flamboyant! There are two individuals who can get away with those kinds of actions: somebody like ‘Big Daddy Cool’ Diesel, who’s a monster 7-footer and 300 pounds, or someone like Shawn Michaels, who doesn’t care about the consequences!”

Dok Hendrix: “Or somebody like Mabel – 568 pounds!”

Vince McMahon: “…alright.”

[Regarding the Diving Elbow Drop]

Vince McMahon: “Nobody does this like Michaels!”


Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (WWF Intercontinental Championship defense, Summerslam, August 27th, 1995)

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, unquestionably one of the greatest athletes to step into the ring of the World Wrestling Federation.”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, unquestionably the most resilient athlete in the World Wrestling Federation.”

[After working Shawn’s leg for 9 minutes or so]

Vince McMahon: “No one knows Shawn Michaels any better than Razor Ramon. Razor knows of the tenacity, Razor knows of the perseverance of Shawn Michaels. Razor Ramon is not taking any chances, and I can’t believe Shawn Michaels is on his feet!”

[After leaping off the top rope on a bad leg to prevent Razor from getting to the title] Dok Hendrix: “That’s why they call him the Heartbreak Kid – nobody’s got more heart than Shawn Michaels.”

Dok Hendrix: “He’s a pit bull!”

Shawn debuts the Moonsault in this match, off a ladder no less! Not the top of the ladder, but still.


Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka (WWF Intercontinental Title defense, Superstars, September 9th, 1995)

[After getting the pinfall]

Vince McMahon: “You talk about that Super Kick, you talk about a super competitor, and you definitely talk about a superstar! Yes indeed, Shawn Michaels is Intercontinental Champion!”

Jerry Lawler: “I gotta make a prediction. Shawn Michaels, he’s resilient, he can take a lickin’ and keep on kickin’, but he’s never taken a beating like he’s gonna take at Raw at the hands of Sid. And I predict that the man that’ll be holding that [Intercontinental] belt high in the air after Monday Night will be none other than…SID.”


Shawn Michaels and Diesel vs. Men on a Mission (WWF Action Zone, September 10th, 1995)

Stan Lane: “If you looked up ‘resiliency’ in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of this guy right here on your screen. I mean, he’s been beaten, he’s been pounded, he’s been hurt by just about everybody here in the World Wrestling Federation, and he still comes back to fight, day after day. Never met a fight he didn’t like.”

Jim Ross: “Bit like an old catfish, he’s been battered and fried on many occasions, but he’s always bouncing back like that proverbial rubber ball.”

[When Mabel tags in to face Shawn]

Jim Ross: “Well, Diesel wants a tag, and I don’t think Michaels’ ego and competitiveness is gonna allow that to happen.”

Stan Lane: “No, no, Michaels [is] staying there.”

Jim Ross: “Well, Michaels is the self-professed ‘pitbull dog’ of the World Wrestling Federation.”

Jim Ross: “Michaels will not quit.”

Stan Lane: “No.”

Jim Ross: “Shawn Michaels will not quit under any circumstance, by far the smallest dog in this fight…”

[…]

Stan Lane: “The fact that Shawn Michaels will not quit may just shorten his career here in the World Wrestling Federation, you know that, Ross?”

Jim Ross: “Yeah, you’re right, good point.”


Shawn Michaels vs. Psycho Sid (WWF Intercontinental Championship defense, Raw, September 11th, 1995)

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, who has been on a tear as of late here in the World Wrestling Federation – you might even liken Shawn Michaels to a modern-day Evil Knievel here in the World Wrestling Federation!”

Jerry Lawler: “Evil Knievel?!”

Vince McMahon: “You got it right!”

Jerry Lawler: “You know what Evil Knievel was famous for, don’t you? Having every bone in his body broken at least 4 times.”

Vince McMahon: “I can tell you this: Michaels throws caution to the wind. There’s nobody with this kind of flamboyance! There’s nobody with this kind of electricity! There’s nobody with this resilience! He just keeps coming back, back, RIGHT IN YOUR FACE.”


Shawn Michaels and Diesel vs. Yokozuna and The British Bulldog (All Championships on the line, In Your House: Triple Header, September 24th, 1995)

Vince McMahon: “You talk about somebody creating a frenzy…UN-BE-LIEVABLE!”

Jim Ross: “Everybody wants to touch Shawn Michaels. All these fans, they just wanna touch this man, and feel the electricity!”

Vince McMahon: “Well, there is no showman today that can equal the charisma of Shawn Michaels!”

Jim Ross: “He’s a risk-taker, he’s a great pure athlete.”

Vince McMahon: “Yes, and indeed if you [???] when it comes to athleticism, he’s in a class by himself.”

[Yokozuna tags in to face Shawn]

Jim Ross: “This mismatch here, size-wise, big mismatch. Shawn should tag in the champ.”

Vince McMahon: “Oh no he shouldn’t. Not if you’re Shawn Michaels. If you’re Shawn Michaels, you say ‘Bring it on, let’s go! Let’s see what happens here!’”

Vince McMahon: “Like I said, he doesn’t care. Michaels has to compete. He has to — it’s just inside him, he has to compete.”

Jerry Lawler: “That man just knocked it out of him.”

Jim Ross: “Maybe.”

Vince McMahon: “He’s got that great burning desire to succeed.”

I know these observations are mostly based on kayfabe statements, but the finish of this match is bonkers. Even JR was confused and said he didn’t understand how it was acceptable to pin Owen Hart when Davey Boy Smith was his official replacement, and then Vince basically said “It’s real simple: you’re looking at your new tag team champs!” as though that could quell any further, logical discussion.


Team Michaels vs. Team Ramon (WWF Survivor Series, November 19th, 1995)

Mr. Perfect: “Hey McMahon, I gotta admit, Shawn Michaels has come a long way in the World Wrestling Federation. Then again, so has Owen Hart.”

Jim Ross: “It takes a lot of guts for Shawn Michaels to come back here right now. This huge crowd LOVES this man.”

[Ahmed Johnson breaks up a pin attempt by Razor]

Mr. Perfect: “This is what I was talking about earlier. Shawn Michaels with ALL the big guys here in the WWF!”

(This is more a point around how Shawn always has backup in the form of a much bigger man, e.g. Diesel or Sid)

Vince McMahon: “[…] And Michaels, is taking, as is his style, a tremendous amount of punishment here at the Survivor Series.”

Mr. Perfect: “Shades of Perfection, I’m starting to see here, McMahon.”

Vince McMahon: “You think Shawn Michaels trying to follow in your footsteps, Perfect?”

Mr. Perfect: “Exactly. Every time I turn the TV on and watch WWF Wrestling, I see Shawn Michaels stealing something out of the books of Mr. Perfect, OR Razor Ramon.”

Vince McMahon: “What a great competitor Michaels is.”

Mr. Perfect: “Compared to what?”

Vince McMahon: “You may not necessarily always like his style, but nonetheless, Michaels, give him credit for being resilient and obviously for being flamboyant. He can bring it to ya, whenever you see Shawn Michaels in there, but right now, Yokozuna is in control!”

Mr. Perfect: “You think Shawn Michaels has what it takes to be the World Wrestling Federation champion?”

Vince McMahon: “WELL I DON’T KNOW, WE’RE GONNA WAIT AND FIND OUT.”

Jim Ross: “I am just speechless when it comes to describing Shawn Michaels’ heart and his desire to excel each and every time he comes into the ring.”

Mr. Perfect: “Yeah, it reminds me of somebody.”

Vince McMahon: “Ah, maybe Mr. Perfect.”


Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart (WWF Raw, November 20th 1995)

Vince McMahon: “SHAAAAAWN MICHAELS! Mr. Electricity! Mr. Flamboyant! Mr. Resilience!”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, just last night at Survivor Series, was the recipient of a Razor’s Edge. Yokozuna dropped that huge leg on him as well, notwithstanding Psycho Sid, his own partner, powerbombed him. But nonetheless, we talk about the resilience of Michaels — that was a testament, Survivor Series was, to that resilience of Shawn Michaels.”

Jerry Lawler: “I think a lot of it has to do with that huge ego of his. I understand it’s so big, it’s about apply for statehood. You know, no matter how much he gets hurt…these fans, he can’t seem to let his FANS down.”

Vince McMahon: “Elbow to the front of the jaw, Michaels moving right into Owen Hart. That’s what you have to do, is take it to — you have to be aggressive, you have to fire off offensively, and Michaels [is] one of the best at it.”


Video Package at the end Raw (December 4th, 1995) @40:44

Vince McMahon: “[…] Shawn Michaels has been living on the edge and thrilling the crowds for quite some time. Shawn Michaels wiled us into believing he could do just about anything – because we’ve seen him do it. But now we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of hoping he’ll just be alright, all the while knowing we helped push him over the edge in our unquenchable thirst for excitement. However like anyone who totally loves what they do, Shawn Michaels can’t wait to get back into the ring.”


Right before Vince introduces Shawn Michaels’ “Tell Me a Lie” Music Video (December 18th, 1995)

 Vince McMahon: “However, in a moment, a look at one of the greatest athletes of all time here in the WWF, Shawn Michaels, who may no longer be in action.”

Jim Ross: “And I hate to even think about that option. I hope that he’s back, hope he’s back very soon.”


1996

Shawn Michaels in 1996

Shawn Michaels in 1996

Royal Rumble Match (WWF Royal Rumble, January 21st, 1996)

[After Shawn wins the Rumble for the second year in a row]

Mr. Perfect: “I’ll tell you what, McMahon, he is an amazing athlete no matter what anybody says.


Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka (WWF Superstars, January 27th, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “[…] Tatanka being taunted a little bit. Shawn Michaels, a great psychologist – everyone knows his athleticism, but give credit where it’s due, his psychology is extraordinary.”

Mr. Perfect: “No doubt about it, McMahon, he’s been schooled by the best.”

Vince McMahon: “I see.”

[Shawn wins a sequence and sends Tatanka to the outside]

Vince McMahon: “Again, the psychology of Shawn Michaels – very apparent. And listen to this capacity crowd!”

Mr. Perfect: “I think he’s getting a little bit too cocky, McMahon.”

Vince McMahon: “Michaels got Tatanka out of the Native American’s game plan early, and then Michaels used his speed, quickness to his fullest ability. Michaels can beat you in SO many ways, and now again, he’s playing mind games with Tatanka.”


Shawn Michaels vs. Yokozuna (WWF Raw, January 29th, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “Talk about charisma, talk about resilience, you have to give credit to Shawn Michaels, coming back and doing the impossible: winning the Rumble!”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels has never backed down from a challenge from anybody.”

Jerry Lawler: “His fans worship him, and so does he.”

Vince McMahon: “I don’t know about that, I don’t think Shawn Michaels really takes himself seriously.”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels might be counted out, although you can never count this man out, no matter what the odds are. One thing about Shawn Michaels: he just keeps coming right back, getting back right in your face!”


Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart (WWF In Your House: Rage in a Cage, February 18th, 1996)

[Pre-match Video Package]

Todd Pettengill: “No one can call Shawn Michaels a quitter. Even after a brutal beating to the head at the hands of nine thugs, even after Interim President Gorilla Monsoon forced Shawn to forfeit his Intercontinental Championship out of concern for his health, Shawn Michaels would not be stopped! Against the advice of friends and family, Shawn’s never-say-die attitude aroused a virtually unstoppable force of will – unstoppable, that is, until Shawn Michaels collapsed, his body incapable of withstanding any more punishment. Shawn’s doctor informed us he was suffering from Post-Concussion Syndrome, and advised the Heartbreak Kid to discontinue his career.”

Vince McMahon: “There’s only one Mr. Flamboyant: Shawn Michaels!”

Vince McMahon: “This man is definitely over the top, yes! The pride and joy of San Antonio, Texas, Shawn Michaels, electrifying this capacity crowd before the match is even underway! Shawn Michaels, a young man who will get into anybody’s face here in the World Wrestling Federation, and he doesn’t care how big they are or how bad they are – Michaels, with his quickness, Michaels with his athleticism, can rock with the best of them!”

Jerry Lawler: “See what Owen’s doing? He’s telling Shawn Michaels right now: he’s gonna kick him right in the head like he did before. And Shawn Michaels could be… history! I mean, once and for all we’ll see his entire career over, McMahon!”

Vince McMahon: “I don’t know, you have to ask yourself what kind of a drumming, you know, Shawn Michaels can take. And we know he’s resilient, maybe the most resilient ever in the WWF…”

[Vince laughs because Shawn’s playing to the crowd]

Vince McMahon: “Michaels having some fun in there, that’s what it’s all about! Although Shawn Michaels can get very, very serious when it’s time to get down to business.”

[Shawn with a flying crossbody from the top rope to the outside]

Vince McMahon: “DID YOU SEE THAT? AND HE GETS RIGHT BACK UP! HOW DOES THAT MAN DO IT?”

Jerry Lawler: “He’s gotta be nuts, I’ll tell ya that!”

Vince McMahon: “You talk about a high-risk maneuver, Michaels will take it to the limit!”

Jerry Lawler: “I can’t stand the hotdog, McMahon. That’s what Michaels is.”

Vince McMahon: “He is that. Unquestionably, he is a hotdog, and he knows it. [He] loves to perform. He loves, indeed, to have his Kliq with him the whole way!”

Shawn’s entrance during this match foreshadows his later entrance against the elder Hart at Wrestlemania that year. I’d seen this entrance before but never made the connection.


Shawn Michaels vs. Shinobi (WWF Superstars, February 24th, 1996)

Vince McMahon:  “Oh yeah, Mr. Flamboyant, Mr. Resilience – you can knock him down but he – he’s not gonna stay down!”


Shawn Michaels vs. The 1-2-3 Kid (WWF Raw, March 4th, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “The most flamboyant, the most resilient superstar, perhaps, of all time, but is he ‘The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will Be’?”

Vince McMahon: “Michaels, pulling himself right back up into the ring, just as Shawn Michaels has always done. You talk about a young man who is game, a young man who lets it all hang out, so to speak. It’s Shawn Michaels in every single match —he gives it his all!”

Jerry Lawler: “He loves to showboat, though, McMahon!”

Vince McMahon: “Yes, he does! And that’s one of the things about Shawn Michaels everybody likes, he is FLAMBOYANT!”


Video Package (WWF Superstars, March 9th, 1996) @14:52

Vince McMahon: “Both men grew up in Western towns: Bret in the cold of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Shawn in the heat of San Antonio, Texas. Certainly, they’re both a reflection of that environment. Bret – on occasion somewhat aloof, he’s cool or maybe even cold, like the Calgary winter. The strong silent type, if you will. Shawn, on the other hand, is what you might expect out of a western boomtown: wild, he’s cocky, flamboyant, and outrageous. And yet they both have a single passion in life: to be the greatest superstar in the history of the World Wrestling Federation.”

———————–

Vince McMahon: “These two great athletes, armed with raw talent and the wisdom of two legends, left their homes to pursue superstardom in the World Wrestling Federation. Through years of hard work and dedication, they have both succeeded. They are two of the most respected and accomplished athletes in the history of the World Wrestling Federation, and yet, much like their upbringing, they have done it differently. Bret as a technician; Shawn, a high flier. Bret is low-key; Shawn is flamboyant. Both are resilient, both have the heart of a champion.”


Training Montage (WWF Raw, March 11th, 1996) @5:53

Bret Hart: “Through the years, if you go back and look at the wrestling where I grew up — the roots that I came from — it was a really hard, hard, tough style of wrestling. I mean, it’s tough. I don’t think it was any tougher than it is right here. Shawn’s roots, you’re talking about, really, a sharp tie-in with Mexican wrestling – jumping and running and a lot of action. But as far as being tough? I don’t know of any really, really tough Mexican wrestlers.”

———————–

Bret Hart: “All these years of wrestling experience that I have, it doesn’t compare with the limited wrestling he’s got, you know? He reminds me more of a tennis ball, bouncing around the ring because he doesn’t really have any real effective moves. You’ve got one is his big kick [sic], and the other is just the conditioning factor as an overall.”


 Training Montage (WWF Raw, March 25th, 1996)

Bret Hart: “I knew sooner or later, it was gonna come down to this. I mean, I knew Shawn Michaels…three, four years ago, I said ‘this is gonna be the guy who’s gonna try to take my spot.’ I went through the same kinda thing with Randy Savage. You know, I thought Randy Savage was really good, and all of a sudden, one day I was knocking on his door, and the next day I passed him. You know, you look back, and you go ‘there’s the guy that’s gonna come back and knock on my door’, and he’s knocking right now, but unfortunately, I’m not ready to leave yet.”

———————–

Bret Hart: “He’s been in this situation before, but he’s come up short, and the reason is ‘cause I think he gets a little overconfident, he gets a little irrational when you start putting the pressure on him. You put it on, and you put it on, and you put it on – sooner or later, he makes his mistakes, and then it’s over.”


Shawn Michaels vs. Leif Cassidy (WWF Raw, March 25th, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “Michaels, determined – give him that. He is one of the most determined, one of the most resilient athletes in the world today. Again, taking nothing away from The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best, perhaps, There Ever Will Be.”

Bret Hart: “I give Shawn credit. I think he’s the greatest athlete in wrestling. It’s not just athleticism. He’s tough. I think that the question [is] is Shawn Michaels as tough as me? That’s what an Iron [Man] Match is gonna be. That’s gonna be the important factor in this match: who will be the toughest? He’s a great athlete, he’s in great condition, he’s a little younger than I am – he’s got a lot of advantages. But he’s not as tough as me.”


1996 Slammy Awards (March 30th, 1996) @25:52

[Presenting the Master of Mat Mechanics Award]

Mr. Perfect: “And the winner is — y’know, I coulda told you this man was gonna win this award because I taught him everything he knows about mat mechanics, but I didn’t teach him everything I know — you take that for what it’s worth — Shawn Michaels.”

The whole night actually felt like a way to build up the feud between Bret and Shawn even more. Both of them won the majority of the awards on this occasion. It closed out quite poetically with Bret winning the “Future Hall of Famer” award and Shawn winning the “Leader of the New Generation” award…which probably gave away the finish, if you think about it.


Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (WWF Championship, Wrestlemania XII, March 31st, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “You can bet, when it comes to strategy, both men came in here — especially Bret, however — both men came in with a great deal of strategy, but Shawn is more of an instinct man, Bret is more of a strategist.”

Jerry Lawler: “That’s right, that could be the difference too, because Shawn will just…he’ll do something on the spur of the moment. He’ll take a chance. That could cost him.”

Vince McMahon: “Yes, but it also could achieve victory for him, that could be the one thing – risk-taking.”

[Regarding how Shawn has been using more straight, basic wrestling techniques throughout the match]

Jerry Lawler: “I gotta admit I’m surprised. Never though I’d see this kinda match outta Shawn Michaels. I thought he’d be jumpin’ around like a Mexican Jumping Bean, flying around everywhere. Just the opposite.”

Jerry Lawler: “Bret Hart said earlier on that Shawn Michaels is ‘overconfident’. I don’t agree, I think he’s just cocky, arrogant, and conceited, but he hasn’t been able to show that in this match. Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart has kept him pretty much grounded.”

[Shawn nips up with 3:35 left on the clock and prepares to enter his comeback sequence]

Jerry Lawler: “Where does he get that energy?!”

Vince McMahon: “Just nipped up has Shawn Michaels! Michaels now…!”

Jerry Lawler: “Here comes vintage Shawn Michaels!”

Vince McMahon: “Michaels now, going back up. That’s what brought him to the dance – high-risk maneuvers!”

[After the match is restarted in Sudden Death]

Vince McMahon: “I applaud Roddy Piper for wanting to have a decision. However, I would question that wisdom given the condition of Michaels. […] Michaels will stay in it too long, he won’t give up. The official’s gonna have to stop this thing. Michaels. Will. Not. Give. Up. And Bret Hart knows it.”

[Shawn hits a desperation Sweet Chin Music, but while trying to recover, Bret ends up recovering first]

Jerry Lawler: “He hit him with the Super Kick, but you’ll never in your life see one of Shawn Michaels’ opponents get hit with the Super Kick and then beat Shawn Michaels to his feet! Impossible! But we may see it here!”

Shawn’s gloves have changed to the “Heart” design, as have his kneepads, so in terms of his attire, he’s completed his evolution. In an interesting bit of continuity, Shawn does a Fisherman’s suplex, which Vince calls a Perfect-plex. Shawn used this as a finisher to mock Mr. Perfect during their very brief feud in 1993, but more relevant to this point is how Mr. Perfect claimed to have taught Shawn everything he knew about wrestling on commentary, even saying so during the Slammy Awards the previous night. Lawler mentioned how Bret kicking out of the Perfect-plex proved that Shawn “wasn’t perfect.” Seemed like a neat detail.


Shawn Michaels vs. Jerry Lawler (WWF Raw, April 8th, 1996)

Diesel: “Tell you what, I’m not gonna take too much away from this kid though. Shawn Michaels is in the best shape of his life right now. He’s gonna need to be [laughs].”

Vince McMahon: “How can you counter that lightning-like quickness of Shawn Michaels? That speed?”

Diesel: “Knock him out.”

Shawn was called the Leader of the New Generation here, referencing his winning that award at the Slammy Awards. I think there’s some humor in the fact that King watched Shawn only a week prior (a day prior, when you consider it was taped on April 1st) and is already wrestling him in a match.


Shawn Michaels vs. Diesel (WWF Championship defense, In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies, April 28th, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “Michaels has been accused of having more guts than brains in the past.”

[Shawn gets Jackknifed through a table]

Vince McMahon: “Michaels, who has, as far as I’m concerned, already done the impossible, still he’s in this match after being driven down right into our very table!”

Shawn’s gear follows the black and blue color scheme of the “Two Dudes With Attitude”, which I’m almost certain is intentional. Also interesting is the fact that Shawn does the stomp before the Sweet Chin Music for the first time in this match.


Shawn Michaels vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley (WWF Raw, May 13th, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “Unquestionably, Michaels, the most athletic WWF Champion, perhaps, of all time. And unquestionably Michaels laying that title on the line, challenger after challenger, just as he will against The British Bulldog!”

Jerry Lawler: “What a showboat.”

Vince McMahon: “You got that right, he is a showboat. When it comes to showmanship, nobody comes close to Shawn Michaels.”


Shawn Michaels vs. The British Bulldog (WWF Championship defense, In Your House: Beware of Dog, May 26th, 1996)

[Regarding Shawn’s denial of allegations that he tried to sleep with Davey Boy’s wife]

Jerry Lawler: “See, you, McMahon, you can’t believe that Shawn Michaels is lying. You wanna believe every word he says. But I can understand that, you see, because you don’t know how it is with Shawn Michaels. I understand it. Y’know, I’m a good-looking guy, Shawn’s a good-looking guy – women throw themselves at us, McMahon. When a woman sees Shawn Michaels, or me, they wanna be with us! […] You don’t turn them down! It doesn’t make any difference if they’re married or not!”

Vince McMahon: “Michaels will stay with you. He is the most tenacious WWF superstar in the world today. Maybe–”

Jerry Lawler: “Once again, I agree with part of what you said: Michaels will stay with you if you’re a married woman.”

Vince McMahon: “Oh please…good thing Shawn Michaels cannot hear this commentary.”

Jerry Lawler: “Marty Jannetty, Shawn’s old partner, said that Shawn used to go for the married women.”

Vince McMahon: “Aw, come on, I don’t think we can give much validity to Marty Jannetty…”

Jerry Lawler: “Well, you don’t wanna believe anybody but Shawn, do you?”

Vince McMahon: “No, I — listen, I just think you wanna question some of these accusations. They don’t make any sense, quite frankly.”

Jerry Lawler: “You ever hear the old saying ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’? How come so many accusations are coming out of the woodworks? They’re coming from everybody: they’re coming from Diana, they’re coming from Marty Jannetty, the mystery woman!”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn is a target, obviously, here in the World Wrestling Federation. He is the WWF Champion – everybody’s gunning for him.”

Jerry Lawler: “Well, yeah, and he’s a smooth talker too, McMahon. That’s what you don’t realize. He could persuade a female fish to come out and take a walk with him.”

[Davey Boy has Shawn in a Canadian Backbreaker]

Vince McMahon: “The official is right there listening to Shawn Michaels, asking him every moment [if] he wants to surrender, and Michaels has yet to lose a matchup by surrendering for any reason. Nonetheless, we certainly know tonight that anything CAN happen in the WWF. Who knows, it could occur!”

Shawn decided to pin Bulldog with a backdrop pin for a finisher, which is an excellent finisher but was used for a Dusty finish, as you might expect. During their King of the Ring match, Vince would hail it as the “most controversial ending of a WWF title match, ever”. Regardless, I feel like I’ve never seen Davey Boy ever get a win over Shawn. Also amusing is the fact that they mention how Shawn’s never surrendered before – Bret Hart would take issue with that!


Shawn Michaels vs. The British Bulldog (WWF Championship defense, King of the Ring, June 23rd, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “Michaels is quicker than a hiccup with those armdrag takeovers, and is beginning to frustrate the Bulldog!”

Owen Hart: “I am impressed. He is very, very fast. Nobody knows better than me, I’ve been in the ring with Shawn Michaels. Matter of fact, I’m the man who put him out of wrestling – thought I ended his career, live on Raw.”

[Vince mentions him winning the Slammy for it]

Owen Hart: “I’m damn proud of it. He’s shown that he is a true WWF Champion, and he has excellent speed, and he may very well be slightly faster than the Bulldog.”

Vince McMahon: “Jose, much like Shawn Michaels, [was an] underdog all his life. A man not gifted with extraordinary strength or size, just like Michaels! They have so much in common, no one can advise Michaels quite like Jose Lothario can.”

Jim Ross: “Well, this count-out would be to Shawn Michaels’ advantage.”

Owen Hart: “Well, that’s the kind of gutless, chicken champion he is.”

[After Shawn kicks out of a leg drop]

Vince McMahon: “How does Michaels kick out of that? Explain that to me, Owen.”

Owen Hart: “Intestinal fortitude. I’m not saying Shawn Michaels isn’t a great champion. I’m not saying he doesn’t have a lot of heart. I’m just saying he’s not good as The British Bulldog, and when Davey Boy Smith is on top of his game, Shawn Michaels will go down in defeat.”

Vince McMahon: “The one thing Shawn Michaels unquestionably has going for him is the relationship he has with The Kliq, so to speak. There’s no doubt, and Michaels’d be the first to tell ya, that when he’s down like this, he can feel that encouragement.”

Jim Ross: “Michaels [has] got to kick into another gear here.”

Vince McMahon: “Yes, he does.”

Jim Ross: “Shawn’s gotta quicken the pace. Shawn has to make Bulldog wrestle a fast match, a reactive match.”

Owen Hart: “He doesn’t have it in him, I said it earlier. Don’t you think if Shawn Michaels could, he would kick it into a higher pace? He can’t because he’s too tired out! He’s been outwrestled, out-conditioned – Davey Boy Smith is gonna beat him. He’s fighting Davey Boy Smith’s match.”

I want to just point out something here. I watched the post-match brawl where Ahmed Johnson and The Ultimate Warrior come down and save Shawn from the attack from Camp Cornette and broke my rule of trying to stick to Kayfabe by seeking out footage of the Curtain Call incident. I can totally see why it was as big a deal as it was. Without knowing it, I somehow forgot that these guys were all real-life friends. I got used to seeing Razor and Diesel wrestle all the time because they were such a big part of Shawn’s career up until that point, and I realized quite suddenly that they weren’t around anymore. Seeing Shawn celebrate with Ahmed, Warrior, and Jose Lothario felt so weird by comparison.


Promo with Shawn Michaels, Ahmed Johnson, and The Ultimate Warrior on (WWF Superstars, June 29th, 1996)

[…]

Ahmed Johnson: “You’ve got the man, who they say is the best professional wrestler in the world, bar none. None before, none after.”

[…]

The Ultimate Warrior: “The greatest wrestler in the world. BAR NONE! With the credit card to get him into places others will never go.”


Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty (WWF Raw, July 1st, 1996)

[After a double nip-up]

Vince McMahon: “And Jannetty and Michaels, with similar athletic gifts, although Shawn Michaels has done considerably more with his in terms of the psychological, well, let’s just call it ‘brainpower’ if you would.”

Vince McMahon: “Marty Jannetty pulling out the stops tonight, because, yes, Marty Jannetty defeating Shawn Michaels would catapult Jannetty right up the ladder […]”

Jerry Lawler: “But more importantly, Jannetty’s getting to take out years of frustration for being held back.”

Vince McMahon: “Held back?”

Jerry Lawler: “That’s right. Held back by Shawn Michaels. Jannetty was the workhorse of the team. […] But Shawn Michaels was always out there to grab the spotlight, getting all the glory.”

Vince McMahon: “Let’s face it, Jannetty is simply jealous of the success of Shawn Michaels. Plain and simple, that’s what this is all about.”

Jerry Lawler: “Jannetty taught Shawn Michaels everything he knows, and then like I said, Shawn Michaels goes out and gets all the credit.”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, the standard-bearer of the New WWF Generation.”

Vince McMahon: “Jose Lothario, Shawn Michaels’ mentor. Indeed, much like a father-son relationship…”

Jerry Lawler: “Grandfather and son.”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, when you speak with Michaels about Jose Lothario, you see the respect in that young man’s face for Jose Lothario, who taught Shawn Michaels everything he knows.”


Shawn Michaels vs. Billy Gunn (WWF Championship defense, WWF Raw, July 15th, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “[…] Shawn Michaels, the most charismatic WWF Champion of all time will grace the squared circle, stay with us!”

Jerry Lawler: “If Shawn Michaels lost the title in this match, I think he’d pull a Kirby Puckett. I think he’d just retire. I don’t think he’d even make it to the International Incident [laughter].”

[After the match]

Vince McMahon: “Against all odds – Michaels, still the World Wrestling Federation champion!”


Shawn Michaels in 1996

The People’s Posse vs. Camp Cornette (WWF In Your House: International Incident, July 21st, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “The leader of the New WWF Generation! There is only one with this kind of charisma, with this kind of athleticism, with this kind of resilience – we’re talking about Shawn Michaels!”

[After the rail breaks during his entrance]

Jim Ross: “It’s hard to contain this huge crowd; Shawn Michaels causing almost a near riotous situation from sheer enthusiasm! They love this man! The hottest competitor in the world today! He’s right there! He’s Shawn Michaels, and he’s in the World Wrestling Federation!”

[After Ahmed Johnson tags Shawn in to face Vader]

Vince McMahon: “I’ve gotta tell ya, Michaels is gutsy, everybody knows that.”

Jim Ross: “Absolutely.”

Jerry Lawler: “I’ve seen more guts on a skeleton. Who’re you trying to kid?”

Jim Ross: “Michaels is fearless. Knows no limitations.”

Jerry Lawler: “Maybe too much for his own good, JR.”

Jim Ross: “Well, that’s a very good point.”

Jim Ross: “Well, the Bulls got Air Jordan, we got Air Michaels.”

[After…a LOT of damage being done to Michaels, which he kicks out of]

Vince McMahon: “Michaels will not quit! Michaels will not surrender!”

[After Shawn gets pinned by Vader via shenanigans]

Jerry Lawler: “What about that, McMahon? Can you believe your eyes?!”

Vince McMahon: “All I can say is that was one of the most gallant individual, as well as collective, efforts I have ever seen by Shawn Michaels. Nonetheless, give Camp Cornette some degree of credit for the victory.”

[Shawn dives over the top rope onto Vader after the match]

Jim Ross: “Look at the heart of Shawn Michaels! Michaels is fighting like a wild animal!”

This was Shawn’s first pinfall loss on TV since Wrestlemania 11, if you can believe it! The mood after the match was pretty strange to that effect. Commentary sold the injustice of it all, but the moment itself felt kind of surreal after watching Shawn win so much. Also, Shawn’s hairstyle has slowly phased out the bangs that made him resemble Vega from Street Fighter in favor of sideburns – probably since the Jannetty bout?


Shawn Michaels and Ahmed Johnson vs. The Smoking Gunns (WWF Raw, July 22nd, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, he is a showboat, there’s no question about it.”

Vince McMahon: “And Mr. Lawler, you may not like Shawn Michaels’ tactics, but he’s definitely fun to watch in action.”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels will not quit. There’s no quit in him whatsoever.”

Faarooq/Ron Simmons made his debut here by attacking Ahmed Johnson on the outside, causing a DQ finish. Also, this was Shawn’s 31st Birthday, so there was cake waiting for him on the outside. I do want to make a note that throughout this year, he’s had repeated ‘humorous’ interactions with Sunny, and it kind of feels uncomfortable, because it’s difficult to separate the context of Candido’s story from it. It’s especially off-putting if you actually watch Shawn’s match with Candido from 1995.


Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart (WWF Raw, August 12th, 1996)

[On Shawn’s attitude towards Vader being in the arena]

Jerry Lawler: “Shawn Michaels is trying to act cool, and collected, and cocky, and keep that little smirk on his face, but I guarantee you McMahon: inside, there are butterflies in his stomach. He’s scared to death right now, knowing that Vader is here.”

Vince McMahon: “I would suggest that there is a difference between your view and mine, and that is Michaels isn’t afraid of anything. I wish he were.”


Shawn Michaels vs. Vader (WWF Championship defense, Summerslam, August 18th, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels hit Vader with a variety of high-risk maneuvers, tried to control the tempo in the early going, had Vader frustrated and off-balance. Since Vader Vader-Bombed [Shawn Michaels], powerbombed rather, on the outside, Shawn Michaels has not been the same and may not be [sic] the same balance in this match.”

Jim Ross: “I wouldn’t count Shawn Michaels out quite that quickly. We have seen him, indeed, possess the heart of a champion. If it comes to an end here tonight, as he said it himself, so be it. But it won’t be because he hasn’t given it everything he has.”

Vince McMahon: “Well, I agree with that, but the human body can only absorb so much!”

Vince McMahon: “If it ends here tonight for Shawn Michaels, Michaels nonetheless will have left his mark on the World Wrestling Federation as one of the great champions. Any individual who can accomplish what he accomplished, beginning at Wrestlemania, has to go down in the history book, I believe, even though he has had a short reign thus far, as one of the great champions. However, his reign is not really over, at least, not yet.”

[Match has restarted twice, and we’re at the final sequence where the crowd is going nuts for Shawn’s finishing sequence]

Vince McMahon: “It’s Michaels and the Kliq together, that’s where he’s getting his power, that’s where he’s getting resilience!”

Shawn finished this match with a Moonsault rather than Sweet Chin Music. Vince makes an interesting comment that indicates what he was trying to do with protecting Vader while keeping the belt on Shawn. He says Vader beat Shawn via count-out, and then via DQ, with Shawn barely winning via pinfall after the match had restarted again. He also references how Vader actually pinned Shawn during the People’s Posse vs. Camp Cornette match. All that stuff to make Vader look strong, and yet, Shawn kept the belt. Interesting indeed.


Shawn Michaels vs. Yokozuna (WWF Raw, August 19th, 1996)

[After knocking down Yokozuna]

Jim Ross: “That is tenacity from the World Wrestling Federation Champion. You talk about a guy who weighed in about 225-230 today, giving up the pounds – but […] you can’t measure […] the size of a man’s heart. Shawn Michaels knows no limits!”


Shawn Michaels vs. Goldust (WWF Championship defense, Raw, September 6th, 1996)

Jim Ross: “Shawn Michaels being mobbed here. It’s like a rock star just walked into the arena. He’s bigger than a rock star – he’s the World Wrestling Federation Champion, and many say the most athletic WWF Champion of all time.”

Kevin Kelly: “I know that Shawn Michaels has really enjoyed the celebrity of being champion.”

Jim Ross: “Well, he certainly has. He’s made a lot of controversial decisions his whole career, but I don’t think any more controversial than posing for Playgirl magazine. Shawn Michaels on the cover of Playgirl magazine that goes on sale this Monday. And I don’t think that [would] please a lot of WWF officials. […] And that magazine, we should add, is for adults only.”

Shawn finished the match with a Moonsault again. I’ve only just remembered that, as a child, I thought the Moonsault was Shawn’s signature move. It’s nice to see that it actually very much was, and was used to finish matches.


Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind (WWF Championship defense, WWF In Your House: Mind Games, September 22nd, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “How would you, Mr. Perfect, counter the extraordinary skills, if you can call them ‘skills’, of Mankind.”

Mr. Perfect: “Well, if you’re Shawn Michaels, with the great athletic ability that he has–“

Vince McMahon: “No, no, no I know he has great athletic—I’m asking YOU.”

Mr. Perfect: “He has to use his wit, his endurance to outlast Mankind. He has to wear him down. I don’t know if Shawn Michaels is thinking that way because he’s the one that’s walking out here, not me. I mean, if I was walking out to the ring, I’d have a different answer for you.”

Jim Ross: “The faster the pace, the better it is for the champion! Michaels has got so much quickness and so much speed!”

Vince McMahon: “And Michaels has proven time and time again that he can mix it up in any style match you want. If you wanna brawl, you can brawl, ‘cause he’s quicker than most people. If you want a scientific matchup, you’ll get that one too!”

Jim Ross: “Michaels is so pugnacious, Michaels is…he’s more aggressive than [I2? I too?] we’ve ever seen him!”

Vince McMahon: “But he has to be. He has no choice.”

Mr. Perfect: “I’ve never seen this side of Shawn Michaels before.”

Jim Ross: “I’m not criticizing it, I like it!”

Jim Ross: “Shawn Michaels, as you said, Vince, his greatest asset is speed and resiliency. He better be resilient because he’s lost his speed at this point in time in the match.”

Vince McMahon: “Well, you said before, Jim Ross, that Shawn Michaels is one of the most, if not the most, resilient WWF Champion ever. This is really taking him to the limit.”

Mr. Perfect: “Yeah, we’re gonna find out if that cliché is really true. Is Shawn Michaels the most resilient superstar ever in the WWF? We’ll find out before we leave here tonight.”

[After the match]

Jim Ross: “He is the man, there’s no doubt about it. Shawn Michaels is the man in the World Wrestling Federation.”

Vince McMahon: “If ever there was any doubt whatsoever in anyone’s mind about this man’s resilience, about this man’s athleticism, and whether or not this man has more guts than brains, it was proven right here tonight!”


Shawn Michaels vs. Justin Hawk Bradshaw (WWF Superstars, September 29th, 1996)

Jim Ross: “You know, Shawn Michaels has proven on many an occasion that he can rise to the occasion, but Michaels took it to another level last Sunday night on pay-per-view against Mankind.”

Jim Ross: “His body’s gotta be bruised and battered, but Michaels continues to fight. Nobody’s got a bigger heart that Shawn Michaels!”


Shawn Michaels and Jose Lothario vs. Vader and Jim Cornette (WWF Raw, September 30th, 1996)

[Shawn’s entrance]

Jim Ross: “Absolutely deafening in here. There’s nothing like the presence of Shawn Michaels, who can rock any arena in the world.”

Jim Ross: “Can you imagine this man’s schedule? No champion in the history of the World Wrestling Federation has ever had the grueling schedule that Shawn Michaels has been under.”

[Shawn misses a crossbody and falls out of the ring]

Jerry Lawler: “Yeah, when the title’s not on the line, Michaels will take all kinds of chances. [If] that belt was at stake, [we’d] see a different Shawn Michaels.”

[…]

Jim Ross: “I’ll tell you something, King, I disagree with that. Shawn Michaels always rises to the occasion. Shawn Michaels can take it to another level better than any other WWF Champion of all time, and that very well could include Bret Hart.”

Jim Ross: “My God, he’s quicker than a hiccup. There’s no one in the WWF that can go faster!”

Shawn got pinned…clean? Interesting. Lots of interesting things to talk about here. With regards to Bret Hart, he had been referred to as the greatest WWF Champion and the fightingest WWF Champion during his matches on the run-up to Wrestlemania, so this comparison bears some significance, I think. On a separate note, one interesting point, and one that was brought up in the match with Bradshaw, is how they’re still referencing Shawn’s susceptibility to concussions. I should also mention that JR’s comment about Shawn’s schedule came into play here, which is impressive continuity because they’ve been showing all the good PR stuff Shawn’s been doing during his entrances, such as the Kuwait tour, going to Macy’s for signings, playing a charity tennis match, and so on – his very grueling matches notwithstanding. They asked the question of whether Shawn’s schedule caught up with him. Did Vader beat him, or did Shawn beat himself?


Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WWF Raw, October 14th, 1996)

Jim Ross: “This schedule Shawn Michaels has been under is absolutely horrendous. I don’t know how Michaels puts up with it. I think he may need better representation because his schedule is inhuman. McMahon doesn’t care. MONSOON doesn’t care. Just saddle him — saddle him up and ride that horse right off into the sunset.”

This match was hailed by JR as being the biggest one-on-one match in Monday Night Raw history to that point. He’s not wrong, considering this match would one day main event one of the most important Wrestlemanias ever. Also, in an angle that never seemed to have a follow-up “Diesel” and “Razor” watched from the entrance ramp as Vader and Austin surrounded the ring. I’m curious to know where that was going to go.


Shawn Michaels vs. Salvatore Sincere (WWF Superstars, November 10th, 1996)

Jim Ross: “There is nothing like the athleticism and the resiliency of perhaps the most popular WWF Champion of all time – that young man, Shawn Michaels!”

Jim Cornette: “He may be popular, but popularity doesn’t win wrestling matches. Ability does. Shawn Michaels has carried himself this far on a lot of guts and a lot of determination, but he may be facing an uphill fight when he takes on Sycho Sid next Sunday.”

Jim Ross: “Shawn Michaels in this non-title matchup is in one heck of a lot of trouble from Salvatore Sincere, and Sincere may be wrestling the match of his life here this morning on the USA Network.”

Jim Cornette: “Because he knows he’s got the opportunity of his life. Shawn Michaels, trying to act cocky today, trying to show everybody he wasn’t worried. I think that’s because he IS worried. He’s got a lot of pressure on him. He’s going against one of his best friends, supposedly, for the championship in the main event of a pay-per-view. He’s got a Tag Team Title match tomorrow night on Raw, with his opponent as his partner. He doesn’t know which way to turn, and that has caused Shawn Michaels to overlook Sal Sincere.”

Jim Ross: “Sycho Sid – 6”9, 313[lbs]. So much bigger than Shawn Michaels. Michaels has beat up a lot of guys. Some former friends of his, they were pretty good size, Michaels ran completely out of the WWF.”

Jim Cornette: “[…] Just remember, a good [???] big man will always beat a smart aleck little jerk. And I think that may be the case, because Shawn Michaels, once again, is trying to hide the fact he’s worried about this thing.”

Jim Ross: “If that’s one strength that Shawn Michaels has, he’s a human superball! You can’t keep him down, he keeps bouncing back up. It’s gonna take something heavy to put him down for the count – but Sycho Sid is heavy.”

[About Shawn’s diving elbow drop]

Jim Ross: “Boy, nobody has ever delivered an elbow like that ever in the WWF. That is special.”

[After the match]

Jim Cornette: “That kick is deadly. If he’s got one weapon that can beat Sycho Sid, it’s the Kick. If he lands the Kick, Sid’s done. If Sid takes his legs out from under him, I think Sid should be the new champion.”

Jim Ross: “Shawn Michaels has made a lot of money beating up people that’s bigger than he is [sic]. He’s at the top of his game. No doubt, when you get inside Madison Square Garden on a major event like the Survivor Series, next Sunday on pay-per-view, we’ll see the absolute best of Shawn Michaels.”

I wonder why Cornette sounds so objective an analytical here. I mean, aside from the comments about Shawn being scared, I thought he’d be angrier because Vader would no longer be facing Shawn for the title at Survivor Series.


Shawn Michaels vs. Sycho Sid (WWF Championship defense, Survivor Series, November 17th, 1996)

[During the Free for All pre-show]

Todd Pettengill: “Shawn Michaels has reigned with confidence and charisma. He is fearless, flamboyant, and beloved. The challengers have been bigger, stronger, and more vicious. Shawn has always persevered, but this time the enemy is from within. The enemy is trust.”

Vince McMahon: “Nobody, I mean nobody, gives it their all like that man.”

Jim Ross: “Nope.”

Vince McMahon: “No one that’s ever worn that championship belt has ever given more every single time he goes out to perform. He doesn’t leave anything. He gives it, every bit of it, to you.”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, Ladies and Gentlemen. This man can electrify a crowd like no individual in World Wrestling Federation history! […] He is a showman par excellence!”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels can’t get enough of it! He lives and breathes for this kind of adulation, and indeed is deserving of it.”

Jim Ross: “Well, this is his life. Shawn’s a single man. You know? This is his life. Everything that Shawn Michaels is about, everything he prepared as a youngster to be is about being the champion.”

[Shawn attempts and loses a strike battle]

Vince McMahon: “And the thing about Shawn is that machismo, and it gets the best of him a lot of times.”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, continuing to work with the left leg of Sycho Sid.”

Jim Ross: “Shawn, very, very aggressive, and such a consummate tactician. I’d be very surprised to see if Shawn focuses on any other body part […]”

Jim Ross: “Shawn Michaels may not be as big, physically, as Sid, but I wouldn’t bet that his heart wasn’t bigger than anybody’s.”

Vince McMahon: “Look at Michaels saying ‘Come on, bring it to me, come on, bring it to me’ – sometimes that’s just an act of bravado.”

Jim Ross: “Shawn Michaels is like a pitbull dog: he doesn’t know how big or how little he really is – doesn’t really give a damn. That’s the kind of man he is.”

Vince McMahon: “Yeah, that’s what he’s saying: ‘Bring it to me, bring it to me’. Michaels, we’ve always said, has more guts than brains.”

[Shawn gets a boot for trying a double axe handle while Sid’s laying flat]

Jim Ross: “Shawn Michaels has gotta be on dream street before that [sic]. That move would never happen to Shawn Michaels if he had all of his wits about him.”


Shawn and Jose Lothario Interview Segment (WWF Raw, November 25th, 1996)

This promo is something most should watch to know when Shawn switched from being a cookie-cutter babyface to being that controversial tweener-esque face. Shawn admitted that, somewhere along the way, he lost his edge. I guess it was a response to the mixed response he was getting by the time he lost the title to Sid. I feel like this promo may bear a strong connection with Shawn’s feud with Diesel right before he left. Diesel was presented as a champion who struggled with the responsibilities of the role, with that year being called “the worst of his life”. He wanted Shawn to be his old self because he felt that Shawn wasn’t staying true to who he was, and felt that the only way he could free Shawn was by taking the belt off of him. In a sense, that’s what happened here.


Bret Hart vs. Sycho Sid (WWF Championship, In Your House: It’s Time, December 15th, 1996)

Vince McMahon: “He is charismatic, he is flamboyant, and indeed, does not want to be a role model […] but some people think his honesty is to be applauded.”

Jim Ross: “It’s certainly very refreshing […]”


Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in-ring interview with Jim Ross (WWF Raw, December 30th, 1996)

Bret and Shawn both seem to have been “corrupted” due to their experiences losing to Sid. Both have become bitter people and both of them argue that neither is the role model that they claimed to be or used to be. It’s very interesting to see both Shawn and Bret make that transition together. In the video package, Vince refers to both as “legends”, so I assume by this point both had reached that status in WWF canon. The next part of Shawn’s evolution was also hinted in the video package, with Shawn referring to himself as “the World Wrestling Federation’s favorite degenerate.”


1997

Shawn Michaels pins Sycho Sid at the 1997 Royal Rumble

Shawn Michaels pins Sycho Sid at the 1997 Royal Rumble

Shawn Michaels vs. Sycho Sid (WWF Championship, Royal Rumble, January 19th, 1997)

Jerry Lawler: “Shawn Michaels’ ego is so big, it needs its own zip code. And when he sees even one of these over 60,000 fans cheering for Sid, that could blow his mind. You could see Shawn Michaels snap!”

[Regarding Shawn Michaels having the flu]

Jerry Lawler: “The longer this match goes, the more it favors Sycho Sid, because I don’t care what Shawn Michaels says about the flu, believe me, it drains your energy. He will not have his usual stamina tonight.”

Vince McMahon: “I’m inclined to agree with that.”


In-ring Interview with Vince McMahon (WWF ‘Royal Rumble’ Raw, February 3rd, 1997)

Jim Ross: “Take a good look at the WWF Champion. He’s not in his mid-40s, he’s not bald, and he’s not making promises that he can’t keep! Shawn Michaels is promising you that on Thursday Raw Thursday, live right here on the outstanding USA Network, he’s gonna put it ALL on the line!”

Jim Ross: “What a great young athlete. Shawn Michaels is the man. He is the measuring stick, ladies and gentlemen. Whether you like him or you don’t, he is the man in the World Wrestling Federation. His greatest years are still ahead of him.”

Shawn talks about a promo Sid cut earlier about “evil”, and Shawn agrees that the title brings out the worst in WWF superstars, including himself. Diesel’s prophetic words live on!


Headbangers vs. Bob Holly and Aldo Montoya (WWF Thursday Raw Thursday, February 13th, 1997)

Jerry Lawler: “You know, I gotta say, McMahon. Speaking of Shawn Michaels, I was really looking forward to it. I’ve been looking forward all week to seeing the showoff get shown up here at the showdown with Sycho Sid. But, then when the news broke about Shawn Michaels, you know, it’s a crushing blow to anybody. Even Shawn Michaels, I mean, I gotta even…maybe feel for the guy.”

Vince McMahon: “Here’s someone who, whether you like him or you don’t like him, whether you like long hair or you don’t like long hair, or earrings, or whatever he has in his belly button or doesn’t have in his belly button – one thing you have to give Shawn Michaels is that more than any other WWF superstar, perhaps in history, he gives you his all. Whether you like him or you don’t.”

Jim Ross: “Think of the great matches in ’96 he had with Vader, his classic in September against Mankind for the WWF Title. I mean, this kid gave it 110% each and every night no matter where he was around the world.”

Vince McMahon: “Well, the match with Bret Hart at last year’s Wrestlemania was nothing short of extraordinary. I mean, match after match, whenever you think about some of the best matches in the World Wrestling Federation ever in history, a lot of them, if not most of them, would include Shawn Michaels, whose career could very well come to a crossed halt, as a result of this knee injury. […] If you’re Shawn Michaels and you’ve put your body through what he puts his body through on a given night, that has to take its toll, and unfortunately, apparently, that is what has happened. The toll has just been too much for Shawn Michaels. He is slated for a knee surgery, we just don’t know the extent of the damage done to the knee. He may, God forbid, not return to action.”

Jim Ross: “Well, you know, until a doctor opens him, and that’s what’s gonna happen, we’re not gonna know the severity of the situation and if it’s gotta be completely reconstructed, he may never be back, number one, he may never be the same, number two. We just don’t know. It’s just a heartbreaking situation for a young kid in his prime just realizing his dream, you know, to be debilitated as he has.”

Jerry Lawler: “You guys don’t need to soften, I mean, try to soft-pedal him. Tell the people what his doctor said, that is complete reconstructive surgery has to be done on his knee, and most likely, it’s a career-ending injury.”

Vince McMahon: “Not necessarily, again, as JR, said, no one will really know until they get inside the knee. But, again, Shawn Michaels, ladies and gentlemen, can’t give you 99%, he has to give you 100% every night he goes to the ring, more than any WWF superstar perhaps.”

Jerry Lawler: “Let me ask you and Ross something, McMahon: do you guys, in any way at all, feel responsible for what’s happened to Shawn Michaels? When you guys are off here constantly talk about him being ‘the most resilient, the most flamboyant, the most charismatic’, naturally, he feels obligated every night to put his body at risk. Hey, he’s not Superman, nobody is. And now, this is what’s happened.”

Vince McMahon: “Matter of fact, I certainly feel partially responsible, considering the schedule. No one’s ever been on a schedule like Shawn Michaels’, from a promotional standpoint or from an athletic standpoint.”

Jim Ross: “You know, how would you like to be Brett Favre just winning the Super Bowl, at the peak of your career, and somebody tells you in the off-season ‘we have to rebuild your knee, and you may not play again.’ I mean, it’s a heartbreaking situation, that’s exactly the analogy we have here. Shawn Michaels, without a doubt, is the Most Valuable Player in the WWF! […] At least that’s my opinion. I’m sure that could be arguable. He may not be the most popular guy in the locker room, but you know, who cares?”

After what JR said during Shawn’s entrance on ‘Royal Rumble’ Raw, just…wow. He was gyrating on WWF Superstars not more than 4 days prior to this. To King’s point about JR and Vince feeling responsible, he’s totally right. I haven’t written down every single instance where Vince has used that line for Shawn’s entrance, but I assure you, if you watch any match of Shawn’s from late 1995 through 1996, that’s all you’ll ever hear.


In-ring interview with Vince McMahon (WWF Raw, March 17th, 1997)

Jim Ross: “Ladies and gentlemen, whether you love him or whether you hate him, you’ve got to admit, he’s one hell of an athlete. He’s a hell of a performer. Shawn Michaels: there’s only one of him. He’s a franchise ball player here in the WWF, and yes, he’s back with us tonight. What a surprise!”


Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels Face-to-Face (WWF Raw, May 12th, 1997)

Jim Ross: “I don’t think there’s ever been a rivalry that has been talked about as much worldwide as much as this issue between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels.”

Bret Hart: “Shawn Michaels, the Boy Toy…you know there was a time when I just couldn’t stand you. Now when look at you, I realize that I hate your guts! And the reason that I hate your guts, to list all the reasons why I can’t stand you and you make me sick, the biggest reason is — go ahead, take your jacket off, make yourself at home. It symbolizes something, you taking your jacket off. It’s like you’re hot, you’re cold, you’re hot, you’re cold – that’s the story of your whole career! One minute you’re hot, next you’re not! You know, what bugs me about you is that — it finally dawned on me — is the way you dance around, you have this attitude, this arrogance, this cockiness. Then it finally hit me: that’s what you Americans all symbolize! You think you’re better than everybody else! You think can cop this attitude and look down at the rest of the world like you’re better than us!”


Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Owen Hart and The British Bulldog (WWF Tag Team Championship, Raw, May 26th, 1997)

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, back in action! Unquestionably one of the greatest athletes in WWF history! Will there be ring rust tonight? Can he coexist with Stone Cold Steve Austin?”

[After Bulldog clotheslines him and drops the leg]

Jim Ross: “Whether you love Shawn Michaels or you hate him, it’s really irrelevant. He’s a magnificent athlete with a tremendous fighting spirit. A lesser athlete would have stayed down on the canvas on that one.”


Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Legion of Doom (WWF Tag Team Championship defense, Raw, June 2nd, 1997)

Vince McMahon: “We saw last week that this man, amazingly, hasn’t missed a step! We thought perhaps there might be some ring rust – last week, we saw none. HBK is back with a vengeance!”


Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WWF King of the Ring, June 8th, 1997)

Vince McMahon: “He is beloved by so many, many fans, and unquestionably one of the great treasures here in the World Wrestling Federation; Michaels back in action. You may not like him. You may not like a pierced navel – I’m not too fond of it. Nonetheless, that’s Shawn Michaels. But no one can compare to Michaels when it comes to sheer entertainment in that squared circle. No one can compare to him when it comes to athleticism. He’s in a league all by himself, JR.”

Jim Ross: “Well, there’s no doubt about that. He is a phenomenal athlete. Very few have ever competed on Shawn Michaels’ plane.”

Vince McMahon: “Michaels is gonna be on his horse, no doubt about that. No one can move as quickly, and perhaps with as much agility, as Michaels.”

Jim Ross: “The quickness, the lightning quickness of Shawn Michaels, will play, I think, a huge part in this matchup. And Michaels has so much more big match experience here in the WWF than does Stone Cold.”

[After helping a Special Olympian who had fallen over the rail to the back]

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels showing a side of humanitarianism that not too many people knew he had.”

Jim Ross: “If Shawn Michaels wins this matchup […] it’s gonna be because of his quickness and his resourcefulness. If Austin wins it, I think it’s going to be by knockout. Stone Cold Stunner is what Austin is looking for.”

Jim Ross: “Well, I’ll tell you something. I’ve had the privilege of seeing a lot of great athletes, as have you, Vince, the last couple of decades. I’ve never seen one more purely athletically gifted — a natural athlete — than Shawn Michaels. But right now, the ‘pure athlete’ is in trouble, ‘cause Mr. Intensity is all about business.”


Shawn Michaels with DX, 1997

Shawn Michaels with DX, 1997

Comments on Shawn between KOTR 1997 and Summerslam 1997

Shawn was written out for a few weeks with an injury (Bret actually tore some of his hair out in a fight, but this is well-documented), returning in San Antonio on July 14th. He ditched the sports jacket attire that he was wearing in favor of shorts and a t-shirt, which he proceeded to take off before the interview even began. The next week, Shawn took it up a notch, stripping as he got into the ring. This was, of course, in Canada, and was no doubt Shawn’s way of antagonizing the crowd. Shawn also backflips off the top rope because why not. Finally, he crotch chops twice, although I’m sure I saw that during the ‘Royal Rumble’ Raw as well. Basically, this would become the standard for Shawn’s persona as the leader of D-Generation X.


The Undertaker vs. Bret Hart (WWF Championship, Summerslam, August 3rd, 1997)

[On Shawn Michaels’ emotion as the Special Guest Referee]

Jerry Lawler: “Are you kidding me? Shawn Michaels’ ego is so big that it’s got its own zip code, McMahon. All he cares about is what his hair looks like out here tonight. And you know what? Speaking of the Undertaker, Shawn Michaels — I mean, he’s so full of himself, when he goes to a funeral, he’s upset because he’s not the corpse. He wants to be the center of attention, and tonight, [in] some kind of way, he will manage to be the center of attention in this match.”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels: many individuals feel as though Shawn Michaels personifies the exuberance in America’s youth today. It’s a little bit, uh, maybe a little bit cocky.”

Jerry Lawler: “He personifies America’s youth? In that case, I may move to Canada.” Vince McMahon: “He has an edge, no doubt about it.”

Vince McMahon: “[…] in terms of his style in the ring, he likes to really let it fly. And I would suggest to you that’s exactly the way he’s gonna officiate this matchup…”

Jerry Lawler: “Now that’s what I like McMahon!”

Vince McMahon: “…allow the bending, if not out-and-out breaking of the rules. As long as one individual can break it, the other one can too.”

Jerry Lawler: “I like a referee that’ll let it fly!”

Jim Ross: “Shawn Michaels may referee like he lives his life – in the fast lane, as he wants.”

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels, surprisingly, has been a pretty effective referee.”

Jim Ross: “He’s done much better than I thought he would, considering his inexperience.”

Jim Ross: “I’ll say this for Shawn Michaels: his count has been very deliberate, and very consistent.”

Jerry Lawler: “Pretty quick.”


Shawn Michaels vs. Mankind (WWF Raw, August 11th, 1997)

Jerry Lawler: “Ordinarily, these Mississippi morons would be going nuts over Shawn Michaels, but they’re not all doing that right now!”

Vince McMahon: “If there was any doubt as to the mental or physical toughness of Shawn Michaels, I don’t think we can doubt it anymore.”

Jim Ross: “Absolutely not. Shawn Michaels, not gonna be intimidated, apparently, by The Undertaker, at least with the way Shawn is competing here with Mankind.”


Shawn Michaels and Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Mankind and The Undertaker (WWF Raw, August 18th, 1997)

Vince McMahon: “Shawn Michaels is likely to be very, very reluctant to lock up with The Undertaker.”

[After a flying forearm]

Vince McMahon: “And there’s some of that athleticism we alluded to. No question, Shawn Michaels, whether you like him or not, truly one of the great athletes of our era. Maybe any era.”

[Shawn taunts The Undertaker]

Jim Ross: “Michaels is like a banty rooster.”

Vince McMahon: “More like a pitbull, JR. This man can do some damage to you. He’s lethal.”

Vince McMahon: “Michaels is arrogant, no doubt about that. He is cocky. If you have this kind of athleticism, perhaps you can be.”


Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (WWF In Your House: Ground Zero, September 7th, 1997)

Vince McMahon: “One thing about Michaels: he will get in your face. And no matter what he does, the ladies absolutely adore him.”

[After 10+ minutes of getting absolutely wrecked]

Vince McMahon: “Michaels on the outside. Who would blame him if he just walked away? He may have been trying to do just that!”

Jerry Lawler: “I’ve heard you call him the most resilient superstar a million times, and he’s made a believer out of me tonight!”


Undertaker In-ring Interview with Vince McMahon (WWF Raw, September 8th, 1997)

The Undertaker: “Last night, Shawn Michaels and I opened the Gates of Hell! I felt his fire and he was burned by mine. Michaels, to your credit, you looked Death right in the eye, and you never blinked. But last night was only the beginning, for I will never rest until the flesh is rotting from your bones.”


Shawn Michaels vs. The British Bulldog (WWF European Championship, One Night Only, September 18th, 1997)

[As Shawn makes his way through the gorilla position]

Vince McMahon: “The most controversial athlete in the World Wrestling Federation approaching this capacity crowd. Wait til you hear this, when Michaels comes through the curtain — here he comes!”

Vince McMahon: “A young man, ladies love him, he is one of a kind! A great competitor. And he loves every second of this adulation.”

[Shawn leaves the ring to waste some time]

Vince McMahon: “He is playing this crowd. Look at this…”

[Shawn crotch chops with his back to The Bulldog]

Jerry Lawler: [laughter] You gotta admit, he’s pretty cool.”

Vince McMahon: “Well, he’s different. He’s cocky, he’s arrogant, and make no mistake about it, he’s good. And he knows it.”

Jim Ross: “Bulldog, arguably, one of the most powerful men, pound for pound, to ever compete in the WWF. But Michaels, arguably, is the greatest athlete to ever compete in the WWF.”

Vince McMahon: “All around.”

[Shawn is knocked out of the ring and he tries to walk away]

Vince McMahon: “Michaels, barely…he’s wobbling that’s for sure. The kind of competitor he is, I don’t think he’s waiving this match off. At least not this early!”

Jim Ross: “Submission move by The Bulldog, the abdominal stretch applied to Michaels in the center of the ring. Nowhere for the challenger to go. It is a gut check for the young man from San Antonio, Texas.”

Vince McMahon: “And we have seen previous gut checks on many an occasion, and, almost, on every occasion, Shawn Michaels rises to the occasion.”

—————————–

Vince McMahon: “You’ve gotta stay on Michaels every second of the match.”

Jerry Lawler: “Michaels is the ultimate opportunist. You can NOT turn your back on him!”

[After the match]

Vince McMahon: “The Grand Slam Winner! Michaels has become the first ever Grand Slam Winner in the history of the World Wrestling Federation!”

[As Shawn dances in the entrance way]

Vince McMahon: “Look at this! What a dastardly human being! Michaels may be a great athlete, but look at him! Look at him taunt this capacity crowd!”

Vince had kind of leaned away from trying to use too many ‘negative’ words to describe Shawn, but for all intents and purposes, Shawn was already a heel the week after he faced Mankind. Shawn had even directly told him on commentary during a triple threat featuring Hunter Hearst Helmsley that he was ‘a bad guy’ now. When Vince asked him why he attacked The British Bulldog before he could participate in said triple threat, he called Vince a moron and stated he did it because then it wouldn’t be fair. Seems like Vince was in denial til this match happened!


Shawn Michaels in 1997

Shawn Michaels In-ring Interview with Vince McMahon (WWF Raw, September 29th, 1997) 

Jim Ross: “Here he comes, the new European Champion. The arrogant Shawn Michaels has done it all in the WWF, including, in my opinion, embarrassing an entire country at One Night Only.”

Jerry Lawler: “What do you mean ‘embarrassing an entire country’? Why should the people of the United Kingdom be any different from anybody else? Shawn Michaels is arrogant, he’s full of himself, he’s on a roll like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he’s on a big winning streak, and he don’t care who knows it! He wants the WORLD to know it!”

Vince McMahon: “[…] the wise-ass of the WWF, perhaps the most talented individual in the history of the WWF, as well.”


Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (WWF In Your House: Badd Blood, October 5th, 1997)

Vince McMahon: “It all started at Summerslam, when Michaels was the official, the referee of the matchup with Bret Hart and The Undertaker. And Michaels, with that chair shot, single-handedly changed the course of history in the WWF, and it was downhill from there.”

[Breaking out of a chokeslam with punches]

Jim Ross: “Michaels will fight you. He is double tough. There is no doubt about that.”

Vince McMahon: “He has no alternative.”

Jerry Lawler: “Desperation offense here.”

Jim Ross: “Michaels has had great success against big giants here in the WWF. Remember, he beat Diesel, he beat Psycho Sid – but in those matches, Michaels was able to dictate the pace, to be the aggressor. That is not the case here tonight.”

[After nipping up]

Vince McMahon: “And Michaels, look at this — showing his arrogance once again, in the face of all of this adversity.”

Jim Ross: “Michaels, he’s so cocky, so self-assured.”

Jerry Lawler: “And you know why he is? Because he can be.”

[After a Diving Elbow Drop]

Jim Ross: “I’ve never seen anybody in the WWF do that as well as Shawn Michaels. Ever.”

[After being brought back into the Cell]

Jim Ross: “This is just a matter of time now before the most arrogant superstar in WWF history is out of commission for good!”


Shawn Michaels vs. Flash Funk (WWF Raw, October 13th, 1997)

Rick Rude: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner of this contest: the Showstopper, the Headliner, the Main Event, The PECAN of the World Wrestling Federation — whoops, sorry — the ICON of the World Wrestling Federation — The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels!”

Was that the first time Shawn had been introduced in that way? I’m thinking it might have been.


Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart (WWF Intercontinental Championship, WWF European Championship Defense, Raw, October 20th, 1997)

Jim Ross: “I shudder to think how arrogant and obnoxious, and how much of an ass he’d make of himself if Shawn Michaels wins the Intercontinental title.”

Vince McMahon: “Wait a minute, the same can be said for Owen Hart.”

Jim Ross: “Well that’s — I don’t agree though! I think Shawn’s a bigger ass than Owen!”

Jerry Lawler: “Shawn would go park in Lover’s Lane by himself.”

Vince McMahon: “Well, I guess it’s just a matter of degree. The Heartbreak Kid…”

Jim Ross: “Certainly not saying he’s not a great athlete. I think pound-for-pound he may be the greatest athlete in the ring today. I don’t know – it’s certainly an artful point. But he’s a first-class juvenile, sure!”

Vince McMahon: “Well, that he is. But you can’t take away his athleticism […] nor can you take away Owen’s.”

Jim Ross: “Michaels may be the more explosive of two [sic], but in my view, Owen Hart is more technically sound.”

[As Shawn prepares to drop the elbow]

Vince McMahon: “Michaels, normally an opportunist […] High-risk maneuver coming up. This one may backfire on Michaels, who knows? Michaels will take a chance for sure. One of the more, if not the most exciting wrestlers in – OH!”


Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (WWF Championship, Survivor Series, November 9th, 1997)

Jim Ross: “Michaels is very arrogant, but he is the greatest athlete in the history of the World Wrestling Federation, bar none.”

Surprisingly little here, don’t you think?

Related: The Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series 1997


Shawn Michaels vs. Ken Shamrock (WWF Championship defense, In Your House: D-Generation X, December 7th, 1997)

Jim Ross: “He’s a future Hall of Famer, there’s no doubt about it. As I said, and you may argue this point: I think he’s the greatest athlete I have ever seen in this sport. But his attitude is DEPLORABLE. His conduct is REPREHENSIBLE.” 

Fun Fact: This match was featured quite extensively in the intro for WWF War Zone. It’s probably no coincidence that Shawn’s attire in this match is his primary costume in the game.


Shawn Michaels and Triple H vs. The Legion of Doom (WWF Raw, December 15th, 1997)

Jim Cornette: “I’m gonna make an observation about Michaels: he’s so fixated on being the ‘showstopper’ and the ‘scene-stealer’ that he gets out there, and the Road Warriors treat him like a human super ball for a couple of minutes. He takes unnecessary punishment just because he wants to try to hot-dog. That’s Michaels’ one failing, and I think he’s only got one – is his ego.”

[Regarding Shawn’s upcoming match with The Undertaker at The Royal Rumble]

Jim Cornette: “That’s why I [always love] seeing Shawn Michaels in the ring with The Undertaker, because Michaels’ strong point is his guts, and the fact that you knock him down, he’ll keep getting back up until he outlasts ya, but when he’s in the ring with The Undertaker, The Undertaker don’t slow down!”


Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart (WWF Championship defense, Raw, December 29th, 1997)

[After Owen attacks him quickly from the get-go on the outside]

Jim Ross: “Michaels, a notoriously fast starter, has been taken completely out of his game by the aggressiveness of Owen Hart!”


1998

Shawn Michaels attempting to escape the grasp of the Undertaker at 1998's Royal Rumble

Shawn Michaels attempting to escape the grasp of the Undertaker at 1998’s Royal Rumble

Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker (WWF Championship defense, Royal Rumble, January 18th, 1998)

Jim Ross: “Certainly, Shawn Michaels, arguably the greatest athlete in the history of the WWF, and that covers a lot of ground. He may not be in a class by himself, folks, but it doesn’t take too long to call the roll. He is the Grand Slam Winner – the only man to win the WWF title, Intercontinental title, European title, and Tag Team title in WWF history. Nobody can match Michaels’ success in championship matches. Not Hogan, not Savage, not anybody. Michaels is on that page alone. And he always turns it on during these pay-per-views.”

———————————

Jim Ross: “I’ll tell you what: Shawn Michaels’ record on pay-per-view main events is better than John Wayne’s in movie shootouts. Michaels ALWAYS rises to the occasion. He loves to be the ‘showstopper’ – the ‘scene-stealer’, if you will.”

Jerry Lawler: “That’s right, if you ain’t talkin’ about him, he ain’t listenin’. I’m sure he’s been a little upset about all of this about Mike Tyson.”


Video Package (WWF Raw, March 17th, 1998)

Michael Cole: “San Antonio’s Favorite Son took a path befitting the flash and flamboyance of Texas’s number one tourist town. For the Pride of Victoria, it was the no-nonsense, plain-talking, straight-shooting approach you’d expect from a tough guy in a working man’s town.”

———————————

Michael Cole: “Shawn Michaels was born to be a WWF superstar. He was born to be a WWF Champion. Shawn Michaels is the most decorated superstar in World Wrestling Federation history, and the Heartbreak Kid’s largest stage is Wrestlemania, where the brightest of all spotlights has put Shawn’s unbelievable talents on display. Michaels is a reflection of Wrestlemania, a mirror image of the glitz, the glamor, the flamboyance, and the Attitude.”

Interesting how they chose to parallel this with the Wrestlemania 12 package. In that one, they also talked about the similarities and contrasts between the two competitors, and where the two came from and how it reflected their personalities. However, the tables have turned here, with Shawn now being in the position where his time is coming to a close, although his hiatus would be far longer than Bret’s was.


Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WWF Championship defense, Wrestlemania 14, March 29th, 1998)

[Shawn is backstage]

Jim Ross: “He’s the greatest WWF Champion of all time, folks.”

———————————

Jim Ross: “Nobody has ever, ever outperformed Shawn Michaels in a big match situation, and folks, it don’t get no bigger than this.”


And with that, Shawn Michaels’ story came to an end. Of course, it wasn’t really the end. His run from 2002-2010 is worthy of as much praise, if not more, as his run in the 1990s.

Related: The Story Behind Arguably The Greatest Match of all Time

Shawn’s character arc mirrors much of how storytelling changed from the beginning of the 1990s up until the end. The reasons a viewer might have hated him in 1992 were likely not the same reasons they would have hated him in 1997. It is easy to make the simple characterization of him being a male stripper, but Shawn’s character ultimately boiled down to a man whose interpretation of what it meant to be the greatest wrestler of all time defined his behavior. Classified as a narcissist, his early Heartbreak Kid persona represented the color and pageantry of some of the sport’s greatest, such as Gorgeous George and Ric Flair. Perceived as a hero to all, “The Boyhood Dream” run of 1996 represented the heart and soul required to be a true champion. A self-professed degenerate, Shawn’s closing chapter illustrated his belief that his work in the ring would define his legacy, and that no matter how bad his behavior was, his legacy in the ring would justify it.

I guess it makes sense that the second half of his story becomes one of redemption. But that’s for another time.

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