SummerSlam 2005 was the home of one of the most intriguing and infamous matches of all time, The Immortal Hulk Hogan versus The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, and it’s talked about for all the wrong reasons.
If a match is still being talked about years after it took place, it usually means it was an all-time classic.
The match featured two of the most successful wrestlers to ever lace up a pair of boots, yet they just couldn’t get on the same page. Shawn was well-known for being tricky to work with in the ’90s and played a huge part in backstage politics. The Hulkster, too, was no stranger to politicking backstage. However, by 2005, The Heartbreak Kid had turned his life around, adopting a new attitude, finding God, and wasn’t into trying to backstage politic his way to the top any longer.
Hulk Hogan, being the star of his magnitude, was able to have creative freedom and book on his own terms. This became a problem in the build-up to the huge SummerSlam match with Shawn Michaels.
On a recent episode of Jim Cornette’s Drive-Thru, co-host Brian Last gave an amusing impression of how The Heartbreak Kid jokes about trying to book their feud in the days leading up to their first match:
The Heartbreak Kid: “[How about this.] I’ll win the first match, you win the second match, and you win the blow-off.”
The Hulkster: “Alright, I like it! But here’s the way I’d do it- How about I win the first match, the second match, and the third match?”
Joking aside, this is essentially how things went. Shawn thought the way to go with this bigtime money feud was with three matches, trading wins, with the third being the ultimate decider going to Hogan. Yet, only one match ever occurred where Hogan won. The following night on Raw, Shawn did a follow-up promo, and that was it.
Hogan didn’t want to go the three-match route. This bugged Shawn, and the result was truly memorable for all the wrong reasons. In cartoon-like fashion, Michaels infamously “oversold” almost every move throughout the match, making a farce out of it and humiliating Hogan in the process.
During a 2014 Q&A in Manchester, Shawn addressed the match.
“We were going to do a best of three and in the last minute, [Hogan] backed out. So that day, and I will admit this… I poked the bear all day. I already knew what I was gonna do — I was gonna go out there and do business, but I was gonna make him earn it, just to be a pain in the butt all day. And that was something I did just for my own enjoyment.”
Shawn later made clear, “It wasn’t right, it wasn’t professional.”
The man who stood across from him in the ring that night, Hulk Hogan, has a different outlook on what took place.
In a 2015 interview, The Hulkster had this to say about his match with The Heartbreak Kid at SummerSlam 2005 :
“If you really go behind the scenes on the Shawn Michaels thing, I just sat back. I mean, this is Vince’s show, Vince’s thing, and when we went to the dressing room, Vince came in and said, ‘Okay, I want Hogan to go over.’ No big deal. And those were Vince’s wishes. If he had told me to take the superkick and do the one, two, three, even though everybody says I’ve never done a job, if you go back and look at my career, I’ve pretty much lost more matches [in the last 15 years of my career] than I’ve won, trying to get guys over from Triple H to The Undertaker to The Rock, you name it. And I don’t win too many matches but it’s business. I’m trying to help these guys. So you know, when Vince wanted Shawn to do the job, we went out and had the match and everybody said, ‘Oh Shawn oversold and he was making fun of ya!’ If Shawn was really doing that, you’d have to ask him because I’ve seen him go to take the turnbuckle, he jumps on the bottom rope and does the triple flip which is, you know, okay… whatever. You know, and he’s done it several times, not just with me.”
The Immortal One had more to say.
“But what really [happened]… The reason it didn’t go any longer was because I shut it down. Because the next day, I was expecting to, you know, return the favor and then, ‘Okay, now you beat me and I beat you, let’s build to the third [match] and then go to the cage and keep it going.’ Because he was such a great worker, I thought we were gonna have a great run, but it could be my fault, or maybe I had my feelings too much involved but I thought the interview was going to be [acting out a Shawn Michaels promo]: ‘You know what, I gotta give it to Hogan, he was better than me on that one night but it’ll never happen again. You know what, I’m quicker and faster than him, he just had that moment, he had the crowd with him, he had the momentum but it’ll never happen again. I’m asking you Hulk Hogan [for another match].'”
Hogan continued. “I thought this was going to be the business interview, but when he came out, [Shawn said sarcastically], ‘Oooooh, he was too fast, he was too young.’
I went ‘I’m out.’
You know, I just told Vince, ‘Your boy… You know… It’s not business.’ So I pulled the plug on that deal. That’s where it ended up, and it wasn’t a creative control thing, I said, ‘I just don’t want to if it’s going to be a clown show now from this point on. I thought this guy really wanted to dig and draw some money.”
Here is word-for-word the Shawn Michaels’ promo that Hogan referenced prematurely ending their feud.
The Heartbreak Kid: “Here I am. And as much as it hurts me to have to admit this, last night, Hulk Hogan was the better man. But you had to be there to appreciate it, it was amazing, it was incredible… He was catlike, he was agile, he was nimble, he had a catch-as-catch-can style that even yours truly, The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels, quite honestly couldn’t figure out. I mean, his ring prowess was in so many ways and on so many levels, superior to mine that I simply could not compete and when it was over, even I, the evil Shawn Michaels, found myself falling victim like so many before me, to the vicious leg drop… One, two, three.”
It’s hard to believe this is the reason the feud came to an abrupt end because moments after this promo, Chris Masters came down to the ring, starting a new feud with HBK and turning him back to a babyface. It was quite evident that the feud with Hogan had come to an end by then.
Speaking of Shawn Michaels making the transition back to a babyface, his wish for the match against Hogan was to be a babyface. Michaels wanted a good guy versus good guy match at SummerSlam. Hogan was opposed to this, which also contributed to the tension between the two.
On the DVD “The Shawn Michaels Story: Heartbreak & Triumph,” which can be found in the Beyond The Ring section on the WWE Network, Shawn Michaels explains his frustrations.
“In my mind, I presented it to him as just good guy versus good guy and the thing where HBK was just like ‘Man, I gotta know, I gotta know if I can beat the immortal Hulk Hogan.’
And then the next week I was told that Terry [Hulk] would prefer classic heel versus babyface.
‘Like you’re in ’98.’
I was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me… I’d tear him up, I’d go out there on that mic and I would tear him to shreds!’
‘Give us that then, that’s what we want.’
I was just like, ‘You gotta be kidding me… Are you sure he’s gonna be okay with it?’
‘Terry’s business.’ [Vince said]
I asked them beforehand and after, ‘Are you sure he’s okay with it?’
I saw [Hogan] the next week and asked him, ‘Are you okay with all this?’ And it was the, ‘No problem, brother.’ And I got news for you, if he denies it, I’ll tell it to his face, ‘I asked you before, I asked you after, every time, you know, work with me, brother!’
I’m like, ‘Wow, some of the most successful people in this business are the most insecure.'”
The match is historic and will always hold a spot in the archives of wrestling, never to be forgotten.
What Happened After SummerSlam 2005 Between The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels and The Immortal One, Hulk Hogan?
Later down the road, Hulk Hogan had some nice things to say about Shawn.
“I’ve been around Shawn since then, and there is not that attitude at all. I mean, you know, we’ve talked on the phone, we’ve hung out together and stuff and that piece of business is behind us, so whatever happened then, that’s done and gone and over with.”
Of course, in this crazy world of pro wrestling, they managed to patch things up like most superstars with beef seem to eventually do.