It is no secret that Shawn Michaels was in a bad place during the lead up to March 29, 1998’s WrestleMania 14 main event against ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. Shawn had broken his back at the Royal Rumble earlier that January after taking a severe bump to the outside off of Undertaker’s casket [see 7-minute mark]. Behind-the-scenes, Shawn was not an easy person to get along with and was doing everything in his power to politic against dropping the belt to Steve Austin. Many did not take this lightly, including the Undertaker, who stood stoically in Gorilla Position with fists wrapped ready to confront Michaels had he not done the honors for Austin after the match [click here for this story].
On a January 2015 family-friendly episode of The Steve Austin Show, the ‘Texas Rattlesnake’ was asked about his experiences working with Shawn Michaels:
“It was a real pain even getting to the match, and Shawn will tell you this, he wasn’t in a good place, physically or mentally,” Austin said of their WrestleMania 14 match. “He had a real bad attitude on him and didn’t feel like dropping the strap.” Austin would, of course, go on to win the WWF Title at the event.
Steve Austin elaborated on HBK’s attitude, specifying an open workout in Boston in which Michaels was hit with a battery which sent him over the edge. Neither he nor Mike Tyson, who was also present, knew if Michaels would come back to the workout after leaving.
Despite the outcome of the Wrestlemania 14 match, Austin wasn’t happy with it.
“I walked out of that thing as WWE Champion, but I told Vince that match was the drizzling shits,” Steve Austin said. He noted that Vince assured him it was fine and they accomplished what they needed to.
What was Michael’s psyche at the time? Read on to find out from the man himself!
The Real Story behind the Austin / Michaels Match at WrestleMania 14
“What did you think when Vince McMahon told you Mike Tyson was going to be involved, what ran through your mind? Were you down with that?”
“At best I can recall I don’t think I knew about it, I can remember hearing about it, but you did the first thing with him. To be perfectly honest, I’m sure I can remember being a little jealous. ‘Mike Tyson is going to be here and I’m in the main-event with Steve and I don’t even get to do anything with him?’
I didn’t know we were doing the D-X thing or anything like that the first time when you guys went out there and did the confrontation with him where you pushed him and all of that with Vince. I didn’t even know where we were going then. You know what I mean? As you know Steve, somebody could have told me that and it’s gone now. You knew it was going to be big, you knew it was going to help obviously the pay per view, having done a fair amount of those WrestleManias with ‘stars’, this one felt like this was going to be one that really worked to our advantage.
Everybody knew you’d have to have been a dummy not to know that you were coming on hot. For me – and again, just being 100% totally honest – it’s one of those things where, like, you know it’s cool…all of the stuff that’s happening is big but you’re not a part of it and that was admittedly a tough pill to swallow…and obviously not being the great guy that I am now…” (laughs)
“The guy I’m talking to right now is a lot different from the guy back then. I remember back then that tension was high and we started building that WrestleMania 14 thing and we brought Tyson in and everything was going full speed ahead and I remember the time you super kicked me on the top of the ramp there that one time and Triple H was there and, it was a hell of a build-up but man it seemed there was a little bit of animosity there and you seemingly, to me, were just in a lot different space than you are now…you were beat up…”
“The thing is, the animosity was never you…it was at the situation, it was at Vince; the career is over, I’m dropping the title, it was palpable that this was going to be big…there was absolutely nothing good going on with me, so I was a dick to everybody.”
“That being said, how were you on a physical level? What kind of pain level were you in going into that match through the build?”
“I remember having that one dude Francois, he came down to my place and was working with me, you know every day before that. I have to be honest. I was on a fair amount of stuff so for me to say what I would have been like completely off it, I can’t say. I can tell you that going into it, when the whole thing started, it was excruciating. You have had that unbelievable pain going down your leg, the leg feels like it’s dragging, and I guess for me that was the thing that…pain for me – mentally, I could always deal with pain. Mobility and feeling heavy…that more than anything bothers me, frustrates me, and that’s the thing that also added to my frustration and my attitude and everything then…knowing that, the one thing that I always had, even if I was the biggest prick in the world, I could always go out there and just rip it down and tear it up, and I knew that was not going to happen this time.
That more than anything bothered me and affected my psyche more than anything else, you know what I mean? Does that make any sense?”
“It was interesting because I remember going into that match and I remember coming out of that match and I won my first championship but gosh, you and I had ripped the ring up 100 times when I first came into the company and then on the grand stage it wasn’t so much. It’s just honestly – between you and me – as many matches of the year that you have had and that I’ve seen. Could it have been better?
It could have been a lot better but given the situations and everything that was going on, we went out there and we did what we had to do.
So I win the belt that night and you dropped the title to me – a big deal, a big step in my career and something that I’ll never forget.
After that match where were you in your head? Was it a letdown, a disappointment; just part of the business; a weight off your back…where were you when that three count happened…you went back to the dressing room…”
“First thing was…it took a long time for me to get to the ‘chill’ stage. Honestly now, years later, it’s still the one question people always ask me: ‘If you could change anything…’
I’m not big on the whole ‘regret’ thing…I don’t like to change anything because it might change where I’m at [now], but if you could have one do-over, that match has always been one of those things. I don’t know if you can remember, but I remember creatively, I was always good, as were you.
We ended up doing basically what you and Hunter had been doing at house shows. Just because I wasn’t even there mentally, had no drive to come up with something good and creative, I was never like that, even if I was in the ring with someone I didn’t like, my ring performance was never affected by that standpoint because that’s one thing that I wouldn’t let suffer. The fact that it wasn’t ripping the house down bothered me. The fact that the company was moving on bothered me…
I can remember…my biggest priority that night was nobody putting a shirt on me, I can remember being angry about that! It wasn’t until I got home and I just got away from it all, that I think it finally sort of…I got a little relaxed and sort of felt like the weight of the world was off my shoulders.
I can remember watching the show the next night and Hunter and Kid coming out and him doing the promo, ‘You dropped the ball…’, and all of that kind of stuff, and remember absolutely none of that bothered me in the least bit. Having the ability and the clarity to not get upset with the moving on when you leave, that’s the first time that I sort of felt like, ‘Holy cow’, you know what I mean?
The shirt being laid on me yesterday bothered me so much, how come this doesn’t?
That’s when I think the idea of…you know the ‘job’, as great as it is, it keeps you so busy and to just maybe have time to get a hobby, not go get in the car, to lay around – you know what I mean? To just sort of do whatever it is you want – I think that’s the first time since I was 19 years old.
That took time to settle in…”
SOURCE FOR THIS WRESTLEMANIA 14 EXCLUSIVE: Thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page for the interview transcription above from The Steve Austin Show – UNLEASHED! Episode #2: Shawn Michaels.