WWE | Pro Wrestling

Happy Birthday, Mr. WrestleMania Shawn Michaels

Shawn Michaels was paid the greatest compliment of his career by none other than Reid Flair.

Legend has it (according to Ric Flair’s book, To Be The Man) that Reid in an assessment of Michaels – one of his favorite wrestlers (dad being the first), asked his father, Ric Flair if he could do a moonsault off the top rope. Flair replied, “No, why do you ask?” The youngster, probably about 10 at the time, calmly looked at daddy and said, “Because Shawn Michaels can do a moonsault off the top rope.” And there, the comparisons began and the debate over Shawn Michaels place in wrestling history was started.

When the son of the “then” greatest champion of all time is comparing his father to Michaels, it means even the youngest of fans appreciate the work Michaels does in the ring and the tide of professional wrestling had started to turn toward the “Attitude Era.”

There are few in this business that really define the word, “great.” Flair was great. The Rock, Steve Austin and Chris Jericho were great. Triple H was great and a few dozen other make the definition work (yes, Hogan is great and so was Macho Man). But there may not be a better “Showtime” performer in wrestling history than Shawn Michaels. And on his birthday, we pay homage to the “Showstopper” who became “Mr. WrestleMania” – a title that other than the Undertaker, no one can really carry without question.

I was never a Shawn Michaels guy, never a fan of DX or even “The Midnight Rockers” from his days in the AWA, but what I am a fan of is the performer in the ring and the Ladder Match that made him the superstar giant he became.

People used to say Ric Flair could wrestle a broom and make the broom look good. Shawn Michaels did not wrestle Razor Ramon in the infamous “Ladder Match”, he wrestled the ladder and made the metal object look like a star.

Michaels background needs no explanation. He wrestled for WWE, formerly the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), from 1988 until his first retirement in 1998. He held non-wrestling roles from 1998 to 2000 and resumed wrestling in 2002 until retiring ceremoniously in 2010.
In the WWF/WWE, Michaels headlined major pay-per-view events from 1989 to 2010, main-eventing the company’s premier annual event, WrestleMania, five times.

He was a key player in the highly successful stable, Degeneration X. He also wrestled in the American Wrestling Association (AWA), where he founded The Midnight Rockers with Marty Jannetty in 1985. After winning the AWA Tag Team Championship twice, the team continued through to the WWF, and had a high-profile breakup in January 1992.

Michaels was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011. Following his induction, WWE said, “Ask any Superstar on the WWE roster who the most gifted sports-entertainer of all time is and nearly everyone will have the same answer—Shawn Michaels.” Michaels is a four-time world champion: a three-time WWF Champion and a former World Heavyweight Champion. He won the 1995 and 1996 Royal Rumbles and is the WWF’s first Grand Slam Champion. He has won the PWI Match of the Year Award a record eleven times.

If Ric Flair was the greatest of the promotions generation, than Michaels was the greatest of the new generation. He may not have won as many championships but he commanded the same respect. Flair was a hero of HBK and to see the two at WrestleMania XXIV was one of the greatest things I had ever seen live.

“I’m sorry. I love you.” Those words live in infamy.

While the debate over which wrestler is better and who may be the best of all time will continue, the fact I have seen both in their prime makes me believe in the business and the past. And the understanding that Michaels performance in and out of the ring have made him the greatest entertainer in our generation

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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