Do me a favor and think about some of your favorite TV shows over the past decade, or two, or three. Think about how you felt when one of those shows went off the air, or your favorite actor left the show. When Friends went off the air and you knew that you would never hear Phoebe sing the “Smelly Cat” song again? Or when Seinfeld said his final joke? Or when you knew you would never see Kelly and Zack hang out at “The Max” ever again?
Now think about your favorite athletes and how you felt when they left the role you knew them in for so long. Personally, I think of when Patrick Ewing left the Knicks. I had a 15-year bond with Patrick. When a player like that leaves your team, it’s like having your heart broken by a girlfriend. I think about when Don Mattingly hung up his cleats, or Bernie Williams, or even Paul O’Neil, for that matter. Think back to when Michael Jordan retired, Reggie Miller said good bye, or Pedro Martinez left the Red Sox. If you’re not sure what I am talking about, then think about how you will feel when your favorite player hangs it up… when Mariano Rivera throws his last pitch, or when Jeter pumps his fist for the final time. As a New Yorker, the thought of losing those players is obviously painful.
Now that you’ve channeled that feeling of loss, you can relate to how I felt when one of the greatest sports entertainers of all time, Shawn Michaels of the WWE, retired on Monday Night Raw. He was an athlete and an actor, a good guy and a bad guy; Michaels was The Heartbreak Kid.
For the average non-wrestling fans, whenever they hear the words WWE or professional wrestling they respond with one reaction, “come on man, don’t you know that it is fake.” Yes dick, I know that it is “scripted,” but so is LOST, except in wrestling there are no smoke monsters and time travel. I don’t hear you complaining that I shouldn’t watch LOST because it’s fake. To me, wrestling was the best of both worlds. It was my favorite sitcom with great characters, story lines, and plots, combined with the intense competition of athletes, championship belts, players to root for, and raw athleticism. For the past 18 years Shawn Michaels has been my Zack Morris, my Jack Bauer, my LeBron James, and my Ken Griffey Jr. all rolled into one.
He played all the roles. He was as fun to watch as a Rocker in his early days. Even in the beginning, you had the feeling that he was destined for something more. When he kicked Marty Janetty through the barbershop window, you were forced to boo him, although you really didn’t want to. There are very few actors these days in movies or in television that can play a comedian, a rebel, a ladies man, and a church-goer as well as Shawn Michaels has done week after week for the past 20 years. His acting skills and his showmanship are leaps and bounds better than those of the countless number of wrestlers that came before him. Once that bell rang and the match began, he put on such a damn good show. He was never the biggest, the strongest, the most athletic, or the most daring, but he was far and away the most captivating. He got the best out of every wrestler that ever faced him; time and time again he stole the show.
He even took on a washed-out alcoholic, below-average wrestler Razor Ramon, and they ended up having one of the best matches in WWF history.
During a time when the WWE needed him most, as WCW was making a push to become the number one wrestling federation, HBK stood strong and was part of one of the most rebellious groups in WWE history, D-Generation X. DX was a revolution in the WWF and changed the overall attitude of the entire sports entertainment industry. He only had 2 words for ya… SUCK IT!
Almost every one of the big name wrestlers of the past decade has bounced around the different federations. Whether it be WCW, ECW or the more recent TNA, wrestlers came and went through the WWE. Very few were able to stand the test of time, put up with Vince McMahon, and show loyalty to a company that made them the legends they are today. Shawn Michaels was loyal to the WWE, and the WWE fans showed their loyalty to him.
Shawn Michaels has been one of the most recognizable wrestlers for the past two decades. He went by various nicknames including the Icon, the Showstoppa, the Main Event, and obviously the Heart Break Kid, and lived up to each one.
As with most retirements in wrestling, I am sure it is not the last we will see of Shawn Michaels. But if it is, then I am happy I was able to watch him say goodbye on a Monday Night Raw episode on March 28th, 2010. I have had my phases as a wrestling fan, starting as a child watching every minute, collecting every figure, and going to all the events when they came to my hometown, to being the rebellious fan in my older years, with the few of my friends that would still admit they watched wrestling, and now watching from time to time, still enjoying it when I happen to catch it on TV. But through all the years there has been one constant. One person whom I could always count on for entertainment. That was Shawn Michaels. And now, for the last time, Shawn Michaels has left the building.
Below is Shawn Michaels farewell speech. If you were ever a wrestling fan, I’m sure you’ll be able to appreciate this like I did.