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The Shawn Michaels Story Part Five : Hickenbottom’s Fall From Grace and Rise From the Ashes

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After losing the WWF World title at WrestleMania, and losing his career to a debilitating back injury, Shawn Michaels was about to embark on the toughest challenge of his life; retirement. While Shawn was always victorious in his battle with his post-wrestling career, the love of a woman, a child, and Jesus Christ would help him beat his demons, and add an unthinkable chapter in the life of Shawn Michaels.

Before I begin this week's article, I would like to thank everybody for the comments they left regarding last week's article. I greatly appreciate everybody's kind words. A special thanks to Chris Lansdell, the writer of Ask411, for not only helping me with some information that I needed for this week's column, but for giving me a tremendous plug. If you have checked out Chris' column, I suggest you do. It's extremely informative.

After his battle with Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV, Shawn Michaels' rode off into the sunset to heal his severely injured back. At the time, the WWF was hoping that Shawn would be back in time for SummerSlam to feud with DeGeneration X teammate, Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Unfortunately, this was not meant to be. Shawn's back was too badly injured. A return to the ring was more wishful thinking then it was a realistic option. On July 13th, 1998, Shawn Michaels returned to RAW. Unfortunately, he wasn't there to wrestle. This time his role was simple. Shawn provided guest color commentary for the show.

After several more months away from the company, Shawn Michaels returned to the WWF in an on-air capacity. Shawn took over for Sgt. Slaughter in the role of WWF Commissioner. In storyline mode, Michaels was brought in by the evil Mr. McMahon to serve as the WWF's authority figure to make life miserable for the company's faces. The relationship between Shawn and Vince's "Corporation" would not last long. On the December 28th edition of Monday Night RAW, Mr. McMahon fired Shawn Michaels as the WWF Commissioner. Shawn cemented his return as a fan favorite by hitting McMahon with "sweet chin music."

Shawn Michaels made his return at WrestleMania XV. Once again, he played the role of the WWF Commissioner. However, this time he was a babyface commissioner. "Mankind" Mick Foley fought the Big Show on the undercard. The winner of their match would be named special guest referee in the main event match between Steve Austin and the WWF World Champion The Rock. Although, Mick Foley won the match by disqualification, it appeared that he would be unable to referee. Mr. McMahon decided that he would referee the main event. It was obvious that if McMahon referred the match that Austin would not have a shot of regaining the title. Mr. McMahon would receive a stunning surprise when the song "Sexy Boy" played throughout the arena. Shawn Michaels announced that he is the WWF Commissioner, and as Commissioner, he would pick the referee for the match.

After WrestleMania XV, Shawn Michaels would appear in the WWF sporadically. On May 10th, 1999, Shawn Michaels sided with a suddenly face Vince McMahon in his feud with his son, Shane McMahon. During this episode of RAW, Shawn Michaels interrupted Shane on the Titantron, with Michaels announcing that Vince McMahon would be the second special referee for the Austin vs. Undertaker match at the Over the Edge pay per view, alongside Shane McMahon. Michaels then announced matches for later in the night.
Shawn would show up again on the June 21st edition of Monday Night RAW. His responsibility that night was to act as the special guest referee in the Steve Austin vs. Big Boss Man match-up. Shawn made his presence felt six days later at the King of the Ring pay per view. During the initial moments of the Hardys vs. Edge/Christian match, the Acolytes attacked both teams. The tag team bout was originally taking place on the Sunday Night Heat portion of the show. However, after the attack by Farooq and Bradshaw, Michaels decided to have the Hardys and Edge/Christian fight later in the evening during the pay per view in a #1 Contender's match.

When Vince McMahon cut a promo letting the crowd know that Shane McMahon would be unable to perform in the handicapped ladder match, Shawn Michaels told Vince that the match would go on, and Vince had to find a suitable replacement for Shane. Knowing that Vince would choose Triple H to be his partner, Shawn kicked Triple H out of the arena later in the evening. After seeing a GTV segment before the ladder match where it was revealed that Shane was faking an injury, Shawn Michaels inserted Shane McMahon back into the ladder match with his father against Steve Austin.

On the August 9th RAW telecast, Shawn Michaels was back as a special referee. In the main event, Chyna defeated Triple H and the Undertaker in a No DQ falls count anywhere match by pinning Triple H after Steve Austin interfered, hit Triple H with a chair on the floor, and laid Chyna across him. Due to prematch stipulations, Chyna became the #1 contender for the world title at Summer Slam, taking the spot away from Triple H. Shawn returned the next week again as a special guest referee, along with Shane McMahon. In the match, Mankind pinned Chyna with the Mandible Claw. Due to prematch stipulations, Mankind won Chyna's world title shot for Summer Slam. After the bout, Triple H and Chyna double teamed Mankind until Shane McMahon made a match between Mankind and Triple H for later in the night to determine the #1 contender. Additional stipulations were added, which included the match to be No Holds Barred and falls count anywhere, with Shane and Shawn Michaels as the two special referees. Mankind fought Triple H to a no contest when both men were pinned, as Shawn Michaels counted Triple H down while Shane McMahon counted Mankind down. The ring announcer claimed both men were victorious and thus the world title match at Summer Slam would be a triple threat match for Steve Austin's WWF World title.

On the very first episode of SmackDown, on August 26th, 1999, Shawn Michaels, in the Commissioner's role, ordered Triple H to defend the WWF World title against The Rock. To make matters worse for the WWF World Champion, Shawn Michaels announced that he would be the referee for the bout. Triple H beat The Rock in the title match when Shawn Michaels hit The Rock with Sweet Chin Music.

It was during 1999 that Shawn Michaels, at the advice of his attorney, decided to open up the Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy wrestling school and independent promotion for his students to work in. In 1999, Shawn met Rebecca Curci, who was a dancer on WCW Nitro. After a short courtship, the two were married on March 31st at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Less than a year later, on January 5th, 2000, Shawn's first child, a son named Cameron Kade was born. Unfortunately, during this time, Shawn's addiction to pain killers was becoming worse and worse.

Shawn made his professional wrestling in-ring return on April 4th, 2000. As part of his Texas Wrestling Academy, Shawn built up a feud against the heel Venom. Venom was the TWA Champion, while Shawn did color commentary. The two had a heated exchange, and a bootcamp match was scheduled between the two. Shawn put up control of his promotion, and Venom put his title on the line. Shawn made a triumphant "one night only" return, and later vacated the title.

Shawn's next appearance on a major stage took place on May 21st, 2000 when he refereed the Triple H/The Rock WWF World title Iron Man match at Judgment Day. He was the center of controversy when he disqualified The Rock at the 60-minute mark when the Undertaker interfered, thus allowing Triple H to regain the WWF World title.

Shawn would make a final appearance as the WWF Commissioner shortly after the Judgment Day pay per view. Mick Foley would take over as the figurehead Commissioner.

Once out of the limelight, Shawn's drug habit worsened. According to Triple H in the Shawn Michaels' biographical DVD, Shawn was backstage with Triple H and the Undertaker during the RAW telecast where it was announced that Vince McMahon bought WCW. Triple H said that the WWF had plans to start using Shawn again in some capacity. However, Shawn was completely "out of it." The Undertaker had it with Shawn, and couldn't believe the condition he was in. Vince cut ties from Shawn, and vowed not to use him.

This caused a rift between Shawn and Triple H, and Shawn accused Triple H of not having his back. As Shawn tells it, his drug problems were getting worse to the point where his 2 year old son was now able to see Shawn in his "drugged state." As when Shawn was passed out due to the medication, his son told his mom that "daddy was sleeping." There was one time when Shawn asked his wife where the cookies were, and she told him that he ate them with Cameron earlier in the day. Shawn never remembered this. Rebecca recalls that one night Shawn woke up in the middle of the night, and told his wife that he was done with the pills and drinking.

From there, Shawn went to church with his wife one day, as his wife was getting into religion. The preacher asked Shawn if he wanted to be embraced by Jesus Christ. Shawn said that he would, and a new Michael Hickenbottom was reborn. With Jesus by his side, and his drug issues a thing of the past, it was now time for Shawn to clean up the relationships in his life that had turned sour in recent years.

He turned to his old friend Kevin Nash, who told Shawn that he needed to call Hunter, and apologize to him. Nash explained that Michaels was wrong in what went down between himself and Triple H. Shawn made the call, and cleared the air with his former DX partner. While talking to Triple H, Shawn asked him what he would think of the "Heartbreak Kid" coming back for one final match. Triple H was all for it.

Shawn was forced into retirement in 1998 due to a back injury. From 1998 until 2002, Shawn Michaels went through a roller coaster ride filled with ups and downs. He went from WWF Superstar, to a teacher of the future generation. He went through an addiction that cost him his occasional WWF gig, along with costing him his best friend. He finally got cleaned up and found religion. Not only did his newfound faith help Michael Hickenbottom find peace, it would also give him the strength to go back to what he knew best. While Christianity may have helped in the rebirth of Michael Hickenbottom, his new attitude and drug free living was about to give him another rebirth. The rebirth of the "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels.

by Ronny Sarnecky of

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