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The Shawn Michaels Story Part Two : A Showstopper is Born

······································································································································································ Date: Friday, October 10, 2008 —— Comment: Reactions —— Discuss: Forum

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Shawn Michaels days of being a tag team wrestler are now behind them. In Part Two of the Shawn Michaels Story, we look at the “Heartbreak Kid’s” initial WWF singles run, his Intercontinental title reigns, the formation of the “Clique,” and his rise to main event status.

As the year 1992 was approaching, the World Wrestling Federation was loaded with talent. The WWF roster included Randy Savage, the up and coming Bret Hart holding the Intercontinental championship, and Sid Justice, who hadn't turned "Pyscho" just yet. The most popular wrestler in the history of the business, Hulk Hogan called the WWF home. There were rumors that the Ultimate Warrior would be returning soon. Most importantly, the WWF was entering its first full calendar year with the face of World Championship Wrestling, and arguably the greatest performer in the history of wrestling, Ric Flair, on their roster.

Little did anybody know at the time, but a tag team specialist would eventually enter into the conversation as which performer is the best ever. This wrestler was former "Rocker" Shawn Michaels.

After throwing his former partner, Marty Jannetty through the "Barber Shop's" window, Shawn was supposed to start a feud after Marty Jannetty "recovered from his injuries." The two were supposed to have their first match against each other at WrestleMania VIII. Unfortunately, Jannetty had some personal problems he needed to deal with which led him to leave the WWF. With Marty out of the picture, Shawn was left without an opponent for his first high profile singles match. The WWF put Michaels in the ring with Tito Santana at WrestleMania VIII.

On the road to WrestleMania, Shawn was paired up with "Sensational" Sherri Martel to play the role of his love-crazed valet. Shawn's new character was cocky, and full of himself. He nicknamed himself the "Heartbreak Kid" at the suggestion of Curt Henning. He would have Sherri hold up a full-length mirror before his matches, so he can make sure that no hair was out of place. Early in his run, Shawn would wrestle early in the card. Later in the evening, the ring announcer would let the crowd know "Shawn Michaels has left the building."

Looking back at Shawn Michaels' career, while the Shawn-Sherri union was a small blip on the Michaels' career map, the addition of Sherri to the "Heartbreak Kid" package was an extremely important aspect of Shawn's early WWF singles push. In an RF Video shoot interview years ago, Shawn even admitted this himself. Michaels stated that when he first started in singles competition, the veterans didn't want to "sell" for him. Sherri would get ticked off and order Shawn to throw his opponent outside the ring. Sherri would then proceed to lay the wrestler with stiff kicks. After getting the boot by Sherri, these veterans started to sell for Shawn. Another thing that Sherri brought to Shawn's arrogant heel was that she was the singing voice for Shawn's entrance music "Sexy Boy."

Shawn's first major singles feud was against the man who he would be forever linked with; Bret Hart. Their feud was centered around the "Hitman's" Intercontinental championship. During their initial singles feud, Shawn fought Bret in the first ladder match in WWF history, which was taped for Coliseum Home Video. According to Bret Hart, Vince was going to have SummerSlam 1992 in Washington D.C. or London, England. Bret suggested that if they decided to have the card in London, that Vince should book Bret against Davey Boy Smith. However, if the WWF was going to have the pay per view in Washington D.C., then he should fight Shawn in a ladder match. Vince wasn't sure what a ladder match was, so he book Shawn and Bret to work in one at a TV taping. Of course, the Bret vs. Shawn SummerSlam ladder match never took place, as the WWF decided to hold SummerSlam in Wembley Stadium.

After Shawn's first feud with Bret ended, he started a short feud against fellow heel wrestler Rick Martel. At the time, Martel was playing the role of the pretty boy, arrogant heel, just like Shawn. Rick Martel was trying to woo Sensational Sherri Martel (no relation) away from the "Heartbreak Kid." In their match at SummerSlam, Sherri had the two men agree that neither would hit the other in the face.

After Shawn's one match feud with Rick Martel ended, Michaels set his sights on the new Intercontinental champion, Davey Boy Smith. Although the "Heartbreak Kid" was never able to rest the IC Championship away from Bret Hart, it didn't take Michaels long until he beat Hart's brother-in-law for the belt. On October 27's Saturday Night's Main Event television taping, Michaels captured his first major singles championship.

Shawn Michaels didn't have long to celebrate his IC title victory. He was scheduled to face the new WWF World Champion, and old nemesis, Bret Hart in his first pay per view main event at Survivor Series on November 25th, 1992. Unlike their more famous Survivor Series match five years later, this time Shawn Michaels submitted after Bret applied the Sharpshooter submission hold.

In late 1992, Marty Jannetty returned to the WWF. Before one of Shawn's matches, he entered the ring where he grabbed Shawn's full legth mirror from Sherri, and swung it at Shawn. Michaels pulled his valet in front of him, and Jannetty accidentally smashed Sherri with the mirror instead. To sell the injuries from being hit by the mirror, Sherri was taken off of TV. While she was away, in story line, the WWF made it known that Jannetty visited her in the hospital. Whereas, Shawn Michaels never checked up on her. The Sensational One returned at the 1993 Royal Rumble, where she sat in a neutral corner for the match between Michaels and Jannetty. Near the end of the match, Martel confronted Michaels outside the ring and slapped him. At the end of the match, she entered the ring to interfere on Marty's behalf. However, Shawn ducked, and she hit Jannetty instead. Michaels would go on to win the match as Sherri fled the ring in tears. Backstage, Michaels confronted her, and Jannetty came to her rescue. The following week, Martel thanked Jannetty. There were rumors around this time that the WWF was planning to hire Madusa Micelli and book Sherri/Jannetty vs. Michaels/Madusa matches. However, Jannetty was fired for passing out in the lockerroom before this ever happened.

In a trivia note, on the inaugural episode of RAW, Shawn Michaels was the first title holder to have a match on the WWF's flagship television show. On the January 11th, 1993 episode Shawn Michaels beat Max Moon (a.k.a Konnan).

With Marty Jannetty gone from the company yet again, Shawn was left without an opponent to feud against. He found a willing challenger at WrestleMania IX as he faced Tatanka for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Tatanka had previously beat Michaels by pinfall in two non-title match-ups. To add feul to the Shawn/Tatanka Mania match-up, Sherri came out to stand in Tatanka's corner, thus combatting any interference from Luna Vachon who was positioned in Michaels' corner. While Michaels feud with Tatanka ended following a count-out loss to the Native American, a new feud was about to begin.

Following the Lex Luger vs. Curt Henning WrestleMania IX match, Shawn Michaels attacked "Mr.Perfect" backstage. The feud between the two featured one of the top segments in the early history of Monday Night RAW. On the May 10th edition, Mr. Perfect attacked Shawn outside the building as Michaels was being interviewed by Lord Alfred Hayes and threw Michaels onto the hood of a car.

The next week, Shawn Michaels issued an open challenge to anyone who wanted a shot at his Intercontinental title. A man wearing a disguise accepted Shawn's challenge, and beat Michaels for the title following Curt Henning's interference in the match. The new champion was an old rival and former friend of Shawn's; Marty Jannetty.

On June 6th, in a move that would change the course of professional wrestling history, Shawn Michaels debuted his new bodyguard, Diesel (Kevin Nash) before his WWF Intercontinental title rematch against the new champion Marty Jannetty. Shortly after debuting, Diesel distracted Jannetty, allowing Michaels to hit Marty with a superkick for the 1-2-3. The next night on RAW, Shawn proudly displayed his new belt and new friend to the TV audience. Throughout the late spring and early summer, with Diesel by his side, Shawn Michaels turned away all challengers to his Intercontinental championship.

While there was no wrestler that was able to wrest the title away from Shawn Michaels, there was one man who was able to strip the title away from HBK. That person was Shawn Michaels boss; Vincent Kennedy McMahon. It was in September of 1993 that Shawn Michaels was suspended by the WWF for failing a steroid test. To this day, Shawn Michaels still denies that he ever failed the test. According to Shawn, he tried to convince Mr. McMahon that this was bullshit, and he never used steroids. However, Vince was still suspending him. Plus, Shawn had to give back the IC belt.

After Shawn Michaels was stripped of the title, it was announced that there would be a battle royal on RAW. The last to men left in the ring would then fight in a singles contest the following week with the winner getting the belt. On October 4th, 1993, Rick Martel and Razor Ramon were the last two men standing in the ring at the end of the battle royal. The next week, Razor Ramon beat Martel to become the new Intercontinental Champion.

Shawn Michaels made his television return at the 1993 Survivor Series when he took Jerry Lawler's spot on the card against the Hart Brothers following Jerry Lawler's legal problems.

It didn't take long for Shawn Michaels to make his presence felt upon his return. During the first RAW following the Survivor Series. Shawn interfered in Diesel's match against Ramon by trying to piledrive Razor onto his IC belt. From there the war was on. While Razor Ramon was billed as the Intercontinental Champion, Shawn Michaels was calling himself the real Intercontinental Champion. Their feud climaxed at WrestleMania X where Shawn and Razor fought in the first ladder match on a WWF pay per view. Shawn lost the match, in what will be remembered as one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history.

While Shawn Michaels recovered from a variety of nagging injuries, the WWF had him host an interview segment titled "The Heartbreak Hotel." He also played Diesel's corner man as "Big Daddy Cool" feuded with Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental title, which Diesel won on April 13th, 1994.

During the summer months, Shawn and Diesel teamed up together on a regular basis. Their tag team accomplished the ultimate goal on August 28th, the day before SummerSlam, when they beat the Headshrinkers for the WWF World Tag Team titles. At SummerSlam 1994, Shawn Michaels' interference backfired in Diesel's match, costing "Big Daddy Cool" the Intercontinental title against Razor Ramon. Throughout the fall months, the WWF started a slow build to an eventual split between Razor and Diesel. The two finally departed under heated circumstances at the Survivor Series.

After Shawn Michaels won the 1995 Royal Rumble, the two former partners fought against each other for the WWF World Championship at WrestleMania XI. While Shawn did not beat Diesel on that night, the seeds were set for Shawn to become a main eventer. The first step would take place on the following night's RAW episode. When Shawn was giving an interview, he mentioned that he wanted a rematch, but this time he would leave his new bodyguard, SID, at home. This did not sit well with the "Pyscho One," as he attacked Shawn, and left him laying until Diesel came to save his former partner, thus turning Shawn into a face.

The attacked caused Michaels to suffer a legitimate back injury that sidelined Shawn for six weeks. The next major show that Shawn appeared on was the infamous King of the Ring in Philadelphia where the crowd turned on the event, and started chanting "E-C-W! E-C-W! E-C-W!" The way the WWF booked Shawn in the event had a lot to do with those chants. The fans in attendance expected to see Michaels crowned as the new King. Instead, Shawn was eliminated in his first match of the night when he fought to a time limit draw against Kama.

It was around this time that the group of Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Razor Ramon, and the 1-2-3 Kid started to gain backstage power. The group was nicknamed "The Clique" by Shawn Michaels. In July, the "Clique" would see two of its four "members" holding the WWF's only singles championships after Shawn Michaels beat Jeff Jarrett for his third Intercontinental title at July's "In Your House" pay per view. At SummerSlam 1995, Shawn Michaels defended his title against fellow "Clique" member, Razor Ramon, in a rematch of the WrestleMania X ladder match.

The next month, at "In Your House," the WWF World Champion Diesel and the Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels teamed up to beat the WWF World Tag Team Champions Owen Hart and Yokozuna for the tag team titles. Now the "Clique" held every championship in the WWF (although they would have to vacate the tag titles the next night on RAW).

While it could be argued that the "Clique" did not have any backstage "power," and Vince was only pushing those wrestlers that were the best in the company (as Shawn would say), the wrestlers were starting to see evidence to the contrary. In Bret Hart's autobiography, he mentioned that he was asked to join the "Clique" when it was forming. The purpose of the group, he was told, was to have each member in the group basically have a group of guys that he could work with on top. Thus, Bret could feud with Diesel, then follow that program up with a few months against Razor, and then Shawn. While he was programmed against these men, the other members in the group would have programs against each other as well.

On October 13th, 1995, Shawn Michaels was parked in a car outside of a bar with Davey Boy Smith and the 1-2-3 Kid in Syracuse, NY. Shawn Michaels was attacked by a group of military personnel that left him bruised and beaten. Shortly after the attack, the WWF held an "In Your House" pay per view where Shawn "forfeited" the Intercontinental Championship to Shane "Dean" Douglas. Even though he was legitimately hurt, and would not return to active competition until a house show six man tag team match on November 5th, this is the point in time where people started to notice that Shawn had a knack of doing jobs. Whether this was real, or just coincidental.

To make the "Clique" look even worse in the eyes of the lockerroom, after Douglas was handed the Intercontinental title, the former "Franchise" did not get a title run. Instead, he dropped the title later the same evening to another "Clique" member, Razor Ramon.

On the November 20th addition of Monday Night RAW, the WWF started an angle stemming from the real life beating Shawn took in Syracuse. During his match with Owen Hart, Shawn Michaels collapsed in the ring. This "worked" collapse was said to be due to Shawn suffering from post-concussion syndrome. For the first time, in what would turn out to be numerous times, the Shawn Michaels character was contemplating retiring from the ring.

Shawn would be out of action for two months. Upon his return, Shawn would win his second consecutive Royal Rumble. For the second consecutive year, Shawn was going to fight for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. However, unlike last year, when former NFL football player, Lawrence Taylor closed the show, at WrestleMania XII, Shawn Michaels would be on the way to earning his monicker of the "main eventer."

by Ronny Sarnecky of

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