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Orlando Sentinel interview with Shawn Michaels

······································································································································································ Date: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 —— Comment: Reactions —— Discuss: Forum

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Below is the recent interview of Shawn Michaels yesterday morning 03/30 (Monday) with OrlandoSentinel.Com by Brian Fritz.

When it comes to WrestleMania, one person steals the show time after time. That's why Shawn Michaels has earned the nickname "Mr. WrestleMania". Last year, he had the emotional task of facing Ric Flair in what was the final match of the "Nature Boy's" legendary career. On Sunday, April 5 he will square off against The Undertaker at WrestleMania 25 who is a perfect 16-0 on sports entertainment's biggest stage. Recently, I spoke with Michaels about the match, last year's show, the Hall of Fame and more.

You’ve been one of the main stars at WrestleMania for so many years – you’re Mr. WrestleMania. Does it ever get old for you or is it special every year?
You know – it does. It gets more special every year especially since my comeback. Every year I get out there and think it can’t get any better than this and then the next year it seems to. Again, this is another situation after doing this for so many years, you often think that – not that you’ve done it all but how is it going to be more special or more exciting the next time? It somehow happens. The Undertaker and myself have never faced each other at WrestleMania. We’ve two guys that have been a part of this organization for twenty years and we’ve somehow managed to stay separated. I think that’s an amazing thing. Again, at the 25th anniversary, these two guys that have been the cornerstone of the company for so long are going to meet up and I think it will be something that not only our company will enjoy but obviously the WWE fans will enjoy.

I remember the great match you had with the Undertaker in the first Hell in a Cell back in 1997. When was the last time the two of you had a match?
It was a short time after that. It was the Royal Rumble which would have been January 1998.

That's right.
Yeah, in the casket match. That was the match where I think the final blow happened to my back and a short time after that is when I took a hiatus.

I find it amazing that the two of you have not crossed paths since then because in this day and age with special attraction matches when it comes to a show like WrestleMania or Summerslam or even just something big for TV with a brand versus brand match but somehow you guys have been able to stay separated. How exactly does that happen?
I honestly can’t tell you because I feel the same way you do which is – like you said in this day and age. That’s very difficult to do and somehow we have managed to do that. I think a couple of years ago when it came down to The Undertaker and myself at the Royal Rumble, when he and I stood up and got – the feeling that was in that arena and coming across on that pay-per-view, I think that’s when a number of people said “hey”! (laughs) I think it’s one of those things where you’re going about your business and he’s going about his business and I think people forgot about it. That’s playing to our favor now. I certainly can tell you I don’t it was something that was purposely done because as you know, in our business whatever I think we can do to create interest and to create, I don’t know - at one point I used the word profit - just try to create excitement and create something positive for our line of work. We would have gone there if it was something we thought of. Again, I don’t think it crossed people’s minds.

Last year, you had the huge match at WrestleMania against Ric Flair which turned out to be his final match. Can you talk about the pressure leading up to the match compared to the pressure you put on yourself going into the match this year against The Undertaker?
The difference between the guys last year and this year – first of all, this year I’ve got somebody that if I were to just completely fall apart it would still be OK. And I haven’t had that in I can’t remember when. That is not to stay that I’m just so far above everyone else. It’s just one of those things where you’re just out there with somebody that – Undertaker and myself have been a part of this company and even though we haven’t been in the ring that many times, he and I, you’re around each other enough to know that you don’t have to worry about the other guy. Again, the pressure last year was, obviously, the culmination of this man that has been such a hallmark of this industry. So many people have been touched by him and what he’s done. And then to be able to deliver and honor that in one match and try to keep him at a place where he deserves to be kept., make it special to him, make it special to the people that are watching, people that have been affected by him. I’ve had a lot of pressure on me before but I cannot honestly say that I don’t know that I’ve felt any more than I did last year. And again, to be the guy that sort of, that has to do that (laughs)… On one hand, as I was, I was extremely honored but the pressure was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. You have to detach yourself emotionally from all of that and try to give focus to the point at hand. That was a difficult thing to do. Your emotion wants to jump in there all the time and you sort of have to stay focused. I do have to say that’s one of the more difficult things I’ve had to endure professionally.

Since this is wrestling and we kind of know how retirements go on most occasions, did you ever think Ric was going to come back and have another match?
I don’t know. That was something – put it this way. We all know, if you’re a friend of Ric Flair which I am, you know him and you know how he is about this line of work. So, I know that might be a struggle for him. And that’s OK. You can’t be somebody’s friend and put requirements on it and I don’t do that to him and I wouldn’t do it to him. My job was to go out there and, in my mind, believe that it was going to be his last and do the absolute best job I could to pay tribute to that and honor that and that’s what I did. Ric Flair is a grown man and he can make his decisions and I would still be his friend no matter what decision he made.

You mentioned how special WrestleMania gets each and every year for you, especially since you’ve come back. Do you think you’ve gotten better with age?
You know, I’d like to think, for heaven’s sake, I’ve gotten a little wiser. (laughs) I think that’s helped certainly in the ring. As the business changes and as you get older, obviously there are areas where you slow down from a physical standpoint. With the way production and the way the business is changing, it calls for you to be better at things other than just the physical now and that’s something where I’ve really enjoyed improving on in my in-ring character If you will. I’ve enjoyed trying to convey a story, if you will, just with my face without ever saying a word and that’s been a fun art to try and learn. So, from, that standpoint, I think I’m still improving in areas that obviously I needed to improve in and I enjoy doing that.

The Hall of Fame has become such as huge part of WrestleMania weekend with it taking place the night before. This year, the Von Erichs are being inducted. With you growing up in Texas, what kind of influence did they have on you?
So many of the individuals that we’re inducting this year had an influence on me.

Sure like the Funks.
You bet. The Funks and a lot of people mind not know but Bill Watts was the first guy I ever worked for when I was 19 years old. There are a number of individuals. The Von Erichs were huge here in Texas. At 18 years old when I was trying to become a wrestler after watching them growing up, I was driving them around in a van taking them to and from the building and things like that. It’s going to be a very special night because this is a situation where the folks that you grew up with are going to have a special night and pay tribute to them. And in a strange sort of way, you feel like you’re a part of that because they had such an influence on you. This WrestleMania, because it’s in the state of Texas, so many of the Hall of Famers are from the state of Texas. So many of them had an influence on me and have been a part of my life and impacted my life in various different ways. It’s going to make that night different than many of the other Hall of Fames.

I read that in the current edition of the WWE Magazine that you had been asked about whenever the time comes and you go into the Hall of Fame on who would give the induction speech. You mentioned several guys and even threw out the name Bret Hart. Can you discuss that and why you think that might be an idea of something you would like to have if it could happen when that time comes?
Sure. I was saying that from the perspective of I so much enjoy the Hall of Fame but it can be – and I want this to come out right – it’s a time of tribute and a time of honoring but often we get focuses all on the good and it tends to be, I don’t know, a little fluffy. I would like mine to be, I don’t know, maybe be honest. I’m one with who I was and I’m one with who I am. I felt that Bret Hart could bring a real perspective to that. He’s always been a guy even know that despite all of our differences, he’s still always been objective about my ability. They didn’t put this in there I don’t think – the only thing that he wouldn’t have any knowledge of is the person I am now and I understand that. It was from the idea of wanting someone that could give a real honest perspective of my career because it hasn’t all been fluff and it hasn’t all been fantastic and I think that’s OK. I just felt that I can be a pretty strange guy. (laughs) I supposed that it was just something that I thought, gosh, my Hall of Fame induction to be more about truth more than anything else. It’s sort of a fantasy, sort of, dream job and it’s a great line of work so we can create anything we want and it can be very fairytale-ish and I think that’s great on one hand. I just figured maybe it would be, I don’t know, neat or nice to have somebody that can give a real perspective on the journey because it hasn’t been a fairytale. It’s turned out awesome but it was a tough, rugged road. I just thought that maybe he could give a fresh perspective to it. It’s one of those things that you go I know this sounds crazy but…

With WrestleMania taking place in Houston, how nice is it to be back in the state of Texas? You won’t have that long of a drive to get there. (Shawn lives in San Antonio.)
No, I was saying that earlier. It will be three hours from home and heck, if I felt like it I’ll be able to drive home afterwards. There’s going to be a comfort to this one and maybe a more relaxed atmosphere on one hand for this WrestleMania. There’s so many pressures and anxieties and stresses that go along with it, it will be nice to have a few of them sort of taken care of and certainly being in your home state is one of them and being close to home, being able to know the area somewhat. So, there’s going to be a real freshness about this one that hasn’t been there for many of the other ones.

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