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Grimmas

Shawn Michaels

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I wonder if his agenting for the interminably long 3-hour insufferably cringe melodramatic NXT main events will hurt him this time around. And if does, wonder how much.

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It kinda does hurt him with me a bit. I always got annoyed by Shawn's overly melodramatic tendencies, but it's hard to know how much to penalise a wrestler for that stuff because we don't know how much is them and how much is just them doing what the company tells them to. The last three years have conclusively proven the silly histrionics were 100% him and he probably would have been even worse if let completely off the leash.

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I hate Shawn Michaels.

Yes, there are worse wrestlers in the world but there isn't a single guy I'd prefer to watch less. For every good moment there are a myriad more where he is actively trying to sabotage his opponent or make them look bad. Focusing on his supposed classics, from the Diesel match to Mankind, I can't go a few minutes without wanting to switch the match off or throw the remote at the TV. Whether it's purposefully no selling (or comically overselling) HBK has no qualms with making his opponent look like a chump. I'm not much of a Razor fan but he had his work boots on for their ladder match and HBK was shitting all over it. The less we say about his awful return run in the late 00s the better.

I hate Shawn Michaels.

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I don’t associate the “history making epic” with Michaels, for many of the same reasons/matches that @strobogo pointed out. Larger-than-life melodrama has been the WWF’s weapon of choice for decades.

What I *do* think Shawn bears some responsibility for, however, is reconfiguring that into an ethos of “stealing the show” as an entertainer at the expense of the match, even if that meant burying other people in the process.

Some of that is attributable to the steroid-inflated context of the 80s WWF, where Shawn and Bret (and Savage, Steamboat and Dynamite) knew that the only way they could really stand out as smaller competitors was to crank up the workrate in contrast.

But I think Shawn, being one of the most physically gifted athletes in the history of the business, was far more willing than those other guys to bend the rules and forms to show off what he could do and, in the process, I think he ended up creating the Modern WWE Superstar archetype that is concerned, first and foremost, with bringing The Best Match Possible to the Universe. He was rarely ever content with being a competitor, but he was always comfortable being a performer.

Shawn Michaels internalized the use of signature spots (I won’t say formula) that made Ric Flair one of the best ever and simply emulated it without also bringing along Flair’s intuitive understanding of what actually holds those spots and his matches together as a simulation of competition. And now, years later, WWE Superstars have internalized so many of his tropes to such an extent that they can casually emulate them (without Shawn’s once-in-a-lifetime athletic ability) as the situation dictates.

Of course, this approach is not necessarily a liability if you’re a publicly-traded corporation that is much more interested in creating a consistent and sustainable product. That Michaels has gone to NXT and further advanced this ethos in his capacity as an agent/producer/whatever just reinforces that his approach — the WWE’s approach — is Working As Designed.

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1 hour ago, Boss Rock said:

Personally I'm just sticking with what he himself did in the ring.

I totally get that, but I think you can draw a direct line from "I'm sorry; I love you" to Gargano, Ciampa and Adam Cole having emotional insufferably melodramatic dialogues in the middle of a match, the kind of shit that makes Indian Bollywood movies subtle and understated. Think of the ground that covers. I'm not saying that is Michaels's enduring legacy, but it really is a part of it. And I don't even dislike that line from the WM 24 Flair match. I know a lot of people here do, but I thought it was a great moment personally, cuz it really fit both the context as well as the gimmick of the wrestlers participating in the match. But it was definitely an epoch-marking moment for treating wrestling as a medium for shitty middle school theatre, instead of letting the action and psychology in the ring organically describe the emotional weight of the moment. Like the exact opposite of "Show not tell."

If we credit wrestlers for rising above the house style and delivering greatness in spite of that, should we also penalise wrestlers who eventually contribute in making the house style worse? I honestly don't know, and I don't even know how much of this is Shawn, and how much of it is Triple H, who has always had the same emotional overreaches as Shawn, except he was about 1/100th as good at Shawn in actually executing what he wanted. But still. This is GWE after all, which means it is an argument where there will be nitpicking, so I feel it is only fair if we have a discussion on this. 

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Also, in defence of Shawn, as much as we might hate WWE main event melodrama, the fact is that Shawn was EXCELLENT in such settings. He himself was a great performer in that regard. It is just that that particular style of wrestling is not sustainable, and most of the time, it leads to cringe eye-roll worthy moments 

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if we're gonna dock Shawn for the NXT melodrama, should I leave Kobashi off my ballot for every horrible corner chop sequence from the last 20 years?

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As someone on the F4W boards put it, Shawn's legacy is the thigh slap and "I'm sorry, I love you" and we're paying the price now that the kids who were hitting puberty then are entering the business.

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6 hours ago, The Man in Blak said:

What I *do* think Shawn bears some responsibility for, however, is reconfiguring that into an ethos of “stealing the show” as an entertainer at the expense of the match, even if that meant burying other people in the process.

@Childs, this was a good post and more of the direction I was leaning. My argument was going to be that Shawn realized he couldn't make it to the top through conventional means given his size, his boss' proclivities, how the fans were conditioned, and his overall competition, so he worked to alter the playing field into something that best benefited him. Bret may have sought success by moving backwards, by trying to be a Jack Brisco style technical champion who was credible in more sports oriented way, but Shawn tried to push it forward to a point where the false tents of pro wrestling mattered less than the real performance elements. I was going to build a whole picture with WM XI as a center point (if his good friend, Nash succeeded, that'd basically shut the door on Shawn's future success, so he had to show how much better a performer he was than Nash, etc), and how in order to break the glass ceiling, he actually tore down the whole building in the process.

As for whether or not we hold NXT against Shawn, I will in one specific way: I was working on a mindset in 2016, and I think you can see it earlier in the thread, that I thought Shawn had ambitious and compelling ideas but he was just terrible at execution them from an acting standpoint, just absolutely terrible, so that he would be a better director than an actor. I think I gave him some credit for that and thought if he just had the chance to push the right talent through his grand creations (EDIT: in these specifically over the top melodramatic matches), he could create something great. Obviously, that's not been the case, so I'm going to not forgive things that I had previously forgiven. It's one of the two or three pieces of outside knowledge we've gotten that will affect my ballot (some of the info on Jumbo is fairly interesting to consider and knowing that Arn came up with so many specific finishes for Cena has a small impact on Cena and makes me feel a little more comfortable attributing good ideas I see in matches with Arn to Arn).

But in all counts, remember that how I'm trying to understand wrestlers is very different than how some of you guys are going about this, so bear with me, you know? Or adopt my insane attempts at total understanding. It's a hell of a five year journey.

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I don’t believe in a black and white opinion of NXT and it’s roster that they are all horrible and all have bad melodrama matches - that just sounds like the opinion of someone who doesn’t regularly watch the brand.  I also don’t believe that Michaels is 100% to blame for the bad aspects of NXT, and 0% to credit for the good aspects of NXT.  I have no time for something like O’Reilly Vs Cole from last month, but on the flip side the last year of Finn Balor has been my favourite presentation of him as a wrestler during his career and I can’t imagine Shawn’s had nothing to do with the booking and agenting of the brand’s champion at the time.
 

what Shawn has done as an agent/trainer will have no bearing on my ranking of him, just like Dusty or Gedo’s booking isn’t really on my mind when I think they should or shouldn’t make this list.  

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Shawn is supposedly very hands-on with NXT:UK and if you watch that show, you don't really get any of the melodrama that you get with Gargano/Ciampa/Cole etc, even in the empty arena setting, where we have seen a lot more ACTING to replace the crowd, the Reigns/Uso stuff for example. So, I think it might be a case where Shawn likes that stuff, and guys like Gargano want to do that stuff too, and maybe we can blame Triple H for embracing that mode of storytelling, NXT is still his show afterall, so we see Shawn's fingerprints on that stuff. On the other hand, his other philosophies and views on wrestling manifest differently on other wrestlers and other shows. 

None of this matters for me, again if we were gonna blame wrestlers for negative influence, I'd dock Kawada 10 spots for every bad set of Kawada kicks I've seen on an indie show, but I do think that the "Shawn turned NXT into a weekly version of the Flair retirement match" thing is only partly true and only partly his doing. 

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If you guys are engaging with me (And the page starts with others raising the question, so maybe not), let me reiterate and refocus my argument so we don't have six pages on this.

I'm not talking about generalities here, but about a specific decision I made in ranking Shawn in 2016 that you can see me deliberate here and in the match discussion archive for the Taker matches and in the podcast with Stacey. In 2016, I felt like Shawn's execution in the big melodramatic matches was poor because his acting was so facile and poor. I thought that the ideas/concept/ambition was potentially very good, potentially very worthwhile, and posited that if he could "direct" wrestlers in a setting like that without his own miserable acting dragging it down, he could create something potentially very interesting. So while I docked him points for the overall matches, I didn't punish him as much as I might have otherwise because of that potential.

In the meantime, we've had a chance to see just that and I stand here five years saying that I was wrong and in light of new evidence that I should have penalized Shawn more for those matches than I actually did.

That's nothing to do with his overall booking/influence, just one area where I went too easy on him and now regret in the face of new evidence.

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6 hours ago, Matt D said:

If you guys are engaging with me (And the page starts with others raising the question, so maybe not), let me reiterate and refocus my argument so we don't have six pages on this.

 

To be fair, I think they were countering my points. 

I don't see any inconsistency in not giving Shawn credit for Finn Balor while blaming him for how NXT main events are booked. From all accounts, Shawn isn't the booker there; he is a trainer who agents and lays down the format for the main event. It also cannot be denied that NXT main events have become more and more melodramatic in the past few years, right when Shawn started agenting.

It's why I don't think the comparisons to Kawada and his influence or Kobashi and modern chopfests are entirely fair. I am not penalizing Shawn for indie geeks trying to emulate him and his famous gimmick matches without understanding what made them work. I am penalizing him for something in which he has a clear, direct input, which illustrates and showcases how he understands wrestling, what he values in main events, etc

 

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It could also be the case that the NXT crew are even worse actors than Shawn and the failure of NXT melodrama is a reflection of the limitations of the performers rather than the unsustainability of Shawn's ideas. Gargano in particular seems ill-suited for that sort of thing since he's basically an expressionless robot outside of the obligatory shocked face after a near fall. And NXT has been largely built around him for the past three-plus years, so naturally there's going to be a ceiling. Of course, it seems likely that the degree of difficulty in both athleticism and acting chops means that Shawn's ideas will never be realized to their full potential.

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I think Shawn was a good actor by pro wrestler standards, which is lol in pretty much every other acting context you can imagine. But yes, the NXT crew are even worse at that's what much of their main storyline matches have depended on the past couple of years. Basically the HHH vs HBK formula mixed with mid period ROH. Sometimes you just wanna see guys try to kill each other, not announce they're going to kill someone and then have big close ups when their move did in fact not kill a guy. Adam Cole shocked face is such a cliche even the WWE/NXT twitter joked about it come War Games time. 

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