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Shawn Michaels


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So I thought since Shawn's career appears to be over (yes, there is probably better than 50% chance that he'll return at some point), this appears to be a good time to reflect on his place in history.

 

He's been discussed ad nauseum, so we may not tread new ground here, but sometimes hindsight provides a different point of view.

 

I will say that for all the talk of his weaknesses, some of it coming from me at times, I do think most would agree that the overall whole exceeded the sum of the parts. I mean that as a compliment, because in spite of whatever flaws he has had, he was able to have a long, productive career with some great matches which I guess have spanned four decades.

 

He wasn't among the elite babyface tag team wrestlers of the 80s, but he was very good. The angle with his heel turn on Marty Jannetty is one of the most memorable heel turns the WWF has ever produced. I don't feel like he really came into his own as a singles wrestler until 1994, but '94 was a terrific year for him, even in spite of all the time off. He had the great Wrestlemania ladder match, the really good 20-minute TV match with Razor, and the Clique tag that fall was excellent as well.

 

1995 was the year where it was obvious he and Bret were the future of the company, even though Nash was the one being pushed. The Nash match at Wrestlemania XI was a fun match, but was worked in such an odd way that I can only guess was for Shawn to show up his good friend and prove that it should be him in that spot. The match was laid out for Shawn to look better than him in every way, even though he did take the pin in the end. His babyface turn was a bright spot in a pretty bad year for the company. He probably topped himself with the Summerslam ladder match with Razor, even if the Wrestlemania match is more remembered because it came first.

 

1996 should have been his breakout year, and in a way, it was. But personal problems and being the star of a falling company did put kind of a dark cloud over all the great matches he had. Looking back, I don't think it's fair to blame Shawn for business being in a slump. He worked hard as champion. I do think he would have been much better as a long-term heel in that spot, and it's sad that by the time they found the perfect role for him in '97, injuries and drug problems had caught up to him, and it didn't last very long.

 

I'm not sure I have ever seen a heel with more heat than Shawn Michaels had in 1997. He started riots at house shows, had trash pelted at him in Europe in the Davey Boy match, and had ringside fans chanting for his death in the Undertaker HIAC match. Early DX was funny and Shawn was great as an obnoxious heel getting under everyone's skin. He probably should have gotten his comeuppance more often than he did, and there are things that stand out like eating a lollipop while tapping out to Ken Shamrock's anklelock, having temper tantrums in big matches when things didn't go the way he felt they should, and yelling out spots to embarrass Shamrock in their title match, that didn't reflect well on him.

 

His comeback took some time to really take off, and I think has had great moments and moments that were also a little ridiculous. While the HHH match at Summerslam was his first match back, the Jericho match at WM 19 is really when I think he took off, and they stopped talking about him as an old, sad man past his prime in promos. He has had great moments, mostly at Wrestlemania, and has had moments where the fans were laughing when he was trying to sell a serious concussion angle. He's been annoying at times, but has also been great at working the crowd.

 

So where's his place overall? I don't think he's at the level of Flair, but I do think the comeback may have put him slightly ahead of Bret in the all-time list, if only because he has had so much more longevity. To clarify that, that's setting aside the argument of who was better in the ring and instead is asking who had the better overall career and the most great matches. I do think in terms of U.S. main event wrestlers of the past 25 years, he's easily in the top ten, and possibly higher, depending on how you view him. I think the main things he'll be remembered for are his attitude problems in the 90s, the Montreal screwjob, and the comeback. In terms of just guys who have had great WWE runs, he is definitely near the top, and there is an argument to be made for him at #1. I expect him to go in the HOF at some point in the next year or two.

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Shawn is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time

 

My favorite period was probably his heel run in 1997 and the beginning of 1998. Just incredible heat and I love the early DX stuff. I'll add on to the lollipop story in the Shamrock feud with a favorite of mine. At the DX PPV in DEC 1997 Shawn and Hunter are quoting Chris Farley movies *during* the match. You can't get more obnoxious than that. Just two fratboys who happen to be involved in a worked wrestling match. Oddly Farley would die just days later.

 

On the new DVD Shawn admits that he was not a fan of the "boyhood dream" storyline. He said it made him look corny and he is 100% right. I don't blame him but rather Vince's pre-conceived notions on what top babyfaces are supposed to act like

 

as for the comeback I would have liked to see him work heel and work with different guys but he wouldn't work Tuesdays and he just seemed to work the same guys over and over. Overall I would call it a success with him being able to get over with a new fanbase rather effortlessly

 

i also liked him on color during RAW in 1994 when Lawler was going through his legal issues

 

and of course the Rocker/Summers and Rose feud was epic

 

Edit:

 

3:40 in Shawn and Hunter start quoting Farley while Shawn is supposed to be writhing in pain.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZALNvgaDxk

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I think his influence is mostly on the HHH/Jericho/Edge/Christian/Jeff Hardy group, who typically talk about how much they love Shawn and whose styles all resemble his in some ways. I think his biggest influence is popularizing the ladder match as a gimmick more than anything else.

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I think his influence is mostly on the HHH/Jericho/Edge/Christian/Jeff Hardy group, who typically talk about how much they love Shawn and whose styles all resemble his in some ways.

And not a large proportion of light-heavyweight wrestlers for the past two decades?

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Comeback or not, Shawn just doesn't touch Bret or Flair in term of worker. His comeback matches have been very overrated and most of them had the "WWE epic formula" stigma that took him down a bit, although he was better at it than most of the other guys. He was still very good in those big matches most of the time, and he got a lot of mileage out of his comeback, especially piling up big matches. On a weekly basis, I'm not sure though, and I've heard he really only delivered on big occasions.

To me Michaels is like Mutoh (although peak Mutoh, we're talking early 90's, blows away Michaels) : big worker match, can deliver the goods but can also be an unprofessionnal or goofy prick.

He was great as a babyface in the Rockers, and pretty great as a heel, especially when he formed DX. My favourite Micheals work in term of his character was this period between the summer of 97 up to WM 14.

Face IC champ was fine, but his first world title chase and reign sucked. I'm glad he recognizes this and I agree about that storyline making him look corny. I especially hated the Heartbbreak Kid, who has been a very arrogant, full of himself heel with huge bodyguards to cover him up, having now his old mentor by his side. I thought it was really lame, and really the only good thing about Lothario was him getting busted with a camera by Sid at MSG.

When I was young I loved Michaels straight from the heel turn, so he was really an old favourite of mine, and was a big reason why I became so hooked. But it doesn't blur my vision of his talent, and I don't put him in the class of Flair, Funk, Bret, Austin, Steamboat, Windham (at his peak) etc... He's clearly a level below. He's been so widly debated over the years, often with few objectivity, since it seems people either loathe him or put him as the best ever. In my case he's been pretty much always a guy I enjoyed to watch a lot, but never as great as he was pimped to be.

 

Oh, and he's coming back too. I guess.

 

His influence ? HHH got his position because he used to carry Michaels' bags. Thank you for nothing Shawn...

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I think his influence is mostly on the HHH/Jericho/Edge/Christian/Jeff Hardy group, who typically talk about how much they love Shawn and whose styles all resemble his in some ways.

And not a large proportion of light-heavyweight wrestlers for the past two decades?

 

Not really. Shawn was never a junior. He was also about the same size as Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, and Randy Savage who were stars in the WWF before him and Bret. Bret and Shawn also shared their era with Nash, Luger, Undertaker, Razor Ramon, and Yokozuna heavily pushed. They didn't really change the norm on top. Since the late 90s, it's been the same: smaller guys like Benoit, Jericho, Guerrero, and Misterio mixed in with bigger guys like Foley, Rock, HHH, and Cena. I never got the whole argument that he made things easier for smaller guys.

 

What he did do is improve the quality of wrestling in main events from what it had been in the Hogan era.

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What he did do is improve the quality of wrestling in main events from what it had been in the Hogan era.

Not really. Bret did that from 93 to 96, including against limited guys, and really Savage did it before Bret too, working strong main event matches with DiBiase, Warrior, Flair.

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I never got the whole argument that he made things easier for smaller guys.

I do, to a certain extent, although I don't agree with it. Like you said, which I do agree with, Flair, Bret, Savage, and Steamboat were already there before him. But Shawn was the first main event who really worked a style with more emphasis on flying and bumping, which was unique for a main eventer at that point.

 

Flair, Bret, and even Steamer to a point, were more technical workers. I think Flair was a better bumper overall, but didn't take to the air like Shawn. Savage took to the air a lot, for his time in the late '80's, but not nearly as much as Shawn did in the '90's.

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Shawn was really good, and even now is still better than a laughable amount of the roster. He's not in the GOAT debate, but neither's Bret or Flair for me (and like Jerome I'd take them over Shawn). At the same time the people who're calling him horrible, all these "500 wrestlers better than Shawn" generically listing guy after guy, are being more ridiculous than the "Shawn is the best ever" crowd. Guy's had a great career, made a lot of money, seems far more adjusted now than he did at the end of his first run, has left behind a good legacy in the company, and left on a real high note. I believe he wants Mania to've been his last match, and whilst I don't think that will end up being the case, good luck to the guy.

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If I were a Shawn Michaels fan, I'd be more worried about what he does from now on than his place in wrestling history, but I guess he deserves some credit as a big match performer in these past few years (at Mania anyway.) I thought his acting in the "Running up that Hill" montage was horrendous but maybe it was the dialogue.

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Loss summed things up pretty well.

 

I've never thought of Shawn as a "cream of the crop" wrestler, but he could deliver great matches at times, and even if they weren't great, you could certainly call them "good or very good." Seldom did you see a televised match in which Shawn stunk it up... and in those cases, it would be where he was paired with a wrestler who he just didn't mesh well with (yes, I am thinking of Curt Hennig). That being said, there are many wrestlers who just don't mesh well with one particular wrestler, so it's not a trait unique to Shawn.

 

Behind the scenes, he's certainly going to be remembered for his low points, but he's not the only wrestler with them... some of them tended to get magnified given certain circumstances (Montreal being the best example).

 

His first World title reign came during a down time for WWF, so he's never going to be remembered as this "top draw," and then there was the issue of him doing what Bret did before him, where he'd dog it during the house shows but turn it up for televised/PPV matches. But that aside, I doubt there was any way for Shawn to have a chance to draw... the Diesel reign did much damage and then when WCW struck gold with nWo, Shawn was fighting an uphill battle.

 

Overall, I'd call Shawn a strong wrestler overall, and while he has his faults, he also brings plenty to the table. He may never be my choice for a "hands down top wrestler" but he does rank up among the better wrestlers to have been part of the business.

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I think his biggest influence is popularizing the ladder match as a gimmick more than anything else.

Also, establishing the Hell In A Cell gimmick and inspiring Mick Foley's bumps from the cage, which helped make it the most profitable gimmick match of the last decade.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest John O'Neill

Shawn's easily the most irritating guy to discuss pro wrestling with because people can't look at him objectively.

 

For example, one of the criticisms aimed at his Mania matches with Taker was that near the end they were just kicking out of each other's finishers, and it perhaps went too far. But when Kawada kicks out of a Tiger Driver, a Tiger Driver '91, another Tiger Driver '91, and then loses to something else... well that's great drama. People used to love how the AJPW matches would stretch onwards and onwards, and in front of massive crowds wrestlers would just bust out these awesome moves.

 

Maybe that's not the greatest example, but with regard to his comebacks, his selling, his psychology etc - all of that - I can always find people criticise him for one thing and then show a double-standard.

 

The only criticism of Shawn that I agreed with were the ones regarding his offence. It was, at times, pretty poor. I remember a RAW TV match he had with Koslov which broke his streak on TV (just before Shawn said he wanted to face Taker at Wrestlemania) and there was just no believability that he could pull off the win - especially with his weak chops.

 

Early in his singles run as a heel in 1992, he used to slap on headlocks and try and get heat that way, which didn't work. Watch his Survivor Series match with Bret from 1992 and you'll see some good stooging, some good work, but when it came time for Shawn to really make good on Bret and get some heat (the moment of the match when he was in charge), well he slapped on continuous long, boring, headlocks. It was a common thing he did from 92-93.

 

His offence didn't bother me much from 96-97, mostly because a lot of his moves were old Rocker moves. But when he came back in 2002 his offence looked worse than ever.

 

That said, for all the talk about Savage and DiBiase and a lot of other guys, I don't think their list of great matches compares with Shawn (especially DiBiase). Maybe that's not a great way to judge a wrestler because in terms of pure wrestling ability there were many better. But in terms of a guy who could wrestle MOTYC for the WWE on a regular basis, a terrific PPV performer, he's up there. I liked Shawn because more often than not he wrestled the match I enjoyed the most, despite whatever flaws he had.

 

I just can't be bothered to say much more about him because people just can't be objective with him. There's always a 'but Bret did that as well' argument, or 'but so did Flair' etc. They'll all valid arguments, but people fail to see him on an unbiased light.

 

I will say it's nice he's had a happy ending to his career - making peace with Bret, Bret giving him a tribute with his last promo, Shawn's honest and heartfelt goodbye. He's now got a wonderful family and can get away from wrestling. Look at Ric Flair, he has no choice but to wrestle to support his family etc, and look at all he accomplished. So many wrestlers can't leave the business because:

 

1. It's all they know

2. Can't move on

3. Love it too much

4. Need the money (this one being probably the most common)

 

Shawn won't fall into any of those traps.

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Guest John O'Neill

Another thing worth adding I forgot to say...

 

Whatever flaws Shawn had (few or many), it's sad that he's one of the few wrestlers in the WWE who I can watch and actually get the sense I'm watching a story unfold. There's so little psychology in WWE matches today. My most hated wrestler is the Miz (he makes me turn the channel), and even guys like Kofi Kingston - it feels like his matches are more about the stupud 'Boom, Boom, Boom' spot that he does. Guys like The Undertaker and yes even Triple H give me the sense they can work a good backwards and forwards match on the fly, get great heat and crowd involvment etc... all that is good. Triple H is far more flawed than Shawn, but he still knows what the care essentials are in a match.

 

It's kind of sad because I used to watch wrestling solely for the good guys versus bad guys and how the match unfolds, and what they do, and how they get the crowd involved, and what the match does for each wrestler etc. You can't do that anymore. Wrestling is just a different beast.

 

Say what you want about Cornette (and a lot of it might be true), but his column 'the write stuff' strikes me as very honest and good, and helps explain why so little emphasis is placed on the in-ring stuff, how promos aren't believable anymore... wrestling generally was B-Grade entertainment that, when everything hit just perfectly, was A-Grade entertainment better than most things I've experienced. Now it's just D-Grade rubbish.

 

Wrestling is running out of guys who have even the slightest idea of what goes into a great match. I see Cena (who can at times tell a story, but generally sucks), Orton (who has an awesome character, but hasn't wrestled in one MOTYC), and Dave Batista (who's never been better than solid in the ring), and I just wonder where the storytellers have gone. Even during the Attitude Era I thought I could see a good match from time to time, sometimes with even the undercard guys.

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Did Kawada kick out of two TD '91s? I must have missed that match (and am thankful if I did).

 

I don't have a problem with the Taker-Shawn matches. Entertaining good matches. It's kind of a waste of an argument/discussion to comp it with say the 6/3/94 Kawada-Misawa. They can stand on their own, and the quality of each really isn't enhanced at all by comparing them. Anymore than comparing the 1989 Flair-Steamboat matches to Kawada-Misawa.

 

John

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Guest John O'Neill

Well I did say that perhaps wasn't the greatest example. I'll also admit to using some creative licence with the 'he kicked out of two TD '91's'... maybe he did or he didn't. My point was the AJPW matches of the mid 90s were choc-full of wrestlers kicking out of the highest of high-end offence I've ever seen in wrestling. The matches always stretched those limits.

 

I think it's fair to compare them with the Taker v Shawn matches because people criticise them for kicking out of high end offence (WWE high-end offence that is), and just going, and going too far. Really their matches weren't too different to other big show matches with wrestlers kicking out of finishers etc.

 

Maybe it's easier to wrestle a good match in front a huge crowd (Chris Jericho thinks it is), and I'll submit I have a sneaking admiration for wrestlers who can just get into the ring, with no hype or build-up, and just work a great back and forth match. It's partly why I'm biased towards matches like Benoit/Finlay and Edge/Storm.

 

But you can't criticise Shawn and Taker for kicking out of finishers during big events... it's been happening for year. It's just one of the many double-standards you'll get with Shawn. But I don't want to go any further talking about inconsistencies in Shawn arguments.

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That said, for all the talk about Savage and DiBiase and a lot of other guys, I don't think their list of great matches compares with Shawn (especially DiBiase). Maybe that's not a great way to judge a wrestler because in terms of pure wrestling ability there were many better. But in terms of a guy who could wrestle MOTYC for the WWE on a regular basis, a terrific PPV performer, he's up there.

To be fair to Savage and DiBiase, it was a different era and they had different roles than Shawn. Tougher schedule, squash matches predominated TV, much fewer PPVs, they typically had less time, they had to play second fiddle to Hogan so they couldn't show him up too much, etc. Part of the reason Shawn had more MOTYC for the WWE than most other headliners is that he was given more opportunities to steal the show than anyone else.

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Guest John O'Neill

I disagree.

 

In recent years Shawn's had to wrestle on RAW, where the average match is under 10 minutes, and wrestling is such these days that you're getting hit over the head with violence. Moves don't mean as much these days - you don't see many matches on RAW composed of holds these days. I think the fans are to used to being fed the matches they watch they wouldn't have the patience to watch a smartly worked match.

 

I accept that Savage and DiBiase had a tougher schedule.

 

I don't recall them being involved in many squash matches, and in fact there are quite a few DiBiase matches that I've seen that go in excess of 15 minutes. There were fewer PPV's, but that doesn't mean they had less opportunities to wrestle great matches. I'll give Savage a nod for being a good PPV wrestler. Hogan got showed up all the time too, whether it was intended or not. Not hard to show a guy like that up in the ring.

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I don't buy the "Shawn can't be discussed objectively" talking point. I mean I guess in a sense it's true if we are going with the "everything is subjective" line of reasoning, but it's pretty clear that's not the intention here. Shawn can and has been debated objectively for years it's just that some people refuse to believe that other people don't think think he's one of the greatest wrestlers ever. One of the most obvious examples of this was over at DVDVR during the March Madness tourney when Shawn came up against Finlay in the bracket. tomk and I both came up with relatively detailed arguments for why we thought Finlay was better and it was immediately dismissed as trolling/stupidity/being "unfair"/mean to Michaels.

 

Michaels was a great tag worker. At his peak he was a very good-to-great gimmick match wrestler at a point when that style of wrestling was dominating the American main event scene. I think when he first came back he was solid enough, but by 04 he was getting noticeably worse and by the end of his run I think he was one of the worst guys in the company week in and week out. He was still good for one or two strong performances a year, but he had become a self parody of sorts and his weaknesses were so glaring that I honestly can't believe people thought he was a high level worker.

 

The Michaels/Taker matches are both really good matches. I honestly don't remember anyone criticizing either match for having to many nearfalls after big moves, which is odd because in most instances that is a criticism I would be the first to offer up but I think it was done well enough in both bouts.

 

In the WWF Michaels had more big matches than Dibiase for sure but I think we are kidding ourselves if we are pretending that Michaels didn't have huge advantages in that regard. I'm not sure Michaels had more great matches than Savage despite his advantages.

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Guest John O'Neill

I don't buy the "Shawn can't be discussed objectively" talking point. I mean I guess in a sense it's true if we are going with the "everything is subjective" line of reasoning, but it's pretty clear that's not the intention here. Shawn can and has been debated objectively for years it's just that some people refuse to believe that other people don't think think he's one of the greatest wrestlers ever. One of the most obvious examples of this was over at DVDVR during the March Madness tourney when Shawn came up against Finlay in the bracket. tomk and I both came up with relatively detailed arguments for why we thought Finlay was better and it was immediately dismissed as trolling/stupidity/being "unfair"/mean to Michaels.

That just goes to prove my point: Shawn can't be discussed objectively. Clearly there were some people at DVDVR who wouldn't accept the idea that Finlay might be better than Shawn. My point wasn't limited to people who think Shawn sucks for the sake of it, it was in regards to all people. Although to be honest, when I look at people making arguments for and against Shawn, it's the ones against him that tend to show their subjectivity.

 

I think part of the reason Michaels is so polarizing is because in terms of pure wrestling talent, he's not there. I can sit back and enjoy the liked of Benoit, Finlay, even Regal... guys like that. The guys that have a pure wrestling talent, great offence and counters etc. But in terms of storytelling I don't know how Finlay compares to Shawn. I can't see Finlay wrestling a great big dome match like Shawn could. Shawn/Taker deserve credit for wrestling the exact kind of match that a big crowd show deserves - busting out massive moves and connecting with the crowd tremendously well etc. But even Shawn has admitted he envied the guys like Dynamite Kid who could go into the ring and do all their European flips, and their offence etc. All of that. Finlay doesn't connect with the crowd like Shawn does - part of that is Shawn's over and has charisma, but it also has to do with talent in the ring - he knows what to do to get good reactions.

 

Shawn's match with Jericho is a good example of this. You watch the start of that match and the wrestling and counters are pretty poor. It's clear he hasn't got a pure wrestling talent. But he does stuff that connects with the crowd, and they can enjoy the storytelling of two guys who are very equal etc. The near falls near the end were terrific as well. Plenty of good stuff in that match for it to tell a story and connect with the crowd, but the wrestling was often poor.

 

I'm not sure Michaels had more great matches than Savage despite his advantages.

I wasn't a huge fan of Savage's matches with Bret to be honest. His matches with Steamboat were awesome. His match with Flair doesn't age well for me, although I'd probably still take it over Bret/Piper. I can't be stuffed to repeat what I've written about Savage/Warrior - most of it can be found over at Smarkschoice after they had that massive WWE poll. There is soo much consistency with people who praise Savage v Warrior, and yet hate Shawn matches. Nothing he did with say, DiBiase, really interests me. But that's just my opinion. People are free to praise Savage all they want. Most people can't list 10 truly great Savage matches from the WWE though, despite the long period of time he was there, the time he was given in matches, all those colleseum video matches etc.

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Being able to wrestle a great big dome match is certainly a feather in Shawn's cap that Finlay doesn't have. I don't think it's the end all be all though. Kensuke Sasaki could wrestle a great big dome match with the right opponent too...

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