The most influential wrestler to the current group of stars in the wrestling business is definitely Shawn Michaels. Most of the talent working for WWE grew up watching Michaels in the 90s and studied his 2000s work as they started to progress towards starting their careers in the business. Almost any interview featuring an active wrestler in their early late 20s or early 30s will see them name Michaels as an influence on them. The matches of Michaels were unlike anyone else before him with a combination of storytelling art, athletic awe-inspiring moves and physicality. His hit list of classic matches reminds all fans why they enjoy wrestling.
Michaels now works with WWE at the Performance Center as a trainer. Many of the NXT stars get to interact with him on a daily basis and a few have formed friendships. Main roster wrestlers get to see him occasionally when he is at Raw or SmackDown. Despite his popularity among current stars, Michaels still has a hit list of wrestlers that have issues with him going back to his glory days. Michaels was viewed as the biggest jerk in the industry for quite some time. We'll look at both chapters of his life with eight current WWE stars that love Shawn Michaels and seven former stars that still hold a grudge against him.
15 Love: A.J. Styles
Many comparisons have been made between A.J. Styles and Shawn Michaels. The current work of Styles has him regarded as the best wrestler in the world. Michaels held that reputation for the majority of his career. Styles having such a strong run with the company after signing two years ago could rival any two year time period of Michaels’ career.
The respect Styles has for Michaels makes it a dream match that both A.J. and the WWE fan base wants. Styles tried to convince Michaels to come out of retirement to have a match at the 2017 Royal Rumble show. Michaels elected to stay retired but stated A.J. is one of a handful of active wrestlers he’d have wanted to wrestle in his prime. Styles said it would have been the greatest honor of his career if Michaels faced him.
14 Hate: The Rock
The drama between Shawn Michaels and The Rock goes all the way back to the 90s. Michaels was the top star in WWE when The Rock joined the promotion. As history documents, Rock struggled immensely early on with a horrible babyface character that got him booed out of the building most nights. Michaels was reportedly threatened by Rock’s potential to become a future top star and tried to bury him backstage.
Bret Hart claims both Michaels and Triple H badmouthed Rock to management in hopes of Triple H being positioned above him in the pecking order. Rock obviously became the biggest star in wrestling and remembered Michaels using his power. This led to Rock refusing to work a singles match with Michaels in the early 2000s when both men were top attractions on multiple WrestleMania shows. Rock doesn’t bad mouth Michaels but the stories all coincide with each other to show that he hated Michaels.
13 Love: Velveteen Dream
The recent NXT TakeOver: War Games show featured a new young star stepping up in a major way. Velveteen Dream lost his match to Aleister Black but showed just how talented he was by keeping up with Black. Both the athletic ability and the character work of Velveteen Dream were showcased on the biggest stage for him yet.
Shawn Michaels is reportedly one of the people to help teach the missing pieces to Velveteen Dream as he trained in the Performance Center. At just 22 years old, Velveteen Dream is very new to wrestling but is learning from the trainers in WWE. Michaels praised Velveteen Dream following TakeOver. Velveteen Dream is one of the very few active wrestlers to get the old Twitter follow from HBK giving the modern proof the rumors of their close work relationship are true.
12 Hate: CM Punk
CM Punk had issues with quite a few people in WWE during his time there. Before he even signed, Punk received heat backstage at his tryout matches. Former WWE writers have revealed that Triple H and Shawn Michaels buried Punk backstage in front of the rest of the wrestlers watching. Both guys ridiculed the unique look of Punk along with an in-ring style that was less accepted at the time.
Various wrestling insiders claimed that Punk didn’t enjoy Michaels due to this attitude being shown towards him from the D-Generation X teammates. Michaels denied all stories of this and claimed he was actually one of Punk’s biggest supporters backstage. Punk has never trashed Michaels like he did with Triple H, but there are no quotes from Punk saying positive things about him either.
11 Love: Bayley
Shawn Michaels spent his wrestling days partying and getting into trouble two decades ago. Now, he works backstage at NXT live events producing the show with Bayley. Well, Bayley at least helped out for one of the recent shows in Texas. There was a live event two nights before TakeOver: War Games. Bayley decided to spend her off night helping out in the gorilla position with Michaels and Matt Bloom.
Prior podcast interviews have revealed that Bayley has started a friendship with Michaels when he visits at shows. The advice of Michaels is something every wrestler would value quite much. Bayley stated that she was star struck at first approaching the legend, but they enjoy talking about wrestling whenever they get to see each other.
10 Hate: Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner is not one to hold back on sharing his opinion. The hostility between Steiner and Shawn Michaels existed going back to the early 90s. Both Scott and Rick Steiner took the Steiner Brothers act to WWE and apparently had a negative relationship with Michaels. Steiner blasted Michaels in promos during his stint in ECW holding nothing back.
Years later, Steiner worked in WWE again and flopped due to a poor feud with Triple H. Michaels, Triple H and Flair were the biggest targets of Steiner in shoot interviews. Steiner claims all three of them were backstabbers that tried to bury him along with other wrestlers in the company. The fact that Steiner despises at least three highly respected WWE legends will likely keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
9 Love: Drew McIntyre
Drew McIntyre found a positive relationship with Shawn Michaels during both of his tenures in WWE. The first stint featured McIntyre having a major push as “the Chosen One” with Vince McMahon vouching for him on screen. Both Michaels and Triple H were rumored to be the ones behind the push as they praised McIntyre to McMahon due to loving his work ethic.
The first run was disappointing but Drew returned to WWE with more name value after a hot run on the independent circuit. McIntyre is now in NXT and revealed that he is working more with Michaels now than ever before. According to Drew, he isn’t mandated to visit the Performance Center but does it to take Michaels’ secret class. It is rumored that the top NXT stars close to a call-up gets to experience Michaels’ lesson on such an intimate level and McIntyre is one of the students.
8 Hate: Jim Cornette
Jim Cornette still rants about the things that Shawn Michaels did during the 90s. The fact that Cornette is a wrestling traditionalist saw him despise Michaels for just about everything the controversial performer did as a human being. Michaels was a headache for all of the WWE backstage personnel and Cornette dealt with it quite often.
Cornette felt that Michaels often disrespected the business with his antics. The D-Generation X faction represented everything that Cornette feels killed the wrestling business in his eyes. Cornette wanted Michaels fired when the infamous Curtain Call took place when the Kliq broke kayfabe to have a special moment together. The hatred isn’t as strong as back then but Cornette still holds hostility towards Michaels for his impact on the wrestling business.
7 Love: Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler is one of the many wrestlers that were clearly influenced by Shawn Michaels. Some wrestling pundits believe Ziggler comes off like a second rate Michaels and the inspiration may have impacted his style too much. Ziggler worked in the same locker room as Michaels towards the end of the latter’s career and he likely got a lot of advice from his idol.
According to Ziggler, Michaels definitely is the person that he most modeled his career after. The two didn’t get to do much work together but there is a respect between the two athletes. Ziggler has always dreamed of being this era’s version of Michaels. While that doesn’t seem to be a realistic goal anymore, he still has earned the respect of his childhood hero.
6 Hate: Shane Douglas
One of the most vocal enemies of Shawn Michaels has been ECW legend Shane Douglas. The WWE career of Douglas flopped badly after the god awful gimmick of Dean Douglas. Vince McMahon did believe in Shane enough to put television time into the character but it just couldn’t connect. Douglas however had bigger enemies than McMahon when it came to his WWE career.
Michaels and other members of the Kliq targeted Douglas as someone they mocked. It carried over into the booking as Douglas would lose the Intercontinental Championship to Razor Ramon minutes after an injured Michaels forfeited it over to him. Douglas claims Michaels did everything possible to sabotage his career. The promos from Douglas haven’t stopped as he still rips Michaels in interviews to this day.
5 Love: Roderick Strong
The decision of Shawn Michaels to move his family from Texas to accept the WWE Performance Center job saw him dedicate his life to wrestling once again. Michaels offering advice to veterans on the NXT roster and helping those in need of advice is the current passion he has. Triple H convinced him to take the job and Michaels is now tight with many wrestlers in NXT.
Roderick Strong was pinpointed in an official Michaels interview on WWE’s website as one of the wrestler he gets joy from working with. Michaels and Strong reportedly developed a bond and friendship working together at the Performance Center. Strong may be picking up the missing pieces from Michaels’ teaching as he looks to move to the main roster.
4 Hate: Shane Helms
Shane Helms is one of the very few wrestlers to have issues with Shawn Michaels during the 2000s. Most of the worst moments with Michaels came in the 90s when he was dealing with his addiction issues. The stories shared from WWE wrestlers claim that Michaels was a much better person for his return run between 2002 and 2010.
Helms however took exception to how Michaels carried himself backstage while interacting with other wrestlers. According to The Hurricane, Michaels tried to undercut multiple wrestlers including himself and Mr. Kennedy. Michaels would get blasted by Helms in many shoot interviews after the latter was released. Helms stands by his statements today whenever it comes up. Despite most people loving Michaels, Helms says he is just sharing the truth from his experiences.
3 Love: Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens has gone on the record many times that his inspiration of wanting to become a wrestler comes from Shawn Michaels. The performance of Michaels at WrestleMania XI made Owens realize this is something that he had to be a part of. Owens has developed a friendship with the legend as the two interact backstage whenever Michaels is at a show. They talk about their families and regular lives in addition to wrestling.
Michaels revealed his respect for Owens in an interview naming KO as one of the four active wrestlers he’d like to have wrestled in his prime with Seth Rollins, A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe being the others. Owens expressed desire to visit the Performance Center on his off days to learn from Michaels. Considering KO recently moved back to Florida, you have to wonder if he has done so yet.
2 Hate: Hulk Hogan
The infamous Summerslam 2005 match between Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels showed that the two guys didn’t like each other. Michaels oversold for every move Hogan executed and it is viewed as an all-time humorous moment in wrestling history today. The backstory saw the two guys butt heads over how the story being told in their match would go.
Michaels expected Hogan to return to the ring a month later for a rematch. Hogan told WWE that this would be his final match unless they increased the pay on the day of the match. This led to Michaels overselling. Hogan has reacted negatively to Michaels in interviews when asked about the match. Naturally, Hogan believes he was a far bigger star and felt disrespected by Michaels.
1 Love: Johnny Gargano
One young wrestler to develop a good friendship with Shawn Michaels is Johnny Gargano. The longtime fandom of Michaels is something Gargano has discussed quite often throughout his career. Michaels was his Gargano’s favorite wrestler to the point where Gargano dressed as Michaels for Halloween as a kid. Both guys work together at the Performance Center and they formed a bond.
Michaels is retired from the ring so getting to run a social media angle with him is the best a wrestler can do. Gargano and Michaels did a fun competition on Twitter about who had the better abs with Gargano slightly winning. Michaels going out of his way to do something with an NXT wrestler shows his friendship with Gargano. The young wrestlers not only learning from Michaels, but Michaels is finding new buddies that he is helping out.