The legendary career of Shawn Michaels is over as an in-ring performer, but fans still talk about him fondly. Michaels retired in 2010 and everyone still holds out hope that he'll make a return back to the ring. Vince McMahon reportedly continues to pester him to come out of retirement every year around WrestleMania. The future of Michaels will likely continue to be retired life, but we can still look back at his career on the WWE Network. His library of classic matches doesn’t tell the whole story as Michaels’ backstage relationships were equally fascinating to the greatness exhibited in the squared circle.
Michaels held the reputation of being one of the biggest jerks in wrestling history during the 90s. His rise to fame and unbelievable talent just added to his ego. Various wrestlers developed a hatred for Michaels claiming he tried to hurt their careers. The popular belief is Michaels changed his tune when cleaning up his act during his return from 2002 to 2010. Friendships were formed and Michaels was able to inspire many of today’s stars. Some people accused him of still being a backstage politician. The only thing certain is the majority of wrestlers held a strong opinion of The Heartbreak Kid. We’ll look at the top stories of the eight wrestling personalities that love Shawn Michaels and seven that hate him.
15 Love: Steve Austin
The history between Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin wasn’t always cordial. Austin was one of the many wrestlers unhappy with Michaels during the era of The Kliq. At one point, it was believed Michaels would refuse to drop the WWE Championship to Austin at WrestleMania XIV and The Undertaker stepped in as an enforcer to ensure nothing crazy happened. Things changed for the better with Michaels improving his lifestyle after finding God.
Austin and Michaels have formed a close knit friendship over the past fourteen years. The Steve Austin Show podcast has featured Austin praise Michaels on numerous occasions as a person and a performer. Austin often names Michaels as the greatest in-ring performer in wrestling history. The Texas Rattlesnake actually was selected by Michaels to write one of the two forewords for his Wrestling for My Life book. As a friend and a fan of Shawn’s work, Austin definitely has become one of the biggest endorsers of Michaels.
14 Hate: Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels would be on the Mount Rushmore of many wrestling fans, but they would not want to be placed next to each other. Michaels became a big star in the WWE following the era of Hulkamania with the company looking to build stars. Their paths would not cross until Hogan made one of his many returns to WWE. The dream match was booked to have the first battle between the two mega-stars at SummerSlam 2006.
Both men held a disdain for each other coming out of the match. Hogan won the match and refused to lose a rematch the following month. Michaels completely sabotaged him during the match by overselling all of Hogan’s moves in a comical way. Hogan directed insults towards Michaels in various interviews through the years. He actually went on the record to say Michaels and Triple H couldn’t get the fans to follow him. They are respectful to each other in person but comments in interviews show that Hogan hates Michaels.
13 Love: Scott Hall
The first big singles performance in Shawn Michaels career that showed he could be a future World Champion came against Scott Hall. Michaels and Hall were two members of The Kliq, along with Triple H, Kevin Nash and X-Pac. The tremendous ladder match between Michaels and Hall at WrestleMania X showed the world that they were two of the most elite workers in the wrestling business. Michaels has remained close friends with Hall through the years.
Hall had a terrible track record with drug and alcohol abuse that removed him from the WWE family for a long time. We are finally seeing him return to the forefront in recent years thanks to getting his life on track. This has led to Michaels and Hall reuniting on camera at various events such as the annual WWE Hall of Fame.
The fact that Hall is finally back where he belongs means we get to see the two friends share more memories.
12 Hate: Jim Cornette
Jim Cornette was one of the all-time great managers but he has become known as a wrestling pundit talking trash on his enemies. Shawn Michaels is a frequent target of Cornette’s tirades mostly stemming back to their time working together in the mid-90s for the WWE. This was the time of Michaels being a jerk backstage and trying to hold down the rest of the roster.
One instance that always comes to the discussion on Cornette’s podcast is the story of Vader. Michaels faced off with Vader in a program for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 1996. The match ended with Michaels defeating the big man and nothing else coming from it. Vader’s stock plummeted following the main event of the second biggest PPV of the year. Cornette blames Michaels for causing the act of Vader and Cornette to lose momentum. The overall gist of the hatred sparks from Michaels playing backstage politics and contributing to what Cornette believed ruined pro wrestling.
11 Love: Dolph Ziggler
If you’ve ever watched Dolph Ziggler wrestle, you know how much he loves Shawn Michaels. The overall look, gear and in-ring style of Ziggler shows a great influence from the career of Michaels to a fault. Many believe Ziggler goes too far in trying to mimic Michaels but it all comes from a place of love for his favorite wrestler. Ziggler is one of the WWE stars to hit his stride shortly after the retirement of Michaels to miss out on a potential dream match.
Michaels does not seem to reciprocate the love as he called out Ziggler for trying to imitate him far too much when breaking down today’s product. The career of Ziggler has been met with ups and downs. It looks like his best days are over. This could be a rare instance of someone being influenced too much by Michaels and coming off like a tribute act.
10 Hate: Shane Helms
The majority of this list features talent hating Shawn Michaels for who he was in the 90s or loving him for who he was in the 2000s. Shane Helms is the exception. Known most for his time as The Hurricane, Helms had a respectable career in the WWE but lost respect for Michaels as a person. Helms claimed Michaels still was the shadiest person in the WWE locker room and tried to hold down the younger talent to continue dominating the main event picture.
Many fans turned on Helms for his opinion on Michaels and he was booed at independent wrestling shows for his opinion. Helms questioned the theory that Michaels was a better person, and he actually implied Michaels wore a cross to fool people into believing he was a new man. The heat between the two still exists today and Helms has one of the more intense hatreds for Michaels in the wrestling business.
9 Love: Ric Flair
Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair are the two most popular names that come up when breaking down the greatest in-ring performers of all time. They share the same opinion of each other and became very close friends. Michaels and Flair returned to the WWE around the same time frame in 2001-2002. The timing was perfect for both men to appreciate each other as performers and as people. Michaels named Flair as the person that most influenced him as a young fan entering the business.
Flair gravitated towards Michaels and Triple H during his stint with the WWE. The last few years of WCW completely killed the confidence of Flair. Michaels supporting Flair helped bring back the swagger to The Nature Boy. They loved working together on multiple occasions and Flair selected Michaels to be the guy that ended his WWE in-ring career at WrestleMania XXIV. The moment of Michaels saying “I’m sorry, I love you” put their friendship on the screen and it still exists today.
8 Hate: CM Punk
The relationship between CM Punk and Shawn Michaels is hard to figure out. Michaels and Triple H were rumored to heavily criticize CM Punk during his days in WWE developmental. One specific story stated they ridiculed Punk backstage while watching him work a dark match. Punk definitely holds a rebellious attitude and has shown the reputation of holding grudges. Things appeared to smooth over when Michaels claimed he was a huge supporter of Punk and tried to support the new star during his early days on WWE TV.
Punk has still gone out to criticize Michaels on a few occasions. The most memorable instance saw him say William Regal deserves credit for training Daniel Bryan rather than the perception of Michaels discovering the future World Champion. Punk even went on to say Michaels just took Bryan’s money as opposed to Regal going all out to help Bryan progress into a better performer. The snide comment was a glimpse into his personal opinion on Michaels.
7 Love: Kevin Nash
The friendship between Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels is one of the closest brotherhoods in all of wrestling. Michaels was impressed by the work of Nash in WCW and influenced Vince McMahon into bringing the big man over to WWE. Nash signed to play Diesel as the bodyguard of Michaels during the latter’s singles push. The two worked perfectly together and both of their value improved by being associated on television for quite some time.
Diesel defended the title against Michaels at WrestleMania XI in a great moment for the two stars getting such a platform to work together. They always had great chemistry in the ring but it paled in comparison to their relationship outside of the company. Nash actually introduced Michaels to the woman he ended up marrying. The two still talk all the time and have always been there for each other through the decades of their friendship.
6 Hate: Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner’s singles run in the WWE led to various bitter relationships with a couple of fellow wrestlers. The three wrestlers to always come up when Steiner unleashes an entertaining rant are Triple H, Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels. Steiner considered them the three biggest backstabbers and backstage politicians in the WWE landscape. The work of Michaels was always criticized by Steiner long before his singles run. Steiner made disparaging comments about Michaels in his rare ECW promos following his first run in the WWE teaming with his brother Rick.
The longstanding hatred from Steiner towards Michaels stems from both a difference in wrestling philosophies and personal differences. Steiner was never fond of the look or gimmick of Michaels during the era where the latter would strip out of his outerwear before matches. WWE has all but exiled Steiner from returning to WWE at festivities like the Hall of Fame. The fact that he still threatens Michaels and other WWE friends will continue to keep him away.
5 Love: Daniel Bryan
The fundamentals shown by Daniel Bryan throughout his WWE career were originally learned via the teaching of Shawn Michaels. Bryan’s introduction to the wrestling world came at Michaels’ wrestling school. Michaels’ mother actually helped loan money to Bryan and Brian Kendrick so they would be able to finish the wrestling school program and find a place to live. Bryan has always remained indebted to the teaching of Michaels.
Michaels stated he saw something special in Bryan from day one and helped him secure a WWE developmental contract in 2000. The long road for Bryan would see him thrive on the independent wrestling scene before officially becoming a WWE Superstar in 2010. Bryan hit home run after home run to become arguably the greatest in-ring worker for the company since Michaels. The respect between the two lived on and Bryan wanted to have a dream match with his first trainer. It sadly never happened, but Bryan still looks back fondly on his time in Michaels’ school.
4 Hate: Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas’ career in WWE was one of the biggest flops of the 90s. There are many different viewpoints on why things went so poorly, but Douglas holds backstage politics and egos most responsible for his downfall. One of the names publicly disparaged for many years by Douglas is Shawn Michaels. Douglas had terrible run-ins with The Kliq and Michaels was the ring leader of the bunch, making life difficult for Douglas.
The big Intercontinental Championship victory for Douglas during his short WWE run came at the expensive of Michaels forfeiting it due to injury. Douglas unfortunately lost the title just minutes later to Michaels’ friend Razor Ramon, aka Scott Hall. The backstage influence of Michaels likely played a role in all of this leading to Douglas unleashing tirades on him for years. Douglas made a career for himself in ECW by trashing those he felt hurt his career in WWE and WCW. Michaels was and still is at the top of the list.
3 Love: Vince McMahon
No other legend was able to survive getting away with as many terrible incidents in the WWE as Shawn Michaels. For whatever reason, Vince McMahon always held a soft spot in his heart for Michaels and gave him more chances than anyone else would. Michaels’ backstage drama and personal struggles with addiction made him a horrible person to deal with. Stories indicated he would actually curse out McMahon in front of the other employees.
McMahon knew Michaels had the talent to back up his massive ego, but also saw a good person underneath it all. WWE welcomed back Michaels following his original retirement and gave him the opportunity to change his career. Instead of being remembered as a talented worker to burn bridges and retire at his peak, Michaels added another eight years of tremendous work to be considered among the all-time greats. McMahon was a professional father figure for Michaels and the two have remained tight through the years. You’ll continue to see Michaels in the WWE family for the rest of his life.
2 Hate: The Rock
The personal hatred from The Rock to Shawn Michaels is one of the more intense emotions exhibited by the movie star. Everyone credits The Rock for being professional and getting along well with just about everyone he works with. Michaels was the exception to the rule due to his horrible personality in the 90s. Rock was the blue chip prospect coming to the WWE during the time frame of Michaels’ dominance as the WWE Champion.
Michaels allegedly tried to sabotage The Rock’s push in favor of keeping his top spot and helping his friend Triple H. Rumors also indicated Shawn was disrespectful towards The Rock's grandmother backstage during the 90s. The Rock held a grudge for years for good reason. With his star power rising, Rock become the top guy in WWE and refused to work with Michaels at future WrestleMania events due to the past incidents. Rock has avoided speaking about Michaels in a few past interviews, but keeps it cordial at WWE events. It’s hard to say the hatred still lives on but there’s definitely no love lost with the two former hated rivals.
1 Love: Triple H
Friendship goals are formed when we see Triple H and Shawn Michaels reunite on WWE television. The best friends have looked out for each other since the early days of D-Generation X and have only grown closer today. Michaels helped Triple H become a star in the WWE and now Triple H is the most powerful man in the business, aside from Vince McMahon. The two have formed a bond that goes beyond wrestling and they support each other in all of their various projects, such as Michaels’ hunting show that Triple H has appeared on.
Michaels has made training appearances at the Performance Center and may very well be close to accepting a job to work there, helping Triple H’s prospects get to the next stage in NXT or WWE. Triple H was the man to induct Michaels into the Hall of Fame and the same will apply to Michaels whenever The Game gets inducted. The love and support shown by Triple H makes him the closest friend and biggest supporter of Michaels in the wrestling industry.