When it comes to the WWE, there may not be a wrestler that has left a legacy quite like Michael Shawn Hickenbottom, better known as Shawn Michaels, aka the Heartbreak Kid. Michaels had an incredibly successful career that spanned decades but success came with some incredibly dark times and some personal demons.
For all of the pitfalls that hindered HBK’s career, came with it lessons that he used to help out countless wrestlers along the way.
There was a period of Michaels life where he was battling addictions, and struggling to keep his head afloat in the industry that he loved. On top of the personal demons, Michaels battled incredible physical odds to be able to wrestle for as long as he did. Even a brief retirement was not enough to fully keep Michaels away from the ring.
When Michaels had his last match with the Undertaker in 2010, it was clearly the last that we were going to see of the Heartbreak Kid, at least in wrestling boots. But what he left behind was an undeniable legacy that helps make him one of the most iconic wrestlers in the history of the WWE.
There are no shortage of amazing stories and tales that HBK experienced in his life, but here are 15 facts that you may not already know.
15 He Has Won "Match of the Year" 11 Times
When it comes to accolades in the wrestling world, there may not be a more respected magazine then Pro Wrestling Illustrated. The magazine has been around since 1972, and has awarded out Match of the Year Awards since the start. HBK’s talent is undeniable when you consider that he has taken home the award a record 11 times throughout his career. It may not be shocking for Mr.Wrestlemania, that 9 of those matches came on the biggest stages of them all.
Starting back in 1993, HBK’s Match of the Year was:
1993: vs Marty Jannetty – Monday Night Raw
1994: vs Razor Ramon – Wrestlemania 10
1995: vs Diesel – Wrestlemania 11
1996: vs Bret Hart – Wrestlemania 12
2004: vs Triple H vs Chris Benoit – Wrestlemania 20
2005: vs Kurt Angle – Wrestlemania 21
2006: vs Vince McMahon – Wrestlemania 22
2007: vs John Cena – Monday Night Raw
2008: vs Ric Flair – Wrestlemania 24
2009: vs The Undertaker – Wrestlemania 25
2010: vs The Undertaker – Wrestlemania 26
The fact that the years span from 1993 all the way to 2010, truly show the lasting legacy that HBK left on the WWE.
14 Jimmy Hart Came Up With His Theme Song
HBK just wouldn’t be HBK if not for his iconic theme song. You need to have a certain amount of confidence to be able to sing your own song and still have it be your anthem for over a decade. When asked about the anthem, Michaels mentioned that it was Jimmy Hart who wrote the song. Similarly, it was Hart who thought HBK needed to be the one singing it causing Michaels to retort:
“Oh, my goodness I can't sing." But I tell ya, it's grown a life of its own. It's funny because it's obviously so not me, but it's a toe tapper and people get a kick out of it. When I look back on all of it- the song, the career- I look back on it with the most pleasant smile a guy could ever have because I'm extremely fortunate. I got to live my dream, and that's pretty rare."
13 His Thoughts After His Last Match
HBK had an outstanding career that spanned decades, but there will always be something special about your last big match. For Michaels, that came in 2010 at WrestleMania against The Undertaker. The match had high expectations, as their previous encounter in 2009 was awarded the match of the year. They didn’t even kind of disappoint, and put on an outstanding spectacle that was well deserving of it’s award of match of the year in 2010. An interview with HBK asked him about his thoughts right after the match,
“it was just complete joy and then also, I think a lot of mental and physical and even spiritual exhaustion. “It’s over.” And again, that’s when it settled in. That’s when it got real. And it was almost as if everything under God’s green earth had been lifted off my shoulders and it was a nice feeling. It was a bit surreal, but I would have to say it was really the next day when everything settled in.”
12 Why He Retired
There are a lot of reasons that helped make the decision to leave the ring an easier one for Michaels. Yet even if you forget the health implications of continuing to wrestle, it was family that helped really cement the decision to walk away. It was before WrestleMania XXV (a year before retirement) when he was talking to someone backstage about his son who had just turned 9.
The employee responded “'Wow, halfway gone.' He said he was halfway to 18 and when he's 18 he's gone. That blew me away... He's halfway gone and I'm not going to miss that. Period.”
Hard to argue with that.
11 He Could Keep Wrestling
It can be an incredibly devastating thing when a fan favorite has to leave the WWE because of an injury, such as in the case of Adam Copeland (aka Edge). For Michaels, he thought that was the case for himself when he had to take several years off to recover from back surgery. It may be pleasing for fans to know that at least when he retired in 2010, that he felt he absolutely could have kept wrestling (he just chose not to).
In an interview when asked about if he had one more in him, HBK stated:
“Everybody always asks me, “Gosh, do you have one more in you?” and I tell them, “No, I’ve got about 15 more in me.” But I always felt like that was the point. I mean, I just think it’s a bad idea if you shoot your last bullet and you’ve got none left.”
10 He Hurt His Back Wrestling The Undertaker
Shawn Michaels was probably not expecting to retire from Wrestling within a year of January 17th, 1998. After all, it was the Royal Rumble the next day and he had a casket match scheduled against the The Undertaker for the WWE Championship. During the match however, Michaels suffered a catastrophic back injury as Undertaker attempted to throw him into the casket. The fall wasn't done properly and it led to Michaels' herniating two disks in his back, as well as crushing a third. This caused Michaels to retire from wrestling (temporarily) after that years WrestleMania.
9 Curt Hennig Suggested The Nickname
When you are in the WWE, you are only as good as your name. Call my crazy, but I don’t think Michael Shawn Hickenbottom would have been quite as appealing. Michaels is also fortunate to have one of the best nicknames: Heartbreak Kid. Perhaps it should not be shocking that Curt Hennig, nicknamed Mr.Perfect, came up with the nickname for Michaels. Hennig was also the person who helped suggest the much cooler Triple H, in contrast to Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
8 He Smashed A Bottle Over His Head
When Michaels was trying to make it in the WWE, he worked with Marty Janetty to form what was known as The Rockers. However his first stint in the WWE did not last very long, as their partying ways caught up to him. Michaels recanted the story in which him and Marty went to a bar and got riled up by other members there (some wrestlers) which led to Michaels “taking a bottle and breaking it over his own head. He said, the next day a 'fictional story' of them trashing the bar was invented and they were canned from WWE. Shawn said, Vince didn't believe the story, but did believe they weren't ready for the WWE and when they were, they could come back” and it led to him going and spending more time with the AWA federation.
7 Michaels Got Assaulted And It Cost Him A Title
For all the partying that Michaels allegedly did in his life, it may not be shocking to know that he got assaulted outside of a bar in 1995. Timing could not have been worse for Michaels who had the WWE Pay-Per-View, In Your House coming up that month. Unfortunately, injuries sustained by Michaels forced the wrestler to be unable to compete. As a result, Michaels was forced to forfeit the Intercontinental Championship. Given that his opponent, Dean Douglas, still ended up not leaving the PPV as a champion (he lost to Razor Ramon), it would not be a leap to see that the WWE had no plans of taking the title off of HBK at that PPV.
In late 1995, Shawn was attacked outside a club in Syracuse, New York. His tearful speech to fans turned HBK into a new man. One that fans wanted to see achieve his life-long dreams.
6 He Has Been Twice Married
Michaels has had two marriages throughout his career. The first, was to Theresa Wood but the marriage ended in an amicable divorce. After that, Michaels started up a relationship with a former WCW Nitro Girl, Rebecca Curci (now Rebecca Hickenbottom). Their marriage was made official on March 31st, 1999 in Las Vegas. Fitting of any Las Vegas wedding, the ceremony was performed by Elvis and there was nobody else present for the event. Since being married, the family has welcomed two children, a son in January, 2000 and a daughter in August, 2004.
5 He Posed in Playgirl
Shawn Michaels has done a lot of things in his career that he will be remembered for. One of the things that Michaels may wish he may have never done was pose for Playgirl magazine in 1996, which to Michaels' surprise featured primarily a male-oriented fanbase. While the layout was not a nude one, that did not stop his fellow wrestlers from poking fun at HBK. I guess that will teach you to make sure you read all the details of your contract before you sign it!
4 He Opened His Own Wrestling Academy
It was in 1998 that Shawn Michaels received the back surgery that he thought would end his professional wrestling career. After a brief hiatus from the ring, Michaels ended up returning to the WWE after a few years away. When Michaels realized he wasn’t going to wrestle, he opened a wrestling academy along with Rudy Boy Gonzalez. The school also led to the start of the wrestling promotion, Texas Wrestling Academy. While Michaels ended up leaving the academy to return to wrestling, it remains in operation by Rudy Boy Johnson. Several prominent wrestlers made their marks through the school, including Bryan Danielson and Brian Kendrick.
3 His Son Helped Him Get Clean
Michaels has battled several addictions in his life, but it was his son that helped make Michaels realize that he needed to take the steps to improve his life. It was during his time away from the ring, that Michaels states he had a moment with his son that made him finally realize it was time to clean himself up. In an interview with the WWE, Michael describes the final moment:
“My son was 2 years old and I was half-in-the-bag on the couch, and him thinking I was tired. I realized, 'My goodness, he’s starting to notice. This isn’t something you’ll be able to hide from him.' It broke my heart. I just could not bear the thought of this innocent baby being ruined by something he had absolutely nothing to do with. I decided there needed to be a change — and a drastic one.”
It was that realization that things needed to alter, that led to him rekindling his friendship with his former close friend, Triple H.
2 It Was God That Inspired His Return to the Ring
Shawn Michaels is very open about his faith, and finding a second life when he realized he was religious. It is not shocking that then when Michaels was deciding if he should return to the ring, it was a bible passage that helped make the decision clearer. Michaels was on a plane, reading the bible when the words “be strong and courageous for I am with you,” stood out to him. Michaels claims that “that’s when I made the call to Mr. McMahon and suggested a similar-type of match — with hardcore rules — against him.” While the match ended up being against Triple H, it was still the biggest moment of Michaels career in terms of what helped propel him back into the WWE.
1 Randy Savage Wanted To Wrestle Him
Randy Savage had a fantastic wrestling career, and is well deserving of his place in the wrestling Hall of Fame. As entertaining as he was in the ring, the Macho Man, was just as captivating with a mic in his hand. That would have made it all the more exciting if he had been given the chance to feud with Michaels like he had wanted to. Savage’s brother, Lanny Poffo, talked extensively about this saying that his brother had “hopes to have a two-year feud that would be kind of his masterpiece, the last thing he wanted to do in his career, culminating in a big blow-off match in which he'd put you over,” but unfortunately this did not come to fruition and Savage left the WWF in 1994. While Michaels stated he did not know about the potential angle, he’s quick to admit how much the feud would have helped him develop as a wrestler.
“Obviously, that would have been a blast. Gosh, I think that would have helped me immensely at that time. I think there's so much I could have learned and would have learned."
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