WWF Magazine: The Kid Beneath His Wings
The story of Shawn Michaels and Jose Lothario
By Bill Banks (1996)
Credit: Forever-Shawn.net

As "Super Sock" Jose lothario looked up from his office desk on a hot summer day back in 1982, he saw two figures standing in his doorway. One of the men, obviously the elder, held his son by his side.

"My son Shawn wants to be a wrestler," the man said. "You are the best we know of a legend, and we would like you to train him."

Jose took one look at the kid standing before him couldn’t have been more than 17 years old. A scrawny, short-haired ball of energy with a big smile on his face. He didn’t know quite what to say, and a silence echoed throughout the room for the next minute.

Pondering this, Lothario thought back a few years to the only other man he had ever trained the late Gino Hernandez, a man who ultimately turned on Lothario and went down the wrong path in life. Could he take another youngster under his wing, only to risk yet another turn on him?

"Mr. Lothario," the kid said, breaking the silence, as he stepped forward to the legend’s desk. "My name is Shawn Michaels and I would like you to teach me how to be a wrestler, sir."

After giving it some thought, Jose took the boy under his wing and trained him working him countless hours in the gym, almost like a drill sergeant. You see, he wasn’t about to go easy on this new kid just because he was doing a favor for his father Michaels was about to go through the ringer with the "Super Sock." Was this wide-eyed hopeful good enough or was he just a weekend warrior playing out a fantasy? The question was soon to be answered. After two months, Super Sock saw something in Shawn Michaels that he hadn’t seen in Hernandez there was a spark in the kid’s eye.

"After that second month, I knew Shawn was going to go all the way," Lothario recalled. "He gave it his all in that gym, no matter if it was against me or another opponent. I thought to myself , ‘This kid is going to make it’! He had the desire in his heart to be someone."

Looking back on those first few months, Shawn Michaels remembers them vividly, as if they happened yesterday. You see, it wasn’t as if the Heartbreak Kid had simply just found someone who knew wrestling Shawn Michaels was given the opportunity to train under the man who he watched wrestle every Saturday morning on his television in the Lone Star state.

"I think every young boy who lived in Texas knew who Jose Lothario was, Michaels said. "I first saw him on TV when I was 12, he was the first superstar to come across my screen. He is a legend in San Antonio, Cuba, Mexico just about everywhere! The first say I met him in that office, I guess he saw something special in me."

Lothario continued to mold the youngster into a fine wrestler. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and so on. In and out of the ring, Jose was there to guide Shawn in his first few matches after he turned professional. Before each event, the mentor would sit down with Shawn in the locker room, doors closed. There he would go over with his young protégé what to look for from his opponents the strengths and weaknesses or each obstacle he was about to face. After the match, whether win or loss, the same process would take place Shawn sitting in a chair, listening to the man who trained him. But the one thing that Jose drilled into Shawn’s head was that he shouldn’t underestimate any man because, as Lothario put it, "There is always someone out there who can beat you." Michaels discovered from Jose that in EVERY match he was learning something new from his opponents.

Finally, the day came when Jose Lothario decided it was time to set this young kid out in his own. Jose remembered his days as a wrestler, and how he had never gotten a chance to make it "up north" as he would call it the World Wrestling Federation.Shawn and Mary Jannetty were "getting their feet wet" in the AWA (American Wrestling Association) at the time and opportunity started to knock for the tag team. Lothario very much wanted this for his pupil, so he gave Shawn a pat on the back, a hug and sent him to New York to try out for the "Big Time". In every sense of the phrase, Jose Lothario loved Shaw like a son and if you love something, you set it free.

As the months passed, Jose now retired and living in San Antonio would sometimes go into his living room and watch Shawn on television Saturday mornings. Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels were lighting up the ring in the World Wrestling Federation while Jose looked on from his home. Even though he was travelling Michaels never forgot the man who treated him like a son all those years.

"He would call me sometimes after a match, Jose said. "I would tell him about the things I saw that he wasn’t doing right, and I would tell him how to correct it. We kept in touch from time to time. I never forgot about him."

Over the next six years, Jose watched Shawn grow from a challenger into a champion. He was watching when Shawn beat the British Bulldog for his first Intercontinental Championship on Saturday Night’s Main Event in 1992. He was also tuned in for the other Intercontinental Title reigns and on the occasion he won the Federation tag team gold. Throughout every championship match win or loss Super Sock was watching, jumping up and down on the couch with excitement or crying in pain for the Heartbreak Kid.

Then one day in January 1996, Jose’s phone rang. As Jose picked it up and said "Hello’, a few short words came from the other end of the receiver. It was none other than Shawn Michaels.

"I listened on the phone and all I heard him say was, ‘Jose, they’re going to give me a shot at the Federation Championship at WrestleMania XII. Can you train me?’ I thought for a few seconds and then told him, ‘Of course I will, you know I’m here for you."

Federation officials had finally given Shawn Michaels the shot he had long been waiting for. After winning the 1996 Royal Rumble, Shawn was announced as the No. 1 contender for the Federation Title the belt that was around Bret Hart’s waist at the time. Then interim president Roddy Piper declared that this match between the two at the annual extravaganza would be an Iron Man Match 60 minutes of pure action, and there HAD to be a winner.

"I went back to San Antonio and trained with Jose for two months," Shawn said. "I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to go the full 60 minutes that Bret would ultimately get to me. Jose looked me right in the eyes and said, ‘You’re going to beat him and I’ll train you to last two hours if I have to!’"

March 31, 1996 is a day Shawn Michaels will NEVER forget. Shawn put on his ring attire and was getting ready to go to the ring, but butterflies soon started in his stomach and for good reason! Sixteen thousand screaming fans and millions of Pay-Per-View buyers were tuned in to see the main event between Michaels and Hart for the Federation Title. This was the dream that Shawn had lived since the age of 12 and tonight was the night that he would either realize it or fail. Jose took Shawn, grabbed his shaking hands and said to him, "You have to do this for your fans and I’m confident you will."

After those words of encouragement, Shawn went out and outlasted Bret Hart for over 60 minutes to become the new Federation Champion. The dream had been realized and it was something very special to have Jose there to experience it for the new champion.

"He always believed I would win the title that night," Shawn said. "Winning that title was just a little something I did to repay him for all that he did for me. I could never fully pay him for everything for the trust he put in me and for the trust my family put in him. He opened all the doors for HBK."

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