San Antonio Express- various articles on Shawn's surgery (early 1999)

Written by Ihosvani Rodriguez of the San Antonio Express

Shawn Michaels, "The Heartbreak Kid," will be breaking the hearts of wrestling fans everywhere. The World Wrestling Federation superstar has picked what has become the year of the wrestler to turn in his tights. The San Antonio native likely will retire from the ring after he undergoes back surgery next Tuesday (Jan. 12, 1999).

"It's a matter of looking at the risk vs. rewards ratio. I need to start thinking about the second part of my life," Michaels said from his North San Antonio home Tuesday afternoon. "It's time to say, 'That's a wrap.'"

Last year, Michaels, 33, received a serious back injury after he was tossed through a table during a match against The Undertaker. Doctors told him 14 years of being body-slammed and enduring backbreakers - however choreographed they might have been - virtually destroyed two disks in his lower back.

"It's the most excruciating pain anyone can ever endure," Michaels said.

Doctors from the medical team that treated former New York Jets player Dennis Byrd were among those consulted by Michaels. On Tuesday, San Antonio surgeons will try to fuse Michaels' disks back together. Michaels' doctors could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening. Michaels - who played high school football for the Randolph Ro-Hawks and whose real name is Michael Hickenbottom - said he's going to continue working for the WWF. His primary role will be "commissioner" for the wrestling organization, serving as spokesman and front man as the WWF expands its audience globally. After spending several years toiling in minor wrestling federations, Michaels quickly rose through the ranks in the world where showmanship and charisma are rewarded with fame and fortune - and marked with a championship belt.

"I've accomplished many things in the ring, including reaching the top as a world champion," Michaels said. "If I hadn't won the title, then perhaps I would still be trying to get back in the ring one way or another, but you have to start thinking about your personal life."

Michaels will continue to work with local wrestling legend Jose Lothario on a wrestling school set to open in April and continue his efforts with local charities, he said.

To explain his absence while he recovers from back surgery, Michaels was "pummeled" by WWF wrestlers on "Monday Night Raw," then tossed through a car windshield.

Michaels said he will not be part of Sunday's WWF live telecast "Sunday Night Heat" from the Freeman Coliseum.


Posted by the San Antonio Express

World Wrestling Federation superstar Shawn Michaels was recovering at a San Antonio hospital late Tuesday after undergoing four hours of back surgery. Surgeons fused the wrestler's fourth and fifth vertebrae, said Clyde McCormick, Michaels' attorney. "It was very difficult and it took a lot longer than we expected, but he's doing very well," said Dr. Pablo Vasquez, who with Dr. Thomas Kingman operated on Michaels. The popular wrestler was resting comfortably and will probably leave the hospital this weekend, Vasquez said. Michaels, 33, known as "The Heartbreak Kid," received a serious back injury last year when The Undertaker tossed him through a table during a match.

He won the WWF's championship in 1996, and lost it a few months later to Sycho Sid after Sid decked him with a TV camera. To his fans' delight, Michaels regained the championship in January 1997 after a grueling, 17-minute grudge match at the Alamodome. Last week, the San Antonio native announced his retirement but said he would continue to work as a WWF commissioner and with community groups. He also says he plans to open a wrestling school in San Antonio with local wrestling legend Jose Super Sock" Lothario.

Vasquez said any return to the ring by Michaels "would put too much pressure on the remaining disks." reports that "On Wednesday morning at approximately 10:30 ET, a high-ranking Federation official spoke to Shawn's mother by phone about his condition. According to her, he "had a very bad night...he was vomiting and not sleeping." HBK is expected to be released sometime over the weekend, although WWF.COM couldn't confirm the actual day.

Doctors say that Shawn's symptoms are quite normal for the type of surgery he has undergone.


Wrestling champion released from hospital

By Carmina Danini

Express-News Staff Writer

Shawn Michaels, World Wrestling Federation champion and superstar, was discharged from a local hospital Thursday afternoon, just two days after undergoing back surgery.

Dr. Pablo Vazquez said the wrestler had been expected to stay at the Methodist Ambulatory Hospital, where the surgery was performed Tuesday, until Saturday.

"He's in such good shape and so strong and just doing a lot better that it was possible for him to leave earlier," said Vazquez, one of two physicians who operated on Michaels.

The 33-year-old wrestler, a native of San Antonio, will need plenty of bed rest, Vazquez said.

"He'll need a combination of walking and bed rest for months," the physician added, "and no wrestling. His life would be in jeopardy if he returned to the ring."

A week before he went into the hospital, Michaels said he was ready to retire after 14 years of a bruising wrestling career.

Michaels, who played football for the Randolph Ro-Hawks, said he will continue to work for the WWF as commissioner and spokesman.

Toni Castillo, Vazquez's assistant, said Michaels was doing fine late Thursday afternoon.

Get-well cards can be sent to Michaels in care of the WWF/Titan Sports, 1241 East Main, P.O. Box 3857, Stamford, Conn. 06902

Thursday, Jan 14, 1999


Credit: San Antonio Express-News Online: Pro Wrestling

Michaels thanks his fans

By Ron Parsons

Online Entertainment Editor

Professional wrestler and San Antonio native Shawn Michaels, who recently announced his retirement from wrestling following back surgery, has a message for his fans: thank you.

Michaels, 33, wanted to tell wrestling fans who've followed his career that he appreciates their support and that he's "going to miss performing for them."

Years of back problems, exacerbated by a brutal fall through a table during a match with The Undertaker, forced "The Heartbreak Kid" out of action on to the operating table Jan. 12, where San Antonio orthopedic surgeon Pablo Vasquez removed a herniated disk and performed a bone graft to repair the wrestler's back.

"He's doing very well, it's been a week or so since the surgery, and he's ahead of the game compared to many other patients," said Vasquez. "He's doing terrific, I'm very pleased. He's still recovering, there's no therapy or any other exercise program for at least a few weeks. He still needs to heal, bones need to set. "

Michaels, who appeared a little stiff but was able to walk and sit without obvious discomfort, said he's taking his doctor's advice to relax and let the healing process take place.

He also admitted that he's not always wanted to do that in the past, doing what professional athletes from all sports are prone to do - start execising too soon, pushing the recovery. But seeing the latest set of X-rays and hearing Vasquez describe the operation changed that.

"When you see an X-ray with four bolts in your back, and a titanium plate, and after going through the surgery and how long that took, it makes it easier to listen," Michaels said. "(Vazquez) says 'Sit and lay down', I sit and lay down."

The first time they met, Michaels was laying down flat on his back in an emergency room, days after the match with The Undertaker. Michaels said he woke up one morning and couldn't move. After years of chiropractic adjustments, therapy and pain, Michaels decided it was time to hang up the boots and tights.

It was a decision he was close to making anyway; the back problems had gotten progressively worse, and Michaels a three-time WWF champion who's also held several other titles was satified with his achievements as a wrestler.

"I'm very lucky to have accomplished all the things I wanted to accomplish, there was nothing out there to make me second guess" the decision to retire, Michaels said.

"The circumstances were, if you get back back in the ring you could really do significant damage to yourself and affect the rest of your life, so in that instant it was an easy decision to make."

Michaels' immediate plans include weekly visits to see Vasquez and normal, daily activities usually denied high-profile, frequent-traveling pro wrestlers.

"I plan to watch Spurs games, come back here every week, go the mall, go the movies, go out to eat. Those are the types of things I've missed the past 14 years anyway."

In a forum and via e-mail, fans from around the country and across the globe wrote to offer their support for Michaels and inquire about his future plans.

Michaels and Vasquez sat down with Wednesday at Vasquez's office to talk about Michaels' recent back surgery and recovery, his plans for the future, and the wrestling profession as a whole. As a special treat, we've provided the full audio of the interview in RealAudio format. Click here to listen; if you need the free RealPlayer, click here to download. (My note click the link at the top of this article and that will take you to the page where you an see 3 nice pictures of HBK and this article, and where you can listen to the full interview)

Highlights of the interview:

•Contrary to what some fans have thought, or would like to think, Michaels is indeed fully and completely retired from wrestling. Doctors have told him he may never walk again if he decides to get back in the ring, and his quality of life is more important to him than his desire to compete. So again, Michaels will not be wrestling ever in the future.

•There is no firm timetable for when Michaels will return to TV in his role as commissioner. For at least the next few months, he will be relaxing and recuperating in San Antonio, so don't expect him back on "Monday Night RAW" for quite some time.

•Michaels is hard at work firming up the site and other plans for his local wrestling school, which he will operate with wrestling legend and personal mentor Jose Lothario. He says the school, which will train not only wrestlers but also managers, will open sometime around the beginning of April.

•Though he hasn't spoken to his former "Rockers" tag-team partner Marty Jannety in more than a year, Michaels said the two, despite a somewhat rocky parting, have mended fences and may keep in touch.

•Acting could certainly be in Michaels' future; he received script offers before his surgery and may yet end up in Hollywood.

When asked if he had anything he wanted to say to his fans in San Antonio and around the world, Michaels said:

"It's been very, very nice that so many people have written in, have sent stuff to WWF, have sent stuff to (, have sent stuff to my parents' house. It's nice to know that everything I did in the past 14 years 10 years in the WWF didn't fall on deaf ears or blind eyes as far as the fans were concerned.

"Within the inside of the wrestling business, the insiders can be a little cruel sometimes. But I always was concerned with what the wrestling fan thought. It's been very, very nice knowing that I was able to step out of this business, say goodbye to it, and know that people appreciate what I did and are really honestly going to miss me.

"I think it's important that they know I'm really going to miss performing for them because that's what drove me to get started in this business, that's what drove me to keep going when people told me I couldn't do things or shouldn't do things.

"And when people attacked me within the wrestling business, the wrestling fans were always there to support me, and that's nice. Because as long as I'm understood, and accepted, and cared for and loved and missed by them, that's more than enough for me.

"I just wanted to say say thanks to them, because it's been a wonderful career, I'm very, very happy for everything I've done, I'm very happy that people watched me and didn't care whether I was playing a good guy or a bad guy, or whatever personal decision they heard I made, or that I might not have made or that I made, that they stuck by me and supported me.

"That they're honestly and truly going to miss me, that's nice."

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