Pro Wrestling Illustrated interview (5/00)
Conducted by Frank Krewda

Anyone who has ever watched Shawn Michaels' ladder match with Razor Ramon from Wrestlemania X can understand why his name comes up when fans are asked to list the greatest performers of all-time. Unfortunately, these fans can also see why Shawn stopped wrestling sooner than he should have. Career-ending back surgery was the price Michaels paid for setting such a high standard in the ring. Yet even in retirement, which Shawn made official in February 1999, Michaels is contributing to the business that made him famous. Physical limitations prevent him from climbing into the ring as a competitor, but he remains involved by training young prospects at the Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy in San Antonio, Texas. By the way, wrestling instructor isn't the only hat Michaels is wearing these days: He's also husband to Rebecca Hickenbottom (formerly known as Nitro Girl Whisper) and father to Cameron Cade, his five-month-old son. Shawn is thrilled with both roles, even though his celebrity has brought some unwanted attention to his new family. Then again, controversy is nothing new to Michaels, who over the course of 16 spectacular years in the business, occasionally found himself at odds with his co-workers. Shawn offered his take on many of those controversies, as well as his opinion of Vince McMahon, WCW, and other subjects in this exclusive interview with Associate Editor of PWI Frank Krewda.

Frank: At what point in your career did people begin to realize that you had a gift for the sport that would separate you from most other wrestlers?

HBK: I guess the world and the industry noticed it after the ladder match at Wrestlemania X. I'd like to think I had it before that (laughs), but I'm not sure that was necessarily the case. The ladder match with Scott Hall was the match where people said, "I think he can be a main-eventer." Even though I believe Scott to be very talented, I think people gave me credit for being the ring general in that match.

Frank: Even during your early success with Marty Jannetty, nobody ever considered you special?

HBK: I had a problem early in my career selling myself short, and it came from years of people doing just that-selling me short. But there were times when we were tagging against tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson, and when I'd have a singles match against Ric Flair-those three individuals commented to me that I had a bright future ahead of me. It's something you believe in your heart, but sometimes the wrestling industry has a tendency to drain you of that belief. So you're not really sure that when people say it to you if they're being honest or just saying it to make you feel good. But coming from those three guys, whom I admire a great deal, I think that was when I first gained the confidence I needed to progress.

Frank: Jannetty was a big influence on you early in your career. What were some of the professional and personal differences that led to The Rockers splitting up?

HBK: Marty and I were the greatest of friends for a long time. I was very young when I met Marty, 19 years old. I looked up to him as a big brother, so to speak, and he taught me a lot about the reality of the wrestling business that I was too naive to understand. then, as time went on and I matured, I started treating wrestling as a business, not just some fun job. The great thing about Marty was that he had a youthful exuberance to him that made the business fun, both for me and for him. But then that same reality that he taught me, I think I paid more attention to it. He did a great job of teaching it to me, but I don't think it was the way he wanted to live his life. I think he wanted to continue to have fun, and when you're trying to make it to the top, it's kind of hard to do both. Eventually, you have to take it seriously. From a personal standpoint, I think some of the personal differences Marty and I had were blown out of proportion. When he and I got into fights, that was just two young, dumb guys getting into fights over nothing of any importance whatsoever. That was just two young guys who were emotional and very reactive toward one another. That happens when you spend every day with each other, and we spent every day with each other for the better part of seven years.

Frank: Explain what it was like to be 22 years old and working for the WWF and Vince McMahon.

HBK: Extremely intimidating. I was scared the moment we walked in. I can remember the first day like it was yesterday. Marty and I walked in with this reputation for being two party animals. When we walked into the WWF lunchroom, you could literally hear all the silverware hit the table, and everyone turned and looked at us. By no means did any of the other wrestlers want us there.

Frank: Who were your most vocal detractors at the time?

HBK: Actually, the most vocal critics at the time were agents. There were wrestlers, but they don't say anything. If they were vocal, they weren't vocal to us. In the wrestling industry, you could have many enemies and not even know who they are. You could just feel that we weren't well-liked. Chief Jay Strongbow came up to us and confirmed just that. He walked up to us and said, "I don't like you guys, nobody else likes you, and we don't think you should be here, but you're here." Chief, later on, became a real big supporter of ours when he got to know us. But at the time, all anybody had to go on was stories and reputations.

Frank: How did your relationship with Vince McMahon change over the years as you approcahed main-event status?

HBK: It began when I was a young boy, and I was scared of him and never said a word to him. He's a very intimidating man. He's a very big man. I can remember the first time we went to the WWF. We went up to the old office in Greenwich, Connecticut. Marty and I were sitting in the waiting area, and Vince came out and commented on our boots. He said, "Nice boots." we said, "Aw, geez, thanks!" then he said, "They're made for walking, you know." And we were like, "Oh, my goodness, no please." He goes, "No I'm just kidding, come on in." Then he fired us. In hindsight, it's a fabulous story, but at the time, we thought we'd blown our one big opportunity. Then after I went singles, I heard through the grapevine that they had all these plans for me. When you hear them, you want those plans to take shape right away. Six months passed, and not a whole lot happened. I heard I was supposed to get the Intercontinental belt and obviously I didn't get it. So I went to him one day in Landover, Maryland, the first time that it was just me and him. I went in and decided to just be honest-not try to work him or say one thing and mean another. I just went in there and asked him very honestly, "I work very hard. What is it that I need to do?" I was just very abrupt about all the things I wanted to accomplish in my career and how I would do whatever it took to make them happen. I just wanted him to tell me what I had to do. When it was all over, I asked him again, "What do I need to do?" He looked at me and said, "You just did it." That was the beginning of our relationship, and it all stemmed from me being up front with him. I don't know how the other guys talk to him, but from that point on, I began dealing with Vince very openly and very honestly. That also meant when I was upset about something, or I didn't like something, or when I disagreed with something. The stories about us getting into fights got blown out of proportion, but we did. Vince and I have been very chummy together; we've hugged and shook hands and kissed each other on the cheek and been the best of buddies, but we've also been chest to chest with our fingers in each other's faces, pushing each othr back and forth. Vince has commented to me a number of times that he's never had that kind of relationship with another wrestler. By the same token, I've never had that kind of a relationship with another promoter. I pushed him beyond the limits he would allow anyone else to push him.

Frank: It's no secret that Vince prefers his champions to be big physical specimens, yet you are on the small side. What did Vince see in you that convinced him to make you champ? You broke the mold in that regard.

HBK: I don't think Vince ever had any intentions of making me a champion. I think that after my performance in that ladder match and the performances I followed up with, the people sort of pushed Vince and the WWF in that direction. That combined with the person I was behind the scenes with him-very driven, very passionate, very open, and very honest about everything I wanted-and his belief in me made it happen. He was very motivating, very supportive of me at that time, because he was the first one to acknowledge that I had broken a mold. That was a big step for him, because someone like Vince McMahon-or any promoter-doesn't like to admit, "Hey, I wasn't gonna do this, but now I have to because you're making the people demand it of me." But instead of letting any form of ego get in the way, Vince embraced it and was very supportive of me. He knew that I would do whatever I had to do to make it work, and he believed enough in my performances to know that any doubt someone might have in me would be quickly erased.

Frank: Looking back over your career, I'm sure you would agree that some people may have found you difficult to work with. Is that a fair criticism?

HBK: I suppose so. People get in to this business for a lot of different reasons. A lot for money. A lot for fame. I'm not sure how many people got in to it for the same reason I did, and that was to be really, really good. I consider myself the last starving artist in the wrestling business. I mean, I would have continued doing it for no money if the work I was doing was good. The real reason I got involved in the business was to put on performances that other people may not be able to match. In doing that, in being really good and diligent with your craft, you have to take it personally. I think that was something I did more so than anybody else. I was emotionally and personally involved in everything that I did. I wasn't somebody who came into the building and said, "Okay, what am I doing? What have you got for me? What's my storyline?" I was very, very hands-on in everything I did. I was saddled with that reputation because it's not something everybody did.

Frank: Of course, when you talk about a man who takes his wrestling career seriously, Bret Hart comes to mind. You guys have had your share of conflicts over the years. What do you think your differences really came down to?

HBK: I guess the seriousness I took toward wrestling ended when I left the ring, and I think Bret's continued outside of the ring. I don't know if I'm right or wrong in not taking the business as seriously out of the ring, and I don't know that he's wrong for taking it so seriously. It's a simple case of different strokes for different folks. Personally, Bret and I discussed it backstage that last night at Survivor Series before all the hoopla went down. He and I were, in a sense, pitted against each other. It actually started as an idea of Bret's to say, "Look, let's work everybody. Let's convince everybody that we hate each other." Somewhere down the line, it meshed into real life. We worked ourselves into a shoot, and the people behind the scenes, when the fire died down, poured gasoline on it. I can't speak for Bret, but a lot of it was that Bret really didn't like me. To this day, I still have nothing against Bret. We're just different individuals, and I think that should be okay.

Frank: What was the one galvanizing incident where you knew it was no longer a rib or angle?

HBK: There was a time when we both felt, this is getting a little out of hand. We had a long talk and made an agreement. "Okay, we'll stop it." That night we went out on Raw, he was in the wheelchair, and he was supposed to browbeat me. Then at the very end of the show, I was supposed to hit him with the kick and we'd go off the air. Well, he browbeat me until we went off the air. I was told by a bunch of people that he did it on purpose. I just thought in the back of my head that a guy with that much experience shouldn't make such a rookie mistake. I allowed people in the back to work me up, and by that time, things had been so blown out of proportion. I know that I took it to the next level after that. I took that personally. Whether I was right or not for doing that, I don't know. I do know that I took it personally. I think the next week I came back with the "Sunny days" comment (laughs).

Frank: What was your gut reaction when you realized what happened to Bret at Survivor Series?

HBK: I felt like Lee Harvey Oswald. I'm the patsy. I may not have pulled the trigger, but I'm the patsy. Wrestling With Shadows and this whole scandal wouldn't have been as interesting if people knew everything that went on that day.

Frank: Care to shed some light?

HBK: I think everyone in that building knew something was gonna happen, but none of us knew what. Even Bret, when we had a conversation before the match, said, "A lot of guys said I shouldn't let you put a hold on me, and I shouldn't let you do any false finishes." I said, "Hell, I wouldn't do it either." I remarked that I wouldn't do anything, and we settled it. He and I were really making an effort to bury this. I don't mean to put any heat on the office, but that's the last thing they wanted to happen. Then being asked about it, "Did you know?" Specifically? No. But did I feel something was gonna happen? I sure as hell felt something in my gut, no doubt about it. It was one of those things you talk about quietly in the hotel rooms or in the car, but that you never thought was gonna happen in front of millions of people. That was a huge step, and sometimes I laugh at people who comment on my involvement in it, because something of that magnitude is beyond Shawn Michaels.

Frank: Were you satisfied with how you were portrayed in Bret's documentary?

HBK: For what it was supposed to do, yeah. It was a story about Bret Hart. For him to portray himself as the good guy, and for Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels to be portrayed as the bad guys, yeah, we were portrayed correctly for our characters in that movie. Was it realistic? No, of course not. We're talking about the wrestling business. You can't document anything in the wrestling business and have it be realistic, because you're documenting an unrealistic business.

Frank: A couple of years ago, you allegedly threatened to jump to WCW over some type of dispute in the WWF. Was that ever really a serious consideration?

HBK: No. That was just mumbo-jumbo. I couldn't. I was under contract. I couldn't just get up and leave. I know how my contract reads. I would never say that I'd go to WCW when I know very well I can't. That was precipitated by the fact that most of my buddies in the wrestling business had gone down there. Then people hear about me having trouble in the WWF, so right away, they draw the conclusion that I'm gonna go where my buddies went. If in time I'm forced to go there, I guess I would, but I'd prefer to have my career end in the WWF. If I went anywhere, I'd go to ECW, help them progress. I have no urge to be in either one of the two very big organizations. I think I would do my best helping other people.

Frank: How was your morale in the mid-'90s, when your friends were in Atlanta and the WWF was struggling a little bit?

HBK: It was down because my friends were leaving and it was down because I was left holding the bag. Everybody left except me and taker, and Taker was taking a little time off. So at that time, everybody left, and I was the only mainstay in the WWF. The ratings plummeted, and I got creditied with being the low ratings guy. It was tough, but I was encouraged by the house show attendance, my performance levels, and what I've always know-that it doesn't matter who's winning in the ratings, because the one who will always come out on top is the WWF simply because it's run by Vince McMahon. He knows more about the wrestling business than anybody and will always come back to being number one.

Frank: What advice would you give to WCW wrestlers who might be bummed out by their fortunes right now?

HBK: Go to the WWF as soon as you can. Really. Not just because of ratings. Quite frankly, you'll make more money than you will in WCW. Now more guys get in the business who are more passionate, who want to be successful, who want to experience what it's like to be in the big time or what we call The Show, and that's the WWF. Always has been, always will be. Whether you're winning in the ratings or not, you want to be the main event in Madison Square Garden. That's why guy's get in to the business, and if it's not the reason, maybe they are better off languishing in WCW. If you want to be successful in this business for all the right reasons, then go out and get a taste of what it's like to be at the mecca-the most famous building in the world-when it's sold out, working for the most famous wrestling organization in the world, and being the man. That's a feeling you can only get in one place, and once you get it, it's unbelievably satisfying. A lot of guys have to have it time and time again, and I've had it a number of times, and it's great, but for me, that's what made it easy to leave. I was able to have all the things I really desired. So if I never get the chance to do it again, I'll always know what it was like to main event at Madison Square Garden in front of a sellout crowd, being in the Alamodome in front of 60,000 people. Those are feelings you're only gonna get in the World Wrestling Federation. Frank: Your injury coincided with an ear of unprecedented popularity for professional wrestling. Does the timing ever cause you to say, "Man, I really missed out?"

HBK: Actually, I don't. it's not there for me now. I just don't have the passion. Everything I had before, the competitiveness and all that, it's not there. There is a certain amount of joy knowing that I was one of the main guys who made all that possible. Again, that's the starving artist in me (laughs). I get more satisfaction from that. You're talking about material things: being on TV, getting more exposure, more money. That was never my intention when I broke in. So no, I don't miss any of that. I like the fact that I'm not like that. That way I won't become a bitter old-timer. I really like the idea of being the classic movie hero. If you've ever seen the movie Shance, he doesn't talk about leaving town. he just gets on his horse and rides off into the sunset. I didn't made some big speech, then come back two weeks later. I did what I had to do. I passed the torch to the guy I knew was going to take wrestling to the next level and rode off into the sunset. And I'm very proud to have done that.

Frank: A lot was made recently over comments you made regarding the person you passed the torch to and the title defense he made against Triple-H at SummerSlam. Was Steve Austin's reaction to your comments really as negative as the press made them sound?

HBK: Well, it wasn't from Steve, because Steve's smart enough to know that I'm sitting at home doing an interview, acting like a (jerk). He doesn't care because he knows that's just me being controversial. That's me being "The Heartbreak Kid" That isn't Shawn Hickenbottom. I think a couple of folks in the WWF took it seriously, but they are the kind of people who are so on the inside that they can't filter through the (crap) and grab a hold of reality. I said something to the effect, "Geez, Steve could at least do what I did, go in and wrestle hurt and go the job." To a guy like Steve, or me, or Hunter, that's funny because they know nobody does what I did. What I did with Steve was not a smart thing. It basically ended my career. I was a good wrestler, but I ain't the smartest guy you'll ever meet. Steve's a much smarter businessman than I am. To somebody like Jim Ross, who'll look at the words in the paper and say, "What the hell is that?" they just don't understand the context in which I'm saying it, but someone like Steve or Hunter does, and that's why I like them so much.

Frank: What's your current status with the WWF?

HBK: My current status is I have about a year and two or three months left on my contract.

Frank: Incidentally, you must be really impressed with Hunter's progress.

HBK: I'm thrilled. I think he's done a fantastic job, and I knew he would. I knew he'd become just what he is. The main thing about him is he has a good head on his shoulders. Yes, he's a friend, but being objective, he's a very down to earth, very balanced young man, and he's a guy Vince can count on. I think he's the right man to be in the position he's in.

Frank: Fill us in on the back injury and explain to us why you can no longer do what you used to do.

HBK: I had two disks that were completely destroyed. They went in and fused one of them. They pull a disk out, take a bone out of your hip, put that in, and make one solid bone there. The disk below that was also messed up, but they didn't want to operate there because people my age usually don't get surgery and you don't want to do any more than you have to. They only wanted to do one since I was 33 at the time. The disk below the herniation is herniated and the two disks above it are herniated, so in time, when I'm older, there's a good chance I'll have to go in there and fuse a couple of the other ones. I've already lost five to 10 percent motion in my back. I can't bend it because it's solid bone. Somehow, being at home and training to get back, I herniated the two above it. If I try to wrestle again and take a bump, there's a good chance I could destroy something like a nerve, and if you hit a nerve or cut a nerve, you lose your feet and legs.

Frank: At what point were you certain that your in-ring career was over?

HBK: I was pretty certain before I went into the last match with Steve Austin at WrestleMnia XIV. The doctor told me I was done, but I'd heard that before. They told me that when I blew my knee out, but I wrestled on that for years. I had a good idea that this match would put me over the edge. Going in, the doctors didn't want me doing it, but I had to, obviously, for many reasons. When I came out and tried to go through rehab for a full year before getting the surgery, about halfway through that, when I hadn't made any progress, I realized I was done. Once you get the surgery, there's no way you can go back. I suppose somebody could, but for once I wanted to use my head instead of my heart.

Frank: Marriage and fatherhood occurred right after your retirement. Did your desire to start a family influence your decision to retire?

HBK: No. That was a decision I had made long before I ever met Rebecca. After that WrestleMania, I took some time off to heal. Then I tried two or three months later to go through the physical therapy. Come September, I knew I was going to have the surgery, because I just wasn't progressing. Really, I had made the comment to people after the match that I was done.

Frank: Did you make that comment to friends or to the WWF?

HBK: To friends. In fact, the WWF, to this day, I think still thinks in the back of their minds, Maybe he'll get the itch, maybe he'll do one more.

Frank: You can get the itch all day long but if you can't bend over you can't scratch it right?

HBK: Exactly. They always ask me that, but I don't get the itch. The itch will never come back. Once you make that decision and you believe in it and you know it's the right one, the itch is gone.

Frank: Do you still get the desire to be a part of The Show?

HBK: I could have it. But do I miss it? No, not a bit.

Frank: In the professional wrestling business it can become personal, as it did for you and a member of WCW. Of course, your lovely wife Rebecca was formerly known as Whisper of the Nitro Girls. Did anyone from either orgainization object to the fact that you were romantically linked to the competition?

HBK: Everybody from the WWF was very supportive. Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing about WCW. One time, I went to visit her in Atlanta, and I was leaving to go to Europe to do a press tour. Lo and behold, she's walking me into the airport and we're standing in line and she just starts laughing, and I said, "What are you laughing at?" I could see her looking beyond me, so I turn around and there's Eric Bischoff staring right at us. He was going on his vacation to Paris. The two of us just started laughing, and he just turned his head and started shaking it. I called her a couple of days later and found out he'd taken her off everything-live TV, taped. She wasn't allowed to do this, that, or the other. So then she went to him and said, "Look, I'd like to ask for my notice. I'm marrying Shawn, and I'd like to get out." He said, "No. I'll die before I let you go." he wouldn't release her because he was convinced of the fact that I was gonna take her to the WWF and put her on our TV. Then I talked to Kevin Nash and said, "Look, the last thing I want is her in the wrestling business. I don't want her working for you, and I sure as hell don't want her working for us. She's gonna be my wife, the mother of my child. I want a family with this girl." So he tried to talk to Eric a little bit. Then she went to him again, and he suspended her contract. He let her go, but she was still under contract because he was so afraid that our motivation to do this was to put her on WWF television, and we couldn't convince the guy that the last thing I wanted was my wife being involved in the wrestling business. It wasn't until Bill Busch came on board that we called up and said, "Look, she's eight months pregnant, for God's sake; she's not going to be involved in the wrestling business, so let her out of her contract." They finally did it.

Frank: You trained under Jose Lothario. How much of what he taught you do you pass on to your students at the Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy?

HBK: None of it. I say non of it because I only trained with him for about a month-and-a-half. I couldn't really grasp anything except for the Jindu squats and stuff like that. Jose learned a different way and taught a different way. The wrestling business was very different back when I started, so I wasn't able to apply any of that, and it wasn't because of any personal feelings. I had a pretty good idea of what I was doing before I started training.

Frank: Were you self taught?

HBK: What people referred to me as when I first broke in was a natural.

Frank: Jose is portrayed as your mentor. Was your assocaiation more legend than fact?

HBK: Well, that was my way of paying respect to him. Whether we spent intense hours in the gym training or not, he's still the guy who took the time. He was a wrestler. He didn't have to take the time. When he was wrestling down in Houston, he'd take me with him, and I'd watch those matches. I don't want to sell Jose short; it's just that the organized training we have now is very different. I think Jose deserves more credit just for being an old-timer and saying "yes" instead of, "Who's this punk?"

Frank: If a wrestling hopeful wants to try out at your school, what does he or she have to do?

HBK: They would have to send $5, certified check or money order, to P.O. Box 461348, San Antonio Texas 78246 or get the info off the Web site which is coming out:

Frank: What's the first thing an applicant can look forward to if they are accepted in your camp?

HBK: We spend the first two or three weeks doing nothing but cardio. That's simply because if you're not in shape, you're gonna hurt somebody. In my opinion, this business doesn't get enough credit for the guys being in such great shape as they are. I don't think a lot of people understand the work that goes into what they see on TV. A lot of young kids come in thinking ther're gonna learn what they see on TV, and it's very different than that, especially in the beginning stage. They go through a great deal of cardio in the first couple of weeks. Then we teach how a match transpires. Your basics: locking up, headloacks, takeovers, headscissors, then come backs, grabbing an arm and twisting it, fireman's carry, headscissors, kickouts, and coming back up. It sounds easy, but actually it takes a lot of time to teach the moves, all the basic wrestling holds you might see at the beginning of a match. Then we move it into tackles and hiptosses and slowly build it up from there. The one thing I've learned from teaching all this is that I don't know the names of any wrestling holds. I've wrestled for 16 years and can't name the holds.

Frank: You must have read my mind, because my next question was what have you learned about the instruction and promotion ends that you didn't know as a wrestler?

HBK: Oh, man, I don't even want to get into the promotion end (laughs). The teaching... I know how to do 'em all, but I couldn't tell you the name of 'em. Half my kids ask me, "Do you want me to do a huracanrana?" and I say, "Is that the thing where you jump up and reverse monkey flip the guy?" You want me to do a plancha, this, that.." Yeah, whatever. My first class, they had to keep teaching me the names of the moves, because they've all changed. Now you got the dragonsault, dragon driver, I don't know..

Frank: Your school is feeding talent to Japan, ECW, and the WWF. Are there any blue-shippers we can expect to see soon?

HBK: Well, we haven't sent anyone to ECW yet, but we're certainly working on it. There are guys who I think are ready. There's a lot of red tape since I'm still under contract to the WWF. I could easily get guys in the WWF. I could easily get guys in WCW or ECW, but contractually, I have to let the WWF have first right of refusal. Four of my guys-Lance Cade, Shooter Schultz, Brian Danielson, and Spanky-have developmental deals, and two of my guys-a tag team called the Board of Education, Reuben Cruz and Jeremy Sage-have a tryout today.

Frank: When a student comes to your academy, how much are they counting on your relationship with the WWF to get them in the business?

HBK: Initially, they probably weren't. After the word got out, there probably have been some, but the thing is, guys who come for that reason never make it.

Frank: Of course not. They're looking for a shortcut.

HBK: Right. The one thing I did learn in the wrestling business is how to pay attention to some guy who's lazier than hell. Vince taught me a lot about that kind of stuff. I can detect that. The funny thing is, they usually weed themselves out. I do have to say this for our school: We get a lot of good kids. We've yet to get anyone in here who thinks his (crap) didn't stink or he was big and bad. I know it's eventually gonna end (laughs), but I've gotten some really great kids.

Frank: I think that along with all the mainstream inside exposure professional wrestling has received recently, the message that it requires tremendous physical sacrifice and dedication has also gotten through.

HBK: I agree with you that it's more respected than it was a long time ago.

Frank: When we see a graduate of the Shawn Michaels Wrestling Academy, what will be the first thing we notice about him? His mat skills, his aerial ability, his fundamentals?

HBK: I think we're gonna cover all of the above. The first four guys I gave the WWF: Two guys can fly around anywhere, another is a real big guy, 6'5", 250, 18 years old, who can do a lot of big man stuff and jump around. Then I gave them Schultz a good mat guy.

Frank: I read an internet report that stated that the academy was in financial straits due to an injury incurred by a student there. Is that accurate?

HBK: That's very inaccurate. The school was never in financial anything, but a student did get injured. He spent a lot of time in the hospital and he progressed here, but to progress more, I felt he needed to go home, so I chartered a Medivac jet and flew him and his family back to Britain. We just found out the other day that he's looking around and calling out his brother's name. It was a very hard time for me and my students. I looked away for a split second and, apparently from what everyone says, he didn't take a bad bump. We don't know if it was something that was pre-existing or what.

Frank: What was his condition?

HBK: When he left he couldn't move his legs. Last we heard, he had some movement back and he was speaking. When we first went in there, they said he was brain dead. They didn't think he was gonna make it. Quite honestly, it gets you in touch with your religious side. Through prayers and the support all the students, my family, and his family gave him, he did tremendous while he was here. From what I understand, he's continuing to get better. While he was here, he got brain function back. He was looking around. He could see, but he couldn't speak and couldn't move his legs.

Frank: How did the injury occur? Did he go over on his head?

HBK: He took a backdrop but everyone said he didn't land on his head. They said he landed high up on his shoulders. That's what no one understood. Then his dad said maybe it was something that was pre-existing that we didn't know of. I heard stories that he's been piledriven, but non of that happened. He took a backdrop, a minute before that, a perfect one, two guys asked me a question, I turned around, and apparently he took another one, and again, he didn't land on his head. When the guy covered him, we said, "Kick out!" and he kicked out. Then he said something to the guy, and all of a sudden he went out. I hate even recalling that day. But he's speaking, he's moving his legs, and he's coherent now.

Frank: What was your reaction when Owen Hart died?

HBK: Mine was like everyone else's. I was sad. At the time, I was in Hawaii taping Pacific Blue, and I came off the set one day and the producer asked me, "Did you head about Owen? It was on CNN that he fell and died." I was just stunned. My wife and I went up to our room and called my parents, and they said they had heard about it. My parents don't get the pay-per-view unless their son's on it. We didn't know anything. Then the next night, we watched the show, the tribute to him, and I'm sure like a lot of people that night, cried throughout the whole thing. My wife, who had never even met the man, was crying. It was a very moving show. Owen was a great guy. We had great matches together. He was funny, and everybody got along with Owen. I thought it was a credit to him as a human being that the wrestling industry could put on a two-hour show around him, because I don't think the wrestling industry could do that with any other guy.

Frank: Do you intend to follow through with your promise to shut down your Web site if inaccurate and hurtful rumors persist about your family and students on the Internet?

HBK: I just told the WWF to close my stuff down. I just don't think it's fair. These boys are gonna have a hard enough time just getting into the wrestling business.

Frank: Was shutting down related to the rumors surrounding the injured student?

HBK: No. I have a couple of freakazoid stalkers here in San Antonio.

Frank: We have a reader who sends us letters saying you got her pregant a couple of times....

HBK: A couple of times (laughs). That's also why I don't miss wrestling. But this stuff on the Net just happened a couple of weeks ago. We were just getting very negative comments about my wrestlers and my students, and then we started getting negative comments about my wife and child.

Frank: What were these people saying?

HBK: I'd prefer not to get into it, but things you just don't say to people. Things you wouldn't say to your worst enemy. I called the WWF and told them to shut my board down, and I just shut my one here down. Like I said, these boys, if they're lucky enough to get into the wrestling business, they'll worry about it then. But people say things because they are associated with me, and that's unfair. If people want to bash me, that's fine. But you don't say things about a three-month old baby boy who doesn't know any better. You don't make comments about my wife. She wasn't even in the industry. She danced on TV on Monday nights. That hardly puts you in the wrestling business. You don't do that stuff because they married me, or they happen to be my son, or they happen to be my students. It's uncalled for, so I just told them to shut everything down.

Frank: How do you want to be remembered by your fans?

HBK:I would like to go down as one of the top performers. Judge my careeer by what I put on the tube, or on pay-per-views, or Monday nights, or whatever show we ran at the time. I'd want to be known as teh guy who went out there regardless of what was or wasn't going on in the back and performed to the best of his ability, concentrated on the most important thing in the wrestling business, and that is the performance for the people. I did that for three different entities: the WWF, the fans, and me. As long as I made those three entities happy, all the rest is irrelevant.

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