WWF Magazine- Rookies to Legends (5/01)

He's one of the most celebrated World Wrestling Federation Superstars of all time, and the only man ever to capture the Heavyweight, Intercontinental, Tag Team and European Championships. Although no longer an active competitor, Shawn Michaels has left an unforgettable legacy that is fondly remembered by fans around the world.

He first entered the Federation at the end of 1988 as a member of the Rockers with Marty Jannetty. Michaels and Jannetty had experienced great success in the now defunct American Wrestling Association (AWA) and sought to move up to the bright lights and big crowds of the Federation. The duo were one of the top teams on the roster for the next three years. On one occasion, they came within a hair of winning the Tag Team Championship from the Hart Foundation, losing the match on a technicality.

It was when the team broke up in 1992 that Michaels began to command attention. Long time fans remember the infamous "Barber Shop" appearance, in which Michaels superkicked Jannetty through a plate-glass window on the set of Brutus Beefcake's interview segment. From there, the sky was the limit for the future Heartbreak Kid.

Within nine months, he had captured the Intercontinental Chamionship, his first singles title. He would win the title on two occasions. His ladder match with Razor Ramon for the IC titleat WrestleMania X was one of the greatest bouts of all time. It was the first ladder match ever featured on pay-per-view, and helped set the stage for the daredevil style common today.

By 1995, Michaels had elevated himself to main-event status. For years, the Federation had been known as the big man's domain, but HBK shattered that stereotype. In 1995 and 1996, he won back-to-back Royal Rumbles, becoming one of only three men ever to do so. He also challenged for the Federation Championship at consecutive Wrestlemanias. It was in 1996 at Wrestlemania XII that Michaels truly cemented his place in history, emerging from a gruelling one-hour Iron Man match against Bret "Hitman" Hart with the Heavyweight Championship around his waist.

Between the ropes, Michaels exhibited the kind of ability that has rarely been witnessed by fans of the sport of kings. Equally capable of taking it to the mat, going aerial or brawling with the best of them. Michaels was a veritable wrestling chameleon. If anyone were doubtful of whether grappling could be considered an art form, they would quickly be convinced after seeing Shawn compete.

By his third World title reign, HBK was feeling the effects of years of high-risk maneuvers. His title defense against Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XIV was the last hurrah. Michaels was visibily in pain throughout the match, periodically holding his back. Sure enough, that would be the last time he would compete in a Federation ring. One of the most exciting careers in Federation history had been cut short.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Shawn Michaels was reintroduced to the Federation several months later as the Commissioner. Some debated his effectiveness in this role, given his part-time schedule, but one thing is clear: the Heartbreak Kid definitely had fun. Although not nearly as hands-on as Mick Foley was, you could always count on Michaels to make an earth-shattering announcement whenever he appeared on the scene.

Last year, Michaels stepped down as Commissioner, and accepted a new position, official WWF spokesperson. Since then, his activities have taken place largely behind the scenes, which has left his army of fans clamoring for him. Many of them want to see the HBK of old, the one who was a part of some of the most exhilarating matches ever held. Michaels never officially announced his retirement, so anything is possible.

The many members of his worldwide "Kliq" will have to wait and see what the future holds for their hero.

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