WWE.com interview (5/18/04)
Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels-The Saga Continues
Conducted by Brian Solomon

San Diego, Calif, -- May 18, 2004 -- It’s become one of sports entertainment’s classic rivalries. For the past eight years, Triple H and Shawn Michaels have alternated from being the best of friends to the worst of enemies on multiple occasions. There’s been something about this amazing clash of Superstars that has captured the imaginations of WWE fans like nothing else since perhaps the days of Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant in the late 1980s. And now on the RAW brand, fans have the privilege of watching the latest chapter in this epic war.

“I think it’s one of those rivalries that has so much history to it,” Michaels said backstage at RAW. “Fans know that it’s all based on something that’s very solid. We were two guys that were very close, traveled around the world together, we were friends and had a falling out. It’s something that’s been going on for years. So when you have a great history, a history both in and out of the WWE ring, and then you put classic matches on top of that—because we deliver from a performance standpoint. We both strive to outdo each other. We bring out the best in each other because we’re both trying to be better than each other. We’re trying to be the best, and when you do that, the final result is usually a really great product. And the fans are always the ones who benefit from that.”

In 1996, Triple H and Shawn Michaels were part of a backstage brotherhood that came to be known as “The Kliq.” The following year, that brotherhood was translated to the TV screen as D-Generation X. But after an injury in 1998 sent Michaels into a four-year hiatus, it was Triple H who took the forefront, after he lambasted his former partner for deserting DX.

The Shawn Michaels comeback of 2002 sent fans on a rollercoaster of emotions. First it seemed that DX would reunite, then Triple H and Shawn were at each others’ throats. They traded the World Heavyweight Championship back and forth in the fall of ’02, and HBK continued to be a thorn in Triple H’s side after the formation of Evolution. They have engaged in matches that can only be described as classics, including encounters at SummerSlam ’02 and the 2002 Survivor Series. For some, it hearkens back to some of the sport’s most revered feuds.

Much like Triple H and Shawn, the Hulkster and the Giant were longtime friends whose battles lit up the wrestling business once they had their famous falling out in March 1987. The resulting war lasted nearly two years.

“The only thing that may differ,” says Michaels when comparing the rivalry with that of Hogan and Andre, “and this is not to be critical of anybody, but talking from a performance standpoint, I’m thinking more about mat classics - something that you put on and watch if you want to learn how to be a wrestler. I like to believe that Triple H and HBK will be something that will be like a Ric Flair/Ricky Steamboat rivalry, a Jack Brisco/Dory Funk Jr., a Harley Race/Terry Funk type of historical match up. Something you want to revisit because it will be a classic. The thing with Hunter and I is, we want to eclipse those. That’s what drives Hunter and I, going out there and trying to perform at a level that nobody else can. Whether we reach that or not, that’s for the fans to judge. But that’s certainly what we strive to do every time we go out there with each other.”

But can they live up to the outstanding performances they’ve put on in the past, let alone surpass them? Only time will tell.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” says HBK. “Part of what gets you there is getting excited about that challenge, living up to the challenge. To me, that’s what separates the good ones from the great ones, and then the great ones from that elite group, the greatest. Because we toss around the words ‘great’ and ‘legend’ so much now that it’s so desensitized. Nobody really grasps it. We call guys ‘great’ that are nowhere near great all the time.”

No matter how stringent the qualifications, there’s no question that Triple H and Shawn Michaels are among the all-time greats. Whether their rivalry will also be remembered as such will have to wait until it’s finally over. And that’s not something that any true WWE fan is really looking forward to anyway.

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