Raw Magazine interview (2/04)
From Heartbreak Kid to Comeback Kid
An Interview With Shawn Michaels
By Aaron Williams

In August 2002, Shawn Michaels shocked the world of sports-entertainment by mounting an incredible comeback to WWE action. But even he had no clue how far it would take him. A year and a half later, he is back to being a regular member of the roster, entertaining fans as only he can in arenas from coast to coast. Just like that, after nearly five years in retirement, the greatest performer of his generation was back. We recently sat down with HBK to chat a little about his amazing comeback story, as well as his family, his religion and the 10th anniversary of a little match he had involving a ladder...

Raw Magazine: We last interivew you back when you were in training for your match with Triple H at Summerslam '02. At that time, you said you didn't think you had any more matches left in you. What changed?

Shawn Michaels: I planned on doing that one match, and after I did, the only thing I really thought was, 'Boy, it would be great to work at Wrestlemania again.' Then about two or three weeks later, Vince called me and threw the idea of Survivor Series at Madison Square Garden at me. So I said, 'OK, sure.' I had sort of let myself go as far as being in shape. I had trained so hard for that first match that I just thought I'd take it easy, enjoy the holidays, and possibly train again for Wrestlemania. But the one thing about this business, especially nowadays, is that things change on a weekly basis. VInce had an idea, and I have a hard time saying no to him. We went to Survivor Series, and I won the title in the Elimination Chamber. I knew after that, I'd have to go to the next pay-per-view in December, Armageddon. That was the two-out-of-three-falls match, which from a physical standpoint, really wore on me. I really felt it for quite some time afterward. So I talked about taking some time off, still looking ahead to Wrestlemania. Obviously, as all these things were going on, I realized I had more than just one match in me. The question was, how many, and how often to do it. That was something I had to pray about and talk with my wife about. I told Vince that I'd like to take off until Wrestlemania, and by that time I'd know what I wanted to do with the rest of my career. Vince and my family were both fine with it. Then the Royal Rumble came along, and from a creative standpoint, I had a lot of ideas. I felt that fire that used to burn inside me on a daily basis coming back again. It just sort of hit me one day that this is what the Lord meant for me to do. This job came really easy to me, and the revelation occurred to me that this is what I'm supposed to be doing. So I went to Vince with the idea of going into the Rumble, going into 'Mania against Chris Jericho and being a regular wrestler. It was just one of those things where it just hit me. I knew the right thing to do, and from that point on, I've just been going forward. They've even talked to me about not having me work every week on TV, and a few months ago, I said, 'Don't worry about that. I know this is what I'm supposed to be doing, so use me as if I'm a regular full-time guy.' We've started to do that, and everything's fantastic.

Raw: How's your body holding up?

Michaels: My body feels great, and mentally I feel fantastic. It's an amazing thing. There are still days when I get sore, but it's nowhere near what it was. I really put my faith out there, and remember that God's son bore every injury, sickness and infirmity on the cross for me. When you apply that in your own life, the Word of God never comes back void. It delivers every time. I stand on those things, and believe that He gets me through every situation. I do things in the ring now where people say, 'How does he do it?' I think when I walk through the curtain, that's when I walk in faith the most. That's the only time that rational thoughts, common sense and things like that cease to exist. I go out there and do what has always come naturally to me, and I think the finished product is what folks have been seeing the past year.

Raw: How does your family feel about it? Is your son old enough to understand?

Michaels: He's old enough to understand, but he doesn't watch. We're very strict on what we have him watch. He doesn't really watch much television. He knows Daddy goes to work. He knows it's something physical. He sees the cuts on my head and things like that. But he's a 3-year-old boy. I'm "Daddy" to him, and his concerns are being a good boy and getting good toys.

Raw: How much longer do you think you can go on?

Michaels: As long as I feel like this is where the Lord wants me. When He wants you to do something, He'll let you know. The same will happen when I'm called to give up this line of work. I'll be thinking, reading or whatever the case may be, and it'll just come into my spirit that I need to do something else. And when that day comes, I'll go and tell Vince, and I know that he'll accept that.

Raw: How would you compare this run to your previous run here?

Michaels: Apples and oranges. Before, it was all about me, yet I wasn't happy doing it. Now I get to take so much joy from coming to work and being a part of this. Everyone knows the relationship I have with this company, and with Vince. They know that I could stay here for the rest of my career and make a lot of money. If that happens, it'll be because that's what God wants from my life. If it's not what happens, it won't be about money. That can't be an issue. If I leave, I'm not going to make as much money doing anything else, but it's a decision that I will make very easily. It wouldn't be a struggle for me to leave here, do something else, and make one-tenth of the money.

Raw: You completely dropped off the radar for years after you left in 1998. Many people assumed you were done for good. Did you ever imagine that a comeback like this would happen?

Michaels: It's totally unexpected. I had resigned myself to not being a part of this business anymore, and I was fine with that. I have a beautiful wife and a beautiful son, so I was very happy and content with my life from a personal standpoint. I certainly had no aspirations about achieving any kind of success in the sports-entertainment business. I'd already done that. There was nothing for me to prove anymore. I understand that there have been some people who have expressed doubt about me being hurt as badly as they thought. I think an easy argument to make against that would be: Why would I miss the biggest, most prosperous years in the history of the wrestling business, simply to get a point across?

Raw: The 10th anniversary of your famous Ladder Match with Razor Ramon is on the horizon. Wrestlemania XX is also on the way- in Madison Square Garden, the same place where you had that match back at Wrestlemania X. Have you been thinking about that at all? Would you be up for another one?

Michaels: I have been thinking about it, and the idea has been brought up. The first thing everyone worries about is the physicality, but I don't worry about that. I think it would be neat to do; it would be very nostalgic. But the reason the first one was so special is that everything just fell into place. It was one of those things that just meant to be. It was something that manifested itself organically. It just sort of happened, and that's what made it so incredibly special, fresh and new. Sometimes, if you try too hard to get there, you lose some of the spontaneity, the fun and the realness of it. I don't know if we could capture that again. If we could, that would be fantastic. But I'm not big on pushing things to happen. I feel like if it's meant to be, it's gonna happen that way. I guess what I'm saying is, the less hands there are on a project, the better it's gonna go.

Raw: What has the legacy of that first one endured so well?

Michaels: It was new, and it was just a really good match. It wasn't just the ladder that made the match. In most of the ones after that, the ladder became the main point of the match. In that one, it wasn't. The storyline, the wrestling and the psychology were all there, along with the fact that it was Madison Square Garden and Wrestlemania. So many elements went into making it what it was, the least of which was the ladder. After that, the idea became, how could you make things higher, and bigger and harder? That wasn't the point of the first one. The point of the first one was how could the ladder enhance everything that was already there? In time, the ladder became more important than the participants.

Raw: As you said yourself, you basically missed the big boom. You were seen as the guy who was helping to keep things afloat during tough times. You helped set the table for the boom years, with Mike Tyson and Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1998, and then you left just as it was exploding. In biblical terms, you were like the WWE's version of Moses, leading the way to the promised land and then being unable to enter it. Did you feel like you missed out?

Michaels: No, because just like Moses, I got to take part in some of the coolest, greatest things, to be a leader. To be thought of in that respect by your peers is great. And it's not like I haven't done well. I've done better than I ever possibly thought I could do. Could I have accomplished more? Of course. But that doesn't matter. To be regarded as the guy that led the way, I think that's awesome. That's one of the nicest things anybody can say to me, and that makes me feel really good. They don't say that about Hulk Hogan. They just say, yeah, he was the biggest box-office draw in wrestling. There's something deeper that they say about me, and I'll take that over anything. I don't mean that to be critical at all, I just mean it's a heck of a lot more endearing and means a lot more to me to have played that part than the fact that I missed out on making a lot more cash.

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