Donald Wood: Your new book, Wrestling For My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar, hit the shelves this week. I had the pleasure of reading the book already, and discovered the overarching theme is your faith and how it turned around your life. What made you feel like it was the right time to publish this book and what are you trying to accomplish by sharing your stories of faith?
Shawn Michaels: It’s certainly a book I’ve wanted to do for quite some time but it’s very hard to do that when you are in the throes of a WWE career. It’s a wonderful, wonderful line of work but it keeps you very busy but obviously takes the forefront and spotlight of everything you do. In the truest sense, my faith and my family have been the biggest and most impactful parts of my life. They have the tendency though to take the back seat to the WWE since it is so big and grandiose. Really since 2002 it was just my job, and rarely does someone’s job take the forefront of everything they do in their life. I wanted to do a book that certainly gave them what I thought was the just due for their wonderful and positive influence and impact they had on my life. As far as what I’m hoping to accomplish, I’m just a guy trying to tell a story certainly from a faith perspective. In the church, we believe in giving ones testimony a way of glorifying the Lord and what you have done in your life. It also might make it easier for other folks to be honest or be open or come to a crossroads where they might not have all the answers and they are searching for them. Giving them a way and an outlook on what helped us. Perhaps giving them an opportunity to reckon themselves with the almighty God and Jesus Christ and the impact that could have on your life.
Mike Chiari: Your book largely focuses on the second half of your WWE career, which kicked off with the unsanctioned street fight at Summer Slam 2002 against Triple H. How was that decision to come back after so much time away from the ring ultimately made in terms of who was involved in it, and also how did you know that the time was right and that you were ready for it?
Shawn Michaels: How the process sort of went was I had gotten saved, I called Vince about a previous offer months before that to come back, and I had turned them down because something was going on in my life that I didn’t want to miss. So after I got saved, I called him and said this is what it is, Jesus had saved me, and my life is wonderful now. If you still want me to come back I would love to. At that time, he said that window had closed but they will keep the door open if something comes up. Few more months down the road and I got the call, “We’d like to bring you back as an on-air character.” Of course we agreed to that and we did the short NWO stint. In that time if I recall, I think it was Nash that was going to the next PPV with Hunter? It might have been they were building to a match with them and that’s when Kev blew out his quad. The next day I was on a plane reading the book of Joshua and just thoughts came into my head about possibly returning. The words “be strong and courageous” at the beginning of Joshua just kept jumping off the page at me.
Then I thought maybe I can come back and do this. So I made a call to Vince and threw out an idea that involved just wrestling him actually more than a street fight. The story line was him pushing and forcing Kevin to be in a match when he wasn’t healthy and ended up getting hurt. I was going to come in and defend the honor of wrestlers being pushed too hard by Vince. The story line would culminate in a throwaway match between Vince and myself. He asked if I was ready and I said I believe I can do it. He said let me think about it and he called me back two weeks later. He said, “Look, if you can do that with me, couldn’t you have a match with Hunter? He is a heck of a lot better than I am.” I said of course but Hunter was the main guy at the time. I wasn’t looking to come back in some big fashion. Just like a couple of exciting matches something a little lower on the card. Just so this way all the focus wouldn’t be there and if I’m going to stumble and fall that it’s done a little lower on the card without the spot light.
The opportunity was there to do it with Hunter and I guessed that would be fantastic but it turned into a much bigger and promoted match than what I originally had anticipated. As far as knowing if I could come back I didn’t. That was the million dollar question. Those are all great ideas but you still gotta deliver. Haven’t been in the ring in almost four and a half years, how is it gonna be, and clearly I didn’t know. That soon after my salvation and everything of that nature I was feeling pretty confident that it was either gonna be there or it wasn’t. It really was a sink or swim moment. Thankfully, everything went well when we got out there.
Brandon Galvin: I was there live at Nassau Coliseum for your return match against Triple H at Summer Slam in 2002. Do you recall what the atmosphere was like backstage for your return?
Shawn Michaels: Best I recall, I had my wife and child there and it was pretty positive. A number of us were wondering how it would go and if it was going to be a big finger in the wind moment to see just how well this was going to be or how big of a flop it was going to be. For the most part everybody was very positive. If they had their reservations, they were kind enough not to express them to me too openly or honestly. I remember Arn Anderson said, “One thing I’ve learned about this job is it’s not like riding a bike. If it takes a little bit don’t be hard on yourself, it happens to all of us.” Then when I came back he said, “Well clearly I was wrong. It is like riding a bike to you”. Again, best I recall everything was pretty positive and encouraging.
Donald Wood: Shifting gears a bit, when wrestling fans see you on TV now, you are typically wearing camouflage. For those unaware, you are an avid hunter. As a hunter myself, there is something very spiritual about sitting alone in silence for hours on end. How has hunting impacted your faith and what do you say to those who question the morality of hunting?
Shawn Michaels: I don’t say anything to the folks that question the morality of it. It’s sort of a fruitless conversation. I get a lot of people that, with no disrespect, but obviously have never read the Bible when they say it’s not Christian. I would encourage them just to read the book of Leviticus if they want to find out where God stands on where animals fall in the food chain. Or open up the beginning of Genesis and its pretty clear. As far as it being a spiritual experience I think that’s only something that people have done it can comprehend. I honestly didn’t know the first time I went out but it was. Its peaceful, it’s serene, you have the opportunity to sit there and really take in the beauty of a day beginning or a day coming to an end. It’s a really awesome experience. For me, you can just feel it. There is an oneness you feel with nature and the creator of the universe when you sit there and take the time. Honestly, I think a lot of it for me was because it was the polar opposite of the job I was doing for so many years. It’s a moment to stop and slow down. It’s the epitome of slowing down and smelling the roses. You slow down and take a lot in and when you do that, it’s a fascinating and incredible thing to do.
Mike Chiari: Over the course of your career you had so many great rivalries and matches with legends like The Undertaker, Triple H, Bret Hart and many others too. Looking back, though, if you had to pinpoint one guy as your greatest rival, as the guy who you most associate yourself with in terms of being their opponent, who would that be and why?
Shawn Michaels: Well, anytime I do these interviews and someone asks me to pinpoint it down to one that’s the hardest thing. When it comes down to mentioning me or someone else and who you would directly associate it with, it’s hard not to say Bret and I. Even though our angles from a pure television story line standpoint weren’t always the longest, when you think of Bret you think of me, and when you think of me you think of Bret. That would be one for sure. Beyond that, I feel like it’s sort of in stages. It’s hard not think about Razor when you think about me. Jericho and I have something like that now to a point. Even Taker and I, there weren’t a huge amount of matches, but the ones we did were so impactful so it’s hard not to say him too. I don’t know how well I can narrow it down to one, but I think it would probably have to be Bret and Shawn because clearly we had so much history with each other.
Brandon Galvin: Heading in, or immediately following the Montreal Screwjob, did you have an idea how historic and important that event would become? Also, during your hiatus from the business, did you ever wish you could’ve had a rematch at WrestleMania?
Shawn Michaels: Well I think in regards to the impact, a great deal of it had to do with being young and not having the maturity to grasp the impact that the WWE has on its audience. From that standpoint, you knew it was going to be big, but I can’t say in all honesty I knew it was going to be something that would be talked about till the end of time. On one hand I think you sort of get it but again just how busy the job is you’re living in the moment. You have the tendency to not grasp the depth or severity of something you’re doing. It would be great to be able to go back and change things to do it better but that’s not reality. I do the best not to dwell on those things. I am incredibly thankful for the relationship Bret and I have now. I think that played out in a way, again not the greatest for everyone involved, but in the annals of a cool wrestling story it’s certainly one of them with a great ending.
Donald Wood: It’s WrestleMania season once again and you’ve been dubbed Mr. WrestleMania. The biggest storyline this year is Roman Reigns ascension to the top of the card. What kind of pressure will be on his shoulders in the main event and what are your thoughts on Reigns as a top star in the WWE?
Shawn Michaels: As far as him being a top star moving forward, I have very little insight on that. I’m the guy that sits there and looks in the rearview mirror and am very thankful for the stuff that I got to do. As far as the pressure, it’s going to be tough. WrestleMania is pressure filled anyway and more so when you’re going for the first time in what might be the main event. If you are being dubbed or people seeing you as the next guy those things mount up. They are important and you want to live up to them and it’s especially hard. Back in my day it was the beginning of the internet and we had the newsletters, but I imagine now with social media it’s all right there at your fingertips. I’d imagine it’s even tougher nowadays. Our line of work if very cynical and a lot of it is driven by cynicism, cruelty, and meanness. It’s easier to believe the negative stuff than the positive stuff. The feel good stories don’t usually spend a lot of time on the front pages. It’s gotta be a pretty tough row to hoe for the guys nowadays. Along with the great notoriety and the good stuff that comes with it, there’s always some negative that comes with it and you have to do your best to balance it along the way.
Mike Chiari: One of the greatest and most emotional moments of your career was your final match at WrestleMania 26 against The Undertaker. When you came to the conclusion that you wanted to have your last match at WrestleMania 26, was it ultimately your decision to have that match against The Undertaker? And if so, why did you tab him as the guy that you wanted to go out against?
Shawn Michaels: There was never the tabbing him as the guy, it was coming out of the first one at 25, and feeling so awful great about it. As I mention in the book on the way home, being in a place where if it were all to be over, I would be wonderful with it. That’s when you realize you’re at that stage; it’s time to give that some serious thought. You go through that whole process and you make that decision, and then it was just that and a combination of at the same time getting the call saying, “hey what do you think of this idea?” From my standpoint, my faith played a part in me making my decisions in my wrestling career, it just felt very right with everything Mark and I have been through personally and professionally. Again even though it wasn’t a huge, long drawn out storyline to the degree that the Jericho and I storyline was, it was still one that you felt pretty impacted by and was pretty big. The duration and length of it didn’t give it justice to the impact that it had on me and the fans in general. It was just one of those things where when it all feels right, it can’t be wrong. With all those things falling into place it made that decision that much easier to make.
Brandon Galvin: You helped lay the ground work for the much-beloved Attitude Era by encouraging a more realistic product. Today, WWE is routinely criticized for being too scripted or safe in this PG Era. Why do you think there is such a hesitancy or reluctance to make things less scripted and do you and Triple H ever talk about his vision for the future of WWE’s product?
Shawn Michaels: Regards to talking to Hunter, no, I’m the one guy that’s doesn’t talk to him about the job. I just feel like that’s the last thing he needs since the job consumes his life far more than it does anyone else. The best way I can be a friend to him is to not talk about wrestling. From that standpoint, it’s not a big topic with us. As far as being too scripted and things of that nature I think it’s a combination of both. I’ve been doing these interviews for quite some time and they have asked me a similar question and I feel like there has been times in the wrestling business, the Attitude Era was one, back in the 80s another, and there will be more to come, where it’s a figuring it out stage. Sort of an old guard dealing with a new guard and they are figuring out the best way to work with each other. I think that’s taken some time. The Attitude stuff was being talked about and we were taking tons of heat for it. All the traditionalists, not trying to speak ill of anyone, but there were a number of people that found what we were saying and our ideas a slap in the face, a spit in the eye of tradition.
That was going on two, three years before it ever happened before someone finally said let’s try this. I think that is what’s going on now, a figuring out stage. I think it deals with trust on both sides. I sympathize with talent now that says you want me to go out and grab the brass ring but then you get mad at me if I don’t say this or that. It’s that figuring out stage and to me; it’s not going to be done until a number of people are willing to get in those areas where it’s uncomfortable. In my humble opinion, until you make a decision as an athlete, where it’s more important to do the things that are best for the business and follow your vision, that you stick by it and do it no matter how unpopular it makes you. Nowadays I can see where that’s tough. With social media, you’re going to have people filling up your timeline with horrific things about you. Sometimes that may be what it takes to make change but some people don’t want to face that. It’s more important to have those people think your nifty and that’s a more comfortable and easy place to be.
Donald Wood: One of the biggest stars in wrestling today is Daniel Bryan. You worked with Bryan as he was coming up through the business and you have seen his rise to the top. What do you think makes Bryan such a special talent and was there ever more planned between you and Bryan when you super kicked him at Hell in a Cell 2013?
Shawn Michaels: There was nothing more planned, there was actually less planned then what we actually did. It was just the kick and I was going home the next day. I think what separated him is what people see in him. They see a real love and a real passion in him. It doesn’t hurt when you find a very simple catch phrase or something that connects with people like the yes thing. It’s easy, it’s simple, and the fans connected with it so that doesn’t hurt. For everyone that will jump down my throat for trying to take something away from Daniel I’m truly not. Clearly the nifty little catch phrases will not last long if you don’t have the ability to back it up and he clearly does. I think they can see the genuine enjoyment he has for the job and that will always separate the long standing guys from the guys who are flashes in the pan. They know when you are doing it just for the money, and they know when you are a guy that would do it for free. I was once one of them, those guys are smart and you can see it in their eyes. It makes a huge difference.
Mike Chiari: With Sting recently joining WWE and entering an angle with Triple H it looks like there’s a good chance that fans are finally going to see a dream match that they probably never thought was going to happen. You had so many awesome matches with all-time greats over the course of your career, but is there one dream match or dream rivalry that you never got to take part in that you wish would’ve come to fruition in one way or another?
Shawn Michaels: For me, I would have loved to have been in there with the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Dick Murdoch, Harley Race, Wahoo, guys that I was watching when I was younger. It’s a great many of the guys that I watched growing up that I would of liked to be in there with. I far surpassed anything I thought I would accomplish, so certainly no complaints from my standpoint. Those are some guys though that would have been really cool to wrestle.
Brandon Galvin: What do you view as your most important legacy or contribution to the business?
Shawn Michaels: I guess performance. There are phrases like stealing the show and stuff like that that weren’t even talked about years ago. Some folks are going too far when they base everything on the idea of don’t pay attention if I win or lose just pay attention to my performance. I think you can go too far in that one direction. Even the truth taken to extreme can be a bit dangerous. It’s important to still strike a balance, but I think my legacy would be performance. A smaller guy that can prove you can still do well. My legacy is going to be determined between the WWE and the internet folks and neither one of them are dealing in hard and fast reality. I’ve done what I’ve done and very proud and thankful for it. Somebody else will make those decisions and I’ll be just living with them.