Heartbreak & Triumph

by Shawn Michaels & Aaron Williams

Description: Shawn Michaels: Heartbreak and Triumph, is a revealing, frustrating, and great read (if you are a Shawn Michaels fan). Actually even if you are not there are a lot of things that come through in this book that any wrestling fan will enjoy. His version of the "Montreal Screwjob" is a somewhat surprising, yet none to shocking. Did HHH know? Whose idea was it in the beginning? For Bret Hart fans there is no apology.

Shawn talks about losing his smile, and some may not believe him but it is interesting what he reveals. There are some things that are not completely covered. This book focuses on his years before wrestling in a very enlightening part of the book, and shows us a side of Shawn that many never knew. Shawn writes of breaking into wrestling, Marty Jannetty, AWA, what lead to the Rockers being fired (which he has spoke of many times before). Shawn writes fondly of working with the Undertaker, and admits to enjoying his matches with Jeff Jarrett. There is a funny story about the late great Andre the Giant. However the most revealing part of this book is his open talk about being addicted to painkillers and excessive drinking, and the road that he went down. Who did he want to wrestle at Summerslam 2002, and a bit of a surprise about him and HHH? Shawn is not preachy, as I know some may assume. Heartbreak and Triumph is a good read, however some may be frustrated with certain aspects of this book. Yet in the end, just like any book by a wrestler, you must take some things with a grain of salt.
Shawn Michaels does come across very openly, or so it seems. We all know there is more to Shawn Michaels than is revealed in his book. It does seem that when Shawn wants to, he can be very open and what appears to be honesty. One thing that may frustrate some readers is the fact that Shawn does not take much blame for things that has happened. He does at times, but not too much. Did Shawn do the right thing on November 9, 1997? Or was Bret truly not doing what was right for the business by not dropping the WWF Championship? The debate will never die, and all wrestling fans must accept that. Shawn does put the blame for a lot of things on rumors, and dirt sheets, is he right or just blaming others? You decide. I truly believe that overall, "Heartbreak and Triumph" is a fun and interesting journey. And one thing still stands true, HBK is still controversial.

Rating: Overall I give "Heartbreak and Triumph", an 8.0.

Reviewed by Kai O'Hearn on December 3, 2005.

Heartbreak & Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story
Shawn Michaels (with Aaron Feigenbaum)
WWW/Pocket Books, Pp 340 | 2005

Heartbreak & Triumph tells Shawn Michaels' story. Michaels (born Michael Shawn Hickenbottom, July 22, 1965) is a wrestling legend - one that is still (at this stage) active. He's a lot younger than the Hogans, Flairs, Ortons and Pipers of the wrestling world; but his status is such that he is of course a guaranteed future Hall-of-Famer. For fans, any wrestling book is interesting. What is so good about this particular autobiography is that - like Mick Foley's classic books - it happens to be more than just a wrestling book. Aaron Feigenbaum has a solid background in wrestling-writing and he and Michaels have crafted an actual book rather than a loosely bound collection of anecdotes.

By electing to tell Michaels' story right through, just as would be the case for any popular entertainer, sports celebrity, or politician, we get an actual cultural study; an examination of the field that the person works in (wrestling, in this case) and their understanding of how that field has changed, and how they have changed with it. Michaels is a great case study because when he was a fresh young face in the WWF (late 1980s) - with Marty Jannetty, as The Rockers - wrestling was still wrestling, it was not yet Sports Entertainment; debate was still regular as to whether it was real or fake and so he has a decent history in the sport. But, he is not as old-school as the aforementioned names, so, it's a case of Michaels being a very good bridge from the old to the new; a man that can tell tales of fighting Andre The Giant and The Big Show. And of course he can talk about fighting in tag-team competition (against the likes of The Islanders, British Bulldogs and Hart Foundation) and, for over a decade in singles competition. Put simply: Michaels is not just an oldie struggling out there now, he is still contemporary, but - without downgrading books by young stars, he has more of an in-ring story than, say Edge, Christian, Lita or John Cena.

Michaels was born on an airbase in Arizona, his father was strict and he hated his names: both Michael as a first name and the rather cumbersome Hickenbottom. As soon as he was at school he was asking to be called by his middle-name. Heartbreak & Triumph spends plenty of time providing background, showing the passion Shawn had for wrestling - as a fan - before training and eventually making his professional debut in 1984. From there the pace picks up nicely and we read about his first tag-team efforts with Jannetty as The Midnight Rockers - and then, eventually, as The Rockers. Michaels is very honest in the book - he has had his share of troubles, he talks candidly about past addictions. And then of course there are the matches, not least of all The Most Talked About Wrestling Match Ever: The "Montreal Screwjob". Michaels is honest in his dissection - and memory - of the events, but he doesn't do Brett Hart's in-ring ability any real justice. Still, it's to be admired that he is as honest as he is - the bad-blood between the two of them is so well known to wrestling fans that it would be awful to read him treading on egg-shells. He says what he says - and it is to be admired. Occasionally the tone of the book is a bit righteous, Michaels' choice to find religion is fine to read about of course - and clearly it is something that helped in saving him from himself. But the point is somewhat laboured.

Other than that, this is an excellent book - great colour photos - and the myths of The Kliq, DX, Hart/Michaels, McMahon/Michaels and so many other locker-room confessions are all expertly unpacked. The book may lack any real sense of humour but that is no real criticism, merely an observation. And Michaels is so passionate about his job and life - and has been through so much (as the rather heavy-handed title over-explains) - it is little surprise that he chose to not compromise his version of the truth for a chance to fire off some jokes. Highly recommended, Heartbreak & Triumph provides a nice balance of up-to-the-minute reportage and recent history.

Reviewed by Simon Sweetman on March 3, 2006.

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