Shawn Michaels will be spending his 54th birthday at home, in a sense.
Tonight’s Raw Reunion will feature some of the biggest stars in WWE history, including Hulk Hogan, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and Ric Flair.
But no one has had an impact, or grown up on the show, quite like Shawn Michaels.
“I lived out my life in front of the world on Monday Night Raw,” said Michaels, who was only 27 when he wrestled Max Moon on the first-ever Raw. “It’s been a wild ride, and I’m really looking forward to tonight. It’s going to be crazy on-camera as well as backstage, a real-life reunion. There is a lot of art imitating life going on tonight.”
Michaels will be celebrating his 54th birthday during the Raw Reunion show, which is certainly apropos.
“It feels especially right that today is my birthday,” said Michaels. “I can’t remember a birthday or a holiday when I wasn’t doing something with WWE. They’re my extended family, and they’ve been with me so long that it feels like a second family.”
Michaels’s father passed away in May 2014, but he confirmed that his mother will be calling tonight. “She always calls right when I’m busy backstage, and then she’ll yell at me for not answering,” laughed Michaels. “But by now, she’s used to it.”
Once upon a time, Michaels was bold, brash, and filled with the requisite amount of ambition needed to thrive in professional wrestling. He was not married, nor did he have children, and he also called home quite frequently to his parents. At the time, the notion of being one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots was nothing more than a boyhood dream. Michaels was even smaller than so-called “smaller” champions like Randy Savage and Bret Hart.
“Guys like Bret and Randy, they were bigger than me, and they had lineage, name value, and a heck of a better understanding than I did of the wrestling business,” said Michaels. “I was a fan that got into the wrestling business and finally made it. I can take some credit for working hard, but I was very fortunate that the company took a shot on me. Part of it was my belief in my own ability, but the company also took a risk and a chance to believe in me.”
Michaels’s approach was not always celebrated by his wrestling brethren. Although he had his vices, his desire to succeed was buttressed by a militaristic work ethic that propelled him to an elite level of superstardom.
“It’s a delicate balance,” explained Michaels. “You’ve got to challenge yourself, and if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect someone else to? It’s hard not to be a little abrasive when you keep pushing and pushing, and that’s certainly what I tried to do. I very much enjoyed it, I’m thrilled the way it turned out, and I certainly surpassed anything I thought I could do. It’s been a sheer joy, and I know I wasn’t always perfect, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
The history of Monday Night Raw is something of a family photo book for Michaels. He can reflect back on his feud with Marty Jannetty, which led to an iconic Raw moment in 1993 when Jannetty had a surprise return and subsequently, with some help from Curt Hennig, won the Intercontinental title from Michaels—but never amounted to any sort of significant payoff with Jannetty constantly in-and-out of the company. Raw also broadcast the emotional 2005 reunion for Michaels and Jannetty, who teamed together once more as The Rockers.
No stranger to the current WWE product, Michaels is a coach in the Performance Center in Florida. If he were twenty years younger and an active talent, there is no shortage of talent Michaels would like to work with in the ring.
“Riddle, McIntyre, Rollins, Owens, all of those guys,” said Michaels. “And, of course, the guys I work with: Cole, Gargano, Ciampa, Dream, Strong, O’Reilly, Fish. Any of those matches would be phenomenal.”
With the idea of Michaels in a triple threat against Ciampa and Gargano marinates, the four-time WWE champ returns to the Raw Reunion as part of DX, which will also forever remain part of his legacy.
Countless moments, particularly with some adult promos, made the trio of Michaels, Triple H, and Chyna must-see viewing for wrestling fans in the late ’90s. Their feuds against Bret Hart and the Hart Foundation, as well as against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, are all prerequisites for those who considers themselves experts of the “Attitude Era.”
“If I had to pick a favorite Raw moment, and that’s very tough to do, it would be Hunter and I with and Chyna when we were wearing the Christmas thongs,” said Michaels. “That sticks out to me because it had absolutely nothing to do with wrestling and it was so unbelievably silly. But it was our job that day, we actually called that ‘work.’ That’s still funny to me. It’s not something many people could say they do at work.”
Sharing the backstage area with Kliq brethren Triple H, Scott “X-Pac” Waltman, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash will make Raw considerably more meaningful for Michaels, who will also appear on Tuesday’s SmackDown as part of the broadcast team.
“This is going to be three hours of one extreme to the other,” said Michaels. “We’ll experience the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, then the highest of highs again—tonight, we’re going to cover everything.”