Sunday, April 4, 2010

Shawn Michaels has left the building

I've been meaning to write this for a week now, but something else kept coming up and now that I finally have the time to write, I'm not exactly sure what to say.  As we all know by now, Shawn Michaels was retired by The Undertaker after losing last Sunday at WrestleMania 26 and all I can think is that the wrestling world will never be the same. 

It's not that WWE or the industry can't handle HBK's retirement, it got by just fine from 1998-2002 during what we thought would be a retirement, but Shawn Michaels is a once in a lifetime performer.  Some call him the greatest of all-time, and those who don't are Bret Hart fans (kidding!), but whether you agree with that assessment or not, you have to concede that Shawn at least belongs in the top 10.

In my lifetime, there have been five guys that have stood out as industry-defining icons: Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Shawn Michaels.  They each have their own reason to lay claim to the title of "greatest of all-time," but of those names, Shawn Michaels may be the most complete package.  He didn't sell the most tickets like Hogan or Austin, he didn't work the insane schedule on every corner of the globe like Flair, and he didn't crossover into mainstream entertainment like The Rock, but the things he did, he did better than anybody.  You'd have to search very hard to find an outright bad Shawn Michaels match - the only one springing to mind is the disastrous Rockers vs. Hart Foundation match where the top rope broke - and I think it's safe to say that he's the most consistent in-ring performer in history.  He may not be the biggest name the industry has ever seen, but in terms of ability, promos, and charisma, Shawn Michaels is peerless. 

As I mentioned on this week's Kick-Out!! Radio, I didn't talk about HBK on this site as much as I should have, and now that he's retired, I'm kicking myself, but Shawn Michaels will probably go down as my favorite wrestler that I've ever had the privilege to watch.  I was a fan of The Rockers, but when Shawn Michaels threw Marty Jannetty through the Barbershop window, there was something that clicked that made me cheer for a heel for the first time.  Sure, he was an ass, but he made it look cool, which is impressive considering the mullet and that ridiculous stuff he used to wear, but HBK was cool.  He wasn't cartoonishly evil like all the other bad guys in WWE and he was doing stuff that no one else was doing and that last part certainly continued throughout his career.  Vince McMahon once said in an interview that he let Shawn Michaels get away with stuff that he would've fired anyone else over; HBK was an uncensored wrestler, and though that didn't always get him friends, it made him one of the most entertaining characters to grace our screens.

As I said earlier in the week, everything Michaels has done since his return in 2002 was gravy.  He already had an astounding career in 1998, but the last eight years were arguably even better, another reason to solidify his status as one of the all-time greats.  It's not pleasant to think about a WWE without Shawn Michaels, but you have to applaud a guy that knows when to step away.  Shawn didn't go out because of an injury, and he didn't hang on far longer than he should have, he went out just as good, if not better, than he was in his prime.  Shawn Michaels hasn't been a World Champion in almost eight years, but somehow he still managed to go out on top.  That says more about his talent and legacy than my words ever could.

2 comments:

  1. I agree with almost everything you have said... except I think you could include The Undertaker as an industry-defining icon, no gimmick has been as successful as his, and he continues to do the job 20 years after he started that gimmick (with the 4 year American Badass hiatus).

    To me HBK will be the best, he may not have been the best on the mic, but his athleticism in the ring was second to none, and it still hasn't sunk in to me that he has retired and will not be putting on all those great matches anymore. Again. Thank you, Shawn.

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  2. Taker's one of the all-time greats and the ultimate franchise player. If I made it a top ten list, he'd be right there along with guys like Roddy Piper and Dusty Rhodes.

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