Vintage Vault Reposts: Happy Birthday, Shawn Michaels

Vintage Vault Reposts are Pay-Per-View recaps with Justin and Scott’s commentary, including star ratings. Please note, these were written in the past and may have dated references. Each repost comes with the audio for the Place to Be Podcast episode where the show is reviewed.  Please scroll to the bottom to find your listening and downloading options!

To celebrate Shawn Michaels’ birthday, we look back at three of his biggest matches featuring his breakout main event performance, first World Title win and shocking comeback.

survivorseries1992

Survivor Series 1992

Bret Hart defeats Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels with the Sharpshooter at 26:42 to retain WWF World Title

Fun Fact: This match is a first on many levels. It is Bret Hart’s first World Title defense on PPV, Shawn Michaels’s first PPV World Title shot and first Main Event match, and is the first time these two men would meet on PPV.

Fun Fact II: This bout was originally booked as just a straight up match with no title on the line. After the big title change below, Shawn Michaels defeated British Bulldog on October 27, 1992 in Terre Haute, Indiana (on the final Saturday Night’s Main Event until March 2006) to win his first singles title.

Fun Fact III: In one of the final instances of the World Title changing hands on a non-televised event, Bret Hart defeated Ric Flair on October 12, 1992 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to win the WWF World Title. The fall of 1992 was a busy time in the WWF. Bret Hart was not originally supposed to win the Title, but, on a whim Vince decided to switch it to Bret, as he decided he was the true future of the Federation. However, Vince had to do it quickly before the move could attempted to be convinced otherwise by certain advisers or wrestlers, so he did it at a random Canadian House Show.

Fun Fact IV: This match was originally booked as just a straight up match with no title on the line, because neither man was champion when the match was booked. The original I-C Title match booked for this show was British Bulldog (then champ) vs. the Mountie, but when Bulldog lost the I-C Title to Michaels on the last Saturday Night’s Main Event in October, the match was scrapped, as Bulldog was sent packing (steroids) and the Mountie disappeared until Summer of 1993. However, before that, Bret had won the world title from Ric Flair at a house show in Saskatoon, Canada. So, this match was then changed to a World Title Match, with the I-C Belt not on the line.

Scott: Well, here it begins: the most controversial rivalry in WWF History. Two men facing off that have totally different personalities and two totally different wrestling styles. In Bret Hart’s first PPV title defense as World Champion, he puts on an excellent match against a young, still green Shawn Michaels. Michaels was Intercontinental Champ at the time, and this match also extends his credibility, credibility that would be cemented at the Garden in March 1994. Here, he keeps the match going, with lots of grappling moves, most noticeably a simple headlock. The match was very slow-paced, as the time of the match indicates. Shawn executes a perfect Stun Gun on Hart at one point, a sign that his execution was getting better. However, there is only one “Excellence of Execution”. The commentating was great also, as Vince was doing his usual Bret shilling, and Bobby was pushing hard for the “Boy Toy.” There would be better moments for Michaels in this rivalry, but on this night, Bret Hart was the better wrestler. ***1/2

Justin: An excellent match to cap off the show, as Bret and Shawn proved they could carry the Main Events as opposed to the usual suspects. It was a nice, fresh change of pace to see two new faces in the World Title match and the two really helped usher in a new era. The match is a little slow at points, but the drama and selling make up for that. Since winning the World Title, Bret had been labeled as a fighting champion, and had battling all comers every week on TV and around the country. It was a nice change of pace to have a fan friendly, technical stud carrying the company, as he was someone the fans could rally behind as a true fighting champ. His matches were all solid and well worked, as you would expect from the Hitman. Shawn Michaels was also starting to carve out a niche as a solid upper mid card wrestler who could bring the goods when need be. Michaels and Hart had tangled in the past in tag matches, but this their first major singles match. As we all know, it would be far from their last, but for now it was cool to see them go at it before all the politics and egos weighed everything down. It was a battle of two hungry, young up and comers trying to prove they could carry the ball. It was also refreshing to see Vince give these guys a great chunk of time to go out and take the show home on a great note. I wish he would have kept the faith and ran with these new guys on top longer than he did, but for now it is nice to see. The end of the match is very good as the pace picks up and Bret picks up a solid Title defense on PPV. ****

Wrestlemania-12-Shawn-Michaels_2069

 WrestleMania XII

Shawn Michaels defeats Bret Hart in an Iron Man match to win WWF World Title with a Superkick at 61:53

Fun Fact: This is the first ever Iron Man Match on WWF TV, and the first ever 60-Minute Iron Man Match on PPV. WCW had done two 30-Minute Iron Matches in the past: Rick Rude vs. Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude vs. Dustin Rhodes.

Fun Fact II: This is the PPV debut of Jose Lothario, who would remain Michaels’ manager until January of 1997. We first saw Lothario in the extensive training videos that were shown for both men during the build up of this match. Lothario had trained Michaels in San Antonio when he first broke into the business.

Scott: The moment has finally arrived for Shawn Michaels. He has achieved his dream of becoming World Champion, after hanging for 60-plus minutes with the Excellence of Execution. The first Iron Man match in WWF PPV history had excellent psychology. Vince and Jerry were talking up Michaels as though this was his moment. Hart, to his credit, wrestled a difficult match. On the one hand, he knew he had to play a little bit of a heel, somewhat like he did against Bulldog at SummerSlam 1992. On the other hand, there were still plenty of Hitman fans, so he also had to make comebacks for them. Lawler actually makes a good point here, in that he feels (in storyline) that Hart is worried that his fans were leaving him for the “Kliq”, Shawn Michaels’ group of fans. The ironic thing is it may have been Bret’s real thinking. Now the hatred they had for each other didn’t reach the detestable levels it would until 1997, but they still wouldn’t give a pin to each other, and the fact its 0-0 after 60 minutes takes the grade down a little for me. Plus except for a few moments here and there (including Shawn superkicking the timekeeper by accident), the first 56 minutes of this match were dreadfully boring. There were some pretty creative grappling maneuvers that could be construed as submission moves. The last four minutes, including the 37 seconds Shawn was in the Sharpshooter, were classic. The match ends in a draw, or so it seemed. Remember what Roddy Piper said at In Your House #6: “There must be a winner.” Well Gorilla Monsoon, back in his role as President by the end of the show, said there must be a winner. So we begin overtime. Hart, obviously upset with the decision tries to pound Shawn to death. Shawn gets two superkicks in, pins the champ, and, as the famous quote from Vince McMahon says: “The boyhood dream has come true for Shawn Michaels.” However, the quote you don’t hear is as Shawn is about to be handed the title he tells Earl Hebner “Don’t give me the belt until he gets out of my ring.” Then when Hebner struggles to get the belt on Shawn, HBK pushes him out of the way and tells him to get the fuck out. Real classy. That’s when the real seething hatred Bret had for Michaels began, with those unnecessary comments. The crowd is off the hook, and the brooding Bret Hart walks out of the arena, takes a vacation, and, except a couple of appearances, isn’t seen until October. Shawn Michaels finally has the spotlight all to himself, and we’ll see as the year progresses how he handles it. This was a great match that could have been better with some decisions and a little more action in the middle. ****

Justin: A very good match, especially considering it was a first at the time, and Vince definitely picked the right guys to pull it off. This is a weird match for many reasons. You have to watch it in its entirety to really get the flow and pacing and understand the story. However it is a terribly difficult match to sit through, since it is mainly 56 minutes of technical, mat-based wrestling. It is definitely not for everyone, and is not a match you can watch on a regular basis. That said, though, the match itself is presented as a clinic in scientific wrestling and is a fun match true for fans of the style, as it featured great wrestling combined with an intriguing story. Michaels had fought so hard for many years to reach this point, and was finally given the ball to run with. Hart, however, was disappointed to drop the strap, and even goes on hiatus following the show, taking a much needed break. During that time off, however, his contract expired and he almost jumped ship, but more on that in November. All in all a really good match, but not one that deserves the ridiculous hype the WWE showers on it. At the time it was unique and top notch, but as time has gone by, other matches of its type have surpassed it on the excitement level. It is definitely one that is enjoyed now and then and not one to be watched on a regular basis. As Scott said, if there were any pinfalls and more fast paced action, it could be a little easier to sit through, but as is, it is a technical classic that made Michaels’ big win that much more memorable. ***1/2

shawn michaels vs triple h

SummerSlam 2002
Shawn Michaels defeats Triple H in a non-sanctioned street fight with a roll-up at 27:20

Fun Fact: At Vengeance, Shawn Michaels persuaded Triple H to go to Raw instead of joining his ex-wife on Smackdown. The next night on Raw Eric Bischoff, nervous that the old DX buddies would take the show over, tried to force a wedge between them by asking Shawn Michaels to be Triple H’s manager, knowing that Shawn would decline that and Triple H may get offended. They exchanged some interesting looks, but later in the night they came out full DX music, t-shirts and pyro. Triple H does the old school “Let’s get ready to suck it”, and then he turned around and Pedigreed Michaels to the shock of the crowd. The next week he said that he and HBK were not really friends and that they used each other to get to the top. Suddenly someone comes out and whispers something in his ear. Triple H runs backstage to the garage area and Michaels is on the ground bloodied, and next to him is a car with a big bloody hole in the driver’s side window. Triple H said he would turn over every stone until he found who did this. Two weeks later on the 8/5 Raw HBK and Triple H had a face to face where Michaels shows camera footage that it was indeed Triple H that smashed Michaels face into the window. Triple H does that classic shot where he spits the gum out, looks up at the camera and smiles in heel delight, saying Michaels was weak and not the Showstopper anymore. Michaels says the doctors told him he would be ready by say…SummerSlam? Triple H wanted the match but Bischoff said with all the animosity behind it the WWE wouldn’t sanction it, so they made it an unsanctioned street fight. It was assumed that this would be Shawn Michaels’ final match.

Scott: So the Heartbreak Kid makes his first in-ring appearance since getting KO’d by a Steve Austin stunner and a Mike Tyson right hand in Boston four and a half years ago. Is he rusty? Can he hang with a bigger and much more seasoned Triple H? No doubt about it. Sure the street fight stipulation helped it a bit, but there’s no doubt that Shawn Michaels waited for this moment to shine on the big stage again. There’s a different sense about Shawn here though. Gone is the crybaby asshole backstage who pouted when he didn’t get his way. Gone is the head of the Clique who would only make his “boys” look good and fuck everybody else, like Bam Bam Bigelow and Dean Douglas, if they didn’t like it. Gone is the Shawn Michaels who would make asses out of people and make shoot comments when they were not prudent. Since leaving full-time in 1998, Shawn Michaels changed his life, his religion and eliminated almost all of his vices. His lowest point came in 2001 when he was slated to make a big splash for WrestleMania XVII in Houston, but he showed up to a Raw completely out of it on painkillers. He then lashed out at best friend Triple H and called him a traitor and backstabber. Well Shawn from that point on cleaned his life up, apologized to his friend and came back. Now the whole NWO thing was kind of a mess but that wasn’t really his fault, after Nash popped his quad it was pretty much dead. So now after a violent heel turn by his “friend” Triple H we have a full blown fight at SummerSlam. Both men were sure to tear the house down and Shawn was ready to reclaim his throne as the “Showstopper”, the “Main Event”, and the “Icon”. I think more than the match itself I loved the fact that Shawn was going to spare no expense to get the crowd completely off their rocker. So he lays a prone Triple H on the announce table, climbed a pretty tall ladder and did the patented Shawn Michaels elbow right down through him. The Nassau Coliseum was going absolutely crazy, and Michaels had officially gotten back into everyone’s heads as a bona fide all-time superstar. Now the question is: was this it for him? Was this just one match to get the heel turn over on Triple H and let Shawn have his last moment in the sun? Some thought so, but why bother with Triple H crushing HBK with the sledgehammer after the match? Why leave something open-ended if the word was this was a one-time thing for HBK? So clearly he wanted to get back in the fold in some permanent form. Shawn will be gone for a bit to sell the sledge and somehow figure out what’s next. Another question brought up by some is that why did this match have to be this good? Did these guys go overboard for their own egos? Was this another situation where the Clique got what they wanted? That’s bullshit. Two guys wanted to bring the house down in front of a rabid east coast audience. Also takes the pressure off Brock Lesnar to have to deliver on his first real main event match. Sure he was tangling with the Great One, but still the pressure’s there on the second biggest show of the year. Yes I defend this match to the hilt because for me it’s on the top five list of the greatest ever. *****

Justin: Over four years after his last contest, Shawn Michaels returns to the ring for a match. This was something many fans gave up on after 1999 when it was reported that Michaels would never wrestle again. He did have one street fight during his time off. The match took place in the TWA, the promotion Michaels ran in conjunction with his training camp. But this match was slightly different as it was on PPV and in front of millions of fans. The storyline coming in was great as Triple H stabbed Michaels in the back to finally turn heel. Michaels wanted revenge, but Bischoff forced it to be in an unsanctioned format to prevent any liability to Raw. Michaels accepted and it was on. The bout had a big match feel as expected as it just never seemed possible even six or seven months ago. After the build up this also felt like a real blood feud and match. Michaels lets loose early and dominated Triple H with his speed and quick strikes. Once Hunter took over, though, he viciously worked over the back that had forced Michaels into early retirement. Hunter would methodically destroy the back with some nasty offensive moves. Michaels was valiant as he hung in there and the crowd rallied him the whole way. Eventually, Triple H was busted open with a nasty blade job and the final portion of the match was a bloody war of attrition. Michaels looked like a warrior as he got his revenge with a brutal beatdown as the match wound down. Michaels pulled out all the stops and they hit a cool table spot going into the finish. Michaels would eventually reverse the Pedigree and roll Hunter up to pick up the feel good win. The good feelings would be short lived, though, as Triple H drills Shawn in the back with the sledgehammer while he celebrated. We still weren’t sure if the feud would continue or if Shawn could wrestle again at this point. Now, this was an epic match with both men busting their asses to put on a classic. However, I do have a few points that I want to hit on. I agree with some that feel like the match was a bit too long and a bit too much, especially the crazy table spot. The Michaels comeback story was big enough in its own right that they probably could have toned it down, shortened it and told just as great a story. But, at the time, it was clear that this could be a one time only deal for Michaels. That point was hammered home on commentary and it looked like Shawn was going all out just in case it was his final bout. So, I can’t really fault them for going balls to wall and include a wild table spot and all the blood. I enjoyed the heck out of this match and when you take it in context, it is that much better. Michaels would take some time off as he healed but he will be back soon. Triple H is back on the heel side of the fence and things take an interesting turn for him in the coming weeks. ****1/2

 

Author: Vintage Vault

Vintage Vault Reposts are a collection of reviews that Scott and JT have written over the years.