Quick Note: Wrestlemania season is heating up and XFINITY has you covered! We’re going to have interviews and insights from top WWE Superstars, on-location tidbits from Wrestlemania weekend, and more. Order Wrestlemania here. And be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute details.
When it comes to nicknames, the only person who can hold a candle to Rocky Balboa’s buddy Apollo Creed is WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels. “The Headliner,” “The Showstopper,” “The Main Event,” and “The Icon that Can Still Go” have all been tossed around over the years, but the most important one has to be one he earned by having the best matches on the industry’s biggest stage…“Mr. Wrestlemania.”
The now-retired Michaels finds himself taking center stage at Wrestlemania once again as he’s scheduled to have his buddy Triple H’s back as he seeks revenge against the monster Brock Lesnar.
I spoke to the “Heartbreak Kid” the day before Wrestlemania XXIX and asked about his role in the big show, his pick for the evening’s sleeper hit, and his place in the history of the Undertaker’s streak…
Gordon Holmes: So, I understand this is a pretty big weekend for you guys.
Shawn Michaels: I guess if they’re grossing $150 million, then that qualifies as a big event.
Holmes: That’s not too shabby.
Michaels: (Laughs) Not too bad at all.
Holmes: $150 million comes with quite a bit of pressure to deliver. What are you and Triple H doing to prepare?
Micheals: He and I, we were just talking last night to one o’clock in the morning, just talking and chatting. And one of the things that we’ve always done with each other is we’re able to keep each other loose. We’ll spend a little time talking some serious stuff, but when you’ve got a big, heavy burden on yourself like he does, I think the best thing I can do as his buddy is to try to keep it light. There are enough people around him that make him painfully aware of all of the big, heavy, dramatic things going on in his life. We give each other a welcome time away from all of the serious issues.
Holmes: I watched your Hall of Fame induction to prep for this, and Hunter was really giving it to you. It was almost like a roast. If you get to do the honors for him, there’s got to be some kind of payback coming, right?
Michaels: (Laughs) More than likely, but I’m not nearly as funny as he is. And I have to tell you, he’s been doing that for years, in the car, in the dressing room. That’s one of the reasons I’ve hung around with him for so long. He makes me laugh. I’ve got a 20-plus year relationship with Kevin Nash because the guy makes me laugh. I’ve been married to my wife for fourteen years because she makes me laugh. (Laughs) I have a tendency to gravitate to people with great senses of humor. And Hunter has a wonderful time at my expense. And I’d love to take offense to it, but it’s just so darn funny. If I’m fortunate enough to induct him, I’m sure there will be quite a bit of humor and some serious stuff…which he won’t like. He’s more reserved than I am, he doesn’t put his feelings out there. That’s how I’ll embarrass him by showing that there is that side of him.
Holmes: At Wrestlemania Hunter’s in a match with Brock Lesnar. As you’re well aware, Brock Lesnar is built like a house. Now, I’m no master strategist, but this is a No DQ match. Why doesn’t DX just reunite and take this guy out?
Michaels: (Laughs) That’s sort of always on reserve. That could be a game plan. If Brock’s still breathing, that’s not good for anyone. I’m not looking forward to him getting a hold of me. And Hunter is a prideful dude, I think there’s a part of him that it would bother him if he couldn’t run with the guy one-on-one. That being said, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to stick my nose in there. That’s what I’m there for. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not afraid to take a cheap shot.
Holmes: (Laughs) A cheap kick.
Michaels: Yeah. It’s Wrestlemania.
Holmes: And if Paul Heyman doesn’t mind his own business…
Michaels: Yeah, I can take him for sure. (Laughs)
Holmes: Speaking of Paul Heyman, he did an impersonation of the recently deceased Paul Bearer this past Monday. I’d imagine you and Paul Bearer knew each other well as you were both a part of the WWE for so long. Some people take offense to Heyman’s impersonation; others say Bearer would’ve loved it. What’s your take?
Michaels: Well, I can only give my perspective of Paul and how much he loved and cared for the business. Whatever offends someone, that’s in the eye of the beholder. There are people who put pictures of Jesus in urine and that’s art. Obviously that’s offensive to me, but to other people it’s art. I don’t think Paul would’ve been offended, I think he’d be honored to do anything to further the business or a storyline. Certainly, the Paul Bearer that I knew had nothing but the utmost love and respect for the WWE. He’d be honored to know that after his passing that he was a big part of a Wrestlemania match.
Holmes: I’m a big believer that a title is only as important as the people who are chasing it. You had a big hand in making the Undertaker’s streak the major deal that it is now.
Michaels: Yeah, but I think the streak was really an entity of it’s own before I ran across him. It turned into something that became an event in and of itself. Almost on the same level as a championship. That was done by Wrestlemania, the WWE, and the Undertaker. I can’t take any credit. It was more important to me to go out there with a buddy of mine and do something that people will remember for a long time.
Holmes: The legends really seem to get behind CM Punk. They see some old-school traits in him. Is he someone you enjoy?
Michaels: Yeah, he’s also a young man I enjoy talking to. The term “old school” gets tossed around so much that it’s amusing. I think he’s a young man that has a ton of drive and an opinion. And because so many people are used to towing the line and the narrative of the day, that when someone gives their opinion honestly, that that’s some kind of awe-inspiring thing. (Laughs) So, for those of us that give our opinions on a regular basis, we appreciate it.
Holmes: As a member of the media who gets a lot of canned answers, I certainly appreciate it.
Holmes: We’ve got the Rock squaring off against John Cena in the main event for the WWE Championship. What’s your take on that match?
Michaels: I’m hoping they’re going to go wild and give a clinic. I look at this card and the Undertaker/Punk match, there’s a personal thing there. With Brock and Triple H you’re looking at a fight. So there’s two matches that can really be something special. But the Rock and John Cena, they really can do something more than just a marketing, merchandising, materialistic match. They can have a ton of substance. I’ll be honest, I have no clue what it is they’re doing. But I would love to see a phenomenal match. It doesn’t have to be technical, but I’d like it to be artistic. And I think those two can do that. The stage is set for these guys to rip the house down.
Holmes: We’ve got a stacked card on top. What’s your pick for an under card sleeper?
Michaels: I think the sleeper of the night is going to be Jericho and Fandango. That’s one I’m looking forward to seeing. I know Chris is a hustler, he’s a hard worker. I think when you put him in a situation like this where people have maybe forgotten about it, I think that’s when Chris is at his best. This Fandango kid coming in, his first match at Wrestlemania, they’re both going to work very hard.
Holmes: Fandango’s intensity on Monday was pretty impressive. That seems to be missing from a lot of today’s guys.
Michaels: Yeah, I have not seen a lot of him, I’ve heard a lot. But I’m going to sit down and watch that one. For Jericho, it’s what he’s used to doing. For Fandango, it’s a make-or-break sort of match. You can come in and really get a ton of focus on you in a good way or a bad way.
Holmes: We’ve got three really solid main events, but only two of the six talents are full-time WWE Superstars. I spoke with Dolph Ziggler and he expressed some frustration with this. I was reminded of Wrestlemania XI when you and Kevin Nash had to take a backseat to Laurence Taylor. What advice would you give to the younger guys who find themselves in situations like this?
Michaels: I went through it. We went through Wrestlemania IX and Wrestlemania XI. Maybe from a match standpoint we weren’t taking a backseat, but whatever their stories were got a lot more focus. It’s one of those things that does happen. You get angry at it, but at the end of the day Hogan helped. Laurence Taylor helped. All of those things added to the Pay Per View. There are probably seven guys on this Wrestlemania card that weren’t even a part of the company last year. So, the idea that they’re not integrating new guys? Those guys are new, they weren’t here. From that standpoint the other talent is getting a chance. And if Rock and Brock weren’t on the card, would you rather wrestle in front of 700,000 Pay Per View buys instead of 1.3 million?
Holmes: Good point.
Michaels: So, I understand their frustration because I went through it. When I was their age I thought it stunk too. I used to say, “Get those guys out of here.” When they get to be my age they’ll look back and think, “OK, I get it.” They ought to use it, which I’m sure they do, as motivation. And at the same time, do their best to take advantage. Fandango, The Shield, these guys can make an impression in front of 1.3 million Pay Per View buys. You have to transition from old to new, and it’s never a transition that goes fast enough for the younger guys. And I am very understanding and sympathetic. I was there, but it’s the reality of the way this business is…and honestly a lot of businesses are. If Michael Jordan wanted to come back right now, they’d be throwing money at him.
Holmes: And if Shawn Michaels wanted to come back right now?
Michaels: (Laughs) If Shawn Micheals wanted to come back right now they’d be throwing money at him. I can promise you. And they’d be right to. I could go out there tomorrow with Dolph Ziggler and give him the best match he ever had.
Holmes: I need to have a follow-up with Dolph when he comes back from his sitcom to work the main event of Wrestlemania 40.
Michaels: Dolph’s going to turn into one of those guys, CM Punk is going to be one of those guys. It’s not going to be a question of if they can draw money, they’ll just know that they do. And that’s growing. And they’re coming along. But like I said earlier, it’s not going to happen fast enough for them.
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes
Don’t miss WWE Wrestlemania, Sunday April 7, 2013 at 7 pm ET on Pay Per View.