By God, he has heart!
By Joe Mason
Times Sports Editor
life has changed a great deal since he became a born-again Christian.
Even students at Holy Family University have taken
note. That’s why, on May 10, the Torresdale school honored the professional wrestler with a community-service award.
— whose family knows him by his real name, Shawn Hickenbottom — found himself in the spotlight at Holy Family
because of his support of charitable causes and organizations.
Just a moment . . . this is the same Shawn Michaels, the
former World Wrestling Entertainment heavyweight champ who’s best known for flying off the top turnbuckle of the ring
and whamming an opponent over the head with a chair?
It’s the same Shawn Michaels, but that’s Shawn Michaels
the performer. The buff fellow saluted at Holy Family spends many of his days doing various good deeds in the community, like
his work for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
But that softer side of him isn’t publicized much.
His days spent at
hospitals with sick children aren’t why fans gather around the wrestling ring, but that compassion, as some of the Holy
Family students see it, is what makes Shawn Michaels so special.
"He does a lot for normal people and he never tells anyone
about what he does," said Karen McCabe, a senior. "He’s awesome as a wrestler, but he’s even better as a person.
He does a lot of good things that go unnoticed, and that’s why we picked him to receive the award."
As caring as
Michaels is today, it hasn’t always been that way. In the wrestling ring, he has been a stud performer for the better
part of two decades. The vocation has been very good to him, bringing him four heavyweight championships and plenty of visibility
over his career.
In pro wrestling, where the outcomes are predetermined, Michaels has had a history of claiming the championship
belt because the braintrust viewed him as a personality that fans would pay to watch and cheer.
It was a wise choice. With
Michaels on top of the World Wrestling Federation (which became the WWE), the company was very successful during his title
And because the company was successful, Shawn Michaels was rewarded with very good paydays.
These heady times
in the ’90s led Michaels to become known as a party animal, a time when he relished going out and pretty much doing
whatever he wanted.
He had it all. And yet for some reason he wasn’t that happy. In 1998, he suffered a back injury
— attributed to the wear-and-tear of his hazardous occupation — that required surgery and almost ended his days
in the ring.
Michaels’ injury was so severe that he underwent spinal-fusion surgery, and the healing and rehab kept
him on the shelf until 2002.
While the "Heartbreak Kid" was out of action, his life took a turn for the better. In the
spring of 2000, while he was still recovering from his back surgery, Michaels took a leap of faith. He became a born-again
He also got married and did some major maintenance on his lifestyle.
Michaels no longer was living his boy-toy
image outside the ring. He had dedicated his life to God and tried to do everything he could to ensure he was living his life
in accordance with his religious doctrine. The transformation, he said, has made him a much happier man.
"It was all because
I found a loving wife who showed me how to live life in the way God wants us to," said Michaels, referring to Rebecca Hickenbottom,
whom he married in 1999. "She brought me to God, and ever since I’ve been a much happier man."
Michaels also was
a happy man when he received his service award from Holy Family.
After wrestling in the main event of a Monday Night Raw
program in Wilkes-Barre on May 9, he met up with his wife at the airport and spent three hours at Holy Family the next day.
visit included lunch with the administration and the four seniors who selected him for the award —McCabe, Daniel Hibbs,
Kevin Hughes and Tiffany Jurowicz. Michaels also helped distribute community-service awards to 20 student honorees and then,
before leaving, signed autographs and chatted with people in attendance.
"I had a great time, and I am very flattered and
humbled by this experience," Michaels said. "It goes to show you that God has helped me live a life that has helped me touch
"This happens every so often, usually the day after a wrestling event," he continued. "I’ll get hit with
a briefcase or I’ll get kicked in the face during the match and the next day I’ll lie in bed and wonder if I made
a difference. What I do in the ring doesn’t necessarily make a difference. But on days like this, when I see people
who tell me I make a difference as a person, not as a wrestler, I get great satisfaction."
And Shawn Michaels says he owes
it all to his religious commitment and to his family, which includes his 5-year-old son Cade and his 8-month-old daughter
"What I do in the wrestling ring isn’t as important anymore," Michaels said. "I used to be very intense
and very driven about what I do in the ring. But what I do in the ring comes easy to me, and I’m very good at what I
"But my priorities are my faith and my family," he said. "I have a lovely wife, two great children, and the great man
upstairs who helps guide me through life. I couldn’t be any happier. Don’t get me wrong, I still love wrestling,
but my passion is the other things."
His wife sees a complete transformation in her husband.
"He’s still the same
man onstage," Rebecca said, "but if you were to describe him, he’d be a great husband and a great father. He loves doing
things in the community and he’s very happy to be here today.
"Right now his parents have the children in Texas,
so this trip to Philadelphia and Holy Family is a great chance for him and me to spend some quality alone time," she explained.
"We miss our children and we can’t wait to get home to see them, but we’re both honored to be here today. This
is something he deserves, and we are both flattered to be here."
The sight of Shawn Michaels on the Holy Family campus
was a particular joy for Dr. Leanne Owen, a criminal-justice professor who was instrumental in paving the way for his attendance
at the awards ceremony.
"I’m a huge wrestling fan and Shawn Michaels was always my favorite," said Owen. "Everyone
here loves Shawn for his wrestling, but that’s not why we’re honoring him."
Tiffany Jurowicz, one of the students
who nominated Michaels for his charitable efforts, had become a fan over time.
"Today is a day I’ll never forget.
I wasn’t a big wrestling fan, but Dan, Kevin and Karen kind of got me involved," she said of her Holy Family classmates.
"It was a real thrill to see the man who wasn’t in the ring." ••