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Beneath The Skin

Beneath The Skin: The Kid And The Dream

Credit: WWF Aol Transcript Library (Keyword:WWF)

When Vince McMahon describes the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, the adjectives flamboyant and resilient always seem to come flowing out of his mouth and rightfully so! However, there is much more to the man who has been shaking the World Wrestling Federation from its rafters since his early Rocker days in the late 80s. There is a side thatup until nowonly his family and close friends have been privy to. A side that shows a sincere, honest and genuine individual who is often outspokenbut, maybe even more so, frequently misunderstood.

Over the next two issues of World Wrestling Federation Magazine, we are going to bring you up close and personal into the phenom known as the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels. You will see a side of Shawn Michaels that he has never revealed to the public before. From his early years as an army brat to his World Wrestling Federation debut, through his horrifying ordeal in Syracuse and right up until todayonly weeks before he attempts to turn the dreams of a 12 year old boy into the reality and destiny of a 30 year old man.

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Editor: Shawn, lets begin by your telling us a little bit about your childhood.

Shawn: Well, my mother and father got married about two or three months after they met each other. I was the youngest of four children. I have two older brothers and an older sister. I was born right outside of Phoenix, Arizona, in Scottsdale, at Williams Air Force Base. My father, who was born in Clinton, Iowa, was a pilot in the Air Force. He was known as a Fly Boy. He volunteered for two tours of duty in Vietnam. My mom basically stayed back and raised us kids. Two months after I was born, we moved to England. Thats when my father went to Vietnam for the first time. After he left, we moved back to my mothers hometown of Storm Lake, Iowa. When he came back, he was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base and worked for the Pentagon in Washington. When I was about 6 years old, we moved to Del Rio, Texas, where my father served at Laughlin Air Force Base and then at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio. He retired at Randolph a full bird Colonial after 25 years in the Air Force. Following his retirement, we spent the rest of our lives in Texas.

Editor: What do you remember most about your childhood ?

Shawn: I mostly start remembering the time when my father was stationed in Washington and we lived in Maryland. My family was very close. I remember playing football with my brothers wherever and whenever we could. Then, when we moved to San Antonio, I played football from the time I was 6 years old up until the time I was 17.

Editor: Seventeen. The high school years. Tell me about that time.

Shawn: I was the new kid at Randolph High School, where I went from seventh to twelfth grade. I fit in rather quickly. Again, I think it was due to football. I always played at the Air Force Base and bragged about being a big-time player. I was an outside linebacker who always played both ways. I also played baseball and track, but I concentrated mostly on football. I was a pretty decent student who made As, Bs and Cs without trying that hard. I think, had I applied myself a little bit more, I might have made straight As, but I was a jock. You know, captain of the football team.

Editor: Are you telling me that this is where you might have developed your reputation as a ladies man ?

Shawn: I was always a one woman kind of guy. I almost always had a girlfriend. I never ran around with a bunch of girls. I always dated the most attractive and intelligent girls. I was shy, though. I usually didnt approach girls; they usually approached me. In time I became more relaxed, but at that time I didnt say much. I guess you could say I was introverted that is, of course, before I got into professional wrestling.

Editor: Which leads me to my next question: Your start in professional wrestling. How ? When ? Where ? Who ?

Shawn: Its getting to be a boring story to everybody, but I'll tell you about it anyway. I got to stay up late one time for the first time when I was 12 years old. At about 12:30, Southwest Championship Wrestling came on. The first time I saw it, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew that was what I wanted to do. I think I saw it as a way to somehow get to show my athleticism and also to get to perform in front of people. Again, I was always shy, but when I had a chance, I showed off ! I was always under a helmet you know, with a football uniform on I couldn't do it just as Shawn.

Editor: How did you get started in the business ?

Shawn: On graduation day everybody as alwayswas asking me what I wanted to do. Everybody was going to college, but I still wanted to be a wrestler. I wrestled for my senior talent show, I went to the wrestling matches all the time, I had every magazine I still have a stack of wrestling magazines to this day that is 6 feet high so I just continued to bother my parents about it ! Then my father, who was doing a lot of golfing at the time, met some people one of them being a guy who said that he knew the promoter of Southwest Championship Wrestling. After nagging him and nagging him some more, my father finally took me down to meet the gentleman, who was a used car salesman you know, your generous and honest type of guy. But, anyway, at 17 years old, I went and talked to him well, he and my father did most of the talking. They discussed how I should go to college first and after I was done with college, if I still wanted to be a wrestler, he would introduce me to someone who would train me, and we would go from there.

Editor: So, you went along with that plan ?

Shawn: For the time being. I went to one semester at Southwest Texas State University where I was supposed to attend classes. As it turned out, I didnt go much, but I did learn all that partying stuff. Thats when Animal House was big, and I was your regular John Belushi running around with all my buddies. My dad bought me and a high school friend of mine a trailer so we didnt have to live on campus. We just went hog wild and had fun !

Editor: What happened next ?

Shawn: Well, one night we were having a party at the trailer, and I went into the bathroom I dont know how much of this you can use, but its the truth. I grabbed my electric razor, purposely gaffed my head with it, started bleeding, then went after my buddies screaming, I'm a wrestler ! I'm a wrestler ! I chased my best friend up the street where he went running up to a store, got on the phone with my mom and said, You've got to make him a wrestler; he's going insane ! After pummeling my friend for a while, I grabbed the phone and my mom said, You've got to come home ! So I finished that semester, and then my dad and I went back to that used car salesman. My dad told him, You'd better forget the school stuff because he's wasting my money ! So then the guy introduced me to a wrestler named Jose Lothario. I started training when I was about 18. After two months, Jose told me that I was ready. I mean, I had practiced everything before we even started training ! I knew what I was doing long before I even got into it. I'd already been watching it for years, and I was obsessed with it ! I practiced on every friend I had in high school ! Jose mostly got me in shape and taught me the finer points of wrestling.

Editor: Tell us about your first professional match.

Shawn: Two weeks after my nineteenth birthday, Jose got me booked in a territory called Mid south Wrestling, which was being run by Bill Watts. Bill was the first guy I ever worked for. I worked for him for six months. I had my first match which I lost in Lake Charles, Louisiana, against a guy named Art Cruz. I went to a 15 minute time limit draw in my second match, and I finally won my third one. After Mid south, Bill got me booked in Kansas City with Bob Geigel. It was in Kansas City that I met Marty Jannetty and tag teamed with him once. We got to hang around with each other a bit, and that's when I became a troublemaker. I never talked to anybody before I met Marty. (laughing) He turned me into a degenerate. He was a crazy man ! After wrestling there for three months, Jose and Chavo Guerrero called me and told me that Southwest Championship Wrestling had turned into Texas All Star Wrestling, and they wanted me to come back home and be the hometown boy. So I went back to San Antonio and started wrestling.

Editor: From there, you found your way into the AWA (American Wrestling Alliance), where you worked for Verne Gagne. It was in the AWA that, along with Marty Jannetty, the Midnight Rockers were formed. In the months that followed, the Midnight Rockers became a sensation, thus allowing you and Marty to make your first mark in the wrestling world. Tell me about that time and about your relationship with Marty Jannetty outside of the ring.

Shawn: We were best friends. I dont think you could get any closer than we were. Looking back on it, I dont know, maybe it wasnt the relationship I thought it was, but nonetheless we were close. We were all each other had. We lived in the same area, we traveled together, we were with each other for practically 24 hours a day for six years and we had a blast ! We were doing something that we loved to do ! We were rocking the house, we were having good matches, we were learning and we were having fun ! We werent making huge money, but we were making good money. I was driving a 300ZX, and we were partying and just having a blast !

Editor: Next stop, World Wrestling Federation. How did that come about ?

Shawn: While we were in the AWA, we got a lot of exposure on cable TV. In time we got a call from the World Wrestling Federation and were asked to come in for a TV taping. The night of the taping our first night in we had a little fun at a nightclub, and the second day we got fired. (laughing) The second day we were gone ! So it was back down to the trenches again. We went down to the Continental Wrestling Alliance, where we had to live in Birmingham, Alabama. AGH ! I lived in this underground, dark, dreary apartment and was MISERABLE ! I felt as if I had blown EVERYTHING ! Somehow I dont know how it all became my fault. It soon became a HUGE story ! There were a lot of people jealous of Marty and me back then.

Editor: How long was it before you were given a second chance by the World Wrestling Federation ?

Shawn: One more year. After Continental we went back to the AWA, where we won the Tag Team Title again. Soon after that we got another call from the World Wrestling Federation asking us if we were ready to be good boys. I was 23 at the time.

Editor: After going through the ranks and paying your dues, how did you adjust to finally making it to the big league ? Was the transition difficult for you ?

Shawn: It was obviously the big leagues ! Marty and I were both around people whom we had watched for years ! It was like a dream come true ! We were among the biggest names in wrestling. We were going to New York City. We were going to Los Angeles. We were going to Chicago, AND we were performing in front of huge crowds of people ! Then, on top of all that, there were still the pay per views ! It was certainly everything we expected and more ! And we were still having a good time ! I think the Rockers had a lot of influence on tag team wrestling in general. We were the team, I think, that pioneered the way for a lot of tag teams. We made people look lazy. We made people get off their butts and have to work a lot harder !

Editor: In time came the break up of the Rockers. Since the bulk of the success in your career came within the tag team ranks, was there any doubt in your mind that Shawn Michaels could make it in the World Wrestling Federation as an individual performer ? Any insecurities ? What was going through your mind at the time ?

Shawn: No. I always knew from the day that I broke in that what I wanted to do was be a singles superstar, be the best and be a world champion NO DOUBT ! The tag team thing just happened. When I met Marty, we tagged one time, and something was just there. He knew it, and I knew it. We were away from each other for almost a year before we saw each other again and formed the Midnight Rockers. It was just something that ... it was the road that had to be traveled. I think it had to happen before everything else happened for me in singles. Again, at that time the wrestling business was dominated by something different, and I dont know what. It was just something different. We just gelled together. We had magic, Marty and I. I enjoyed every second of it, but there was never any doubt in my mind that one day I would eventually go by myself and be successful. That was always my very first primary goal. I have to start paying back. Thats what I'm going to do from now until the day I get out of the business.

Editor: How emotional was that Royal Rumble press conference for you ?

Shawn: The entire thing was emotional for me. From the time I got hurt to the time I came back to now. This has all been very emotional for me. I thought I wasn't ever going to get to do one thing the only thing that I had ever, EVER wanted to do. To see people at that press conference worried about me ... I even saw some people crying ! They were worried that I wasn't going to be able to come back. That stuff gets to me. It may be fantasy to some people, but this was all very REAL to me. You've got guys out there who write they think they know everything about the wrestling business. None of them know me. None of them know Shawn personally. People think they know Michael (Shawns legal first name). There is no Michael. I'm Shawn. I've never been Michael a day in my life. My mother has called me Shawn from the day I was born ! Anybody who knows me knows that I'm Shawn, and they know how much this thing means to Shawn. These guys who write this stuff how this is a work and that is a work, thats bull!@#$%! This was all REAL to me. That press conference proved it ! The response from the fans proved that it was REAL to them, and if its REAL to them and its REAL to me then its REAL !

Editor: Based on your personal comeback, would you consider winning the past Royal Rumble the highlight of your career ?

Shawn: So far. Actually, coming out before the Rumble to that response, to the people ... for them to acknowledge in the way they did that they were happy to see me back ... was the single greatest feeling I've had in the 11 years I've been in this business. I thought I'd felt it at Madison Square Garden after WrestleMania X, when the people acknowledged they were thankful for my giving the performance I gave. But to get it again ten fold, as the good guy, as the guy the people feel is their guy and I am; I'm their guy now, and that's what I want to be is the greatest feeling in the world. I'm not the guy in the yellow tights who had the entire world believing in him and supporting him and who then turned his back on everyone because it wasn't real to him. I couldn't live with myself if I did that. I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I wasn't being honest with everybody. I have been ! If anybody wants to know anything about me, I tell them as best as I can ! If its none of their business, I'll tell them its none of their business. But if Im going to get the response I did at the Rumble, then I believe I have to be as good to these people as they are to me. They're with me now, I'm their boy and I'm going to stay their boy ! That's why I'm calling them my Kliq now, because thats what it is. They showed me that they believe in me and that they're in it with me. All sports guys say how important people are, and I don't know whether they believe it or not, but I have to say that I'm a firm believer now. I'm getting to feel it. I felt it in Fresno, and it was a blast ! I do want to rule this business ! And everybody can take pride in the fact that the guy who's going to run this business is a good, honest guy.

Editor: Does there ever come a time when you regret being in the spotlight. Is it difficult for you to have a personal life ?

Shawn: Its becoming difficult in that I don't have a whole lot of personal life. Everybody prints everything about my personal life in the papers, magazines and stuff like that. Every now and then it does get to be too much. People are all over you; your phone rings the entire time when you're with your parents or you're with your girlfriend, BUT at the same time you don't have the right to put your face on TV every week, you don't have the right to have all these people come and see you and not acknowledge them. So, it's difficult sometimes, yeah, but its a price tag I'm willing to pay. I'm going to wake up on the wrong side of the bed like everybody else. I have good days and bad days, but for the most part I have to say that I'm diggin it. I enjoy it. I'm trying to be as good as I can about it. I am emotional, and a regular real kind of guy. I don't think I would ever say no to a fan, but I might run to my room real fast or something because I do need a couple of minutes to myself. But again, if that's as bad as it gets, I can handle it !

Editor: Do you feel as if you're misunderstood ?

Shawn: Sure. There are few people in this business that really, really know me. That's because most of them haven't bothered to take the time which is fine. Other people have busy agendas too, but misconceptions are going to happen. People are going to judge you. That's just something I cant control. Again, what happens within this business is not that much of my concern anymore. I can look at myself in the mirror, and I know that I've gotten where I've gotten because of hard work not because I stabbed anybody in the back. People can spread rumors about me, and they can talk about me all they want, but the fans now know what kind of man I am. They know this job is real important to me, and they know it because I love it, I love to perform for them and I love to make them yell. All that other stuff is going to happen it comes along with the job. The more popular you get, the worse it gets, the more people take shots at you. I think I'll probably worry about it more when nobody is talking about me at all. Along with all the good comes all the bad. It's a whole new life, and it's a whole new experience. But again, I asked for it, didn't I ? So, I guess I'm going to have to take it ! It's a war I'm willing to fight !

Editor: Let's talk about your loyalty to the World Wrestling Federation. You know, there have been some defectors recently, thinking that perhaps the grass is greener on the other side. Perhaps being coaxed by the almighty dollar. What is your position on this issue ? To Shawn Michaels, is this the money ?

Shawn: To me, its all about performing. It's about hearing the pop. It's about hearing the yell. I figure that everything else is going to come along and it has. I've been fortunate enough to do very well in this business. I've had people offer me huge sums of money and a lot less work ... but the fact of the matter is that the difference between the World Wrestling Federation and everywhere else is that the competition and the opportunity are all here. Everywhere else its determined where you're at when you come through the door. At least here, youe got a chance to be on top. I started at the bottom jerkin the curtain, and now I'm the top dog here in the Federation. That because I've worked my ass off. Everywhere else it doesnt matter. Everywhere else its politicking. Everywhere else its who you know. I dont want that. As far as my relationship with Vince McMahon, it's gotten to be a lot better. I tell him when I think he's wrong, and I tell him when I think he's right. We argue, we fight, were friends, were enemies, were everything. But he respects me, and I respect him. As far as I'm concerned, the World Wrestling Federation is about performing for the fans and giving the best for the fans. That's not the way it is everywhere else. As far as the money goes, I make wonderful money, and I work hard for it. My dad worked hard for his. That's how people are these days. Things are tough now. I sleep well knowing that I work my ass off for everything that I have. I don't have any desire to do anything else. I'm happy here because the World Wrestling Federation is about wrestling. It's about the wrestling business. It's about performing for the fans.

Editor: Is there anybody in the business you feel may be a threat to you and your destiny ?

Shawn: There isn't anybody in this business that I sweat. I can outwork anybody in this business or at least go toe to toe with them. If there is anybody who thinks he's better than me, he can certainly come here and try. And I'm sure they're going to tear down the house but they're not going to be better than me. If they are, then I'll just work my ass off more to get even better. People don't like that, and everybody has their favorites and that's fine, but people now know the integrity of Shawn Michaels. I'm going to do something that a lot of guys in this business have never done and dont care to do that's leave this business with my integrity and my dignity intact !

Editor: If you weren't Shawn Michaels the sports entertainer, what would you be ?

Shawn: I dont know. I have no idea. I never had any desire to do anything else. I can't conceive of being anything other than Shawn Michaels the World Wrestling Federation superstar AND champion ! After I do that ? I might be Shawn Michaels the Hollywood actor OR the guy that sits around in the Calvin Klein underwear to get his picture taken.

Editor: What about marriage ? Family ? Shawn: Oh, I'd like to do that someday, but I dont know if there's a woman out there who would be able to put up with me and my schedule and everything else. But ultimately, I want all that old fashioned kind of stuff because that's how I was raised. I was raised around family. I have two wonderful parents, and were all very close. Were like the mob. (laughing) You know, you hurt one of us, and we all come after you. I want a woman who's going to stand by me. An attractive, intelligent woman I can't help it. I want kids. I want all that stuff.

Editor: When all is said and done, and the name Shawn Michaels is brought up, what do you want people to remember the most ?

Shawn: Work ethic. How hard he worked for himself and for the fans enjoyment. It's not about money because the money's going to come, and I've made some ... I've done alright. It's about being the best in this business, even just having somebody call me the best. Again, everybody is going to have favorites, but if somebody comes up and says, You were the best at this time, or you were the best at that time or you tore down the house, that's the greatest reward. I want to be known as the guy who went out there and worked his ass off every night. I want to be known as the guy who went out there every pay per view and tried to steal the show. I want to be known as the guy who, when you heard his name, you said, He's going to give us his best !