Shawn Michaels: The Heartbreak Kid
By Jonathan Cyprowski
The 700 Club
“It really became, you know, I’m a wrestler. That’s what we do,” said WWE Wrestler Shawn Michaels. “There was also a certain badge of honor in being one of those guys that could go out there, tear down that house in front of those people and then go and run all night, then get up the next day and do it again. You wore that like a badge of honor.”
From the time world wrestling entertainment superstar Shawn Michaels was in high school, there was no greater badge of honor to be earned than to wear a championship belt as a professional wrestler. It consumed every part of his life, and eventually his pursuit of the belt consumed him.
“I just couldn’t get enough of it. And I just knew that that was what I wanted to do. The hard part obviously was trying to convince everybody else that I wanted to do it,” Shawn said.
Shawn went to college to make his parents happy, but that only left him frustrated.
“After a couple of semesters, I came back to my dad and told him that ‘I’m wasting your money and I feel like I am wasting my time. I’m trying to do this, please let me try that wrestling. You know I can do it,’” Shawn said.
Not only did Shawn do it. He turned some heads in the process. After he met wrestling legend José Lethario, Shawn quickly got booked in the mid-south circuit in Louisiana. The pros quickly saw Shawn’s natural ability and began to teach him the ways of professional wrestling.
His career hit the fast lane, both in and out of the ring. He made a lasting friend and partner in Marty Janetty and the duo soon became “The Midnight Rockers.”
“Professionally, we were moving up, we were getting notoriety, we were beginning to draw money. Ultimately, in that line of work, that’s the bottom-line. So the WWE wanted to bring us up, but they were concerned about our reputation; we had made one by then as far as our extracurricular activities,” Shawn said.
What was their reputation?
“Partiers,” Shawn said, “also partiers bordering on troublemakers though.”
“At the time I thought being a rebel was cool, doing it to stick it to the man. You know, if you’re desperate enough for attention, any attention will make you feel better. I was so desperate just to be noticed, to get that attention,” Shawn said, “it’s like a child, negative attention is better than no attention at all.”
When they finally made it to the WWE, Shawn and Marty’s reputation as troublemakers made them a lightning rod for negative attention. A fight with another wrestler in a bar one night brought them both before WWE president Vince McMann.
Shawn remembered the conversation well:
“He goes, ‘nice boots.’
I said, ‘thank you very much.’
He goes, ‘they are made for walking you know.’
And we go, ‘Ohhhh no.’
And he goes, ‘ha-ha, I’m just kidding, come on in here.’ Brought us in and then he fired us, with a smile on his face, nicely - but, fired us nonetheless. He just told us, ‘look, they don’t like you here, if they don’t like you, you’re not going to make it.’”
Shawn began using drugs to ease his disappointment and dull his anger. Before long it became an addiction.
“After the incident with the WWE, it took a real downward, you know, then it became more of an anger thing, giving up,” Shawn said. “I can remember thinking about, ‘boy you know, it wouldn’t bother me if I ended it.’”
Shawn felt the need for a change. He ended his long running partnership with Marty and struck out on his own. Despite what the critics said, the WWE decided they could work with Shawn’s image, and “The Heartbreak Kid” was born.
“You’re not supposed to be able to move up like that, and you’ll only be able to get to this certain level anyway, because you’re not that big, you’re never going to be the number one guy,” Shawn said, mimicking what others had told him. “At the time, that wasn’t my mind. I was moving up, things were going well, going to the intercontinental championship; now I am exceeding where I truthfully in my heart of hearts thought I could ever be.”
Even though Shawn’s career had taken off, his personal life got worse. He started “Degeneration X,” a group of young rebels that broke every rule in the wrestling world. Pretty soon Shawn was back in the fast lane, and his drug use accelerated.
“At the time, I didn’t get the feeling I was abusing any of it, I guess because I was still able to do my job. And again, I had always sort of looked back on people and said, ‘really the only difference between me and the guy on the street was that I was really good at it.’ You know, I was one of those ‘good’ drug addicts,” Shawn said. “I suppose I hid it better than anyone else. You had to be able to do it all. You’ve got to be able to go 100 miles per hour in the ring, out of the ring, partying, and you’ve still got to make all your commitments. So that’s why I didn’t see anything wrong with it.”
Shawn didn’t see it coming, but his life was about to change. It started when he met Rebecca. In less than six weeks, the couple married. But, when Rebecca became pregnant with their first child, Shawn knew things had to change. So, when Rebecca suggested they go to church that Sunday, he agreed. There, for the first time, his life truly changed.
“He just changed my heart. That’s why it has stuck. If I truly believe everything that’s in that book, God is in control. He is in control. He’s working for my good. Doesn’t mean everything’s going to be smooth, but that’s all I needed to know. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a mountaintop with this valley,” Shawn said.
Shawn and Rebecca now have two children, and continue to face each challenge life throws at them together. With a changed heart and a new passion for life, Shawn continues to use wrestling as a platform to share his story.
“I’ve always wanted to be a rebel. I’ve never wanted to do what everybody else is doing. Man, I’ve got news for you, that is what I am really doing now, and it’s the coolest thing ever. I got to know the person of Christ. I see him as one of the greatest rebels of all time. That’s what really appeals to me,” Shawn said. “It’s hope, it’s victory. I don’t know, there ain’t no downside.”
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