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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

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Retrospective: HBK and The 4 Year Hiatus

By @Cool_Calm_Chris 
Christopher Evans 

Shawn Michaels had an incredible run in his return to WWE in 2002. In his non-sanctioned match with Triple H at SummerSlam 2002, the performance he put on in that match against one of the top wrestlers in the company could only be pulled off by the Heartbreak Kid himself. It were as though Shawn had never left. He had still been able to perform the same aerial maneuvers that made him popular throughout his career and still could take the same bumps even with his bad back. However, it was a long road to get to this point in his career, which is why today we will take a look at Shawn Michaels four year absence from in-ring competition.

At Royal Rumble 1998, Shawn Michaels wrestled the Undertaker in a casket match for the WWF Championship. During the match he took a fall outside the ring and barely grazed the casket with his lower back. Michaels was able to finish the match, however as noted by Shawn himself in his DVD “Heartbreak and Triumph”, he could barely get out of bed. The injury turned out to be two herniated discs in his back and one that was crushed. Shawn was unable to compete in the next two pay-per-view’s, however he sucked up the pain to do the job for Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 14 for the WWF Championship. This would be Shawn’s last match for 4 years.

When Michaels got injured, he was at the top of his game in the company. He was legitimately the best wrestler on the roster and it was a hard pill for him to swallow having to retire early due to a coincidence. He would take some time away from WWF until July of 1998 when he made an appearance on an episode of RAW IS WAR. In November of 1998, Shawn would become the new WWF Commissioner replacing Sgt. Slaughter who had been the commissioner since the RAW IS WAR after SummerSlam 1997. Shawn had been involved in a number of angles, even reuniting with D-Generation X in early 1999, however seeing Shawn Michaels on television and not competing left a sour taste in fans eyes. No longer would we get to see the Heartbreak Kid flying around the ring superkicking everyone in sight.

In early 1999 Shawn Michaels had been fired as WWF Commissioner by Vince McMahon. After that, his appearances on WWF television would become even more scarce. During this time, Shawn Michaels would open up his own wrestling school in 1999, in which he ran up until his return to pro wrestling in 2002. One of the more notable graduates of that school is the now retired Daniel Bryan, who even had a dark match in WWF during this time. With Shawn now having more time off, he would find himself indulging heavily into drugs and alcohol.

Shawn already had a problem with drugs during his career, most of which affected his personality and interaction with co-workers. Shawn had a dealing with these issues well after his marriage to his wife Rebecca Hickenbottom and the birth of his son in 2000. Shawn would eventually put down the drugs and alcohol and become a non denominational Christian thanks to his wife.

After his appearance as special guest referee in the iron man match between Triple H and The Rock for the WWF Championship at Judgment Day 2000, Michaels would become even more scarce in his television appearances. At Royal Rumble 2002, Shawn did do an interview via satellite at WWF New York, and by this time he had become clean and lived a better life. After taking 18 months away from live appearances, Shawn would return to WWE in June of 2002 as the newest member of the New World Order. It was only a matter of time before Shawn wrestled his first match in four years against his best friend Triple H.

The career of Shawn Michaels spans over 20 years, with classic matches seen and unseen by the mainstream public. However it was this four year period that really defined Shawn as a person. He was able to clean himself up and embrace the Lord all for the sake of his family and friends. This time off helped Michaels return to the ring better than he ever was before.



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