Why I’m Not a HBK Fan
– Chris O’Mealy 8/22/17 – 9:25Pm
HBK is loved by many, but not our Chris O’Mealy
2017 marks twenty years since the debut of the renegade faction known as D-Generation X. This group consisted of many notable names in the WWF, including Triple H, Chyna, Rick Rude, The New Age Outlawz, X-Pac and Tori…okay so not every name was notable. One of the ragtag misfits who helped get the faction off the ground was legendary performer Shawn Michaels. Also known as the Heartbreak Kid, or HBK for short, Shawn Michaels became one of the greatest performers in the history of professional wrestling. Starting his WWF career as one half of the Rockers tag team, HBK would turn on his partner and establish himself as a singles competitor. The career of HBK is one for the record books, with countless matches being among the best ever seen inside the squared circle. Just one look at Shawn’s accomplishments tell you everything you need to know about him:
Legendary feuds with other Hall of Famers, like Bret Hart, Razor Ramon, and Stone Cold Steve Austin; countless WrestleMania moments, including the ladder match with Razor at 10, the Iron Man match with Bret Hart at 12, the birth of the Austin era at 14, the comeback with Chris Jericho at 19, great matches with the likes of Triple H, Chris Benoit, Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero, and two legendary performances with the Undertaker…heck he even had a match with Mr. McMahon that wasn’t awful!
There’s so much more that can be said about Shawn Michaels. He’s an inspiration to so many people both fan and wrestler alike. His born-again Christian lifestyle has saved him personally, and he has become a happily retired family man who provides endless advice to young wrestlers.
With all that said, it often comes as a surprise to many people when wrestling is discussed and they discover I am not a Shawn Michaels fan. Fans are often shocked to see me leave out HBK on any list of favorite wrestlers I come up with. It’s not hard to understand that confusion. After all, HBK has taken part in so many of my all-time favorite matches! HBK-Bret at WrestleMania XII for example, and HBK-Y2J at WrestleMania XIX, are two of my favorite matches of all time, not just at WrestleMania. I can even say the same for the WrestleMania X ladder match with Razor Ramon, the WrestleMania XIV battle with Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the light vs. dark battle with the Undertaker at WrestleMania XXV.
How can I like so many of Shawn’s matches and not call myself a fan of his? For the answer, we have to go back in time a little bit.
When I got the absolute privilege to step into the professional wrestling business as the ring announcer for World Star Wrestling – and make no mistake, I consider even being able to be on the inside an incredible opportunity that I’ll never be able to pay back in full, as the business owes me nothing and I owe it everything – I instantly began to watch wrestling in a new light. From my first time in a ring in December 2004, until I made my debut in May 2005, I started to view professional wrestling from the point of view of the workers themselves. I got a lesson in ring psychology, and began to learn how matches were put together and how to build angles and why certain things happen the way they do. As a result I gained a new appreciation for the business I loved, and started to become bigger fans of talents I never cared about before. One of those talents was Shawn Michaels, who was having the best run of his career. I could now appreciate his talents more than ever, after refusing to be a fan of his since the mid-90’s. You see, I was a mega-fan of Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Bret was my hero, and I loved every single thing that he did. Who was Bret’s mortal enemy in the 1990’s? Shawn Michaels. As a fan, I loathed Shawn and how he treated Bret. After the Montreal Screwjob, I couldn’t even look at Shawn Michaels without wanting to knock his block off. I was thrilled when he vanished from the WWF, seemingly never to be heard from again.
Obviously becoming an insider changes one’s perspective, and I came to understand and respect Shawn’s style. But becoming an insider also caused me to judge wrestlers from a completely different point of view than ever before – who they were as people. Being in the locker room quickly taught me lessons of respect and humility, and while I always tried to respect every single person I worked with, it was obvious that respect wasn’t always given back.
For example, a New York area wrestler who I won’t name here flat out refused to shake my hand because I was “just the ring announcer.” He belittled and berated me as a person to the point that I actually collected his info from his friends instead. He was also extremely disrespectful to our promoter and our head trainer, so he was pretty much done after that show. The thing is, he was a good performer. He was athletic and worked an exciting style but also made everything he did make sense in the ring. Maybe that’s why he had such an ego, because he truly was good? I don’t know, as I never heard his name again after that one show anywhere on the independents. Regardless of how good his skills were, his people skills were atrocious. Such is the case with any wrestler anywhere. They can be great or exciting to watch, but that doesn’t mean they will be kind or courteous to their fellow workers. Such was the case with HBK.
As I became involved in locker rooms, I began to develop a distaste for wrestlers with ego problems. As much as I love Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash, I learned about their attitudes in WCW and started viewing them in a new light. While I can still disassociate a performer with a person, as I explained in my earlier article about Chris Benoit, it still made it a bit more challenging to go back and watch material during time periods when that wrestler’s ego was at its peak. Such was the case with Shawn Michaels.
I had been smartened up on the business, and learned more about what kind of person Shawn Michaels was through various interviews, shoots, autobiographies, and even from the man himself. HBK was, to put it bluntly, a mess. He had a horrendous attitude and didn’t care about anyone other than himself and his closest friends. He was also a horrible pill popper, which didn’t help his reputation either. The more I heard, the less I liked. Knowing Shawn was involved in the Montreal Screwjob really soured me on him for a long time, but learning how much he plain didn’t care made it worse. Further stories from guys like Scott Steiner and the Harris Brothers also made me lose respect for Shawn Michaels, because he would be such a cocky talker, but would cower and cry when directly confronted. That kind of attitude made him fall really low in how I viewed him, even if he was a great performer.
The combination of hating him as a fan, and then failing to respect him as a man, carried with me for a very long time. That’s why I am not a Shawn Michaels fan.
But what about today, in 2017? Things change.
Today I see Shawn Michaels as he is today. Someone who found faith and family and cleaned up his life in order to give back to the business he loved and respected. He made peace with all of his enemies, including Bret Hart, and retired in spectacular fashion. He is a completely different man then he was in the 1990’s. I can easily respect that.
My change of heart over Shawn Michaels happened gradually. Like I said, I was sour on him as a fan until I broke into the business. Then I learned to appreciate his work, but soured on him as a human being. Slowly but surely, as his career pressed on in the 2000’s, I had a change of heart for Shawn Michaels. As a performer, I acknowledge him as one of the best ever. As a human being, I respect the changes he made to his life and how many rights he’s tried to wrong. I can now look at Shawn Michaels and see him as one of the best of all time.
If this is the case now, people still ask me why Shawn Michaels still doesn’t make my top ten list. Even if I can have a change of heart about the man, old habits die hard. It’s difficult to go back and suddenly start putting someone you didn’t like for so many years on a pedestal. I hated Shawn Michaels from the mid-90’s until practically the 2010’s. That’s a long time to completely change your mind about someone, no matter how far along you’ve come in changing your opinion. I’ll always acknowledge Shawn Michaels now as a great wrestler, but I’ll never go back and replace my other childhood favorites as a result.
And hey, Bret Hart, you’re one of the best ever. I am proud to have met you on my 21st birthday and still treasure the autographed DVD you gave me where you wrote happy birthday for me. But come on man, stop putting so much salt on your wrestling opinions.
If anyone is curious, yes it works both ways. Bret will always rank on my top ten lists, but I also acknowledge that he is kind of a sourpuss these days. So yes, the pendulum swings both ways.
In fact, unless you’re a WWE production guy with bucky beaver teeth, my opinion of you can always be changed for the better.
Thank you, HBK. I may not have been a fan of yours, but I respect you today for your matches and the person you are now.
Question & Answer
Quick shout out to my readers who keep pushing Veracity’s numbers up weekly. I appreciate you all, and this little question and answer segment is a small way to give back to you!
Q: What direction would you take with Baron Corbin after the failed cash in in order to rebuild his character? (@Destroyer_Moyer via Twitter)
A: Interesting question. Baron Corbin became only the third Money in the Bank briefcase holder to fail at his cash-in attempt. With SummerSlam only days away, I was genuinely surprised that WWE gave away this spot on Smackdown and removed any dynamic of him cashing in on Jinder Mahal or Shinsuke Nakamura on Sunday. The rumor mill says WWE has lost faith in Corbin recently, and with Jinder being considered a failed experiment, they grew cold feet on Corbin and decided to make him an unsuccessful story. Now granted, this doesn’t mean he can’t come back from something like this. All WWE has to do is use his loss as a catalyst for Baron Corbin to hurt people, seek revenge, stalk the champion if it ends up being Shinsuke Nakamura (would make more sense with a babyface champion). I understand why they do things like this if they feel they made a mistake, but I still think they could’ve had him cash-in at SummerSlam and fail, creating more intrigue, than a quick throwaway on Smackdown to further his match with John Cena. This makes me think they plan to push him down the card. While I do think Corbin is unpolished, he still vastly improved from his NXT days, and they could be making a mistake here. I’ll withhold my judgment on the matter until I see how everything plays out, but I’m not really seeing this as a positive for the future direction of Baron Corbin. He really needs to go over Cena at SummerSlam now, because if he loses against John, especially clean, it will really hurt his credibility.
Q: Why does WWE invest time into giving a talent the MITB if they are just going to have them fail to cash in? (ThisIsChev via Twitter)
A: I don’t think at the time WWE was planning for Corbin’s cash-in to be a failure. I think they legitimately saw the potential in him to be the champion and chose that to be his direction until recent events caused them to change their mind. When John Cena won it, they didn’t have any ideas in place for anyone else, so they used it as fuel in his feud with CM Punk, since they didn’t want the belt to come off Punk yet and anyone else failing at the time could’ve hurt them. With Damien Sandow, it was always planned that he was going to fail at his cash-in, and the plan was to build a story around that (which I don’t think worked out very well). As for Corbin, I think the plan was for him to be champion, but they got cold feet, and made a mistake of taking the briefcase from him now. They could have kept it on him for a while, and looked to see if he was going to redeem himself, but with the ever changing minds of Vince McMahon and the guy with the bucky beaver teeth, the decision was made and it’s done. Done done. Dunn Dunn. (Club Kayfabe WrestleTalk listeners will pop for that).
Q: With Ric Flair’s heath issues recently, what’s the one thing that jumps to your mind whenever you think of Flair? (Matt H of pollinracingpodcast.podomatic.com)
A: Man, what horrible news about the Nature Boy. I hope he recovers quickly and painlessly. When I think of Ric Flair, I think of two things – the character (bleach blonde hair, robes/suits, and the WOOOO) and how many classic matches he had with guys like Ricky Steamboat and Sting. Unfortunately, like HBK, I don’t have a ton of respect for the person he used to be. But like HBK, he’s become such a legend and changed his life for the better, I look at him much the same way as I do with Shawn Michaels. Get well soon, Naitch. We’re all pulling for you.
Q: Do you think Lucha Underground actually has a future? (@drkphoenix6913 via Twitter)
A: Provided they get whatever legal or financial issues out of the way they have, or move it to Netflix full time, I think they’ll be around for a very long time. Of course, like other promotions that have risen and then vanished, they NEED to get somewhere permanent. I hope their Netflix deal works out for them. They also have to lock in talent and treat them well. The possibility of a mass exodus of talents won’t do them any favors. I need to see more Lucha Underground. I need a season four. I will be beside myself if they go away, because I truly feel they are the best wrestling product in the United States right now.
Chris O’Mealy is a former indy wrestling promoter, ring announcer, manager and referee. Clearly, he is a big pro wrestling fan. He is the founder and moderator of the Club Kayfabe Creative Community, which you can like on Facebook and follow on Twitter. He hosts three podcasts (Club Kayfabe WrestleTalk, Talkin’ Talkies, and The Jersey Rain Hour) which can all be found on Facebook and Podomatic. He also writes for his own blog which you can read at http://comealy17.wordpress.com. He can be reached on Twitter @chrisomealy or emailed directly at email@example.com. You may also contact him on Facebook (facebook.com/chrisomealy), but he will only accept a friend request if you introduce yourself to him first.