This week Shawn Michaels turns 51. Not exactly a Heartbreak Kid anymore! Michaels’ legendary career is split evenly between his early wild-child years, and his later respectable elder statesman run, but regardless of era, Michaels’ in-ring mastery remained a dependable constant.
Today we’re going to look at that contentious early era. The rise, the controversy, and also that time he was on Baywatch. Here’s a few things you may not know about the Shawn Michaels that was more into raising hell than hallelujahs …
Shawn Michael’s wrestling career began at a high-school talent show.
Michael Shawn Hickenbottom was born July 22, 1965, in the town of Chandler, Ariz. Shawn, who swapped his first and middle names long before he got into wrestling, was uprooted frequently until his Air Force officer father finally settled in San Antonio when he was in middle school.
Shawn was a star high-school football player, but his real passion was pro wrestling. The young heartbreaker regularly watched the likes of Tully Blanchard, Gino Hernandez and Bruiser Brody battle in Southwest Championship Wrestling and would play wrestler with his friends. Michaels’ first battle in front of an audience came during a high-school talent show, where he and a friend staged a match, complete with chair shots and “blood.”
“I remember during the match, my friend Kenny hit me with a chair, and I fell down under the table and poured food coloring on myself as blood. It was a lot of fun. He and I even got second or third place for it.”
Unbeknownst to Michaels, he’d still be doing the same thing decades later, although his days of being runner up were numbered.
WWE fired him for for his hard-partying ways.
How could these guys possibly rub anyone the wrong way?
At 19, Michaels began training with Mexican journeyman wrestler José Lothario, and within a couple months was out on the road, working various Midwestern and Southeast promotions. While wrestling in Kansas City, Shawn met another brash, if slightly more experienced, wrestler named Marty Jannetty. Before long, they formed the hunky, high-flying tag team, The Midnight Rockers. In 1987 Michaels and Jannetty got the call from WWF, but the good news wouldn’t last long.
See, The Midnight Rockers liked to party. Like, a lot; so much so that none of the WWF guys wanted anything to do with them, and lemme tell you, partying too much for ’80s WWF locker room is no small feat. Stories vary, but basically, our heroes were invited to the bar their first night in, and Shawn ended up getting belligerent and breaking a bottle over his own head. This story got back to Vince McMahon, probably mutating a bit along the way, and Shawn and Marty were released from WWF only a couple weeks after joining the company. Thankfully for wrestling fans, Vince couldn’t quit Shawn Michaels that easily.
The Rockers were screwed out of a planned tag-team title reign.
In 1988, Michaels and Jannetty were rehired, lost the “Midnight” part of their name, and quickly became one of WWF’s most popular tandems. Unfortunately, tag team gold never followed. Yup, if you’re listing off the greatest tag teams to never win the titles, The Rockers are pretty much number one with a bullet.