Opinion: Shawn Michaels Should Not Spoil His Storybook Retirement
For over eight years, Shawn Michaels has been able to do what few professional wrestling superstars have not: adhere to a retirement stipulation.
Mick Foley put his career on the line against Triple H in February of 2000. He lost the match, and hung it up…until the very next pay per view. He returned to the ring again in 2004, again in 2007, and countless more times after that.
In 2008, Ric Flair was given the most grandiose send-off in WWE history. WrestleMania weekend was focused on the “Nature Boy”: he was the featured inductee at the annual Hall of Fame ceremony, had a glorious entrance and classic final match the next night, and then on Monday Night Raw had an epic farewell featuring the biggest names of wrestling’s past and present.
Though Flair would never again wrestle in WWE, he would take part in matches for TNA Wrestling (now Impact Wrestling). Flair’s return to the ring was sad-to-see not only because a much older Flair was now a complete former shell of his legendary former self, but because his beautiful send off from WrestleMania 24 would now have an asterisk by it.
Following a loss to Roman Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania 33, The Undertaker left his signature trench coat, gloves, and hat in the middle of the ring, seemingly symbolizing his impending retirement. It was an emotional moment to be sure, and one that carried so much magnitude, that, hours later, as WWE crew members disassembled the ring, they dared not touch the Deadman’s gear, leaving it exactly as it was in the center of the squared circle.
Despite this, the Undertaker returned to in ring-action against John Cena a year later, and in several matches since then. Essentially, the Phenom has nullified the post-match ceremony from ‘Mania 33, robbing fans of a legitimate, memorable send off for one of the biggest superstars in wrestling history.
But Shawn Michaels has the opportunity to be different.
WrestleMania 26 in March of 2010 capped off over a year of phenomenal storytelling by WWE writers, Michaels and the Undertaker. A year prior, at WrestleMania 25, HBK came within a heartbeat of defeating the Undertaker and ending his vaunted WrestleMania undefeated streak.
A second Sweet Chin Music hit emphatically late in the contest seemed destined to put away the Deadman, but, in one of the most exciting near-falls you will ever see in wrestling, did not. Moments later, Michaels made the fatal mistake of taking too long to set up a signature top-rope Moonsault.
However, ready for what was coming, the Deadman caught Michaels in mid-air, delivered the second Tombstone Piledriver of the match, and went to 17-0 on Sports Entertainment’s biggest stage.
Michaels would disappear from WWE for several months following the loss, but it was not long after his return in August of ’09 that he would once again set his sights on the Undertaker, seeking any way possible to get a return match with the Reaper.
Given that the Undertaker was now the World Heavyweight Champion, one logical path to a rematch for HBK was to enter, and win, the Royal Rumble match. Michaels entered the 30-man battle royale and his Undertaker-obsessed storyline helped make it one of the most exciting Rumbles in years. Michaels clung onto the top rope in desperation time after time, looking to avoid elimination and punch his ticket to a World Title match with Taker.
Showing just how desperate he was to win, HBK even went so far as to shockingly eliminate his DX member and tag team partner, Triple H. After lasting over 25 minutes, Michaels was eliminated by Batista and the Grand Slam Champion went into a state of shock, trying frantically to re-enter the ring but being disallowed by officials.
After an unsuccessful Royal Rumble, and in a bit of brilliant booking, Michaels realized that with a number one contender to the World Heavyweight Championship named for WrestleMania, his only hope of facing the Undertaker at the Show of Shows was to prevent the Deadman from entering as champion.
And, inside the Elimination Chamber the next month, he made that a reality. Michaels snuck into the Chamber and superkicked the World Heavyweight Championship away from the Undertaker, and into the hands of Chris Jericho.
Seething from losing the Gold, Taker acquiesced to Michaels' WrestleMania rematch request, but with an added stipulation: in addition to his legendary streak being on the line, so too would HBK's career.
The two provided another show-stealing classic inside the University of Phoenix Stadium, but, ultimately, a devastating jumping tombstone brought the Undertaker to 18-0, and brought Shawn Michaels' career to an end.
This was some masterful long-term storytelling, and, combined with HBK’s simple, yet heart-felt goodbye the night after WrestleMania, made Shawn Michaels' retirement one of the most memorable angles in wrestling history.
The passage of time has only served to further add to the legacy of Shawn Michaels’ departure from the world of wrestling. Though he has made many appearances on WWE television, he has not once, in the eight years since his loss to the Undertaker, taken part in another match. Leave it to the “Showstopper” to once again do the seemingly impossible.
Rumors will perhaps always circulate regarding a Michaels comeback, but as of late, they have picked up steam and credence, with many speculating that WWE’s return to Saudi Arabia for their “Crown Jewel” event will feature Triple H and Shawn Michaels teaming up one more time to battle the “Brothers of Destruction”—The Undertaker and Kane.
This is certainly no dream match. This is not Michaels vs AJ Styles. Simply put, this would be a tragic waste of wrestling lore.
HBK has known to date that the right thing to do has been, unlike so many of his peers, to stay out of the ring. His angle and matches with the Undertaker in 2009 and 2010 made for the perfect final chapter to one of the greatest careers of all time. And no match, no pay day, should be worth changing that.
Do you wish to see Michaels return? Let us know in the comments below.