Opinion: Why The Rock Never Fought Shawn Michaels
There is one fantasy match that WWE fans often talk about and also question why it never occurred.
Despite being two of the biggest stars of their generation, The Rock never collided in a WWE ring with Shawn Michaels.
Admittedly their window to do so was relatively limited. The Rock debuted in WWE in November 1996, sixteen months prior to Michaels retiring for the first time in March 1998.
When Michaels returned to the ring in August 2002 at Summerslam, that night was Rock's last as a full-time WWE competitor. Although there were opportunities for the match to happen in later years, when Rock continued to make sporadic special appearances, it never materialized.
One such occasion where the match was rumored to have been offered to The Rock was at Wrestlemania XX in 2004 from Madison Square Garden. If such an offer was made, it wasn't accepted. Rock teamed with Mick Foley in a mid-card match versus the Evolution team of Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Batista. Michaels competed in the main event World Heavyweight Championship match, opposite Triple H, and Chris Benoit.
Back in the late 1980's, Shawn Michaels wrestled on a card with tag team partner, Marty Jannetty in Hawaii which was promoted by The Rock's grandmother, Lia Maivia.
By all accounts, there was an incident wherein Michaels was so rude and disrespectful to her, that the then teenage Rock was aghast and was so affected by the event, that he continued to resent Michaels when he joined the "Heartbreak Kid" in the then-WWF in 1996.
At the time of Rock's debut, Michaels was the WWF Champion and biggest star in the company. It was therefore inconceivable at that point that they would clash in the ring. However later in 1997, Rock began to catch fire as an arrogant heel and a potential match appeared more likely.
This time, however, it was Michaels who was unwilling to work with Rock, perceiving him to be a threat to his good friend, Triple H's spot on the card. Furthering the discord between the two men was Rock's close relationship with Michael's back-stage enemy, Bret Hart.
Rock and Michaels largely kept their distance from each other but the straw that broke the camel's back as far as Rock was concerned was an incident in the build-up to Wrestlemania 15 in spring 1999. Rock was the defending WWF Champion and was scheduled to wrestle white-hot babyface, Stone Cold Steve Austin in the main event. Michaels, who was by this point retired due to a severe back injury campaigned to WWF boss, Vince McMahon that he replace Rock in this spot with his buddy, Triple H. McMahon refused. However, news of Michael's backstage maneuverings somehow got back to Rock, who from that point on refused to have anything to do with him.
Despite the real-life enmity between the two men, the WWF was still keen for the pair to have an interaction so that they could build to a feud of some kind. On the debut episode of Smackdown in summer 1999, Rock challenged Triple H, who by that point was WWF Champion for the belt. Michaels, then the storyline Commissioner was the special referee. Michaels turned heel on Rock during the match by superkicking him, allowing Triple H to win.
However, the real story was what allegedly occurred backstage afterwards. Rock apparently believed that Michaels had struck him unnecessarily hard and brought this to the veteran's attention. As described by Rock's father, Rocky Johnson in an interview with The Hannibal TV Michaels responded with a glib comment that led to Rock flooring him. Whatever, the company had planned for the pair was shelved and Michaels did not appear on WWF television for another nine months.
When Michaels returned as a full-time competitor in 2002, Rock still had no interest in working with him.
The two men finally buried the hatchet in the late 2000's, however, the window for a potential match appears to have closed given that Michaels retired in 2010. This is one fantasy match that will unfortunately never become reality.
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