Old-school WWF and The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels

I’m a freak for reading. I always read before I go to bed– which sometimes means I never get to sleep. Most people read to GET tired– but I love it so much I’ll get sucked in and become too buzzed on the material to turn-off the light.

And when I can’t sleep,  I like to write. So I just put down a book I bought when it came out, in 2005. I actually went to Chicago with a male friend who was a fellow wrestling fan, so we could meet the author: WWE Superstar Shawn Michaels, AKA The Heartbreak Kid, or The Showstopper. I told him we should leave early in the morning, but he insisted we’d be fine if we left later, at 10:00 a.m. or maybe it was even 11 a.m. All I know is, the signing was in Water Tower Place, and there was a huge line. To even GET in line to meet him, we were told by staff that it was mandatory to buy the book first– and we could expect to stand in line about three hours. The signing was ending in the afternoon, and there was no guarantee we’d make it in time through. So we agreed to leave, and I was so mad! My friend apologized up and down, but I was so steamed. We had fun checking out the city for a few hours, then went back home to Joliet.

I was bummed because Shawn Michaels is da bomb, and I really wanted to meet him. Plus, besides being an incredible wrestler and personality, he’s gorgeous. I thought the book was pretty much a joke, and read it but wasn’t impressed. It’s called, “Heartbreak & Triumph, The Shawn Michaels Story.” I looked down at it because it was written by Michaels, “with,” Aaron Feigenbaum, so I didn’t give much credit to Michaels himself for writing it. I thought the content was arrogant, cheesy, or boring.

But I just read it again, and I have to say– now I’m impressed. Who cares who wrote it all? The sheer amount of details are mind-bottling! Yes, I said mind-bottling. (That’s for you, Chazz Michael Michaels!) I’ve never understood how people who write memoirs can REMEMBER all that, especially quoting people and entire conversations verbatim. Maybe they do their best to reconstruct things and just fill in the blanks as best they can, who knows. But the dates, the names, everything.

The book not only tells us how Michaels got into the wrestling business, out of it, and back in again– but it explains the business itself. By reading it, I learned terms like babyface, heel, terms like “put-over,” and the individual personalities of the Superstars themselves. And really, what he overcame is astonishing. He overcame major injuries, that should have ended his career. He took time off to heal,  and also got in touch with his faith in God. He returned to the business he loved, and is now so much happier.

Now I find myself in awe of the man, and even appreciating the picture on the cover–which I previously thought was corny. He’s climbing a ladder, one hand out-stretched. He’s got a pensive expression on his face, and is wearing his trademark leather pants. But now I get it– ladder matches were so instrumental in his career, and he had to climb his way out of so many personal and professional falls from glory. He had to overcome his own ego, conquer and addiction to pain medication, and humble himself to become respected by his peers. And it worked for him.

It’s not about the book being great prose– it’s about how honest Michael is in telling his own story. He very directly admits that he betrayed his friends and peers at one point, and is so open about his faults. But he attributes all his success to God, and to his wife Rebecca, and their family. He’s a humbled man, and THAT is inspiring and wonderful. He does really tell a great story, and is informative about the business of professional wrestling while doing it. It almost makes me want to get back into watching wrestling. ALMOST.

I’m not a wrestling fan anymore, but growing up, I was crazy for it! I remember watching Hulk Hogan as a little girl, even the cartoon. Then I became best friends with a girl who was really into it, and I got majorly into wrestling too. She would get all the Pay-per-view events, and I’d go over there and watch them with her at her house. I went to one Summerslam, one Wrestlemania, and a charity softball game in Chicago.  I had some guy friends at school who were really into it, and we’d talk about it in junior high.  I could pick up the phone during Monday Night Raw, and one them would answer and know that’s why I was calling. From 7th grade until sophomore year of high school, I was all about WWF; that would translate roughly to 1993- 1997, I believe.

I was into the wrestling the way most people are into baseball or football or any other national sport. To me, it was amazing. But I believed it was all happening spontaneously, and refused to believe it was choreographed or “fake” in any way. Once I found that out and Shawn Michaels retired, I moved on, and it was never the same for me. I hoped I could get into it again when he returned– but it just wasn’t the same.  Now, I read this book and about how much work it is to plan those matches–and I have respect for that aspect. But the way it is now, it’s just like any other stupid reality TV program. It’s un-watchable, and the characters have fallen so far, it’s just not something I can tolerate.

But I used to really love WWF Superstars like Razor Ramon, Undertaker, “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel, The 1-2-3 Kid, and Bret “The Hitman,” Heart. Those guys are what I consider REAL wrestlers. They were enormous, they were in great shape, they had a specific character and a unique look, their music and act was so fitting and memorable. I still have the Razor Ramon necklace from an arena event, I’m not sure if it was Summerslam or Wrestlemania. When Razor came back in WCW as Scott Hall and Diesel became Kevin Nash, I wasn’t interested anymore– it had lost the magic. Now I understand 1-2-3 is back as Sean Waltman– not the same either.

And last night, I was visiting my bartender friend at her work. “Monday Night Raw,” was on, as were several other programs– it’s a sports bar. The sound was  low, so I couldn’t hear what was happening enough to make sense of it.  I became engaged just watching it– I haven’t been into wrestling for years.

I thought the current newer guys were such a joke! Some dude in a hippie t-shirt, another one in an Adidas tracksuit who looked like a a burnt out rapper.  I saw some couple getting married in the ring, and then they got into a fight. I saw the groom in all white, screaming, and the bride storming away, taunting him. He threw a temper tantrum and broke up the “wedding” set with a gazebo arch, etc.

The only “recent” stars since that I’ve liked at all were The Edge, and The Rock. That’s it. And The Rock was on tonight–he’s still cooking!

Later on, I saw Bret Hart march into the ring– his back as broad as ever, his hair gone almost gray. I couldn’t believe it though– he looked amazing otherwise– his face especially! Gone are the days when his hair was all wet and hanging in his face, with the pink and black leotard with the skull and wings on it, and those ridiculous ’90s sunglasses that were so popular back then, with the rainbow reflective coating. Now he rocks a leather motorcycle jacket and jeans, and he looks fantastic.

“The Best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.”  What a phrase he coined!! I’ll never forget that. And the Boston Crab, what a finisher! I remember the days of the Hart Foundation, with him, Owen, and Anvil.

I saw Undertaker, and was appalled. He had some leathery outfit on that looked like a cross between a Lady Gaga outfit and some occult hooded robe– like he was some ghost of the Apocalypse. I hate this even more than when he re-invented himself as a biker persona and called himself “Deadman, Inc.” Ugh!! Gone was his long hair, and he had a buzzed mohawk?? Undertaker is the most badass man in the business, as far as I’m concerned– and he doesn’t need to change with the times. NO ONE is like him, and no one can roll their eyes to show the whites and flip his hair backwards like he does when coming up from the mat. He’s got a neck tattoo with his wife’s name, Sara, and his finisher is called “The Tombstone,” for a reason. I love his theme music and my favorite was back when he always had Paul Bear precede him into the ring, holding an urn. Iconic!!

I saw the guy that is apparently CM Punk, and found his act and look disappointing. I have a friend who is always raving about him on Facebook and is a wrestling NUT, he goes to a lot of arena events. To me, CM Punk just looked like a poor man’s Razor Ramone, and with worse hair. I didn’t hear any of the theme music since the volume was so low, but that’s probably a good thing. Razor Ramone had the best theme music ever!! Moody, dangerous. He had the whole toothpick gimmick and worked his persona to match his nickname was “The Bad Guy,” to the max. He sneered. He strutted. He kicked ass, with a mullet.

And for a short while, I saw a flurry of old Superstars in the ring. I have no idea what was happening, but I recognized Sgt. Slaughter, Doink, (maybe Dink? I can’t remember!) Rowdy Roddy Piper, and I forgot who else. THAT was a fun moment! I was sitting there, yelling at the TV, having a blast.

For a few hours, it was fun to enjoy pro-wrestling again, even if I’ll never love it again the way I did in the ’90s.

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