By Jamie Patton
Wrestlemania 26 closed with Shawn Michaels standing at the top of the ramp for the last time as a performer.
Shawn did not end his career with as many title reigns as some of the other great Superstars such as Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Triple H, the Undertaker, or Stone Cold Steve Austin. However Shawn’s legacy will not be based on his title reigns. It will be based on the hundreds of superior performances he gave while entertaining us for 25 years.
It is hard to dispute that the Heartbreak Kid is the greatest performer to have ever set food in a wrestling ring. The stats do not lie. Here is a list of Shawn’s Match of the Year Awards:
From Pro Wresting Illustrated (as chosen by readers):
1993: vs. Marty Jannetty on Monday Night Raw
From this list we can see that he had excellent matches with a few competitors that are not known for good performances. Diesel, Vince McMahon, and John Cena have never been considered great performers, however Shawn Michaels was able to carry them to such a level that they were able to share in this award with him.
Also, Shawn spent approximately 16 years total as a singles competitor. Of those 16 years Shawn won this award 10 times. Not only did he win this award often, but during most years he took 2nd place, 3rd place, or both.
One of his many nicknames is Mr. Wrestlemania and for good reason. As a singles competitor Shawn competed in 14 Wrestlemanias. Eight of those performances won him Match of the Year. In the years that his Wrestlemania performance was not honored with this award he still had undoubtedly the best match including his performances against Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XIV, vs. Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania XIX, and vs. John Cena at Wrestlemania 23. His match with the Undertaker from Wrestlemania 26 will most likely take this award as well.
(Matches not mentioned include Wrestlemania VIII vs. Tito Santana and Wrestlemania IX vs. Tatanka. Also, he “lost his smile” shortly before Wrestlemania 13 and did not compete that year.)
In addition to his many match of the year honors, he is credited for revolutionizing both the Ladder Match and Iron Man Match. While he did not compete in the first of either type of match, he did set the standard. His Iron Man Match with Bret Hart still stands among most wrestling fans as the best match ever using that stipulation.
He also competed in the first Hell in a Cell and Elimination Chamber, again helping set the standard for both stipulations.
During the 90s he was a controversy magnet and participated in 2 of the most infamous moments in wrestling history. Shawn, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Triple H, collectively known as the Kliq, appeared at the end of a Madison Square Garden show in 1996 and broke kayfabe in what has become known as the “Curtain Call.” Of course he was also a key figure in the “Montreal Screw Job” in 1996.
In 1998 Shawn was injured in his Casket Match at the Royal Rumble. Against doctors orders he competed at Wrestlemania XIV, passing the title to Stone Cold Steve Austin and officially igniting the Attitude Era that he helped start.
After the injury Shawn, believing his career was over, took a 4 year hiatus from wrestling. After turning his life over to the Lord Jesus Christ he returned to wrestling in 2002. We did not know if he could perform at the level he did 4 years prior, but after a series of excellent matches against Triple H he left no doubt. The Heartbreak Kid was back and continued to leave his mark etched in annals of professional wrestling.
Truly Shawn had few peers inside the squared circle. Other great performers such as Ric Flair and Chris Jericho have credited him as being the best performer of all time. The fan voted Match of the Year honors speak volumes as to how he is revered by wrestling fans.
On a personal note, Shawn was not just an incredible performer. He was also an inspirational man. He set a good example as a Christian, never failing to kneel in prayer and give thanks to the Lord before every match. In his book Heartbreak and Triumph, the Shawn Michaels Story he recounted the day that he accepted Jesus as his Savior. Upon reading those words I was inspired to do the same. On June 8 2006 I knelt down and uttered a prayer very similar to the one Shawn recounts in his book. I was saved that day and have never looked back.
I would just like to say thank you to Shawn. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for the thousands of hours of incredible entertainment. Thank you for helping save me. I’ll miss you.