WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels recently spoke to Sports Illustrated’s Justin Barrasso to talk all things Undertaker. Highlights from the interview can be found below.
On the early friction between him and Undertaker:
At that point in my career, there wasn’t anybody I didn’t have friction with except for Hunter, Nash, Hall and Kid. When Taker first came in [to WWE], he was certainly more of a top guy. He stepped right into a pretty darned decent position, I was building my way up. But as we finally got on the same level, there was really never a particular incident between the two of us that made us decide we didn’t like each other. He didn’t care for me, and honestly, this might sound silly, but my reason for disliking him was because he didn’t like me. We were polar opposites. He had his segments and I had my segments as we shared a locker room together over the years, but we always had a great deal of respect and admiration for what each other did in the ring. We also always had unbelievable chemistry when we got in the ring together. I will say this—I can remember a number of years ago, there was an incident when we were in Canada. Me and somebody else were out one night, something went down, and whatever happened ended up pouring outside. It wasn’t going to be good for anybody, but a big ol’ Cadillac came pulling up. Yoko, the Samoans and Taker stepped out, and everybody who was on the opposing side of me scattered. So Taker didn’t like me, but it was another thing altogether for somebody from the outside to mess with me. It’s well-documented that I gave everybody a reason to dislike me. I just chose to dislike him because he didn’t like me.
Where his head was at for their Badd Blood Hell in a Cell showdown:
That was a very tough day for me personally, for the WWE world, and the locker room with the news of Brian Pillman. So you’re going out there working under that cloud.Bruce Prichard told us at Gorilla that we were going longer. I looked at Mark and said, “What are we going to do?” And he looked at me and said, “I’ll walk slow.” So we decided we’d go out there and do what we do. We’d talk to each other and go from there. We had sort of our signpost in the road of where we wanted to go, and we really weren’t sure how we’d get there, but I knew I could bump with him for a while. It was a new match, it was a unique match, so we had that specialness to fall back on. That’s one of those times where we took it to another level because of chemistry.
On the psychology they used in the match:
I know people talk about my ego, but back then, that whole “time to get your shine” phrase or mentality just didn’t exist. It was always the bad guy’s job to bounce around and bump. To be perfectly honest, with the dynamic between the Taker and Heartbreak Kid characters, the match did make sense. That’s what I did well and that’s what I enjoyed doing the most. I make this point now in my teaching and coaching. Yes, I would have looked better had I been more assertive and got myself more “over” in that match instead of just selling. As a good guy, the crowd wanted to see me fight from underneath. But as a bad guy, you’re supposed to let the crowd see you get beat up. Both of those scenarios require vulnerability and you need to have some form of weakness. It took me a long time to grasp it and be centered with it, but that understanding did a lot for me when I came back in 2002. You’re not always supposed to be the number one guy in the match. The match works better when there is a really good number two, so I couldn’t be too strong. The character didn’t lend itself to that. The Heartbreak Kid was meant to be bittersweet.
How their relationship changed when he returned in 2002:
Taker was one of the first guys I went up to in 2002 and apologized to for my past behavior. His reaction was basically, “Well, I appreciate that, but we’ll wait and see.” All those years later, going into WrestleMania together, was quite fitting.
Whether he likes their WrestleMania 25 or WrestleMania 26 match better:
I enjoy 25. It’s always hard to beat that first one. The differences in the match at 26 are what they’re supposed to be, but I don’t think we could ever again capture what we did in the first one. There was so much depth and gravity to that match. The goal at 26 was never to one-up it. The match at 26 was built differently around that bittersweet heartache, which is how it ended when it was all said and done.
On not having many regrets on Crown Jewel return match:
I have a different view than everybody else. That match in Saudi Arabia, I get it, we can all agree it was a stinkfest. But that was me being selfish, me wanting to be out there with my buddy, be out there again with Taker, and enjoy the moment. That’s why I was able to walk away and not have a problem with it. The performance didn’t go well, but it didn’t bother me. I wanted to know if I could still do the stuff I once did, and I wanted to go out there with my friends one last time. I will admit that was a selfish thing. I’m so sorry it didn’t go well, so I do have regrets about that part of it. But I will say, and people aren’t going to like this, none of it bothers me in the least.