Monday, March 29, 2010

Goodbye Shawn

I usually reserve wrestling comments for my, y'know, Wrestling Blog. But as a wrestling fan for 20 years now, one of my favourites for all of that time was a then-young upstart known as Shawn Michaels, who has gone on to become one of the true legends standing tall above this business. despite being 16 years younger than him, he's probably the main wrestler I feel I've watched grow up, from a kid in a tag team just a year or two into his run with the big leagues, to a single star who had grown too big for said team, but with an uncertain future on his own, to a perennial Intercontinental Champion ('king of the midcard', second only to that upper echelon going for the world belt), to a young, brash, cocky world champion who self-destructed in a haze of arrogance and substance abuse, to a born-again Christian (and one of the few for whom I mean it quite literally when I say Jesus Christ IS his personal saviour), a stand-up husband and Dad who now sees in wrestling more a way to make a living doing something he loves and to teach and elevate younger talent than to win gold, fame and accolades for himself. Perhaps it took Shawn Michaels until his late 30s to become a grown man ... but he did, and there are very few wrestlers I've been more proud of.

He's had many monikers over the years that no longer apply, if they ever did - it seems a stretch to call a weathered 44-year-old "The Heartbreak Kid", and I feel at this point the Undertaker is more worthy of the moniker of "Mr. Wrestlemania". And let's be honest folks, while Shawn has been an excellent worker, he has not consistently been 'The Main Event' for a few years now. However, of all the nicknames applied to him, I feel "Showstopper" is probably the most enduring. Six or seven years removed from his last world title run, and 18 months removed from his last singles world title shot, Shawn has long been the quintessence of putting on a great match simply to prove he can.

More than a certain number of titles to indicate he is the best in this business, what Shawn can take home with him is this; last year's match with the Undertaker marked his sixth Pro Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year win in a row, meaning he has won that accolade every year but one since he came back from a presumed-career-ending back injury five years earlier. That unprecedented number beat the previous consecutive Match of the Year Record Holder ... SHAWN MICHAELS, at 4 in a row. Between both of those streaks, he holds a record 10 Match of the Year wins. Perhaps they haven't all been for titles ... but they have all been the best, much like Michaels himself.

And the way Shawn went out was pure class, in a rematch with possibly his greatest opponent, the Undertaker, the only man in the company arguably as legendary as Michaels himself at this point, putting HIS unprecedented Wrestlemania win streak of 18-0 up against Shawn's quarter-century-long career. Shawn, spunky to the end, slapped the Undertaker in the face just as the Dead Man was about to show mercy, provoking the aptly-named Tombstone piledriver which ended his career. Uncharacteristic for the Showstopper, he left the ring not in a blaze of dancing and fireworks, but with a subdued hug from his Wrestlemania opponent and some appreciative waving and high-fiving to the crowd, heading humbly to the back and the applause of his peers, to the handshake of perhaps his biggest detractor (Bret Hart, with whom he has finally made amends after a 12-year cold war), but most importantly, to the waiting arms of his wife and children. Congratulations Shawn. You deserve it. And thank you.

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