On episode 126 of Sam Roberts' Wrestling Podcast, 'Prime Time' Sam Roberts interviewed the legendary Shawn Michaels. Among other things, Michaels talked about his 2002 WWE return, his 2008 feud with current WWE United States Champion Chris Jericho, how quickly WWE Superstars are considered 'great' nowadays, and whether he oversold in his SummerSlam (2005) match with Hulk Hogan.
According to Michaels, he was agreeing to only one match at a time when he returned to WWE in 2002 because he was not sure whether his body was going to hold up.
"People know I was just coming back for one match. I didn't know what my body could handle and couldn't handle, so we didn't say anything beyond that SummerSlam match. And then, of course, it went well, and I felt good, and before I could really sort of make a decision, I got a phone call from Vince [McMahon] asking me how I felt and, of course, 'I've got an idea!' And so, I guess the next thing was the Elimination Chamber. Even at that point, we were just taking things sort of one match at a time. And I sort of knew that at the very least, December was going to be a time to sit and, 'okay', sort of really figure out what's going on here. And I think it was in December that Jericho and I did this promo and I lost the championship back to Hunter and then, I think we went out and did some kind of promo with Jericho and I. I was supposed to leave for a while and I came back from doing that and then Chris walked back and both Chris and Vince were like, 'did you feel that?' And I was like, 'yeah, that went really well.' And they were like, 'no, did you feel that though?' and Chris was like, 'holy cow!'. And, of course, they were both like, 'something's there, something's there'. And I said, 'okay.' I said, 'I definitely feel you.' I said, 'let me go home' because everything's going so fast, 'give me a second, go home sometime, and let me think about it. I don't even know what I'm doing yet.' It just sort of happened so quickly."
On the subject of his classic feud with Jericho, Michaels said they made it interesting by having 'The Heartbreak Kid' be the babyface who was lying and 'Y2J' be the heel who was telling the truth.
"It's why Chris and I have always gotten along so well, we both love to peel the onion away, pull at it, pull at it, pull at it, and see what we can do, what we can get away with, what's voodoo that you're supposed to stay away from if you're a good guy or a bad guy, you're not supposed to do this, you're not supposed to look weak or vulnerable or whatever, and we just always figured, 'yeah, let's go ahead and try to do that anyway. That's what was so fun about our angle. Again, I was the good guy, but I was the guy that was lying. And it was intriguing to us to have me be the guy that was lying, stay the good guy, and him be the guy that was telling the truth, but the bad guy, and it sounded like a blast too to see if we could continue to peel away at that and make it mean something and we did and that's the enjoyment some of us get out of the creative process."
In Michaels' view, carrying a long, drawn-out feud is difficult nowadays because the audience is always looking for something new. Similarly, in 'The Main Event''s opinion, it used to take 17 years to be called 'great' and now it takes only a matter of months.
"It's a little more difficult to do [drawn out feuds] nowadays because the consumer, more often than not, wants something new, wants something fresh. And, as a company, I believe they feel like they need to change it up, but old school guys like me will always feel like that's stuff you can slow down and take the time to invest in it. It may take a little longer to build, but the payoff at the end is always better. Look, it's hard to do now. There are guys that, let's face it, greatness now happens in six months or a year or even two years. Somebody has some consistently good matches for two years and 'he's one of the legends! He's one of the greatest of all time!' And I don't mean that as a critical thing, it's just that's how the consumer is now. Everything happens so quickly now, they think 'he's 24, he [has] had seven good pay-per-view matches, he's one of the greatest of all time.' In our day, rightly or wrongly, it doesn't matter to me, but in our day, it took 17 years to create greatness when nowadays it takes seven months. So I think that's just a sign of the times."
Michaels averred that if he oversold in his SummerSlam match against Hogan, Dolph Ziggler oversells all the time, as does Billy Gunn as a heel. The founding member of D-Generation X recalled that he was simply trying to make the match good, as he had his doubts.
"Let's just say, look, you could say I didn't do a good job, but, I mean, you go and watch some of my work from, I don't know, '96, I bounced around all the time. You look at Ziggler now, I mean, if what I did in the Hogan match was overselling, then what Dolph does on a regular basis, or Billy Gunn, when Billy's a heel, that's just, a lot of it is how we worked." Michaels added, "I was out there trying, obviously too hard, I guess, in some people's eyes. I was just trying to make it a good match because I felt like it wasn't going to be."
Michaels shared that he views his entire WWE run as one single story beginning with his arrival as part of The Rockers with tag partner Marty Jannetty, all the way till he was retired at WrestleMania 26 by The Undertaker. 'The Showstopper' admitted that he cannot imagine the creative justification for making a return to the ring.
"I could never get passed the creative character stuff that I really enjoyed doing. I just can't [justify] making money over that perfect sort of arc and ending and everything. It just doesn't seem right to me."
Get in Not Sam Mode here. If you use any of the quotes that appear in this article, please credit Sam Roberts' Wrestling Podcast with an H/T to WrestlingINC for the transcription.
Source: Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast