On episode 116 of Sam Roberts' Wrestling Podcast, professional wrestling veteran Bruce Prichard talked about WWE Chairman Vince McMahon not seeing WWE Hall Of Famer Shawn Michaels as a babyface until after WrestleMania 11 and 15-time world champion John Cena's rise to superstardom.
According to Prichard, he and Pat Patterson pitched turning Michaels babyface and McMahon did not see 'The Heartbreak Kid' as a babyface or world champion until after WrestleMania 11.
"There [are] a lot of situations where we pitched big, sweeping, just simple things like, 'Shawn Michaels is going to be a babyface.' [McMahon replied] 'that little son of a b---h? He'll never be a babyface in this company!' And he didn't see it till after WrestleMania 11. Vince gets in the car and says, 'Goddamnit, guys, we have a babyface on our hands! Why am I the only one that sees this?' And Pat [Patterson] and I are looking at each other, going, 'we were told never to bring that idea up ever again.' It's crazy, but I just, God, Pat especially, and Pat was probably the first one that actually made the statement, 'I can see Shawn Michaels as WWF Champion.' Yeah, Vince didn't see Shawn as the WWF Champion at that time. In particular, he didn't see Shawn as a babyface. But there was an undercurrent there that here you've got a guy that is going out, stealing the show every night with whoever he worked with, and the audience after a while began to respect him, so Shawn was doing that every night. It's kind of like, even Bret Hart, who no matter who Bret was in the ring with, Bret was going to get his match out of him and Bret was going to get that match over no matter what he had to do and they respect that."
When asked how Michaels went from not being seen as world champion material to being the most valuable talent on the roster, Prichard said that HBK became the top guy by having "talent and balls."
"He had the balls to say it every night and to say it to Vince to be defiant, to say it to the rest of the talent, to stand up for himself and his friends, a lot of people would call that going against the grain and selfish, but Vince looked at it as he had balls and after a while, you couldn't deny that he was that good."
Also during the interview, Prichard stated that the office did not always view Cena as a Hulk Hogan level star.
"I would say a couple of years in [Cena was viewed as a Hogan level star internally]. At first, it was more of a, 'this is going to be a top guy,' 'he's going to make it,' 'he's going to do great for us.' Once he got into that position, and he excelled, then, he became the guy. And there was no harder working guy on the roster."
Prichard claimed that Cena was viewed as a "muscle guy" when muscle guys were not en vogue. Prichard went on to say that Cena was always a hard worker and was hungry for knowledge.
"It was, no, it was definitely, 'we're going to see what he can do' because John came in and John was viewed as a muscle guy at a time when the muscle guys were kind of out. But Cena was also the guy that when John got his contract, he called me and talked about how he had gotten a football scholarship to Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., I believe. And his dad was more proud of him getting the WWF contract than he was for his football scholarship. But John was… when he got his contract, and he immediately went and took his drug test, observed, and passed with flying colors. And was always the first guy there, last guy to leave. Hungry for knowledge, didn't expect anything, took what he wanted, and fought hard for it."
Listen to the podcast here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit Sam Roberts' Wrestling Podcast with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast