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Credit: Ken McAndrew &: Pwinsider.com
I was at the Shawn Michaels Q&A event hosted by Top Rope Pro Wrestling in Waynesboro, VA. This was just an autograph signing and Q&A (as opposed to being attached to an indy card), but it was much better organized than the Mick Foley experience they had promoted in the past.
For one, they had VIPs and assigned seating (I was the first seat). Secondly, Shawn had flown in the night before, so everything was on time (whereas Foley’s flights were delayed over an hour).
Finally, they kept the line for the meet and greet well contained. Some people didn’t get the word that they’d moved up the start time to 10:30 and were doing the meet and greet first, but they took care of everyone, to the point that if you weren’t happy with your photo, they let you get another at the end of the line.
Shawn was very nice to everyone, very quiet and humble, and he tweeted his thanks to the fans after…and he tweeted a response to my posting of my photo, so yes, he’s a good guy! And back to his “Shawn Michaels” face too, as the Duck Dynasty beard was gone.
The Q&A started about 12:10 and went an hour or so. There was a good mix of questions, not all wrestling-related. People had traveled from pretty far away from this…I drove in from Northern Virginia, but some fans had driven from Ohio, Missouri, Connecticut, and Florida for the event…helps that it’s Labor Day weekend! I took some notes on the Q&A, hopefully my recollection is good enough.
The first question was asking Shawn what his favorite Bible verse is, which he replied was Philippians 4:13: ” I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” He spoke some about his spiritual journey, noting that his salvation inspired hope inside him. He also talked about when he got frustrated with the business back in 1992, and the advice he got from Randy Savage (while doing a good Savage impression) to not take himself out of the game.
The second question was from an older fan who had met Shawn over 20 years ago with Marty Jannetty, and she was supposed to get an autograph from both Rockers but Shawn snubbed her. So she asked when he had changed and what made him change. He noted that he was definitely more of a jerk back then, and that he doesn’t make a good famous guy.
He said he’s normally a quiet guy that goes back into daddy mode pretty quick. He said he actually likes to be unnoticed, and that his family was surprised when they saw him on TV being so brash. Regarding the question, he said he likes to think some of his attitude problems were related to his issues back then, and that changing took time, from getting married in 1999 to his salvation in 2002. He also noted that he doesn’t worry or concern himself with the various rumors that he’s fallen off the wagon, and says some people are still waiting for him to be like “I worked you all” after ten years.
At this point, Shawn said he was a little surprised, because the tone of the Q&A was very much like one of his ministerial talks. He’d said that this was maybe the second Q&A he’d done in a wrestling capacity.
The theme continued with a fan asking if there were any wrestlers he was able to touch with his faith, and a side question on how the Cowboys would do this season. He said he’s not a fair-weather fan and that the Cowboys will do well. Regarding his faith, he said when he came back in 2002, he didn’t realize he should be circumspect in talking about it, and was loudly proclaiming how his life had changed. He noted that people were still waiting for a fall after all these years, but that he’s been clean ever since.
He also noted that no one would talk about their faith in the locker room before his return, but now it’s a more openly-discussed topic and that some guys would come up to him to talk to him, especially after tragedies in the business. But he wouldn’t name any names of anyone who’s a Christian in WWE.
A fan asked Shawn what he was doing post-retirement. He plugged his MacMillan River Adventures show, saying they’d just finished filming for the 2014 season. He also discussed doing some image licensing of himself for projects, and his callbacks to WWE on occasion, but said mostly he spends his time with his family.
Shawn was asked what made him cut the beard off, as well as what he misses about wrestling. To the beard question, he noted that he loves Duck Dynasty and made if a summer project to grow the beard. He said his wife had actually trimmed it a half-inch prior to his Summerslam appearance. He said the beard is soft, whereas his scruff is rougher.
On what he misses, he said mostly the guys in the locker room, but said he doesn’t get the itch to come back for matches. He’s more interested at this point at being a good husband and father.
Shawn was asked what his favorite car was, to which he responded it was a truck (a 2004 F250 with 100,000+ miles on it). He said he’s not a car guy, but he does like to watch NASCAR. His wife drives a Hummer.
A fan asked if Shawn would be back for the Royal Rumble (I think he was asking if Shawn would be in the Rumble). Shawn said contrary to popular belief, he’s not in the loop with what’s going on, and that he usually finds out if WWE needs him a few days before they do.
He said he’s still pretty good about being able to come in and be told what he needs to do. He was also asked about his opinion on HHH’s treatment of Daniel Bryan (I think the fan was trying to get a storyline insight, like would Shawn appear to defend his student from his best friend). Shawn said he gets questions like that a lot on Twitter, but that he treats Raw like he does NCIS…he watches to see what happens next.
A fan said Shawn was a big inspiration to them, and asked what his favorite match was. Shawn said he’s pleased he can be an inspiration for others. He also said he couldn’t pick a favorite match, though obviously the two with Undertaker were good. He made it clear that wrestling was a job to him, saying he doesn’t have a wall with belts hanging on it, and that his wrestling gear is in a box in the attic. For him, the memories are in his head and heart, and he has nothing but joy when he thinks about them.
Shawn was asked about the funniest rib he’d done or seen, within reason for the kids in the audience. He talked about his AWA days, where he and Marty would find their bags chained to the air conditioner pipes by Curt Hennig and Scott Hall. He said one time, Curt put padlocks all over the door handles and mirrors of a Lincoln Continental rental, so when driving down the road it would rattle like crazy.
One fan asked if Shawn would teach him how to do Sweet Chin Music. Shawn talked instead about how he stole it from Chris Adams, and was using it when he went singles as a setup for the teardrop suplex. He noted it was Pat Patterson who told him to just do the kick as a finish instead, and that the name came from watching Roger Clemens pitching a fastball and be called “chin music” by the announcers.
Shawn was asked who he thought should wrestle Undertaker at Wrestlemania 30. He noted again he had no insight into the process, but said there were no “old school” guys left to do matches like he and Triple H. He said he could see Daniel Bryan, John Cena, or Curtis Axel getting the nod, if he could choose, but noted he’s out of touch with what the WWE audience and demographic wants, being a 48-year-old guy.
He said following up the big “moments” is hard to do week after week and year after year, and that maybe this year, WWE should give Undertaker a break and put him in a six-man with two guys against The Shield. He also took time to say that despite what people might think, he doesn’t talk wrestling with Triple H, and that in fact Hunter’s time with Shawn is Hunter’s break from the wrestling business.
Shawn was asked what he thought about going to church at John Hagee’s church. He said Hagee is a hellfire and brimstone guy that’s very strict and disciplined, but when Shawn was investigating his faith that’s what he needed. Nowadays, he and his family tend to watch Joel Osteen, who he said has a message of hope that’s more the direction their faith has evolved. He said they only leave their ranch for movies, groceries, and kids’ events, noting that his children are home-schooled and home-churched. He made a joke that it’s like a commune almost.
A fan who said he’d just started wrestling training asked Shawn for advice. Shawn said to get the fundamentals down first, and then to let guys become who they are. He said that’s how he trained Daniel Bryan, letting Bryan try what he wanted after the fundamentals, and encouraging him to travel to Japan, Europe, and Mexico as he wanted to learn more.
Shawn said he himself would steal things from Chris Adams (the superkick), Curt Hennig (the bumping style), Marty Jannety, and Ted Dibiase. He noted that a person needs to find what works for them, saying that for example, a moonsault just required the cajones to throw yourself backward off the top rope.
He said Hunter’s great, but won’t do that, whereas Shawn would. Shawn also spoke about how people would be a “genius” about the business, telling him what sucked about his matches, and that sucked the fun out of it for him.
Shawn was asked what his thoughts where before and after his first Wrestlemania match (Wrestlemania 5 against the Twin Towers). He said he was nervous and that he and Marty weren’t mature then, given they were in Atlantic City, and that they got wrapped up in the lifestyle there and he wasn’t really rested for the match. Afterwards, he said they felt like they’d done a good job.
A fan who had recently been at the Mid-South Fanfest said a number of the old-timers there said Shawn was the guy that exemplified the business, which he thought was nice of them. He was asked about his memories of working for Bill Watts and Verne Gagne. He said Watts was phenomenal but strict. He told a story about being at TV and seeing he wasn’t booked for the following week’s TV, so he didn’t show (where everyone was required to show, booked or not). The following week, he was fined $50 (which was big for him back then), and when he said he didn’t know, he was told “now you do.” Shawn said after six months, Watts told him there was an art to winning, such as cutting promos, and that he couldn’t learn it there, so he went onto Kansas City to learn more.
As for Verne, Shawn said he wasn’t embracing of the future. He said because they would tour in Las Vegas, even as a 20-year-old he was getting into bars and the Rockers would get into trouble, and he thinks some of the negatives in his life were developed in this timeframe.
A quick question asked Shawn his favorite color, which he said was green. Another fan then asked if Shawn was surprised that wrestling magazines called many of his matches the match of the year, especially the Wrestlemania 22 match against Vince McMahon. Shawn said he didn’t know they had, but when it came to that particular match, he wanted one year where he didn’t have the focus on him, so he pitched the idea of the match with Vince (who he said wasn’t athletic). He said the title of “Mr. Wrestlemania” was just part of his job, and he used it to push himself to do better, but has no ego about it.
The final questioner asked Shawn if he had any idea when starting out that he’d have a hall of fame career. He said he really didn’t, and that back then for him, success was having a one-bedroom apartment and a car, and maybe being the top guy in a territory.. He was also asked how he feels about fans considering him the “standard” for wrestlers, to which he replied he doesn’t care personally about things like that. He’s glad instead that the fans think that and that he can inspire others.
He noted that he doesn’t talk wrestling on Twitter when asked because he can’t fit something that’s in his head and heart into 140 characters. He said he left the wrestling business in peace and that his peace now is with his family.
Shawn’s parting words were to say that if what the fans watched of him was ever more than just wrestling to them, if it touched them in some way, that’s how he felt about it too.
Overall, Shawn strikes me as a very humble guy that would be just as happy being home all the time with his family and never being called for wrestling things ever again. I think especially after his return, he looked at the business as the job he did, and he’s not obsessed over it or reliving his glory days, instead being the getaway for his best friend who’s surrounded by the business 24/7. He’s a genuinely nice guy that looks happy with his life, which after an amazing career (especially the second half of it) he deserves to have. Here’s hoping Shawn’s the beginning of a trend of guys who can walk away from wrestling without needed to go back for money or to relive the glory days, and is able to take care of himself and his family.