Jim Ross recollects Shawn Michaels personality change amidst his spectacular return to the WWE in 2002.
Despite being one of the best performers of his generation, it is no secret that Shawn Michaels had a reputation for being difficult to deal with. Whilst his talent inside the ring could not be disputed, by his own admission his attitude behind the scenes left little to be desired.
However, in the spring of 2002 Michaels would become a born-again Christian, get clean and sober, and then soon after would make a sensational return to WWE.
Speaking on his Grilling JR podcast, Jim Ross discussed HBK’s return and the positive change he saw in The Showstopper:
“I had kind of helped babysit that deal for three or four years – he was on my budget and still somebody that I had dealt with as head of talent relations. You don’t lose touch with your talent, and silence is not golden in wrestling. You have to communicate. Little things that may seem insignificant are not to a talent. I was looking forward to that so much. I told him, ‘I just want to get you back.’
“He had become very religious and had a whole new awakening. He had a different outlook. He spoke differently, he acted differently. I said, ‘I could use you in the locker room. Young guys are gonna listen to you because they will readily admit that you are the best or 1A at worst next to Naitch.”
Shawn Michaels was forced to retire from in-ring action in 1998 after suffering a career-ending back injury. But four years later, having undergone back surgery and overcoming his battles with addiction, Michaels would face his friend and fellow DX founder Triple H in an Unsanctioned Street Fight at Summerslam 2002. Like so many, JR was a huge fan of the match:
“It worked out really, really well. It was hard to believe Shawn could be that good after being off that long. I’m not aware of Shawn and Hunter going to a secret warehouse and working that match out. I never heard of that happening, so they basically went cold turkey on muscle memory.” Ross said.
The Heartbreak Kid would have many more memorable matches before retiring after his defeat to The Undertaker at WrestleMania 26.
Recently, Shawn Michaels was given a major promotion in the WWE where he now has the title of WWE Vice President of Talent Development Creative.
H/t to 411Mania for the transcfription.