He's been known as The Heartbreak Kid, The Showstopper, The Headliner, The Main Event, The Icon, and Mr. Wrestlemania, but in Wrestling For My Life Shawn Michaels makes it clear that his current favorite title is Child of God.
Wrestling For My Life: The Legend, The Reality, And The Faith of a WWE Superstar
Shawn Michaels with David Thomas
161 pages, hard cover
It's theatrical, it's comic opera, it's part morality tale / part gymnastic exhibition, steeped in pop culture (and sometimes creating same), sometimes clever (often not-so much), decidedly low-brow but occasionally dabbling in social commentary. Without question, it's a guilty pleasure for those who watch in the privacy of their living rooms.... it's Professional Wrestling, especially as purveyed by the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) empire. There are giants and yes, legends in this sports/entertainment genre – and Shawn Michaels has been a King of the Ring and remains one of the small handful of pro wrestlers whose name is always mentioned when 'best of all time' arguments come up.
Wrestling For My Life: The Legend, The Reality, And The Faith of a WWE Superstar details how Michaels' boyhood dreams were realized and surpassed – how he became an iconic figure in the obsessive, not-always-under-control whirlwind of life as a wrestler in the biggest pro-wrestling organization in the world, how he hit bottom on his way to the top, and how an encounter with Jesus turned it all around.
The book begins with Michaels making a pivotal decision that would change the course of his career. It was just after his performance at Wrestlemania 26 (the Superbowl of Pro Wrestling), sitting in his hotel room – unquestionably at the peak of his crowd-pleasing powers – that the wrestler decided to retire from full-time performing and to concentrate on being a full-time father and husband. "...I sat alone at the end of the bed, appreciative for the wrestling career I had been given," he writes, "and grateful for the second chance I had received as a husband and father."
An honest account of his personal ups and downs in the process of going from King of The Ring to serving the King of Kings, Michaels eventually finds that his greatest opponent was himself, Michael Shawn Hickenbottom (the wrestler's real name). Charismatic, talented, ambitious Hickenbottom made his way through pro wrestling's minor leagues and eventually to the top of the sports entertainment food chain. Along the way, the non-stop touring schedule and fast-paced lifestyle took its toll on Michaels' body and soul – pain killers, after-event drinking and carousing... still, when it came to the ring, Shawn's performances were epic – as was his growing cockiness and arrogance.
Shawn's marriage in 1998 to Rebecca, a former 'Nitro Girl' for WWE's then rival wrestling organization (WCW), was the route to an inevitable crossroads moment for the bad boy superstar. Rebecca, having been raised with an awareness of the gospel message, was herself on a slow road toward making a decision to re-dedicate her life to Christ. As her spirituality grew it didn't go unnoticed by her husband, who made an effort to tame his ways – only to find out that it would take a lot more than will power to break free from his personal demons. Thanks to the love of his wife – who encouraged but never hounded him toward the gospel – and some good books written by Christian authors, Shawn attended a Bible study one night where he ended up accepting Christ as Savior. Nothing else would ever be the same...
With a pleasant writing style very much in keeping with his public persona, Michaels tells the story of how this difficult to deal with, arrogant, pill-popping wrestler became a dependable employee, a better father, and a better man. Fans of pro wrestling will enjoy reading anecdotes about various grappling buddies and how they reacted to the 'new' Shawn Michaels. Most surprising might be the latitude and acceptance given this change by the head-honcho of the WWE dynasty - Vince McMahon himself – but then again, the new and improved Michaels was a more trustworthy worker and, as always, put on an excellent performance every time he was in the ring. Although the heart of the book is all about 'The Heartbreak Kid' (one of Shawn's many nicknames), names like Kevin 'Diesel' Nash, Paul 'Triple H' Levesque, and 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin are also part of the story and feature in its telling.
WWE fans will be particularly interested in Michael's revelatory insights to the notorious incident that happened when he agreed to be part of a plot to wrench a championship title away from Bret Hart – one of the few wrestlers whose name would also come up in the 'who's the best' debate for fans – in Bret's own home town of Montreal, Canada. The real in-ring betrayal resulted in a twelve-year rift between Michaels and Hart, and of course between Hart and the WWE. Michaels recounts the story of how he finally obtained closure and received forgiveness from his former friend and in-ring rival.
The 'new' Shawn Michaels has made his mark on the WWE, winning the respect of peers who used to dislike him for his arrogance, bringing his reformed nature into the ring in front of millions (with management's blessing), and making his last years of active in-ring performing an object lesson for the masses. These days, when Michaels does an occasional appearance for WWE, he's still in character – and that has caused some criticism from his spiritual 'family' out there – but whether he's playing the good guy, the clown, or the occasional 'heel,' the undercurrent that is Michael Shawn Hickenbottom still manages to shine through. He's been known as The Heartbreak Kid, The Showstopper, The Headliner, The Main Event, The Icon, and Mr. Wrestlemania, but in Wrestling For My Life Shawn Michaels makes it clear that his current favorite title is Child of God.