First and foremost, Shawn Michaels is the reason I became a wrestling fan. I have no clue when this started, but one of the oldest forms of documentation I still have is from April 1, 1996, when I was only 9 years old. It's the first entry of a journal, dedicated entirely to how happy I was that Shawn Michaels had just won the WWF championship at the previous night's WrestleMania XII. One of my specific memories as a child is the frustration I had where I couldn't find a copy of the 96 Royal Rumble to rent, and I was unable to watch HBK win it. The first ever WWF event I went to was In Your House: Mind Games, headlined by Michaels defending his championship. I needed a second Shawn Michaels action figure because the first one broke from overuse (as did the second eventually). This continued until I flat out stopped watching wrestling at the end of 1999. Need I point out that this was a time period where Shawn was retired for good? No matter how close the Undertaker's always been as #2, no matter how big of a fan I was of Bret Hart and Stone Cold, hell I even loved HHH back then, but there still was no Shawn Michaels.
Fast forward to 2006. A friend of mine tells me that DX has reunited, and I turn on the TV. Shawn Michaels had once again gotten me back into being a fan of wrestling, after a seven year hiatus. The wrestling world was a different place from what I remembered. Some guy named John Cena wrestling with Cowboy Bob Orton's kid. Edge all grown up. Kane no longer wearing a mask. No more Mr. Perfect, no more Rock, no Owen, no Foley. Hell, no more WCW, as everyone is now in the "WWE", whatever that is. But the first night I watched Raw and I heard "break it down!", I smiled. Anyone who knows me knows I'm rather cynical and hard to please (just read my reviews), so to get a legitimate smile out of me is huge. Something as simple as being able to watch Shawn Michaels again was able to bring that out of me and drag me back the next week, the next month, the next year, and here I am typing this out on my own wrestling-based website.
I have never wavered in saying that Shawn Michaels is not only my favorite wrestler of all time but also the one I consider the very best. You can take your Hulk Hogans and Goldbergs, your Kurt Angles and Chris Benoits, your RVDs and your Bryan Danielsons, to me, there is no equal to HBK. I could (and will in the future) go on and on about how and why I consider him the very best, but this is not that time. This post is about those things you can't compare against other performers, you can't predict, you can't criticize and theorize: appreciation.
Tonight during Shawn's farewell speech, I'll admit it, I had tears in my eyes. If you know your basic psychology, you've heard of the "Five Stages of Grief" - Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. It sounds foolish to some, though others may agree, my first reaction to this retirement is denial. I don't think Shawn can stay away from something he loves so much. You could also say I'm in denial in my own, as I desperately do not want this to be the end of HBK. I have no bargaining chips to bring forth, but if I were to hope any 2 people could stay wrestling until the day I die, at the level they are now, the Undertaker and HBK would be those two, and if I had the power, I'd sacrifice 100 other guys for the ability to do such. Part of me is angry, as well. How could that be HBK's last match? It wasn't his best ever. There are so many other feuds left that he hasn't done. Where's the HHH match at WrestleMania? Where's the passing of the torch to someone like John Morrison? Is that it? WTF? But this evokes the depression. Is that it? I'm not quite willing to accept it as the end yet, and perhaps part of me will always be hoping for something more. Retirements rarely stay true in the world of professional wrestling and weirder things have happened even this year with Bret Hart returning to action, so there's always hope. But even if that never comes to pass, it doesn't change what has come before it.
And so it all boils down to this: THANK YOU, SHAWN MICHAELS. For as long as I've been a wrestling fan, you've truly been the Main Event, the Showstopper, the Icon, the Headliner. It's going to be hell watching without you. It may only be a show for entertainment, and we may all find ourselves disillusioned with the product from time to time, but the true fans can step back at times and realize that it's still a big part of our lives, and I owe my introduction, reintroduction, and continued fan service to the Heartbreak Kid. No matter what we had in front of us, we could always be sure that the Shawn Michaels match could tear the house down and most likely win Match of the Year in a blowout vote, which speaks volumes to his skill. Shawn Michaels has provided me and millions of others with countless, countless hours of entertainment. For that, I'm truly grateful, and I thank you so, so much.