Legendary wrestling broadcast announcer and current popular podcaster Jim Ross recently recalled Shawn Michaels being in a miserable state during his WrestleMania 14 match against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin during a recent episode of the Grilling JR Podcast with co-host Conrad Thompson. The episode covered Shawn Michaels’ career from 1997-1998. Ross discussed how Shawn Michaels had suffered a back injury that would force “HBK” to take a long 4-year hiatus from WWE at that time. JR said some people backstage questioned the seriousness of Michaels injury, however, it was evident that everyone had to work with Shawn until they could get the championship on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania 14.
Ross went into the details saying, “All the crying wolf things start to become literally leery and gun shy. How can any of us say? I’m not him. I’m not his body. I had my doubts, just like everybody had doubts. To say we didn’t have doubts would be lying but we had no proof other than what was in the medical reports. Michaels knew he could never be himself again with his back in such a condition. I didn’t have as much doubt.” Ross spoke about how “it’s a good story if that’s what you’re looking for but there’s no proof that Michaels wasn’t hurting that bad at the end of the day, that’s what we got.”
Then JR and Conrad’s conversation turned to the WrestleMania 14 match where “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeated Shawn Michaels to become WWF Champion with special guest enforcer Mike Tyson. This match would solidify Austin perhaps as being the biggest star in company history. Ross opened up about Shawn’s issues with the fact he wasn’t the guy getting the most attention and how he wasn’t able to put on a show-stealing performance like he’d done so many times before due to his back injury. “I remember the Austin era had begun and that was the main thing so we accomplished our primary goal,” Ross recalled. “It worked out very well for the WWE leading the company to go public, Austin winning was big, he was the guy that we were waiting for.” Ross assumed Shawn was on some sort of pain medications to help get him through the match. He was miserable because Michaels could not be himself that night, he couldn’t be the show-stealer, showstopper. “The spotlight was going to be divided into multiple parts primarily due to having Tyson and Austin, then Shawn doing his thing.” JR noticed Shawn Michaels behavior as what he described as being “immature and childish and just overall he was having a bad day.” “Thank God” Ross would say, “when WWE was able to finally get him back in 2011” By then Shawn had changed his entire philosophy.
To Jr’s knowledge, he believes Shawn never had any issue with dropping the title to Stone Cold, despite reports over the years suggesting that he didn’t want to. Ross also said Shawn knew the business was catching up to him and Shawn needed a break with all his injuries and health issues pilling up. “I don’t think it was an issue where he was so vehemently against losing the title,” Ross explained. “He knew he needed to get off airplanes, he needed therapy, he needed to go get himself healthy mentally and physically. My concern was going to be a lot more about his mental attitude and how he’s going to evolve in this new life, post-WWE everyday world, as his back healed up. That’s what we kept in mind all along, that’s why we kept up with Shawn for those four years while he was away.”
Michaels suffered a back injury during a casket match with The Undertaker when he took a bump resulting in him landing on the edge of the casket. Ross said nobody backstage ever blamed Taker for the injury including Michaels. Ross made mention of Taker being someone who controlled the locker room and he was ready to get involved if Shawn didn’t want to do business with Austin at WrestleMania 14. “Taker’s issue was that Shawn had not done business at WrestleMania in Boston with Austin. I was told Undertaker was sitting there waiting for both guys to come through the curtain. He was a caretaker. I used to call Undertaker the conscious of WWE. He really was, he was the keeper of the gate. He was god damn Clint Eastwood.”
We want to credit Grilling JR for quotes used for this article.
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