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Shawn Michaels rose from the “Heartbreak Kid” to a founding member of one of the most groundbreaking factions the pro wrestling industry had ever seen at the time.
Michaels and other D-Generation X members will be featured on A&E Network’s “WWE Biography: Legends” at 8 p.m. ET. The episode chronicles the start of the faction in the in the middle of WWE (then known as World Wrestling Federation) Attitude Era to battle their rivals, World Championship Wrestling.
D-Generation X was formed in 1997 with Michaels, Triple H (also known as Paul Levesque) and Chyna (also known as Joan Laurer) as a response to company direction. Michaels and Triple H chose to push the envelope with their characters on and off the screen.
X-Pac (also known as Sean Waltman), Road Dogg (also known as Brian James), and Billy Gunn (also known as Monty Sopp) would later become key members of the group.
In a recent interview with Fox News Digital, Michaels said going from his “Heartbreak Kid” gimmick to “degenerate” was a smooth transition.
“It’s definitely because, as I’ve said many times, it was part of who I really was back then,” he said. “I was very uninhibited from a performance perspective. And at that point, there just wasn’t much that I was afraid of and even (Triple H), as everyone knows , is probably the most sensible of us all, he was also just as frustrated and I just felt like it was his time and I felt really passionate about the direction we thought the company was going. It was something we were going to do regardless of whether we were going to have a lot of support or not to do it because we believed in it.”
The idea of rebels within the company pushing back against the closely guarded tradition of professional wrestling didn’t sit well with everyone at first. While fans apparently have fond memories of joining in unison and shouting “Suck It!” in sold-out arenas during “RAW is War” broadcastsMichaels told Fox News Digital that there were some issues with fans early on.
“It was the heat, and certainly very early on there was what we still call ‘old school heat’ today. Because WWE is so entertainment-based, that often becomes the idea of ‘I boo you because you’re a bad guy,'” he said. “Look, we were having trouble in some buildings early on where people were throwing things, and it got to the point where it got a little dangerous and, you know, we were leaving.
“And then, of course, people were getting really pissed off and rioting. We were escorted out of Little Rock, Arkansas, a police escort to the city limits because the fans were throwing stuff, and we got decided to go out, we “I’m not wrestling. And then they started lighting small fires in the building. Initially it was what we called “good old fashioned heat” and it was hard to find. It was very difficult then to get that kind of real life. heat where people in general, when they see you in public, might want to hit you, not get your autograph.”
While Michaels and his DX cohorts received heat from fans, those wrestlers with long legacies in the industry didn’t like him either, even though going against the grain turned out to be a wise business decision in the middle. Monday night wars with the world. Championship fight.
“Everyone saw what we were doing as unprofessional, not respecting the business, everything was against tradition, purists and everyone else. Now everyone thinks it’s the best thing in the world… At first there was just a lot of animosity because they thought we were exposing the business and breaking the fourth wall,” Michaels explained.
“I get it because it was just going against traditional values and saying things that were really real and it’s just something you don’t do. This was all before reality TV. If you did something that wasn’t, you know, what everyone wanted you to do, you were going to come after that. We also didn’t help by not letting people know what we were doing. we were going to do. But at the same time, we were looking for real visceral reactions. And a lot of the time, the only time you can do that is when it’s absolutely real.”
As the stable’s popularity began to skyrocket with their fans, they made a move that probably landed a lot of kids in detention when they were in elementary school – the crotch chop.
The crotch chop is not only seen among professional wrestlers these days, but it has appeared among professional bowlers, NFL players and even in the UFC. Michaels admitted he had no idea it was going to be as big as it got.
“There were times when we were getting national coverage because kids were being put in detention for saying ‘suck it’ and doing the chop at school. And we had no idea, I certainly didn’t know, that it would kind of tap into that sort of appeal to that kind of rebellious attitude that was going on at the time,” he told Fox News Digital. “We did it. We thought it was funny. But we had no idea it would become as big and as popular as it was.”
Michaels said he hoped the WWE Universe would take the difficult journey of reaching that level of fame and notoriety at the time and with every up there was a down.
“Man, did we like hanging out there. When we were on those ropes with each other, there were really a lot of guys having fun with their buddies,” he said. “And I think that’s what really made it work. It was 100% a blast of coldness.”