Sport: How Elvis Inspired Shawn Michaels’s Wrestling Career

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The WWE Hall of Famer says he adapted two of his signatures from an unlikely source.

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Shawn Michaels on Triple H overseeing WWE creative: “We’re all excited for the future”

If you ever wondered about the origin of Shawn Michaels’s signature pose, there was an inspiration behind it.

The pose, where Michaels flexes his biceps while doing a variation of a squat, can be attributed directly to Elvis Presley.

“I stole that from Elvis,” Michaels says. “Elvis was a really big influence early in my career.”

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During the initial stages of his career, Michaels would travel with pro wrestler Al Madril, a veteran who was 15 years older—and an enormous Elvis fan. Madril would play The King all the time during their car rides from town to town, and Michaels became a fan.

“I developed a real appreciation for the work that Elvis did,” Michaels says. “And I always loved that pose I would see Elvis do at the end of his concerts. He wouldn’t flex, which I felt comfortable doing, but he’d use that stance, so I have to give the King of Rock and Roll the credit for that one.”

When Michaels started his singles run as a heel in 1992, he asked Vince McMahon to make an announcement after his matches that “Shawn Michaels has left the building.” It was a way to irritate the crowd, but also a direct play on “Elvis has left the building”—though one could argue Michaels had a distinct advantage with the legendary Bobby “The Brain” making his announcement.

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“That was me, once again, stealing from Elvis,” Michaels says. “I asked if we could do that, it was approved, and Bobby, who was brilliant, took care of the rest of it.”

It is unwise to ever compare any performer to The King, but Michaels became pro wrestling royalty during his iconic career. He remains Mr. WrestleMania long after his final match at WWE’s signature event, and his legacy as an in-ring trailblazer—wrestling in WWE’s first pay-per-view ladder match, first 60-minute Iron Man match and first Hell in a Cell match—has further enhanced his legend in retirement. Michaels can now claim another first. He is the first WWE star to be featured on the company’s trading card NFTs.

Partnering with Candy Digital, WWE’s digital trading card collectible partner, Michaels will be the first highlighted in the initiative.

“This is a pretty fascinating piece of work, a 3-D carousel animation, and I’m proud to be the first guy launching it,” Michaels says. “My music is in there, my signature pose, and it highlights three different eras of my career. I’m the first one, which makes me think back to that ladder match, that Iron Man match, that Hell in a Cell match—somebody’s got to go out there and test the waters. Like I was then, I’m honored to be first.”

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The NFT trading cards featuring Michaels are available Aug. 16–22. The cards include a one-of-one gold statue trading card of Michaels that is available exclusively through an online auction, where the winner will also be Michaels’s personal guest at an NXT event.

Courtesy of WWE © Provided by Sports Illustrated Courtesy of WWE

Michaels emerging as a main-event talent was a watershed, cutting-edge moment in WWE, helping usher in a whole new group of smaller, athletic and hungry wrestlers to the front of the company. All his career accolades are well deserved, and though his reputation as a partier was no secret, Michaels’s story is incomplete without detailing how dedicated and devoted he was to the craft.

“It’s nice to be recognized with projects like this NFT trading card,” Michaels says. “I take a lot of pride in it because I loved the job. I still do. During my career, I can’t tell you the amount of times I heard, ‘You should really slow down.’ But I couldn’t. It meant too much to me. That’s the same mentality I use now working with NXT. I was built to do one thing, and I’m doing it, just in a different aspect now with them .

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“I absolutely loved performing. My era had such great talent. That competition, it drove me. I wanted to be the best every night. That was an era and generation that loved performing. It was a competition and we all brought the best out of each other. I think the quality of matches is far better in this generation, but that’s because of what they saw all of us doing when they were young.”

Michaels and Paul “Triple H” Levesque, once the company’s renegades on (and off) screen in D-Generation X, now operate two power positions, with Michaels helping to oversee NXT and Levesque as head of WWE creative. For Michaels, all of his successes—and failures—have helped transform him into one of wrestling’s premier backstage influences.

“I think people saw my passion and my love for this when I wrestled,” Michaels says. “The talent I work with now, I think they see that now, too. I don’t have to be here; I want to be here. And I want them to be great. I want them to experience the life I have. My father gave me the greatest piece of advice, which was ‘Make a great living doing something you enjoy.’ This is the greatest job in the world. It was my dream, and the more I can help others live their dreams, it makes me want to do it even more.

“I’m 57. This business was supposed to spit me out by now. It hasn’t. Instead I’m the guy on these new NFT trading cards. It’s wild. I was a kid who grew up reading the wrestling magazines and loving watching Southwest Championship Wrestling. I’ve gone through every aspect of this business, and now, as a coach, I get to experience it all again.”

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Michaels is ecstatic for Levesque to have the chance to oversee WWE’s creative direction, especially considering that they will have the chance to work together again.

“We hope now that we can put together a really powerful one-two punch between NXT and the main roster that’s going to drive WWE to even greater heights,” Michaels says. “He wants to stick to the mission statement, which is to be the greatest sports entertainment company on the face of the earth. I’m going to do everything here to help, and he’ll have the entire support of NXT. We’re all excited for the future.”

Whether it is the memory of a match, a moment, or even this new NFT trading card initiative, Michaels expressed his eternal gratitude that his career still resonates among a multitude of generations.

“Just to be one of those people that is one of, or the first, that means a whole lot to me,” Michaels says. “The world was a much smaller place when I first started dreaming, so I still tell myself to dream bigger. I remember how worried my father was about me becoming a wrestler, and all those concerns were valid, but I never imagined I would be where I am now. This is a legacy I never thought I would ever have. Everything that means so much to me also means so much to others, and I am forever thankful for that.”

The (online) week in wrestling

  • Following Monday’s Raw, it appears Dexter Lumis is the latest Triple H protégé to be rehired. Prior to that, Karrion Kross and Scarlett returned last week on SmackDown, beating down Drew McIntyre—and leading to a phenomenal tweet from McIntyre in the aftermath.
  • First reported by Mike Johnson from PWInsider, John Laurinaitis has been fired from WWE. Laurinaitis, who was working as the head of talent relations, was linked closely to Vince McMahon in the Wall Street Journal investigation unearthing sexual misconduct in WWE.
  • Chris Jericho will return to his “Lionheart” character this week on Dynamite, where he challenges Jon Moxley for the interim AEW world title.
  • Jericho’s song “Judas” was part of the Sammy Guevara–Tay Conti wedding celebration.
  • Sasha Banks and Naomi were both visible this past weekend as featured guests at the C2E2 convention in Chicago, marking their first public event since walking out of WWE in May. With a new regime in charge, there are rumblings that it is only a matter of time before Banks and Naomi are back in WWE.

Beyond Wrestling preparing for its biggest show of the year

Beyond Wrestling’s signature Americanrana show will take place on Aug. 21.

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The card, which airs on IWTV, is loaded. It is headlined by AEW’s Wheeler Yuta vs. Timothy Thatcher, a former NXT talent now starring in Japan with Pro Wrestling NOAH. It also features Eddie Kingston, Willow Nightingale, Ortiz, Alec Price, Trish Adora, LuFisto, Masha Slamovich and B3CCA in a matchup of wrestlers competing on television against those on the cusp of breaking out on a national level.

Americanrana isn’t the only show that day. There is an opening act of the doubleheader, which is the first Wrestling Open special event. Wrestling Open is Beyond’s weekly showcase of the future of pro wrestling, and it has built a following over the past 31 weeks. Its show, No Respect, includes the tournament finals of the Saturn and Kronus Eliminator Cup, pitting the Brick City Boyz against Miracle Generation. With a captive Americanrana audience, this represents the Wrestling Open crew’s chance to draw its biggest crowd yet, with 258 fans representing the number to beat.

Max Caster is working the Wrestling Open’s No Respect show instead of Americanrana. That isn’t to balance out the two cards. Caster, who just experienced his biggest win in AEW last week when The Acclaimed defeated The Gunn Club, is a major piece of Wrestling Open. He is running a story line where he puts $10,000 cash against anyone that can last the full 10-minute time limit against him, which no one has been able to do yet.

Caster has been a consistent part of Wrestling Open for close to four months. It is clear he is working to sharpen his work in the ring and become an even more distinguished pro wrestler, and he also fits in perfectly with the show’s storytelling.

Both shows should deliver an entertaining slate of matches, and they will air on a Sunday in late August, when wrestling fans would typically welcome SummerSlam into their homes. It is hard to say which match at Americanrana will stand out most. Eddie Kingston is a force to be reckoned with, and he has a genuine connection with the crowd, but another really dynamic matchup is Slamovich against B3CCA. They have a history centered around Masha’s rivalry with Alec Price, who B3CCA is aligned with, adding a different backstory to their bout. Another candidate for performance of the night is Lufisto against Adora. That will be their first-time wrestling each other, which is also the case with Wheeler Yuta vs. Timothy Thatcher.

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Yuta-Thatcher has the potential to be spectacular. One of Triple H’s favorites in NXT prior to his release, Thatcher is unique. His sole focus is wrestling the way he wants to wrestle, regardless of where he travels or who he faces. Yuta has a history of sensational work on the indies, and he is in the process of making a name for himself in AEW as part of the Blackpool Combat Club, most recently last week in an outstanding Dynamite main event against Chris Jericho. Stylistically, Yuta is a perfect opponent for Thatcher.

Americanrana is bigger than just a wrestling show. It is an emphatic statement about the unbreakable spirit of independent wrestling, and a reminder that Beyond remains a force in the field.

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Justin Barrasso can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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