Backlash 2020: Shawn Michaels names his greatest in-ring rivals; predicts winner of Edge vs Randy Orton match
WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels, who currently serves in a backstage role with the NXT brand, predicts his winner in the Edge-Randy Orton event that takes place this Sunday on Backlash.
The coronavirus outbreak had brought the world of sports to a screeching halt once things spiralled out of control earlier this year. While some sporting leagues and events, such as the Bundesliga and Serie A in football, have been revived without fans, others like the NBA and Formula 1 are yet to take off after months in hibernation.
The world of pro-wrestling however, has stood out during the pandemic for refusing to wrap things up temporarily. The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) for one has kept the show going throughout the lockdown, the only difference to their programming, much like some of the recently restarted leagues, being the absence of fans.
WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels certainly has not encountered a situation like the one currently playing out throughout his active wrestling career spanning more than two decades.
Michaels, for one, agrees with the notion of wrestlers feeding off the energy of the crowd, something that athletes from various other sporting disciplines will be able to relate to, and believes the absence of the noise and energy from the company’s Performance Center in Orlando, Florida — where all the events currently take place — makes life all the tougher for wrestlers.
“It would be very challenging, certainly for me. It was a situation that none of us had dealt with… I honestly don’t know how I would’ve responded because I really did draw off off that energy from the building,” Michaels told reporters in a telephonic interaction in the build-up to the ‘Backlash’ pay-per-view event that takes place on Sunday, 14 June.
“I will say that they adjusted to it great and did a phenomenal job, and then after a while, it sort of becomes your normal. It’s amazing how quickly… I guess and that’s what I think is unique about WWE and the wrestling business in general is that we’re almost an entity unto ourselves and that we can make just about anything doable in the wrestling business.
“But I will say it was certainly challenging from my standpoint just from encountering something that I never had,” added Michaels.
Talking about some of the most memorable feuds from his career, Michaels picked the ones with Bret Hart and close friend Triple H as two of his greatest. His feud with Hart is mainly remembered for how personal things got after a point between the two, culminating with the infamous ‘Montreal Screwjob’ at the Survivor Series in 1997, but Michaels looks back at the rivalry with “fondness”.
“I think it’s got to be Bret Hart right. I mean my goodness, how do you mention me and not think of Bret. And obviously, as everyone knows, it certainly spilled over into real life, but again all these years later… I don’t know you have to look back, and I do look back on it with fondness.
“It was something that was so palpable and people felt it. So as proud as I am of all those other rivalries, I think it’s not hard for me not to mention that one being right up there with Triple H,” said Michaels.
“So in the first part of my career, you’d say Bret Hart, and in the second part, I’d say Triple H.”
While talking about comparisons with some of the current superstars in the company — Dolph Ziggler being one such wrestler — Michaels said while he appreciated the comparisons, he wanted the current generation to go out and be the best of themselves.
“I’m thankful for that... I just think that happens in every sport, in every line of work. There’s always another person that does it well or does it better whatever the case may be.
“… but as I once said to Chris Jericho many years ago, and he’s told people since, it’s important that you be the first and best you you can be, and I think that’s what most people are trying to do. As much as they may appreciate the comparison as I do, they want to be an individual and be recognised for their individual work and excellence in their craft,” said the former member of the faction known as D-Generation X.
Backlash, a WWE pay-per-view that was first introduced in 1999 right after Wrestlemania XV, will feature Edge vs Randy Orton — already billed as the ‘Greatest Wrestling Match Ever’ in its build-up — among its main events this Sunday.
Talking about the match, Michaels said he could relate to Edge as far as the mindset of a veteran making a comeback into the company after recovering from an injury is concerned. Edge retired in 2011 after 15 years at the company due to being diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis, and returned to the 'squared circle' at the Royal Rumble earlier this year in a dramatic comeback.
Michaels himself had retired in 1998 due to a back injury, before making a comeback in 2002 to mark the second chapter of his storied career. Michaels went on to wrestle for eight more years before retiring for a second time after losing to the Undertaker in Wrestlemania XXVI.
“If you hear the doctor say you’re done and you can no longer do this, you take them at their word. They’ve gone to school for eight-ten years, they know what they’re talking about. And then you sort of get the idea that there’s a possibility or openness that the finality that they once spoke of with is no longer there for whatever reason.
“Once you make that decision (of making a comeback), all that doubt, all your worries sort of creep in because this stuff is hard enough to do just by itself even when you’re doing it all the time. And then the idea of being away from it as everyone, I’m sure you’ve all heard in different interviews from various superstars over the years — it is not like riding a bike. You don’t just get back on it and it’s a piece of cake.
“So there are a number of different aspects that go on to making it an incredibly difficult decision, and then of course delivering on that decision. And then once you do all of that, then you have to go out there and perform, and that’s where the most anxiety is and that doesn’t leave until it’s over,” said Michaels, who earned nicknames such as the ‘Heartbreak Kid’ and ‘Mr Wrestlemania’ during his time in the ring.
When asked to pick a winner between Edge and Orton, Michaels chose the former.
“As I’ve said before, I lean towards Edge, but I think I’ll say most of that is personal. And again I love Randy, (he's) unbelievably talented, but I know what it’s like to be that older guy and wanting to make a statement coming back from an injury…”
“So I’m leaning towards Edge,” Michaels signed off.
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