Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair are two of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the business. Few can argue that. It’s not long before the names Michaels and Flair come up when trying to complete a Mount Rushmore of professional wrestling, or sports entertainment. Their histories are well-documented, and each represented their respective companies as the industry’s top stars in their heyday.
Michaels was first hired by the WWE in 1987 with his Hall of Fame career lasting until 2010. Flair, meanwhile, first signed with the WWE in 1991 after headlining in the NWA and WCW. Flair’s first stint under Vince McMahon’s company only lasted a year and a half (1991-93), and he wouldn’t return again until World Championship Wrestling was bought out in 2001.
Both Michaels and Flair are Hall-of-Famers, of course, and these days, can be found making cameo appearances in the WWE and more regular ones on podcasts. Speaking of podcasts, Flair just revived his, The Ric Flair Show on MLW Radio, and on the third episode, his most recent guest was none other than The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels. Michaels revealed that the two legends first crossed paths in Missouri in 1985, long before the wrestling world knew who Shawn was (Thanks to Wrestling Inc for the transcription).
“I want to say it was like Julie’s or something like that. It was just a small little nightclub. It wasn’t even a nightclub — it was just some place where there were some pool tables and a little bar. The guys used to go there and hang out and that was actually back, I was 19 [years old] at the time and that was back when the [legal] drinking age was 18. And I was going up to the bar to order a beer and ‘Naitch’ came up and he said, ‘what are you having, kid?’ I said, ‘just a beer’ and he goes, ‘I got it’. And so he bought me a beer, then, of course, I thought, ‘okay, here’s my opportunity – I’ve watched him for years and of course I just had to take that moment to let him know what he had meant to me as a [professional] wrestler’. It’s just one of those things, you’ve got your one chance to give your five inch spiel about how he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread and yada yada. And all I know is that, thank you very much, I didn’t buy a drink the rest of that night.”
“I think everybody knew that I just was such a huge fan of Ric’s, so just to give me the opportunity to be in there with him, I think, is probably somebody, a booker, or a producer, or somebody, an agent, that knew that and said, ‘Shawn would get a kick out of that opportunity, so let him do it’. Yeah, we had six minutes. There was very little time. You just do the best you can… heck, I don’t know the future, so for me, this is a huge opportunity. You’re in there with the guy that you always dreamed about being in there with. It’s a huge opportunity and then, gosh, it was the fastest six minutes you ever have.”
Re-watching the match all these years later, it actually lasted more than nine, but they’d be given much more time more than 16 years later when Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair squared off on the biggest stage of them all, at WrestleMania 24. This, of course, would be Flair’s final match in the WWE, working under the stipulation that if he lost, he would be forced to retire. Their WrestleMania showdown, coupled with the celebration on RAW the following night, was as fitting as it gets in sports entertainment.
“To me, this speaks to the simplistic psychology as opposed to what I think is good psychology, which is what I always felt like I had. It wasn’t about being old. It was about the fact that somebody that loved that dog loved him so much he had to take him behind the shed and kill him. And that’s what it was. It was a mercy killing. That was the difference. For me, all the Old Yeller stuff was more about love. It was about someone being put into a position that they did not envy and they were going to have to do something and put an end to something that they didn’t want to put an end to. And the reason they didn’t want to put an end to it was because that person, that everything about that meant so much. And again, that’s the conflict that ‘HBK’ and the character were going through in the whole storyline with Ric. And that’s what made it so, for me, enjoyable to do.”
[Image via WWE]