I hated Shawn Michaels’ return in 2018.
Absolutely abhorred it.
Absolutely dreaded it.
His retirement was perfect, a cherry on top to a historic career. And yet, WWE’s relationship with Saudi Arabia stomped over cohesive storytelling, as the Heartbreak Kid returned to action with Triple H by his side, in one of the worst matches I’ve ever seen.
I didn’t even watch the event live, but curiosity won in the end and I booted up the WWE Network to watch my childhood hero return to the dissonant wails of off-tune instruments.
Case in point: I wasn’t a big fan of this match. Luckily, Shawn’s performance himself wasn’t horrible, in hindsight, but the whole feel of this obviously nostalgic cash grab reeked of desperation, and I’ve tried so hard to wipe this event from my mind.
What return? Shawn Michaels happily retired to a near-acclaimed bout with the Undertaker, walking away from in-ring competition for good! Oh how I miss the good ol’ days of his time in wrestling.
Like the last reformation of DX in 2009.
I am getting somewhere with this. Trust me.
Place yourself in the shoes of a successful wrestler. You’ve seen it all, wrestled in several classic bouts that the Observer fucking drooled over, and just want to coast along to the finish line. At least before the Undertaker storyline really kicked into gear, I don’t blame Shawn Michaels for taking a goofy approach to his last several months in wrestling.
In fact, I believe the 2009 run of DX blessed us with some of the most surreal, funniest moments the WWE had seen in a good while. It was a chance for both Shawn and HHH to throw it back to their younger, goofier days, albeit under the harsh restrictions of a TV-PG rating.
They really had the audacity to write Shawn Michaels off for a few months after his loss to the Undertaker and brought him back into the canon-fold by explaining that he took a job working in a kitchen.
The thought of HBK being so humiliated by his failed moonsault that cost him a chance at beating the Undertaker’s streak, to the point where he disappears from the face of the wrestling Earth and contradicts the cockiness and arrogance that he’s been so well known for – it was so hilarious to me.
It was off-key for his character, yes. It’s a very “PG Era” WWE idea on paper, yes. But Shawn Michaels plays silly so well that I couldn’t hate-watch this segment.
It made the eventual DX reunion feel all the sweeter when they came out at Summerslam a couple weeks later in a TANK.
AN ACTUAL TANK. I CANNOT EMPHASIZE HOW COOL THAT IS.
During this run, DX mostly stuck to guest host backstage segments on Monday Night Raw. Say what you will about the usefulness of these celebrities, but in the midst of WWE’s PG identity crisis, some of these spots were kind of funny. The likes of Bob Barker, The Muppets and Hugh Jackman are revered as the best Raw guest hosts, but I think fans glossed over the DX segments.
Whether they were reminiscing on brighter days with Dusty Rhodes or acting goofy with Ozzy Osbourne, every Monday was filled with a fun DX spot. Was it supposed to be the pinnacle of professional wrestling storytelling? No, absolutely not.
I think we’re so passionate about wrestling to the point of seriousness. We take everything at face value, and we want Creative to utilize wrestlers to their potential. But sometimes we forget to have breathing room for silliness.
A fun segment every once in a while isn’t bad, and DX’s backstage antics were a bright spot compared to the other programs WWE were running back then, in a time of awkward transition.
You don’t have to agree with me, but I love cheese in my wrestling, and DX satisfied that.
They still delivered compelling programs and feuds during this run. I loved the triple threat with John Cena at Survivor Series, which is one of the most entertaining matches of the modern era. The action in that match was equally captivating.
It didn’t have to be a 5 star classic to be great. Also, I always get a kick (haha) out of Shawn Michaels delivering a Sweet Chin Music to HHH’s face at the beginning, a spot that would be repeated a few months later in the Royal Rumble to demonstrate Michaels’ insecurity and ego in winning the match.
DX also feuded with the likes of Chris Jericho and Big Show, as the JeriShow tag team. Winning the unified championships from them at the inaugural TLC event, DX cemented themselves as a big act for WWE, especially to their family audience. Ironic, given the team’s risqué personality back in the Attitude Era. There was something endearing about seeing tons of kids gleefully waving their DX glow sticks in the crowd.
Yes, even the Hornswoggle segments were enjoyable. Despite his polarizing presence in DX, he fed exactly into the wrestling cheese that I love. Shawn and HHH played the “seriousness” of Hornswoggle’s dream to join DX to levels that were laughable in a good way. The holiday promotions they would produce for the WWE shop often involved Hornswoggle interrupting the set to DX’s dismay, as they try to avoid the dealings of an adorable leprechaun.
The storyline climaxed in one of the most surreal, funniest segments in Monday Night Raw history: The Little People’s Court. It added substantial lore to an aspect of WWE culture that I never thought of: the underside of the ring.
I have no shame in confessing that this is one of my favorite wrestling segments ever.
And I totally get it. The DX of 2009 pales compared to 1997’s iteration regarding adultery and boundary-pushing segments. However, I think Shawn and Hunter did their best with what they were given. I love seeing how creativity unfolds under strict guidelines, and I can’t imagine the challenges of curating new DX content under a PG rating, considering the faction pioneered the rebellious turn WWE took in the late 90s.
This isn’t really a deep dive feature, but I just wanted to express how much this era of DX’s run meant to me. A lot of people gave WWE flack for their programming in the late 2000s, for very good reasons. But I honestly think this was one of the bright spots. It’s not a 7 star match, but it’s entertaining, as wrestling should be.
Maybe that’s also why I’m one of the few who genuinely enjoyed the Lumberjack Zombie match from this year’s Backlash, but I digress.
Best of all, Shawn Michaels and HHH were having fun. You can see the smiles on their faces when interacting with kids. Perhaps it’s my overanalytical wrestling brain picking and reading too much into things, but I think 2009 DX was the perfect “farewell tour” for both men. They got to interact with many figures and events from their past in a civil way.
For instance, when Bret Hart guest hosted Raw, he buried the hatchet with his former rival HBK. To see Shawn Michaels in a better place where he can balance his personal life and the demands of the wrestling industry, is incredible.
For HHH, this particular run in DX would be the last time fans saw him wrestle for WWE on a full-time basis. After DX lost the tag team championships, which subsequently led to Shawn Michaels’ retirement, Hunter would begin transitioning to the executive side of the company, taking on several roles that deal with talent acquisition, being largely responsible for NXT’s growth.
DX going out there to entertain the thousands in attendance, and the millions watching around the world.
Those are the memories I’ll treasure as a professional wrestling fan.
Not whatever……this was.