Shawn Michaels has pretty much done it all in WWE. He is a Grand Slam Champion, winner of the Royal Rumble, multiple top rated matches, a founding member of the most infamous WWE faction of all time, and a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.
The Rock was the first ever third generation star to enter the WWE ring. He rose through the ranks by joining The Nation of Domination and later Vince McMahon’s Corporation. His talents were undeniable and soon was one of the most ‘over’ superstars in history.
Michaels and Rocky’s respective careers would overlap in the late 90s and early 2000s. However, with injuries to the Heartbreak Kid and The Rock’s Hollywood ambitions, these two would rarely be active with the company at the same time. Therefore, we never had a chance to see how a Shawn Michaels versus The Rock match would play out.
Tale Of The Tape
Weight: 225 lbs
Signature Move: Flying Elbow
Finishing Move: Sweet Chin Music
Nicknames: Heartbreak Kid, Mr. WrestleMania, The Showstopper
Weight: 260 lbs
Signature Move: Samoan Drop
Finishing Move: Rock Bottom, People’s Elbow
Nicknames: The Great One, The Brahma Bull, The People’s Champion
Shawn Michaels’ first run with WWE ended before he could ever have a match back in 1987 but his actual debut for WWE was in the summer of 1988 as a member for former AWA Tag Team Champions, The Rockers.
Along with partner, Marty Jannetty, they would earn their way to the top of the tag team division. Even though Michaels and Jannetty would never officially win the WWE Tag Team belts, Michaels and Jannetty would each go on to win the championships with different partners.
Michaels’ singles career abruptly started after the infamous “Barber Shop” Superkick that forever broke the bond between the two men, ending The Rockers’ three-year run.
It took no time for Shawn to make new allies. He aligned himself with Sensational Sherri who was known for her ties with successful singles competitors.
HBK would win his first championship in 1992 when he defeated The British Bulldog for the Intercontinental Championship. He would finally win the Tag Team gold with Diesel, better known by his real name, Kevin Nash. Together, the pair would form Two Dudes With Attitude and would have two reigns as Tag Champions.
By the time the late 1990s rolled around, Shawn’s main event status was cemented. He won back-to-back Royal Rumbles in 1995 and 1996 while becoming the first man to win the Rumble as the number one entrant. Michaels failed to capitalize on his first WrestleMania title opportunity against his former tag team partner Diesel.
However, the story would be told differently at WrestleMania XII when Michaels defeated the incumbent WWE Champion Bret Hart in a classic 60 minute Iron Man match that went into extra time.
Shawn would hold the championship until Survivor Series 1996 where he would lose to Sycho Sid. He would regain the title at the 1997 Royal Rumble by beating Sid. He would relinquish the WWE Championship on February 13, 1997, in the now notorious ‘I Lost My Smile’ speech.
He would return at SummerSlam 1997 as the special guest referee for the WWE Championship match between the number one contender Bret Hart and the champion The Undertaker. Being an obvious rival to Hart, Michaels would take a swing with a steel chair at The Hitman but would miss and hit The Undertaker instead, leading to Hart capturing the title.
This miscalculation on HBK’s part would lead to the first ever Hell in a Cell match featuring himself and the man he costed the WWE Championship, The Undertaker. The performance from the Showstopper would prove to everyone watching on pay-per-view, sitting in the crowd, and back in the locker rooms that Shawn Michaels was back and was taking his place atop the WWE hierarchy.
A week later, a still bandaged up Shawn Michaels alongside Triple H, Chyna, and ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude would christen themselves D-Generation X.
The very next month, Shawn would once again be the WWE Champion after the most controversial finish in the history of professional wrestling. The Montreal Screwjob in which Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, and Triple H colluded to legitimately screw over Bret Hart on his last night in WWE.
Michaels would hold the title until WrestleMania XIV, which would be Michaels last match in the WWE for four years. He would herniate two discs in his back due to a bump he took during the 1998 Royal Rumble title match against The Undertaker.
The main event against the 1998 Royal Rumble winner Stone Cold Steve Austin wound up being his retirement match and after passing the torch on to Austin, Michaels would walk away from WWE.
Dwayne Johnson debuted in WWE as Rocky Maivia, a blend of his father’s name, Rocky Johnson, and his grandfather’s name, High Chief Peter Maivia. His first match was at the 1996 Survivor Series as a member of a four-man team in which he was the lone man standing at the end of the match.
It didn’t take long before he was entrusted with WWE gold. A few months after his initial match, he won the Intercontinental Championship after beating Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
Saying Rocky was not a fan favorite is one of the biggest understatements in the WWE world. Fans rejected the huge push that Rocky received and his squeaky clean “Hulk Hogan” babyface persona was strongly disliked. After a few successful championship defenses, Maivia dropped the belt to Owen Hart at Raw is War.
After taking time off to heal from an injury, Rocky Maivia returned and aligned himself with the heel faction, the Nation of Domination, led by Faarooq. After explaining that his actions were motivated by the disdain of the WWE Universe, he would demand he be referred to as The Rock from then on.
This move allowed The Rock more freedom to take his character to a new level. Without the restrictions of the ‘golden boy’ holding him back, his talents and potential started to shine. It was only a matter of time until Faarooq was overthrown and The Rock assumed the role of leader, the ruler as he put it, of The Nation.
The Nation was taken to new heights of notoriety under the leadership of The Rock and reached its peak when Owen Hart joined them thanks to their mutual hatred for babyface faction D-Generation X, the group that Shawn Michaels co-founded but was no longer a part of. DX versus The Nation is one of the most documented rivalries in WWE history and sparked the rivalry between The Rock and Triple H that lasted throughout their careers.
This rivalry was cooled off after The Rock lost to Triple H at SummerSlam 1998 in a ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship. The Nation could no longer handle The Rock’s popularity and overall charisma so slowly The Rock distanced himself from The Nation as other members began going their own separate ways as well.
Owen Hart began teaming with Jeff Jarrett.
The Godfather became a fan favorite of his own as a singles competitor.
While D’Lo Brown and Mark Henry stuck together and formed a team of their own.
The Rock was now firmly in the main event picture and coined himself ‘The People’s Champion’. In a matter of two years, The Rock had gone from hearing chants of “Rocky Sucks” to being embraced by the entire WWE Universe as their faux champion.
Entering the 1998 Survivor Series, the WWE Championship was vacant so Vince McMahon held a tournament to crown a new champion. The top two stars and fan favorites being Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock were seemingly on a crash course to meet in the finals. However, McMahon and The Great One had their own plans in mind.
The Rock and Mankind faced off against one another in the finals and in the closing moments, The Rock put Mankind in a Sharpshooter while McMahon demanded the bell to ring. Mocking the Montreal Screwjob that happened the year prior.
The fan favorite had won but not the way everyone expected. Vince McMahon, in another mocking of The Montreal Screwjob, claimed that “the people screwed the people” and their years of hatred toward The Rock drove him to side with McMahon. The Rock was dubbed, ‘The Corporate Champion’.
The Rock was now the focal point of Vince McMahon’s faction, The Corporation which was a collection of superstars that McMahon used to ensure his plans went off without a hitch.
At the same time, a familiar face would reappear as the new Commissioner for the World Wrestling Federation.
At first, Michaels seemed to be looking forward to making life miserable for The Rock, McMahon, and the corporate team but Michaels would actually become a part of The Corporation and join forces with The Rock and Vince McMahon.
Michaels’ alliance with The Corporation was short lived and he was “fired” by McMahon. Michaels was able to keep his Commissioner title thanks to a contract clause and would rejoin D-Generation X that ultimately became a one night only moment since Michaels needed more medical treatments for his back.
While Michaels would once again walk away due to health concerns, The Rock would enter into a rivalry with Mankind and the two exchanged the WWE Championship in a series of matches in early 1999 that included the infamous I Quit Match at the 1999 Royal Rumble.
The two would also do battle in an Empty Arena Match during Halftime Heat, a Last Man Standing Match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and eventually ended with a Ladder Match on Raw that would lead to The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin finally facing each other at WrestleMania XV.
At WrestleMania XV, Austin would defeat The Rock for the championship in one of the most highly anticipated matchups of all-time. In back-to-back WrestleManias, Stone Cold would beat Shawn Michaels and The Rock respectively for the WWE Championship.
Austin and The Rock would have a rematch at Backlash 1999 but The Rock would fail to win the championship back. After Backlash, he would sever ties with the McMahon’s and The Corporation and once again turn babyface. In August of 1999, at the “first” SmackDown, Shawn Michaels and The Rock would cross paths again.
Michaels would serve as the Special Guest Referee in a WWE Championship match between The Rock and Triple H. Michaels would deliver a Sweet Chin Music to The Rock and give Triple H the victory.
When Austin was forced to miss time due to neck problems in late 1999 and into 2000, The Rock took ahold of the WWE and elevated himself to the single most popular superstar on the entire roster. The Rock would duplicate one of Michaels’ accomplishments by winning the 2000 Royal Rumble by last eliminating The Big Show.
At Judgement Day 2000, Michaels would again be the Special Referee for a match between The Rock and Triple H. This time he would call it right down the middle and show no bias. This would be Shawn’s last WWE appearance as commissioner before handing over the job to Mick Foley. While Triple would win the bout, Rock would recapture the title at the next pay-per-view, King of the Ring but lose it to newcomer Kurt Angle later that year
The Rock would win the WWE Championship from Kurt Angle at No Way Out 2001 and rekindle a familiar rivalry with the 2001 Royal Rumble winner, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Following his loss to Austin at WrestleMania XVII, The Rock took time off to film his feature film, The Mummy Returns.
The Rock would return and play a major role on Team WWF during the InVasion storyline. Eventually, facing Hulk Hogan in one of the biggest WrestleMania matches in history.
He would recapture the WWE Championship in 2002 for his seventh reign. At SummerSlam 2002, he would drop the title to Brock Lesnar.
Following his loss to Lesnar, The Rock would sporadically appear on WWE television thanks to his increasing workload as a Hollywood movie star. At WrestleMania XIX in 2003, The Rock and Stone Cold faced off in their third WrestleMania main event. For the first time at WrestleMania, The Rock pinned Austin for the three count.
In his last match as a full-time performer, The Rock lost to former WCW megastar Goldberg at Backlash 2003.
The Rock would leave WWE and transition to his career as an actor and would only make special appearances for WWE.
While The Rock’s Hall of Fame career was drawing to a close, Shawn Michaels received a new lease on his. At the very same event where The Rock lost his WWE Championship to Brock Lesnar, SummerSlam 2002, Michaels returned for his first in-ring competition in over four years.
HBK returned to face Triple H in a match that was initially presumed to be a special one-time event. However, a few months after defeating his former best friend, Michaels was announced as the final competitor in the first ever Elimination Chamber Match at the 2002 Survivor Series. In a shocking result, Michaels endured the other five men in the match and became the World Heavyweight Champion.
Shawn Michaels would only hold the belt until the next pay-per-view, Armageddon, where he lost the title back to Triple H in a Three Stages of Hell Match. At the 2003 Royal Rumble, Michaels would enter a rivalry with Chris Jericho where it would conclude in a match at WrestleMania XIX. The same night The Rock retired Stone Cold Steve Austin, HBK would defeat Y2J.
After WrestleMania XIX, Michaels re-entered his angle with Triple H and would do battle with him throughout the rest of 2003 and into 2004. At WrestleMania XX both Shawn and Trips would come up short in a triple threat match for the World Heavyweight Championship.
After continuing his clash with Triple H throughout the year, he would take time off to rehab a knee injury. Upon his return in 2005, Michaels would face Kurt Angle at that year’s WrestleMania. Michaels would end up submitting to the Olympic gold medalist’s Ankle Lock.
At SummerSlam in 2005, Michaels took part in what many would consider a dream match itself when he faced off with Hulk Hogan.
Michaels would lose to Hogan that night and move on to other matters. Toward the end of 2005, he began a rivalry with WWE owner Vince McMahon setting up yet another big match for WrestleMania.
After defeating McMahon, a reunion of epic proportions seemed to be written in the stars as the boss would keep getting involved in the business of Michaels and a familiar face in HBK’s past.
After feuding with McMahon and his son Shane, DX would challenge Rated-RKO for the Tag Team Championships. It wasn’t meant to be as Triple H would suffer the second torn quadriceps muscle of his career during a match at New Year’s Revolution in 2007.
Michaels would win the tag belts from Edge and Randy Orton but with the help of WWE Champion John Cena rather than his injured DX buddy.
Shawn lost to Cena at WrestleMania XXIII for the WWE Championship and afterward, the pair lost the WWE Tag Team Championships to the Hardy Boyz. Michaels and Randy Orton got involved in a series of matches that took up the remainder of the year.
At the following WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels took part in yet another iconic WrestleMania moment. In one of the most emotional matches in professional wrestling history, he defeated legendary Ric Flair in a retirement match.
Michaels had a string of matches with Batista, rekindled an old rivalry with Chris Jericho, and a new angle with John Bradshaw Layfield to round out 2008. The Showstopper would get a chance to break The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. In a match that is widely considered to be the best ever, Shawn was unable to beat ‘Taker at WrestleMania in his first attempt.
In 2009 following a period away from WWE, Michaels and Triple H reformed D-Generation X one more time. This go-around, they were able to win the Tag Team Championships for the first time as a team.
The two would hold the Tag Titles for a couple of months before losing to The Big Show and The Miz. Heading into WrestleMania, Shawn made it clear he wanted one last chance to stop The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. He wanted it so bad, he put his career on the line.
He would again fail to get the best of The Phenom and at WrestleMania XXVI, wrestled his last match as a full-time competitor. Michaels would walk away from WWE again but this time, he was able to leave his way.
As you can see, The Rock and Shawn Michaels careers always seemed to be just a hair off from colliding and giving the WWE Universe one of the greatest matches of all-time. In the Sports Al Dente world, we get to see what would happen.
Shawn Michaels music hits and his video plays on the Titantron as he is the first combatant to enter the ring.
Making his way to the ring, he stops on the ramp for his patented prayer.
When he gets into the ring the typical pyro and his iconic pose are on full display.
After a few seconds of anticipation, the arena is rocked with “If You SMEELLLLL…What The Rock…Is Cooking!”
All of the usual electricity emanates from The Rock as he makes his way to the battlefield.
Once the bell rings, The Rock is the first to strike as he delivers some right hands to Michaels.
The Rock’s attack pushes HBK back into the corner. The Great One attempts to build on his initial strikes but Michaels slips out in classic HBK fashion.
The quicker Michaels is able to connect on his flying forearm before The Rock is able to collect himself following Michaels’ counter.
Michaels is able to kip up.
The Rock follows suit.
The opponents stare each other down following their brief displays of ability. They discover that whoever is to win the match, it will take more than either man has ever put forth in the ring.
Michaels and Rocky go back and forth with blows. The more powerful Rock gains the first real advantage of the contest. He sends Michaels into the ropes with ferocity, sending HBK over the top. Much to The Rock’s chagrin, Michaels is able to skin the cat to show he is far from defeated.
The Rock quickly utilizes big power moves to try and put Michaels away early.
Of course, HBK resiliency is well documented and he does not succumb to the first wave of The Rock’s onslaught.
The Rock Irish whips Shawn into the ropes but Shawn ducks a clothesline from Rocky, slides underneath the bottom rope onto the apron, and nails a slingshot clothesline of his own.
With The Rock down on the canvas, Michaels leaps to the top rope and takes a shot at a Flying Elbow.
Michaels senses his opportunity to deliver his Sweet Chin Music finisher and starts to cue up the band.
The Rock catches Michaels kick mid-air and sends Michaels into a spin.
He nails his DDT on Michaels to complete his counter.
The Rock now gets into position to hit his finisher, the Rock Bottom. As Michaels gets to his feet, The Rock measures it perfectly and nails his finisher.
The Rock attempts to put the cherry on top and deliver the People’s Elbow.
Michaels is able to kick out before the three and stays alive for the time being. The Rock is in pure shock as he, along with everyone in the arena, thought the match was over.
The Rock tries to pull himself together and collect his thoughts as he strategizes his next move, hopefully, the move that puts the Heartbreak Kid away. As he sits in the corner and ponders, Shawn Michaels slowly pulls himself to his feet. The Rock’s frustration takes over as he charges the weakened Michaels, looking to put him away for good.
Michaels instincts and ring awareness kick in as he hits his Sweet Chin Music out of nowhere.
Shawn Michaels claims the victory over The Rock. In a match for the ages between two Hall of Famers, Shawn is able to find the smallest margin of error in The Rock’s gameplan. Almost as small as the margin of time that kept these two apart in reality.