They say the Lord works in mysterious ways. Perhaps there’s no better example of that saying than the January 2010 reconciliation on WWE Monday Night Raw between longtime bitter rivals Bret “Hit Man” Hart and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, following 12-plus years of not communicating with one another.
Michaels became a born-again Christian in 2002, shortly before he came back to competing in WWE after a four-year absence. If you followed Shawn’s antics as part of D-Generation X in 1997-98, or if you followed his backstage antics via the Internet, you would have concluded that Michaels would be the last WWE Superstar to find God, unless “Stone Cold” Steve Austin were to start preaching John 3:16 instead of Austin 3:16.
Earlier this year, Shawn released a book, Wrestling For My Life, which details his faith journey. When he first left WWE following WrestleMania XIV in March 1998, by his own admission, he was angry at the world. He became addicted to pills and painkillers to mask the constant pain that he was experiencing. He married his current wife, Rebecca, in 1999, and they couple gave birth to a son, Cameron, in January 2000. However, that didn’t stop Shawn from continuing to take his pills and having a generally miserable outlook on life. As best as I can recall, his son had just turned two years old, and began to notice his dad constantly drugged out. Shawn eventually began to see the error of his ways, and through the prayerful intervention of his wife, sought out a Bible study in his hometown of San Antonio. The Bible study leader led Shawn in the Sinner’s Prayer, and Shawn wrote that he wept like a baby and became a new man. Even though he still goes through the same human ups and downs that we all do, Shawn resolved to become a God-fearing man and a better husband and father, and, in my opinion, has followed through on that promise. Shawn and Rebecca had a second child, daughter Cheyenne, in 2004.
Meanwhile, following the Montreal Screwjob at the 1997 WWE Survivor Series, Bret Hart left WWE for WCW, and to the surprise of absolutely no one who followed the business, was grossly misused. He eventually had to retire from active competition in 2000, after suffering a concussion resulting from an errant kick from Bill Goldberg at WCW Starrcade 1999. Moreover, his personal life went to hell in a handbasket in the years following the Montreal Screwjob. Hart admitted in his 2007 autobiography that he had a lot of extramarital affairs and was not the most faithful husband to his then-wife, Julie. That led to the couple’s eventual divorce, and I think Bret at least has to take some responsibility for that happening. However, there were plenty of awful things that happened in Bret’s life during that time period that weren’t his fault: the deaths of his brother Owen and his brother-in-law “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, the deaths of his parents, Stu and Helen Hart, the deaths of several friends within the industry (Mr. Perfect and Rick Rude come to mind right off the bat), and to top things off, suffering a stroke, which took him a long time to recover from.
Ironically, the first person to call Bret in the hospital following his stroke was none other than WWE chairman Vince McMahon, the same man who Bret punched out following the Montreal Screwjob. Bret wrote in his book that he felt very emotional as a result of that call, and that led to him slowly but surely making peace with the WWE, including an excellent DVD career retrospective which was released in the latter part of 2005 (featuring several great matches which Bret himself selected for the DVD), and his rightful induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in April of 2006.
However, Bret wrote in his autobiography that he still held ill feelings toward Shawn. I’m sure that Bret thought Shawn’s conversion wasn’t for real. In fact, Bret wrote in his book that he would never forgive Shawn, or his best friend Triple H, for what they did to ruin the business.
Evidently, the good Lord had other ideas. Shawn wrote in his book that Bret began reaching out to him in the latter part of 2009, and the two began texting one another. Bret made his official return to the WWE on the Jan. 4, 2010 edition of RAW and confronted his old rival to begin the show. After the two addressed each other, Bret extended his hand to Shawn in friendship, and Shawn accepted. The two even hugged each other. It is easily the most surreal moment in WWE history: more surreal than former WCW boss Eric Bischoff becoming the storyline General Manager of WWE Raw in July 2002, and more surreal than former WCW icon Sting making his WWE debut at the 2014 WWE Survivor Series.
At the WWE’s annual showcase event, Wrestlemania 26 in 2010, Bret defeated the evil Mr. McMahon via the Sharpshooter in a no-holds-barred match (which was really a glorified squash match, but at least the right man won!). Meanwhile, Shawn lost a Streak vs. Career match to The Undertaker in the main event of that show. Shawn retired as a result of that match, and hasn’t wrestled since. I don’t think it’s an accident that they both had their Wrestlemania swan songs at the same event. Shawn took his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame in April 2011, and later that year, WWE released an excellent Greatest Rivalries DVD, featuring Bret and Shawn in a sit-down interview with WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross.
In his recent book, Shawn wrote that he and Bret are not best friends today, nor have they ever been best friends. However, they have a real and authentic friendship and still keep in touch to this day. Definitely a case of divine intervention! Very awesome stuff, if you ask me! If that makes me a old softie, then I guess I can live with that label.
Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels will always be linked together in the annals of WWE history. Thank goodness they are now real friends instead of bitter enemies.