Hearts, Dead Men, Forgiveness, Resurrection, and Body-slams
At Wrestlemania, the Superbowl of professional wrestling,WWE superstar Shawn Michaels (aka The Showstopper, Mr. Wrestlemania, The Heartbreak Kid, Michael Shawn Hickenbottom) had his career ended as the result of an epic match against The Undertaker (aka The Dead Man, The Phenom, Big Evil, Mark Calaway). This was the 26th installment of the annual gathering, which featured, as its main event, this return-match that would signal the end of The Undertaker's unbroken 17-year winning streak or the end of Michaels' 25 year career in the ring. When all was said and done, The Heartbreak Kid stood alone in the center of the ring (as alone as you can be in front of 72,000 fans) preparing himself to say 'goodbye.'
The Showstopper had been stopped. The Heartbreak Kid had been broken. Sean Michaels, WWE superstar, becomes Michael Shawn Hickenbottom, husband, father, man of God.
On the live broadcast of Monday Night Raw, the night after Wrestlemania, Michaels ended the show standing in the ring in 'civilian' clothes giving a heartfelt farewell message to his legions of fans; recounting his ups and downs, saluting special moments, and thanking the many well-known and lesser-known people that helped him 'look good' through the years (a certain video editor named Adam will, I'm sure, treasure Michaels' generous and unexpected kudos for a very long time). Wrestling legend Bret Hart is thanked for finally forgiving Michaels for a well-known nefarious incident that he (Michaels) was involved in that radically affected Hart's career (and in many ways changed the face of wrestling) and for conceding that Michaels is not the same man he used to be. Of course, the heavy-hitters came last, as the wrestler gave thanks to “my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – thank You, my King, for saving me,” and followed that by telling his wife and kids, “babies – daddy's comin' home...”
Whether purely coincidence or The Collective Unconscious at work, the entire scenario is a Jungian analyst's delight. In a climactic match we have iconic forces at play – after all, pro wrestling is all about icons. The Undertaker is ominous, literally rising from some platform below the stage, all in black, foreboding and powerful, while Michaels is (for a wrestler) much more 'average looking,' a slightly goofy personality at times and, yes – in the white tights (okay – with some black designs, but still white)! One week from Resurrection Sunday, death challenges life, darkness vs. light... and light loses.
But wait-- As Shawn Michaels begins his farewell concession on the following night, The Undertaker's ominous music sounds and he appears, as if to disallow any graceful exit for his opponent, but instead tips his hat to honor the spirit of life that came so very close to breaking his power! Still, Michaels was defeated.... but there seems to be a sense of closure and satisfaction in the superstar's demeanor as he gets deeper into his emotional farewell. One wonders if he sensed the cosmic irony, the Jungian wonder, the religious iconography of the scene as he said goodbye to one life and hello to a renewed life that waited for him as he walked out of the ring?
God heals broken hearts and on that Monday night The Heartbreak Kid got a resurrection of sorts. So, along with those 72,000 fans I say, “thank you, Shawn Michaels,” but let me add, “welcome, Michael Shawn Hickenbottom.”
Enjoy your new life.