As iconic in his career as he has been within the squared circle, Shawn Michaels’ work with WWE behind the scenes could be more pivotal to his legacy than anything else.
The two-time WWE Hall of Famer is widely regarded as one of the best halls to grace the squared circle. With countless tournaments and instant classics in his favour, it’s hard to argue with him.
Since retiring from the ring in 2010, though, Michaels has been fully focused on helping WWE build a strong foundation for his future through NXT and other avenues.
That alone makes the 57-year-old’s present just as important as his past, and being innovative has given him the ultimate advantage in this regard.
As the pioneer of WWE’s ladder matches and Iron Man, Michaels is the first superstar to earn his own NFT trading card thanks to the company’s exclusive partnership with Candy Digital. It should come as no surprise.
“There’s a whole new generation of WWE fans, because of the network and the Peacock deal and now through NXT, who are growing up with the ability to see Shawn Michaels,” The Heartbreak Kid told B/R. “When something is new, original and relatively untested, this is the NFT trading card, and I’m the number one guy. I’m the guy who grew up when there wasn’t cable TV yet. It’s pretty cool to me.”
WWE’s new line of NFTs will closely mirror the trading cards of the ’80s and ’90s and include a full-body silver statue of Michaels in the center of the ring accompanied by his entry music, a 3D NFT trading card that will transition into a photo carousel showing him through three different eras of his career, and more.
The auction winner will be Michaels’ personal guest at the upcoming NXT event and will have ringside seats, a backstage tour, a personal meet and greet, and signed memorabilia.
The constant change in WWE NXT is fueling Michaels
It was easy for Michaels to blast off into the sunset after his historic Swan song in the main event of WrestleMania 26 against The Undertaker, and he’s never going to be in action again.
Aside from an occasional appearance on WWE television, he managed to stay away for several years, at least until his role as coach and creative advisor finally came to NXT in 2016.
Since then, HBK has given its brilliance to everyone who came through the brand. As someone who led WWE into the New Generation era in the mid-’90s and broke the mold for what a superstar should look like, he knows just as much as anyone that being on the cusp of change in wrestling is critical.
“I am proud of myself for being one of those people who has been around for so long but I also understand and appreciate the evolution and change of business and being so supportive of that,” Michaels said. “As with everything else, athletes are improving a lot, whether it’s in our industry or in our other industry, and they continue to innovate and push the envelope. WWE never shy away from making those different innovations and integrating them with what we do.”
In a short amount of time, Michaels went from being an important behind-the-scenes influence to the sole owner of NXT’s creative vision when Triple H underwent heart surgery a year ago.
There were intense rumors at the time that Vince McMahon and Bruce Pritchard were essentially running the show heading into the brand’s surprise relaunch last September, but The Heartbreak Kid confirmed he was in the driver’s seat the whole time.
“When Hunter first left, it became all me, certainly from a TV standpoint,” Michaels said. “Matt Bloom is the head coach and takes care of everything from a PC training standpoint, but when it comes to NXT 2.0 TV, it’s something that my team and I have taken on creatively. I know a lot of people thought Vince and Bruce did that I can promise you, it wasn’t They have time to turn NXT TV on. If it’s good or bad, it’s on me.
“It has been a pleasure to do this show and work with such talent. Again, everyone has been put in a real tough situation, we all were, but this is where you learn to do things in WWE. That, to me, is a form of talent development. , which is the understanding that things can always change…here and you have to adapt to that. The show always goes on. It’s been an experience with fire for a lot of us, but it was a very nice experience.”
Michaels feels that being a student in the game for more than three decades has completely prepared him for this opportunity, knowing that anything can change when a hat drops in WWE.
Although this was not what he originally subscribed to, he thrived and lived in his new landmark and fed with the fun challenges that each new day brought.
“As everyone knows, I came in as a coach and then slowly moved into helping with creativity and things like that,” Michaels said. “I was always the second man right behind Hunter [Triple H]. I obviously never imagined being the guy who had the final say on the show and what we do and don’t do and the overall vision of what we’re going to do and how we’re going forward.”
The DX founders aim to bridge the creative gap between NXT and the main roster
Michaels strongly believes in taking risks, even if it doesn’t always pay off.
Then again, getting out of the comfort zone is part of the development process in pro wrestling. This strategy has developed quite a few promising possibilities in NXT 2.0 over the past year and has seen that others haven’t reached the heights originally expected of them.
When Vince McMahon was in charge of creativity on the main roster, no matter how successful someone was in NXT, there was a fear among fans that they would manipulate him when they made it to Raw or SmackDown and have everything that made them more in the first place shift.
With Triple H now calling for the shots since Vince McMahon retired on July 22, Michaels promises there will be more synergy between the brands going forward to better secure the company’s future.
“We’ve always thought of things the same way,” he said. “That’s what we hope. We want things to keep moving forward and improving and evolving, but I think there will be a more natural transition. And look: We also understand that our job here is to adapt to everything else. It’s Raw and SmackDown that are really paving the way for this company. We We understand that.
“I love the fire training aspect of this job. I know it can be challenging sometimes, and I know people will get upset when we have sudden changes and changes in direction and it can be nerve-wracking, but it’s also incredibly exciting and challenging. That’s something I’m still enjoying. At 10:05pm on Tuesday we’ll be doing ourselves a live show, and if it’s not perfect don’t worry, we have a show next week and that’s a good deal.”
Fans are already starting to see signs of a change in Raw and SmackDown since Triple H took the creative side of the shows, most notably the return of former NXT stars Dakota Kai, Carrion Kross, and Dexter Loomis.
Michaels worked closely with Kai and Iyo Sky (formerly Io Shirai) during their long stays at the black and gold brand. He’s very optimistic not only about what’s in store for them on the WWE main stage but also what the coming years will look like for Raw and SmackDown with the founding members of D-Generation X now at the helm.
Michaels said, “Dakota Kai knows she’s definitely one of my favorites and Iyo is clearly one of the most talented ladies in the world. I can only say this: We have very similar rosters. Hunter and I kind of share the same brain. We have a small roster to think of.” Every now and then, so I’m really excited about what he’s done and what he’ll do in the future, and we look forward to helping him every step of the way.”
Shawn Michaels NFT Trading Cards can be purchased from WWE starting August 15 at 1 PM ET until August 22 at 7 PM ET at candy.com/wwe.
Graham Mermina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, has been a sports and entertainment writer since 2010. Visit his website, wrestlingand subscribe to YouTube channel For more content related to wrestling.