From the Wrestling Ring to the Silver Screen WWE Superstar Shawn Michaels Shines
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar Shawn Michaels has seen the highs and the lows. Largely considered as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, Michaels is a four-time world champion, having held the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) World Heavyweight Championship three times and WWE’s World Heavyweight Championship once. He’s in the WWE Hall of Fame and he even has his own action figure. He retired, made a comeback and retired again. Along the way, his life changed spiritually and his focus and priorities were transformed. Most recently, Michaels was tapped for a role in the movie, The Resurrection of Gavin Stone — an inspirational comedy about faith and forgiveness. Risen recently talked with Michaels about the film, his family, faith and fulfilling dreams.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: What was it about The Resurrection of Gavin Stone that made you want to be involved with the project?
Shawn Michaels: It was the script. I am thankful to Dallas Jenkins; [the director] he pushed for me. I think a few people were mentioned to him and he did a little research and he saw my story and clearly there was a lot of similarity between the character Doug and my real life story. I have to give Dallas the credit for making the WWE call and ask me. I really liked the movie. I am someone who goes to a lot of Christian films and as much as I enjoy them, I thought this one was very different. I liked that it had a nice sense of humor and was gutsy enough to make fun of us in the church a little bit, and I really liked that it wasn’t someone giving Gavin the speech that is always there… of coming to Christ, but rather it was all of these people and their unconditional love, their unconditional forgiveness, compassion and understanding – it was them. It is what I’d like to think the church is supposed to be, it’s the good Lord working through us and us demonstrating His love. That is what moved him and prompted Gavin to go on a journey of looking at himself.
RM: The idea of living out your faith authentically and allowing that to be your witness is definitely something your character displays and teaches Gavin through an important lesson about serving others without seeking the credit. What has been something valuable you’ve learned and applied in your life?
SM: Honestly it was through the role of Doug. Everything that is wonderful and decent in my life is because of my salvation, but I’m not nearly the man Doug is and truly that character is someone I aspire to be. As I played him, it was a really neat process. He never once explained to Gavin why he was doing everything, it’s just who he was. He had a servants’ heart. I’m married to a woman that has a servants’ heart so on a daily basis I see it. It’s been 17 years we’ve been married and I’m still blown away by it. I know that is an area that I need to work on and it’s not something that comes natural to me. My excuse can be I’ve been an athlete my whole life and there is a certain amount of focus on self that you have to have to perform at a high level, blah, blah, blah…all the excuses I can make for myself; but I came out of making the film aspiring to be Doug. He didn’t complain, he was unbelievably comfortable with who he was, and his attitude is that the Lord can use us if we can get out of the way. You saw what he did, and you saw the kind of man he was, and it moved you to want to be better. And that is what he did to me playing him!
Everything that is wonderful and decent in my life is because of my salvation, but I’m not nearly the man Doug is and truly that character is someone I aspire to be.
RM: The main character Gavin finds himself at a local church fulfilling a community service sentence and slowly he recognizes a change within his heart. Share a little bit about your faith. You were raised Catholic, but what was the catalyst to your decision to want to know more about the Lord?
SM: I was successful in a worldly sense, but very depraved internally. Because of my Catholic upbringing I knew I was going down a very bad road and when I came to a point where I recognized it, then I knew where I needed to go. I knew that much about my upbringing that the change I needed was synonymous with that church building. I tried going back to the Catholic church and I never mean to begrudge the Catholic church, but it just wasn’t working. It took someone to open up and invite me to a Bible study and tell me what he believed I needed, what I was looking for, and that was Jesus; making Him my Lord and Savior. Honestly after that, it was the unbelievable discipleship, help, direction and guidance that the man gave me that made everything change in my life. I had everything in a worldly sense, but I was spiraling downward in a personal sense. I was not leading my family. I was not being the husband to my wife that she needed, and as we found out we were having a family, I was not being the father our children were going to need. All of that bothered me and I knew there needed to be a change. I can live with a lot stuff, but I couldn’t live with the idea that this woman, after knowing me for two weeks, agreed to marry me and then these children that came into the world as innocent as the day is long and I was not doing the absolute best for them every day that I could, bothered me in such a way I knew to humble myself and change. I did and it’s been 15 years and I’m still as thankful and appreciative of that because there are a number of people 15 years ago that I used to run around with that aren’t here today. I was saved in every literal sense of the word.
RM: Even though you became a Christian and changed your lifestyle, it didn’t mean God was asking you to give up wrestling. That was still a passion He placed on your heart. Share how your faith indirectly helped bring you out of retirement and back in the ring a few years later.
SM: I wasn’t wrestling at the time this wonderful change had happened, but I didn’t know what I was going to do with the rest of my life. The same person [that led me to my faith] encouraged me to pray and take time and one day it dawned on me and it’s not false humility; I am not great at a lot of things, but the one thing I did really well and I didn’t even have to try that hard to do it, was wrestling. I knew there was absolutely no way I would be given that gift if I wasn’t supposed to use it. There were a lot of well-meaning people that said I could absolutely not be a Christian and go back to that line of work. But I don’t believe that I serve a God that dangles the carrot out in front of you and is a sort of bait-and-switch kind of God. He gave me that gift because He wanted me to use it. Jesus was pretty clear about taking the Gospel to everywhere. He didn’t say everywhere except for that wrestling business, or everywhere except for this place or that road down there; He said everywhere. So I made the determination to go back to the WWE and even though a doctor told me I could never wrestle again, I didn’t believe it anymore. So I made what they call a comeback and I would put the last eight years I had in the WWE up against the first 15 or 20 any day of the week. I went back and looked like I never missed a day. That doesn’t happen because I am just so darn terrific, it happens because there is a miracle-working God in this world. I went back and had a wonderful eight years and when I felt like it was time for me to come home and put that behind me and help my wife raise our children, that’s what I did. I sleep great at night with both decisions.
RM: Knowing your gifting and skills is so important, let’s go back to your childhood. You knew from a young age that you wanted to become a professional wrestler. What sparked your passion for the sport?
SM: The first time I saw it I just fell in love with it. As the years have gone by, my feeling is it combined the two things I enjoy doing: athletics, and getting to be silly. What little boy doesn’t love to play pretend and be whatever it is he wants to be. Honestly, it was a great combination between the two. The world of the WWE provided me a playground for that passion for 25+ years. It truly was living my dream and such an incredible experience. I say this in the most genuine way possible, the WWE understood that about me. I worked with them as a 23-year-old young man and I am still with them today at 51 yeas old. I have literally grown up with them. They have allowed me to play out my passions for many many years on television and I am grateful for the opportunity.
I also always wanted to try acting, but I never considered myself a great multitasker. I like to do one thing at a time and be good at it. The one time I got offered by the WWE to do a film, it was one or two days after I retired and they said, “You’d have to leave tomorrow and be gone for three weeks.” And I said, “I just told my family I’m coming home. I can’t leave now.” That is why so many years later when this Gavin Stone opportunity came up, I think WWE felt like I wouldn’t want to do it because I’m not sure they put the two together that it was really a timing issue and not that I wouldn’t be open or willing. I very much wanted to try acting I just was honoring my commitment to be at home with my family. Now as many years have gone by, I’ve been home long enough that the family says, “Please go. Go away for a little bit daddy.” [Laughter] I got to do this film and in the meantime a couple others so at 51 years old, I’m okay with not being the jock anymore and I like the challenge and seeing if I can become something else or morph into a role. I’m enjoying it.
RM: Is it true that you were recently added to WWE’s roster of trainers? What can you share about this?
SM: We’ve just had discussions. That is what we call in the wrestling world “an internet story” that has been made up by people because I have been down there [Florida] a few times.
There is a difference between having it all from a worldly standpoint and having it all from a
RM: So it is just more wishful thinking from fans and hoping enough chatter can turn it into a reality?
SM: It is certainly something that I am interested in and we have talked about it, but I have other commitments that I have to fulfill first. It is definitely something I believe I would enjoy. It’s in that same area that I know something about and it would be a way to encourage the same passions other people have as well. Not to imply it isn’t something I may do in the future because I certainly would like to, but at this stage it’s just been talked about. In the wrestling world it has taken on a life of it’s own even if it hasn’t actually happened.
RM: Can I start one of those “internet stories” and put it out there that you and Dwayne Johnson, Randy Couture, and John Cena will all be doing a film together?
SM: [Laughter] I don’t know that I am in all those guys’ league of acting, but I enjoy the process.
RM: In truth though, it would be fair to say that fans can continue to see you on screen as you see where acting might take you.
SM: Yes, I got to do an incredibly fun role in what will be a spoof of Avengers and Star Wars, and WWE just passed me a small part in another movie. I’ll be leaving in a couple weeks to go shoot that for a couple days. I’m doing my best to be still and walking through the doors that the good Lord is opening. I believe I serve a God that knows the desires of my heart and I am doing what I can to walk in the right direction, but I am not trying to force anything. It’s a unique and different kind of place for me because I’ve been in a line of work where I knew what I was doing, where I was going, and what my job is supposed to be. Right now I am sort of in a holding pattern and I’m sitting and waiting on the Lord to see what is next. I will obediently go where I am called to go because that is the best thing for me. One thing I learned many years ago is not to pull against the yoke, that is just trouble waiting to happen. I’m not a gambling guy in that respect. I’m okay with not my will. I suppose it’s easy for me to say because thankfully what I enjoy doing and what the Lord has called me to do, have always been in the same direction.
RM: Speaking of getting to fulfill your dreams, you go from a kid with a passion to WWF and WWE World Heavyweight Champion, to having an action figure of yourself and being considered one of the most gifted sports-entertainers of all time. What encouragement or advice can you share when it comes to going after the desires of your heart?
SM: I would say all those things you hear about it [success] are true. I would encourage someone to pursue their dreams so at the very least to give yourself the satisfaction of knowing that you did. My father didn’t think wrestling was the wisest choice, but he allowed me to do it because he didn’t want me to come to him at 45 years old and say, “How come you never gave me the chance?” He wanted me to at least have that peace of knowing that I gave it a try. I want to say that I believe it will happen, but we all know the reality is that sometimes it doesn’t because it’s not what we are called to do. But I think you need to give yourself the opportunity to try because you will have that peace [regardless of the outcome] your whole life. I still have to pinch myself on a daily basis. I hear the list you read off and I am stunned. I still feel like the twelve year old kid in San Antonio, Texas, looking at his mom saying, “I want to be a pro wrestler.” I am somebody that believes you can have it all – it just depends on what your “all” is. There is a difference between having it all from a worldly standpoint and having it all from a biblical standpoint. My advice would be to make sure you know the difference. I had it all from the worldly standpoint at 33-years-old and I was close to killing myself. Now I’m 51 and I clearly don’t have it all, but I wouldn’t change my life for anything.