Shawn Michaels will go down as one of the greatest in-ring performers in WWE history. A Hall of Famer who reached the upper echelon of sports entertainment. At 52, the Heartbreak Kid couldn’t be happier how his life has turned out on a professional and personal level.
Even though the legendary showman put the days of being an active competitor behind him seven years ago, he keeps busy in many ways. Among them is taking on roles in films with his latest being Pure Country: Pure Heart. The Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and WWE Studios film centers around teenage sisters Ada (Kaitlyn Bausch) and Piper (Cozi Zuehlsdorff). Upon discovering a letter about their late father, a marine who died in Iraq, they leave rural Tennessee and hit the road secretly in search of the truth about the man they never knew. As they uncover his past as a budding country music star, the sisters find their own voice, beginning their journey as singers/songwriters.
The adventure includes meetings with Marq Dunn (Laura Bell Bundy), who played with their dad and country music icon Willie Nelson himself. Michaels plays Ted, an associate of Dunn. HBK felt right at home on set.
“I’m always flattered when anybody asks me to be in any movie, but when you think of the Pure Country franchise. I love to listen to country music and any opportunity I can wear cowboy boots and a cowboy hat and have somebody tell me that’s a role, I’m going to jump into it,” Michaels said.
“Most of the wardrobe I wore in that movie you can find in my closet. It was a great deal of fun. I so enjoy learning a new craft. Everybody was wonderful to work with, and it was a pretty neat thing to be a part of. The process was amazing and to be around young people who were just so unbelievably gifted and talented was pretty inspiring in of itself.”
Michaels didn’t get a chance to interact with Nelson during shooting, but it did spur memories hearing him perform at WrestleMania VII in 1991. From a guest appearance the TV show Baywatch to a recent part in The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, the latest in the Pure Country franchise wasn’t his first acting gig. Though there was one aspect of the project that was intimidating.
“Everyone could sing but me,” Michaels said. “I was the one person who couldn’t carry a note no matter how much I tried. It was a great deal of fun to be around so many talented individuals. I’m also a sucker for a pretty voice anyway. It’s an amazing gift that many of them have.”
Growing up a military brat meant the story resonated even more for Michaels. He feels the film will strike a chord with various audiences.
“These kinds of situations can be very real,” he said. “All the years with WWE and the shows we did over in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of it hit home in a number of different ways. I am the target audience for that movie. I am a country kid. I’m a military kid. I am a cowboy and redneck, I’m all those things. So there were a number of different things that hit close to home. That why it was so fun to do. I appreciate the fact that at this point I’ve done maybe my third small role in a movie and nobody has asked me to do something that isn’t very much a part of who I am. As far as being tested when it comes to my acting skills, I don’t know if I have or haven’t because every role I’ve done has really be close to I am as a person. So that has been a huge benefit to all of this.”
Aside from movies and cohosting hosting Macmillan River Adventures on Outdoor Channel, Michaels has spent much of his time coaching the future of WWE. He works with athletes of the NXT developmental brand at the company’s state-of-the-art Performance Center in Orlando. For the veteran, it has been a rewarding experience.
“I would clearly define my role if my role was clearly defined and knew what it was, but I don’t. That has sort t have been the way I have been most of my life, most of my career. I just hang around so often that people just eventually are too afraid to tell me to leave,” Michaels said.
“So, I’ve been hanging around for quite some time at the Performance Center. It’s one thing to sit there and watch things back on film and do your best to help people here and there or address certain things. I think eventually you have to get out there and get a feel for everything that is going on. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to come out on the road. I wanted to get to know the talent a lot better, but also have a better understanding of what they’re doing and how the process goes. I also wanted to get a feel for the crowds. The crowds are different from town to town, city to city and state to state. So, I feel the better I know the better I can help and be an asset to not only the talent, but Matt [Bloom], Sara [Amato] and Hunter [Paul Levesque] who have worked so hard to make the Performance Center and NXT a successful product.”
Michaels finds joy and fulfillment in working with the NXT superstars and taking a liking to competitors like TJP, who is part of 205 Live. He has been swept up in the positive environment and culture WWE has created at its premiere training facility. The atmosphere is infectious.
“I leave the opinions about the wrestling business where it has been, where it’s going and where it needs to go or doesn’t to the podcast guys and reporters. I enjoy the future. I’m not a good old-timer. I’m excited about the future,” Michaels.
“I’m excited about to see if there is anything I can do to help bring that along in a way that is conducive to the wrestling business and WWE and WWE fans in general. It’s going to continue. Their opinions are always going to be all over the place. They always have been. I think the only difference is I think maybe people hear about it more now than we did. That’s the wonderful thing about technology. I
“’m not the all-knowing or seeing on the wrestling business. Quite honestly, I always think that what I think really doesn’t mean much. I’ve never bought a wrestling ticket in my life or haven’t bought one since I was 12 years old. So, it’s certainly not me they are looking to bring in the building. I just don’t like to into all the opinions of it. The wrestling business is a wonderful line of work. It has been great to me and my family over the last 30 years. I’m now getting to be in WWE movies and things of that nature. I’m just all about helping this next generation try to achieve their dreams like I was blessed to have the opportunity to do.”
Michaels has formed a bond with the men and women of NXT. With this connection, Mr. WrestleMania” has seen a renewed passion for pro wrestling.
“I like Roddy Strong, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano, Velveteen Dream, Heavy Machinery, Authors of Pain, Sanity, they are all just a number of young talent out there. Ember Moon and Asuka as well. There are just numerous people out there,” Michaels said. “The wrestling business is ripe with a great deal of young, up-and-coming talent. To me, that is exciting. I got way too positive of an outlook to jump into all the other stuff.”
Keeping that in mind, the laidback Michaels is up for whatever comes next. It’s a mentality that made him one of the biggest names in the industry.
“As roles come in, if doors open up ’m going to walk through them. Being a part of Pure Country: Pure Heart was very exciting. There is another move I was in called Avengers of Justice, which was a spoof of The Avengers and Star Wars that I believe is coming out next year. That was a great deal of fun too. The only thing for me at the moment is seeing if I can be an asset to NXT and the Performance Center. After that II just go where the good Lord guides me to go. If the doors open, I’m going to walk through them. And if they close, I guess I will just sit home on the couch.”
Own Pure Country: Pure Heart on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD on August 1. The soundtrack is available now.
Watch NXT Wednesdays, 8/7c on WWE Network
Watch Raw on Mondays and SmackDown Live on Tuesdays, 8/7c on USA Network