The $750K WWE gesture that helped earn Shawn Michaels’ loyalty


If anyone wonders why Shawn Michaels has remained so loyal to WWE, he has your “answer.”

He stepped away from the company for more than four years from 1998-2002 because of two herniated disks in his back – an injury he suffered during a casket match at the 1998 Royal Rumble. Jim Ross, the head of WWE’s talent relations at the time, said on his “Grilling JR” Podcast in December that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon chose to pay Michaels $750,000 while he sat at home those four years because “Vince loved him” and he was “Vince’s guy.”

Michaels said McMahon, who is often portrayed as “a horrific, mean old man,” doing that meant a lot to him and that he has always been “wonderful to me.”

“One hand, contractually I had a somewhat guaranteed contract, so to speak,” Michaels, currently a producer at NXT, said in a Zoom interview. “But can they always refuse to do that? Yes they can. They chose not to. Vince chose not to. And if anybody wonders why my loyalty is what it is to the WWE, that’s your answer. I always think to myself, again, no matter how upset I get about a particular subject or whatever, I think back to that time and I think to myself he didn’t have to do that.

“I have a wonderful family that supports me. I have a wife that reminds me, for what it’s worth, they’ve always been there for you. And they have. So how can I not be there for them? So if anybody wonders about that loyalty, that’s why it’s there.”

WWE Shawn Michaels Vince McMahon
Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon
WWE, Getty Images

Ross did go on to speculate that McMahon, in addition to his loyalty to Michaels, kept paying him so that the Heartbreak Kid didn’t jump ship to WCW and join friends Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Michaels says that was not the case. It’s something he had addressed with McMahon prior to that and he’s happy he didn’t make the switch.

“I brought it up one time when I was working and he said, ‘You wouldn’t be happy there,’” Michael said. “Creatively they wouldn’t let you be you. The more I think about it, the more I realized that was probably the greatest gift he ever gave me. He gave me freedom to try and take risks and allow all this stuff to come out of me, to be the person that I wanted to see if I could be and do the things and see if I could pull them off or whatever. I have the ability to look back on that and be very appreciative of that because I see a lot of people that are my age that are very unhappy not just [in] their lives, but certainly with their wrestling career. I don’t know. I’m not.”


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