“I still try to do a good job and try not to phone it in. It’s almost like two different parts of your life. The first part of your life is geared toward one direction, and the second part of your life is more geared toward another. I’m guessing that is sort of where I’m at, but not forsaking or forgetting the first part by any stretch. I’m appreciative for it and thankful for it.”
Since his absence, superstars such as the WWE champion CM Punk have been given the ball. On the Raw leading into the 1,000th episode on July 23, Punk said a guy who looked like him would have never been on that first episode of Raw. For HBK, who wrestled on the debut Raw show, that may not have been the case.
“I certainly understand the point he was trying to make,” Michaels said. “It was a different time, and there was a different attitude toward us guys, but because he is a fighter and doesn’t take a lot of guff from folks — for the same reasons that he is on now and the same reason he accomplished what he has in his career now, which is a testament to him — for all of those reasons, all the good reasons and positives because he is a fighter, I think he would have been on the first show.
“I think I understand the point he was trying to make. It was a different time. There were stereotypes that needed to be broken back then, and thankfully, it was done. Hopefully, it has made a difference for Punk and the others. I think because of the type of dude he is, I don’t think he would have had anything to worry about.”
On the first Raw show, Michaels successfully defend the Intercontinental championship against Max Moon. At the time the emerging superstar wasn’t sure the now longest running weekly episodic television show would last.
“The thing I remember was how strange it was to be on Monday night and thinking it would never work,” Michaels said. “I was brought up in an era where it was Saturday night that was your good night for wrestling. Then the biggest change was going to Saturday mornings, where it was a little more presentable and palatable to be on Saturday mornings. The idea of being on Monday nights just seemed like something short-lived because it was on primetime. Obviously, as I have been many times, I was dead wrong.”
HBK was a part of many memorable moments and matches on Raw over its near 20 years on the air. However, a favorite of his didn’t even involve him.
“I’ve been fortunate to be a part of some really cool stuff,” Michaels said. “One thing that always sticks out to me that I wasn’t even involved in was when DX took the tank to a WCW event. Hunter [Triple H], Road Dogg, Billy [Gunn], [X-Pac] and Joanie [Chyna] going there, I can remember sitting at home watching that and just thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, that is brilliant.’ That for me is one of the bigger moments. Thinking how big everything was then and the focus on the Monday night stuff, I just remember how funny I thought that was. For me, that is a moment that sticks out in my mind.”
Raw and the company as a whole have evolved significantly in the time Michaels has left WWE full time. There are new superstars in the spotlight, a strong focus on social media and the further shift to a wider demographic. Another decision was to extend the program to three hours each Monday night starting with the 1,000th episode.