In New York to promote the latest first-person shooter from Cabela's and Activision, professional wrestling superstar Shawn Michaels spoke with Complex about his current passion: hunting. Since retiring in 2010, Michaels has dedicated himself to the pursuit that, to hear him tell it, has long been part of his life, and for reasons that might surprise the scores of viewers who know him best as the Heartbreak Kid.
Complex: How does hunting compare to wrestling?
Shawn Michaels: I suppose a lot of people don’t understand that one of the things that drew me to hunting was the peace and the solitude, the mushy spiritual stuff, strangely enough. The quiet away from 75,000 roaring fans. The fans, that’s very wonderful; I get a great charge from that. But traveling the world, being in hotels, airplanes all of the time, getting out into the woods became my way to get away from that. There is no adrenaline rush I get from hunting. I mean, sure I’ve been in situations where I’ve been 15 feet from a bear. A month ago, we got charged by an 8,000-lb. elephant.
Where did this happen?
In Africa. In Botswana. Obviously things like that get you going. But you don’t go into the field hoping for some near-death experience. Over the years, with hunting, I think what’s become my favorite part of hunting is how self-sufficient I’m becoming.
If you had to name 5 things that every man should have under his belt, should be able to do to be self-sufficient, what would they be?
Well, the basics: shelter, food, and water. After that, it’s protection. You have to be able to defend yourself. You know, Triple H and I always joke, “Shawn’s my backup plan. If everything goes to hell in a hand basket, I’ll move to Texas and he’ll be able to get us through.” It all started years ago when I was off [from the WWE] with my back injury. I started to learn all this stuff. And I guess, because it was so much the opposite of the glitz and the glamour of the other, it appealed to me. And when I went back [to wrestling] I didn’t get to do it as much, but it’s still always been apart of my life. It wasn’t something I brought to work, though. There were a couple guy—Hunter and Nash—that knew that side of me, but it wasn’t anything I wore on my sleeve.
What are your favorite places that you’ve hunted?
I’m partial to Texas. But Africa was extremely interesting. And the Yukon, where I’ll be going in a couple of days, I got to go there for the first time last year. It’s fascinating to go somewhere where you’re away from everything. There are no houses, no buildings, no roads, no people. And for a little less extreme hunting, any place in the West—Colorado, Utah, Montana—that’s just beautiful country.
What’s been your proudest hunting achievement?
At this point, it was my son taking his first white-tailed deer last year. Passing along that heritage to him, but also that he was so proud to be the guy that supplied dinner—that meant a great deal to me. As proud as he was of the animal, he was more proud that he fed the family. I know to some people, on a lot of levels, that’s dorky and strange and old-fashioned, but to us those are things that I want to instill in my children. I don’t want them to ever lose touch with our heritage. The life of a WWE superstar is awesome, but I want my kids to have a life balanced by more traditional ideas about what our life and our country used to be. And still can be if we want it to be.