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Professional wrestler visits former base school, home

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Capt. Matt Gehrke shows professional wrestler Shawn Michaels the cockpit of a T-37 Tweet.  The wrestler, who spent a portion of his childhood here, toured the base Aug. 4.  Captain Gehrke is assigned to the 559th Flying Training Squadron.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lee Roberts)

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Capt. Matt Gehrke shows professional wrestler Shawn Michaels the cockpit of a T-37 Tweet. The wrestler, who spent a portion of his childhood here, toured the base Aug. 4. Captain Gehrke is assigned to the 559th Flying Training Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lee Roberts)

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Walking into the center of the high school gymnasium, the illuminated stage grabs the professional wrestler's attention. "This is the very spot (my friend) Kenny and I did that skit -- my first wrestling match!" he says, pointing to the stage.

It was during this performance for the 1982 Randolph High School Talent Show when Shawn Hickenbottom, now known as World Wrestling Entertainment celebrity Shawn Michaels, showcased the talent that would carry him through a 20-year career in professional wrestling.

"I remember during the match, Kenny hit me with a chair, and I fell down under the table and poured food coloring on myself (as blood)," Mr. Michaels said. "It was a lot of fun. He and I even got second or third place for it."

But Mr. Michaels' performance that night was not his only glory moment at Randolph High School. As the 6-foot-1-inch wrestler toured his former school and other familiar places here Aug. 4, including his old house, he said two of the most memorable places were the school's football field and locker room.

"I spent a lot of time on that field and in that locker room (which was also a weight room back then)," said the former linebacker and base football team captain. "Those were some intense times."

Mr. Michaels played football from the time he was 6 years old. When his father got orders to report here and the family moved on base, playing for Randolph just seemed like the natural thing to do, plus it was a way for him to fit in and make some friends, he said.

As much as he enjoyed football, Mr. Michaels said he knew at age 12 he was destined to be a professional wrestler.

"I remember seeing my first wrestling match here on TV," he said. "I knew immediately that was what I wanted to do."

After graduating from Randolph High School in 1983, Mr. Michaels attended Southwest Texas State University. But after two semesters, his calling to become a wrestler intensified, so he left college and met with a Southwest Championship Wrestling promoter.

From there, his wrestling career slowly took off and eventually exploded on the World Wrestling Federation scene, becoming the legend fans today refer to as the "Heart Break Kid" or the "Showstopper."

"I've had a great career in wrestling," he said. "But it isn't always easy. I've traveled all over the world, but haven't seen any of it -- just scenery out of windows, hotel rooms and restaurants."

The wrestler reflected on how great life was as a child, growing up on military bases, particularly Randolph.

"Things were so simple then -- hanging out at the youth center, going swimming in the base pool, playing on the ball fields -- not a care in the world," he said. "Being inside these gates I knew I was safe."

During Mr. Michaels' youth, he and his family were stationed in Arizona, England, Texas and Washington, D.C. He also lived in Iowa with his mother, brothers and sister while his dad served in the Vietnam War.

The wrestler's father retired from the Air Force at Randolph as a colonel with 25 years of service.

"I have a lot of great memories of my time at Randolph," Mr. Michaels said. "I'll never forget this place and the people I knew here." (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)

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