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Former WWE champion visits North Way to discuss life, career, relationship with Jesus

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By Shawn Annarelli

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Shawn Michaels has done a lot of things inside wrestling rings, but telling the truth is one thing he's not used to doing.

Michaels, a retired professional wrestler and WWE Hall-of-Famer, stepped inside the ring Nov. 3 before a crowd of 525, more than 400 of them from local middle schools and high schools, at North Way Christian Community in Pine. He talked about his success in the ring, his personal failures outside of it and how his wife, Rebecca, and first-born child, Cameron, helped him accept Jesus.

“My specialty has been pretending to be things I'm not since I was 19,” Michaels, 48, said. “I've played a part my entire life, but now, I'm here, and I have to be real.”

While Michaels became the WWE Champion when he was 30 years old in 1996, he also was a drug addict. He was married two years later, but his wife often had to pick him up in the shower when he fell and drag him to bed from the couch so she wouldn't have to sleep alone.

“I was doing everything I could to kill myself except put a loaded weapon in my hand,” Michaels said.

Michaels, falling in and out of consciousness on the couch after taking too many painkillers one day in 2002, became drug free, because he remembered his 2-year-old son struggling to wake him up.

“I think he wanted to be a more perfect example for his son,” said Evan VandeWater, 9, of Cranberry, who attended Michaels' presentation. “I think he's a better example now.”

Michaels said he soon accepted Jesus as his savior and asked that those in attendance do the same.

Dennis Allan, director of the high school ministry at North Way, said the church wanted to bring in a well-known personality with a compelling faith story to draw new middle school students, high school students and their families to the church.

“With Shawn's exposure through wrestling, he's got a really broad appeal,” Allan said. “We wanted someone who would reach into the community and invite people into a relationship with Jesus.”

Cooper Jarosz, who goes to Bakerstown United Methodist Church in Richland with his family, came from Richland with Michaels' autobiography in hand.

“I was always pretty interested in church, but hearing him talk made me even more interested,” Cooper, 11, said. “He mostly wants you to be a good person and don't get caught up in bad things.”

The event, dubbed Fight Night, preceded Michaels' speech with activities such as sumo wrestling, pedestal jousting and laser tag.

“It was all pretty cool overall, but I think I liked seeing Shawn be himself the most,” Cooper said.

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer with Trib Total Media.



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