Shawn Michaels reflects on DX roots with Triple H and their future running WWE

Shawn Michaels (R) and Triple H, of D-Generation X, celebrate their win during a tag team match as part of as part of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Crown Jewel pay-per-view at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh on November 2, 2018. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)
Shawn Michaels (R) and Triple H, of D-Generation X, celebrate their win during a tag team match as part of as part of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Crown Jewel pay-per-view at the King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh on November 2, 2018. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images) /

The story of D-Generation X is a long and winding road of one of the best factions in wrestling history.

This past week marked a quarter of a century since seeds were planted for the formation of D-Generation X, a group widely regarded as one of if not the very best in WWE history.

The timing of Shawn Michaels and Triple H bringing their real-life friendship to WWE TV couldn’t have been better. The company was already in the process of producing edgier content and ushering in the Attitude Era, which DX played a pivotal role in making such a success.

Along with Chyna, X-Pac, and The New Age Outlaws, HHH and HBK was the ultimate anti-establishment faction. That’s what makes their current authoritative roles in WWE as the heads of creative on Raw, SmackDown, and NXT so ironic.

A&E’s latest episode of Biography: WWE Legends on Sunday, August 14 will delve deeper into the rich history of D-Generation X both on and off the screen. Michaels called the documentary “raw” and “visceral in delivery” as far as what went on in the real lives of everyone involved.

‘This is a group of guys, and gal, that had a genuine, sincere blast in the ring with one another, but outside of the ring, it was rough and tough in a lot of different ways,” The Heartbreak Kid told Daily DDT. “At the beginning, it was rough for Hunter, and to think where his life is at now is any cakewalk, it just isn’t the case. There’s a lot of pressure and anxiety and a lot of hurt feelings and resentment he has to deal with as well. I think the best part about what makes this [doc] different is that it’s certainly not a fluff-and-puff piece.”

Of course, it’s a drastically different time now than it was 25 years ago. DX was involved in several segments that were found to be funny and made for must-see television but may not be remembered as fondly by fans in retrospect.

Their 1998 portrayal of The Nation of Domination, most notably, has been criticized for obvious reasons and would justifiably never be considered appropriate today. They also weren’t shy about making enemies behind the scenes as well.

Despite this, Michaels has no regrets regarding DX’s problematic past.

“There’s always a couple of things you would have loved to have not said or hurt people, but as I always say, to change any of that would keep me from where I’m at today, and I wouldn’t change where I’m at today for anything in the world,” he said. “That goes for my relationship with so many of these people now, it’s actually better. That goes for some of the people I offended, using Bret Hart as an example. I wouldn’t change where he and I are at now for anything in the world and I don’t know if we would’ve gotten there had we not had our struggles with one another.”

Few factions have been able to reach DX-level heights, and although WWE’s PG rating can be blamed for that, it’s more a matter of today’s talent needing to evolve beyond the group’s sophomoric shenanigans and foul language.

Those were indeed elements that made the shows special during that period, but focusing on how else the industry can be innovated is paramount. In fact, Michaels admits that he doesn’t know if DX in its original form would be anywhere near as revolutionary in today’s wrestling landscape.

“Certainly you could have a group be as big, but the rebellion would have to take a different form and I don’t know what that is,” he said. “I do think that’s one of the things I enjoy about being where I’m at in the business right now in NXT is trying to find that next level of pushing that envelope but doing it in a way where it’s socially acceptable.”

Creative limitations under the Vince McMahon regime were a part of the problem for many years, but Triple H and Michaels aim to change that process now that they’re running the show on Raw, SmackDown, and NXT.

Shawn Michaels and Triple H strive to find that perfect balance between the main roster and NXT

DX encouraged “a lot of bad stuff,” according to the two-time WWE Hall of Famer, but he maintains that most of their material was harmless, at least by the standards of that time. As someone now in a position of authority, he questions what the range is when pushing the envelope and loves trying to figure out what that next level is.

Michaels has been heavily involved with NXT for the past five years in some form or fashion. He started out as a coach and creative consultant for the brand before taking over for Triple H as the head of everything relating to the television show when The Game had his cardiac event in late 2021.

At the end of the day, the founding members of DX share the same vision for what they want WWE TV to feature: great wrestling, strong storylines, personal issues, and lighthearted entertainment. Trying to strike the perfect balance between all of that is their ultimate goal.

Part of that will be making the call-up process from NXT to Raw and SmackDown much smoother. There have been way too people who moved up to the main stage of WWE over the years who went on to do nothing due to there not being any plans in place for them, and they’re trying to eliminate that issue.

“There are some things as a publicly-traded company with IPs and stuff of that nature that are out of the creative control,” Michaels said. “But to your point, we feel someone in NXT can now move up to the main roster and be recognized as the same person, be acknowledged as coming from NXT, and perhaps blending in immediately to a storyline with someone that was previously in NXT.

“I absolutely think that communication is clearly going to be there, those transitions will be more seamless and more comfortable, and the readiness of talent going up,” he continued. “Sometimes you can’t help emergencies and last-minute things. An injury happens and they say, ‘We need someone like this.’ ‘Well, they’re not quite ready.’ ‘I got to have them now.’ ‘Okay, here are the limitations. Don’t take them outside of this comfort zone.’”

Michaels believes that talent from all three brands is going to be more motivated by the current changing of the guard and the increased communication with the creative team and the powers that be.

He gives everyone who walks into the Performance Center for the first day of training his phone number to encourage them to reach out with any questions or concerns. Everything comes down to his relationship and trust with the talent as he wants all of them to be aware that he believes in them and that he cares.

Every Superstar who walks into WWE and NXT is essentially putting their future in the hands of The Heartbreak Kid, Triple H, and everyone else who makes the important decisions. He added that he can’t comprehend why anyone wouldn’t want to put the maximum amount of effort into their WWE role, regardless of whether it be as a talent or as a member of management.

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As much as he loved the business the way it was in his heyday, he’s on board with the evolution of the industry and is excited to see it continue to evolve. The occasional DX reunion is always a possibility, and on the subject of what a modern-day DX would look like with current Superstars, he threw out an interesting name from NXT 2.0, someone believed to be one of his top pet projects.

“Right now, the first one that pops in my head is someone like Grayson Waller, from an NXT standpoint,” Michaels said. “I like Grayson. I think he has a ton of personality. Carmelo Hayes a little bit, too, but he’s almost too cool for DX and he’s a mature, young man for his age. Grayson likes to have a little bit more fun and is a little bit more loose.”

New episodes of Biography: WWE Legends currently air every Sunday at 8/7c on A&E.