‘Heartbreak Kid’ visits Norfolk

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 17, 2002

When Jenna Abernathy heard that World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) sup-erstar Shawn Michaels wou-ld be making an appearance at the Old Dominion Univ-ersity Constant Center arena, she couldn’t quite believe her ears.

&uot;I didn’t believe that he was coming, because I never thought I’d actually get the chance to meet him,&uot; said the Smithfield resident, 17. &uot;He’s been my favorite wrestler for about 12 years.&uot;

Michaels has indeed carved out quite a career for himself in the annals of professional wrestling. Since entering the WWE (formerly the World Wrestling Federa-tion) in 1989, he’s been a three-time tag team and Intercontinental champion, a European champion, and even a three-time Federation champion.


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Michaels, who strolled to the ring to the tune of &uot;Sexy Boy&uot; has headlined three Wrestlemanias (commonly accepted as the wrestling world’s top pay-per view event) and several other events as well. The &uot;Show-stopper,&uot; or the &uot;Heartbreak Kid,&uot; as he nicknamed himself, is commonly accepted as one of the most talented figures ever to set foot in a wrestling ring.

In 1998, a back injury appeared to end Michaels’ career, as he dropped in and out of sight for the next four years. But on June 3 of this year, he made a shocking return to the ring, and signed to fight longtime rival Triple H at Summerslam.

Michaels, who had bec-ome a born-again Christian during his time away from the ring, won the match, taking several dangerous-looking bumps on his injured back. But he came out of the show in shape. Tonight, he’ll headline the &uot;Survivor Ser-ies&uot; pay-per-view, squaring off with Triple H, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, Kane, and Chris Jericho in a six-man elimination match at New York’s Madison Square Gar-den.

On Saturday, however, Michaels was in Norfolk to publicize the WWE’s Dec-ember 13 show. Tickets are on sale for the event.

The wrestler wouldn’t appear until 10 a.m. But Abernathy wasn’t taking any chances.

&uot;We got there at 4 a.m.,&uot; she said, indicating her aunt, Tina Valentin. &uot;We sat on the sidewalk and played UNO for a few hours, and just talked to the other people about wrestling.&uot;

As the sun came up, hundreds of people swarmed the center. But the two women were in the front.

&uot;You never know with these things,&uot; Valentin said of autograph signings. &uot;We had to make sure that we got in line to meet him.&uot; Valentin is well-acquainted with wrestling; her husband Mike is a referee for Virginia Championship Wrestling, which runs monthly shows from the Newport News nightclub Mitty’s.

Its next show will begin at 6:30 tonight, and the &uot;Sur-vivor Series&uot; pay-per-view will be shown immediately afterward.

Finally, the Heartbreak Kid arrived. Much to their surprise, Abernathy and Val-entin were able to maintain their composure… almost.

&uot;I didn’t freak out as badly as I thought I would,&uot; said Valentin. &uot;I just said hello to him, and we talked, and I felt better.&uot; She presented Mich-aels with a necklace that she had made.

&uot;I just told him that I’d wanted to meet him for a long time,&uot; Abernathy said. &uot;He thanked me.&uot;

She was also surprised by how down-to-earth the Sho-wstopper was.

&uot;You know, you’re one of the nicest wrestlers I’ve ever met,&uot; she told him.

&uot;Thanks,&uot; Michaels repl-ied, &uot;but don’t let that get around! People might think that I’m not as tough as I used to be.&uot;

When asked about his chances in tonight’s match, Michaels didn’t quite exude the mountain of confidence he always displayed in the ring.

&uot;Every time I step between the ropes,&uot; he said, &uot;my objective is to leave in one piece. That’s all I’m thinking about tonight, and I think I’ll do fine.&uot; He talked to the fans for five minutes.

Summoning up her cou-rage, the pair asked Michaels for a hug. He immediately obliged, giving them a quick embrace. That nearly did it for Abernathy.

&uot;I almost passed out!&uot; she said.

Outside, the women enco-untered 96X deejay Mike Powers, promoting the event on a cell phone to thousands of listeners. Seeing the women, Powers put them on the air.

&uot;I said that it was awesome,&uot; said Valentin. &uot;It was such a great experience.&uot;

So great, in fact, that they decided to do it again. After the line dwindled, they were allowed to get back in line. Michaels recognized her new friends.

&uot;He said, ‘Hey, you guys look familiar!’&uot; said Val-entin. &uot;We told him that our twin sisters had come through before. We sat there and joked with him for another 10 minutes.&uot;