Crushing his parents' hopes that this was just a phase he would ultimately grow out of, Shawn Michaels began a career in professional wrestling at 19.
Now turning 50, Shawn is a four-time world champion, winner of the 1995 and 1996 Royal Rumbles, five-time WrestleMania performer and WWF's first Grand Slam Champion.
He won the PWI Match of the Year Award a record eleven times and was on the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
For years Shawn entertained the wrestling world with his disrespect of authorities, his cocky ways and his general "don't care" attitude.
So it came as a shock to everyone when the wrestling champion announced he was a born again Christian following his retirement in 1998.
"My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I thank you, my King, for saving me," Shawn says now in pre-match interviews.
Fellow wrestler Gregory Shane Helms responded by saying Shawn Michaels, though an undeniably talented wrestler, was "the biggest hypocrite in the business."
Many join him in saying he is merely manufacturing a new identity when he talks of his Christian journey, to which the wrestling champion replies, "I don't even know if you can work [that is, lie about] that. Can you?"
It was Shawn's relationship with his son Cameron that first led him to reevaluate his life choices, as his son began noticing his father's drinking and drug use.
At the time, in 1998, severe back injuries had forced Shawn into early retirement, and his personal life was in chaos.
"It became very apparent to me that if I wasn't careful I was going to ruin him," Shawn says emotionally. "And that wasn't anything he asked for.
"I knew what I needed," Shawn says. "I needed to get back to church. I knew whatever it was I was looking for was in one of those buildings."
Shawn went to a Bible study and when he was asked, "Would you like to have Jesus Christ in your life?" he knew what to answer.
"And then I got it," Shawn says. "All of a sudden the light went on and it was like nothing really mattered now except [my family] and [God]. As long as we've got that we are good."
But Shawn understands how his decision could have aroused shock and controversy among his fans.
"I would understand if somebody said, 'He's a Christian, but he's not a very good one.' That would be OK, but the whole point of being one is recognizing that you're not the end all, be all, and that's really its foundation, recognizing your faults," Michaels says.
Soon Shawn was going out of his way to serve and help other people in any way he could, even leading his own Bible study.
The associate pastor at his church, Pastor Matthew Hagee, says, "Shawn loves the Lord just as hard as he wrestles."
Shawn has written two books about his career and spiritual journey, Heartbreak & Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story in 2005 and Wrestling for My Life just last year with bestselling author David Thomas.
"He just changed my heart. That's why it has stuck. If I truly believe everything that's in that book, God is in control. He's working for my good. Doesn't mean everything's going to be smooth, but that's all I needed to know," Shawn says.
"I've always wanted to be a rebel," Shawn adds, something all his fans can testify to. "I've never wanted to do what everybody else is doing. Man, I've got news for you, that is what I am really doing now, and it's the coolest thing ever.
"I got to know the person of Christ. I see Him as one of the greatest rebels of all time. That's what really appeals to me." •