By Mike Mooneyham

May 27 2007

Shawn Michaels rose to the occasion when longtime friend Triple H went down with a serious quadriceps injury in January.

Now WWE faces another major dilemma. Who’s going to take the place of Shawn Michaels?

Michaels underwent knee surgery Wednesday and is expected to be sidelined for several months. That’s a serious problem for a company that has been beset by injuries in recent weeks.

Michaels, whose career seemingly was over nearly 10 years ago following a serious back injury and surgery, returned to WWE in 2002 and has been a major player ever since. But his stock rose to an all-time high in the past few months as he literally carried the company on its back heading into Wrestlemania.

Michaels has needed knee surgery since last year when he was promised time off. That time off never came, however, and Michaels was called back into action for the reformation of the wildly popular D-Generation X along with Triple H. Then, after Triple H suffered his second quadriceps injury in the past five years, Michaels was tabbed to take his spot in the Wrestlemania main event against John Cena.

Shawn Michaels

Shawn Michaels

The 42-year-old Michaels has been wrestling in pain for a number of weeks and expects to come back from surgery stronger than he has been in quite awhile.

Michaels’ absence will be sorely felt in WWE. Triple H should be back by late July, but in the meantime, look for more Vince McMahon, Bobby Lashley and Cena TV time on Raw.

– Ric Flair, also no stranger to carrying wrestling companies on his back, continues to be underutilized in a mid-card program with Carlito.

The 16-time world champ, at age 58, remains one of the best promo men in the business. The WWE creative team, astoundingly enough, has given him little to work with during the last year of his contract. And that’s a shame, because it also most likely is the final year of an illustrious career that began in 1972.

Many inside and outside the company have lobbied for one final title for Flair. It seems that the Nature Boy is earning more acclaim outside the ring these days. Praise was heaped on him at this year’s WWE Hall of Fame when new inductees Jim Ross and Dusty Rhodes called him the greatest performer in the history of the business. The next night at Wrestlemania, however, Flair was relegated to a dark match. WWE’s “Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen” DVD also has topped the charts for five straight weeks in the Recreational Sports category.

It’s only fitting that Flair – and his worldwide legion of fans – be afforded a happy ending to what has to be considered one of the greatest runs in the history of the business.

– The Sabu era in WWE has officially come to an end.

One of the top stars during the heyday of Extreme Championship Wrestling, Sabu (Terry Brunk) recently was released by WWE. He was sent home after arriving hours late, without his ring gear, for a recent ECW TV taping in Baltimore.

Sabu had been asked to put over Kevin Thorn at the taping, but he balked at the idea and claimed a neck injury.

Sabu signed with WWE a year ago as part of the re-launched ECW brand. He made out-of-ring headlines when he was found guilty of possession of prescription medication (nine tablets of testolactone) not prescribed to him and was fined $500. Rob Van Dam (Rob Szatkowski) was found guilty of possessing marijuana and was fined $100 in the same case.

Van Dam, who turned down his latest WWE contract offer, also reportedly is in his final weeks with the company.

Van Dam, who was brought into the company in 2001 as part of the Invasion storyline, is likely headed for TNA when his no-compete clause expires.

Van Dam reportedly grew tired of the grueling WWE road schedule and was disappointed with the development of the re-branded ECW.

– WWE also recently gave walking papers to Rob Conway, Too Cold Scorpio (Charles Skaggs), Big Vito (Vito LoGrasso), Ariel (Shelly Martinez), Scotty Too Hotty (Scott Garland) and Nick Mitchell (formerly of The Spirit Squad).

Angel Williams, who had been working in Ohio Valley Wrestling under a developmental contract with WWE, also was released.

– Deepest condolences to Jeff Jarrett, whose wife, Jill, passed away Tuesday night following a long battle with cancer.

Jeff was by his wife’s side almost constantly during the past several months, and had just recently returned to TNA after taking an extended leave of absence to deal with her illness. Jill, who was only 37, leaves behind a devoted husband and three young daughters.

– Former pro wrestling star Ivan Koloff suffered six broken ribs and an injured sternum in a traffic accident last weekend near Charlotte. His wife, Renae, was accompanying him and sustained bruises and a case of whiplash.

“As we were passing an intersection, a young girl attending to her child ran a red light and hit Ivan’s door traveling approximately 45-50 miles per hour, causing Ivan to suffer six broken ribs and sternum,” Renae wrote on their Web site. “Our car is totally demolished. We both got whiplash and I got knocked out with cuts and bruises. The jaws of life had to be used to free Ivan from the car. I never even knew anything until I was on the way to the hospital. After I awoke, I didn’t know what had happened or where Ivan was, so I panicked for about four hours. No one would tell me anything except that we were in a car wreck. I never prayed so much in all my life.”

The two stayed in the trauma unit overnight, and Koloff was released from the hospital two days later.

“Ivan is on very strong pain medicine and in a lot of pain, but doctors say he’ll be healed completely in about four to six weeks … The doctor did say that if Ivan did not have a lot of muscle mass in his chest, he would have sustained more serious injuries and possibly death.”

– WWE Tough Enough 3 champion Matt Cappotelli underwent successful brain surgery earlier this month in Boston to remove a cancerous tumor that has grown since being discovered.

Cappotelli, 27, postponed his career early last year due to a malignant brain tumor.

“I’m glad I’m not in control of this, because I probably would have screwed this up a long time ago,” he told the WWE Web site. “God is in control, and I have complete faith in what he’s doing. There’s a scripture I read quite often that describes my situation. It says God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, and I think this is a time where I’m at the darkest point of my life.”