Shawn Michaels vs the US Army

Date: October 13, 1995
Location: Club 37 in Syracuse, NY
Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter, TSM Forums

Known as the “Syracuse incident,” this was big news at the time because it was acknowledged on WWF Monday Night Raw after it happened.

There was a WWF house show in nearby Binghamton that night, and after the show, Shawn Michaels, Davey Boy Smith (British Bulldog), and Sean Waltman (1-2-3 Kid) headed to Club 37 in the Ponderosa Plaza in Syracuse. According to a serviceman who was there, Michaels was hitting on the girlfriend of one of the other servicemen. He became and angry but kept his composure and asked Michaels to leave them alone. Michaels allegedly said he was a big star and that he was going to take his girl back to his hotel, and pointed to his “backup” (Smith and Waltman).

It’s not clear what happened between that point and the point when the three wrestlers decided to go back to the hotel. It was a busy Friday night and there were no taxicabs available, so the bouncer agreed to have his girlfriend drive them back.

Five people walked to the car in the parking lot, consisting of Michaels, Smith, Waltman, Donna Jones (presumably the bouncer’s girlfriend), and Robert Jones (presumably related to Donna). One report said about 10 servicemen followed them outside, with one calling Michaels a “fag.” This same report said one of the army members took a swing at Waltman, but that wasn’t in the police report. The police report said it was actually Donna who got catcalled.  A newspaper report did state that Waltman may have been struck while he was sitting in the car just before Michaels was assaulted.

Where things appeared to get physical was once everyone was in the car. Michaels was reportedly inebriated and asleep in the front seat. Donna was in the driver’s seat, while the other three were in the backseat with Smith in the middle. One or more of the servicemen then dragged Michaels out of the car.

Drunk and half asleep, Michaels was defenseless and got battered badly. They first slammed the car door on his head, smashed his face into the bumper, and stomped and kicked him into the pavement with steel boots. His eyelid was almost completely torn off.

Waltman got out of the car first and wrestled with one of the servicemen. Smith got out of the car second, because it took awhile for a guy his size to get out of the car being that he was seated in the middle and it was a 2-door car. Smith pulled one of the guys off of Michaels, at which point additional members of the army’s crew joined the fracas. Smith was leg-dived from behind, but ended up quickly getting him in a front face lock and tried choking him out. As Smith had the guy in the face lock, he was poked in the eye by another army member from behind, and he tried to gouge Smith’s eye.

Smith went after him and the two began brawling. By this point Donna had gotten help from one of the bouncers, who came out and pulled a gun on everyone. When the servicemen saw the gun, they all escaped into two white Ford Broncos and took off. One of the Broncos attempted to run over a bouncer named Tony Alberti.

Michaels was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital at 3am, with two shut eyes, a badly swollen face, and his eyelid needing to be sewn back into place. He was released the next morning, luckily with no broken bones or concussion. Smith wrestled the next night in Syracuse, but had broken blood vessels around his eye and fans could see the damage to his face. Waltman was not hurt and also worked a match that night. On Raw, Michaels was shown on camera from his home and they acknowledged the incident.

It should be noted that one serviceman gave a very different report, saying it was only one guy who knocked out Michaels (after Michaels shoved him) and stomped on him. He also said Smith and Waltman saw it and did nothing, and that no other servicemen were involved. However, this makes no sense because Smith did have visible damage to his face the next night in Syracuse. There’s also no way he or Waltman would not have come to Michaels’ aid. It also strongly contradicts the police report and other eyewitness accounts.

A newspaper report claimed some of the servicemen tried to prevent Smith and Waltman from coming out of the car to help Michaels, which may also explain why it took Smith so long to save him.  If the assailants were purposely blocking Smith and Waltman from getting out of the car, it likely means it was a planned and attack and supports the claim that Michaels was pulled from the car rather than getting out himself.

Michaels later sued the perpetrator, who was arrested and had to cover his medical bills. He was also banned for life from attending WWF events, but it was said he didn’t care because he thought wrestling was “gay.”