Michaels (Michael Shawn Hickenbottom) is born in Chandler, Arizona. He is the youngest of four children. He grows up in San Antonio, Texas. He develops an early interest in professional wrestling and other sports. He begins playing football at age six. As a young adult he drops out of college to pursue a career in professional wrestling. After training under the tutelage of Jose Lothario, he makes his professional debut for NWA Mid-South at the age of nineteen.