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Formation of the Kliq (1995–1996)
Main article: The Kliq
Michaels returned to the ring as a fan favorite in May 1995 and he went on to defeat Jeff Jarrett to win his third Intercontinental Championship in July at In Your House 2: The Lumberjacks. This led to a title defense against Razor Ramon at SummerSlam in a ladder match, which Michaels won. Around this time, Michaels became the leader of a backstage group known as The Kliq. Critics perceive the group to have sufficient clout with WWF owner Vince McMahon, becoming dominant wrestling figures in the WWF for several years in the mid-1990s, causing friction with other wrestlers. Michaels disputes the perception, saying that McMahon pushed only deserving wrestlers. Michaels’s fan base was later nicknamed “The Kliq” as an inside reference to the real “Kliq”. In October 1995, Michaels was the victim of a legit assault outside a bar in Syracuse, New York. Due to not being able to compete, Michaels was forced to forfeit the Intercontinental Championship to his original opponent Dean Douglas at In Your House: Great White North, who in turn Douglas lost the championship to Razor Ramon, another member of the Kliq. This event has been cited as an example of the Kliq holding others down. During a match with Owen Hart on a November episode of Raw, Hart performed an enzuigiri that struck the back of Michaels’s head. They continued the match, but Michaels collapsed in the ring, supposedly because he had suffered a concussion. The concussion was scripted, which was kept from most fans at the time. A retirement angle was written so that Michaels could take some time off after he came back from an injury too soon.