April 10, 2010
SHAWN MICHAELS VS. MARTY JANNETTY
“Rock, Rock, Till One Gets Dropped”
After bursting onto the WWF scene in 1988 at the speed of sound, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, known as The Rockers, quickly caught the eyes of fans the world over. Far from the biggest specimens in the locker room, Michaels and Jannetty had to rely on their clever tandem offense, as well as their quickness and agility, to secure wins over the majority of their foes.
Although the duo would never technically hold the WWF World Tag Team Championship, The Rockers did defeat The Hart Foundation in October 1990 to win the belts, although the decision was later overturned as a result of a broken ring rope. The controversy over said rope was enough to keep Michaels and Jannetty from being able to claim a reign as WWF World Tag Team Champions.
However, not being title-holders didn’t diminish their popularity. The Rockers remained as equally loved by male fans for their natural charisma and ability as they were their female followers for their youthful looks and raw sex appeal.
ACT I: Life’s a Kick in the Head
After over three years of wowing crowds with their dynamics, The Rockers experienced their first bit of on-screen tension. At the 1991 Survivor Series, The Rockers were teamed with The Bushwhackers, and pitted against The Nasty Boys and The Beverly Brothers. After the New Zealand duo was eliminated, Michaels and Jannetty had to scramble from being down 4-2 to try and pull this one out.
Things were looking up after Michaels managed to eliminate Beau Beverly with a backslide. Then, just as the Rockers were rocking with a tidal wave of momentum, Jannetty attempted to slam Jerry Sags, but it was Sags’ boot that kicked Michaels in the face as Sags was being picked up. The stunned Michaels fell back into a pinning combo from Brian Knobs, sealing the elimination for the kid from San Antonio.
After the pin, Jannetty, oblivious to the miscue, was brow-beaten and berated by a livid Michaels, who couldn’t believe that one small mistake such as that led to his elimination. Michaels stormed off, leaving Jannetty to try and figure out this 3-1 encounter. Valiantly as he fought, Jannetty succumbed to an inside cradle, leaving the Nastys and Blake Beverly as survivors.
ACT II: Rockers on the Rocks
Suddenly, the team found themselves completely out of whack. This was never more evident than on the December 21, 1991 episode of WWF Superstars, when Michaels refused to tag Jannetty in as the team faced two preliminary workers. Michaels worked over both opponents for three whole minutes, winning it by himself. Jannetty stormed off this time, leaving Michaels to brazenly and arrogantly celebrate his win.
One week later, on December 28, The Rockers would get what would be their final shot at the WWF World Tag Team Titles against the Legion of Doom. Much like Survivor Series, it was a miscue that did the duo in, when Michaels dropkicked Animal, who was holding Jannetty, and Animal wound up powerslamming his opponent to retain the gold. After the match, an incredulous Michaels repeatedly slapped Jannetty, before leaving his dumbfounded partner behind.
As 1992 began, fans of The Rockers wondered what would become of their favorite team. Would they mend fences and continue toward their goal of becoming tag team champions? Or would Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty burst at the seams, bringing the team down in a fiery blaze?
ACT III: A Little Off the Top
On January 12, 1992, one week before the Royal Rumble in which the World Title was at stake in the 30 man gauntlet, The Rockers appeared on Brutus Beefcake’s “Barber Shop” segment, where the eccentric barber attempted to hold a summit between the troubled stars. Jannetty wore typical street clothes, but Michaels wore a black leather jacket with no shirt, as well as black pants, befitting the darker attitude he’d been showing in recent weeks.
Each man aired their grievances, with Marty sounding sincere and optimistic about the team’s future. Shawn, however, seemed distant and self-important, apparently having already made up his mind concerning the team. The ideas that Jannetty was pitching were falling at the feet of the apathetic Michaels.
Finally, Marty told Shawn to make his decision, and then turned his back to his longtime friend. Michaels briefly thought about it, as the fans screamed encouragement to him. Finally, Shawn spun Marty around, and extended his hand in allegiance. The two hugged and raised arms to a thunderous ovation, preparing to start part two of their journey.
But not as Marty Jannetty would have hoped.
Michaels nailed Jannetty with a superkick, dropping him to the stage floor. As the fans went quiet in shock, Michaels pulled Jannetty to his feet and, in one of the most memorably infamous moments in wrestling history, slammed Marty face first through the glass window that was part of the barber shop set.
While Beefcake and officials rushed to a bloody Jannetty’s aid, Michaels picked up a magazine that had a photo of the Rockers. He looked into the camera and said “Is there a problem?” before ripping the magazine in half, throwing Marty’s “half” at him, and holding up the Michaels portion, quipping “I don’t THINK so”.
ACT IV: A Sensational Trist
As Shawn Michaels morphed into a preening pretty boy, Marty Jannetty vanished from the World Wrestling Federation. Shawn, however, was not alone for long.
Sensational Sherri, recently split from Ted Dibiase, had made her love of Michaels known, and soon found herself as the object of Shawn’s affection. WWF’s resident Leona Helmsley was providing a new edge to Michaels’ personality, providing constant interference and distraction during Michaels’ match-ups.
Shawn also displayed a misogynistic side, throwing Sherri down at his feet before posing over top of her after every victory. For eight months, Michaels, who chased the Intercontinental Title with relentless desire, and Sherri were the top power couple in the WWF.
That was until Halloween day, when Michaels was about to have a contest with just another prelim guy. Before the match, Michaels was going through his pre-match routine of posing in front of a giant mirror that Sherri would hold up for him. Unbeknownst to the “Heartbreak Kid”, Marty Jannetty had just jumped the guardrail and had slid into the ring. Shawn finally realized that Marty was in the mirror behind him, and turned to receive a sound thrashing from his former friend.
Jannetty, in a fit of rage, grabbed the mirror from the hysterical Sherri. As he went to smash Michaels with it, the fitting irony of a glass-induced injury, Michaels pulled Sherri into harm’s way and it was she who took the brunt of the impact. Jannetty chased Michaels away as Sherri lay wounded inside the ring.
ACT V: Fatal Distraction
One can’t grieve forever, and Shawn Michaels certainly was having no sleepless nights about Sherri’s condition. In fact, just two weeks after he allowed her to be maimed at the hands of the wild-eyed Jannetty, Shawn Michaels defeated Davey Boy Smith to capture the WWF Intercontinental Title.
Michaels’ first major defense was to be at the 1993 Royal Rumble. However, with Smith having left the company, Jannetty was inserted as the challenger, which was appropriate, given how Michaels had violently taken nine months off of Jannetty’s career.
The extra bit of business associated with this match was that Sensational Sherri would be making her return at the Rumble, but took a neutral corner, much to Michaels’ chagrin.
Late in the hard fought contest, the referee was taken out. That’s when Sherri took the opportunity to slap Michaels, and made her anger at him clear. However, when she went to smash him with her high heeled shoe, Shawn ducked, and it was Marty who was beaned by the weapon.
The finish was academic, as Michaels laid out Jannetty with a superkick and retained his title. Jannetty vanished from the WWF yet again, and Sherri’s attempt to guide Tatanka to the title at Shawn’s expense proved futile. It seemed that a happy and successful Shawn Michaels was going to be an albatross for those who experienced loss at his hands.
ACT VI: Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime
Coming off of a DQ victory over Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Shawn Michaels kicked off the May 17, 1993 edition of Monday Night Raw by declaring that he would defend his title anytime, anywhere, against anyone. This prompted a strange looking man in a hoodie, baseball cap, and sunglasses, to come over the rail at the Manhattan Center.
Shawn taunted the man, who looked no different than any fan, but the disguise came off, and it was indeed Marty Jannetty returning yet again. The New York fans went crazy, and Jannetty goaded Michaels into a rematch that night, saying Shawn wasn’t a man of his word if he refused to grant the title shot.
In the main event, Jannetty and Michaels fought back and forth, and Mr. Perfect was there at ringside to prevent any chicanery from Michaels (Shawn had started a feud with him at Wrestlemania IX the previous month). Late in the match, Michaels felled Jannetty with his superkick, but turned to taunt Mr. Perfect. Perfect threw a towel into Shawn’s face, which disoriented him long enough to be cradled by Jannetty for the pin and the title.
Michaels took the towel and complained to the official, but it was all for naught as Jannetty did a victory lap around ringside with the Intercontinental strap, finally getting his revenge.
ACT VII: Refueling, But Not with Regular
On June 6, 1993, at a non televised event, Shawn Michaels regained the Intercontinental Title from Marty Jannetty, thanks to a new helping hand.
The following night on Monday Night Raw, Michaels had brought in a seven foot, 300 pound “insurance policy” simply known as Diesel to have his back. It was Diesel who provided the distraction one night earlier to give Michaels his second reign as IC Champion.
The two met one last time, on July 19, 1993, and proceeded to have their best match yet. Jannetty appeared to have pinned Michaels early in the match, but referee Earl Hebner missed Shawn’s foot on the bottom rope. After Bobby Heenan showed Hebner his error, the match continued.
Late in the contest, Jannetty dove at the champion, but Michaels ducked and Marty simply crashed and burned on the concrete floor. Diesel rolled in the ragdolled challenger, and Michaels simply pinned him to retain the title.
A month later, Michaels sealed the rivalry by beating Jannetty in a steel cage match taped for Coliseum Video. With the win, Michaels solidified his reputation as the better of the two Rockers.
The two rarely crossed paths after this, save for the occasional battle royal confrontation. Although in the summer of 1996, Michaels, now WWF Champion, defeated Jannetty on Monday Night Raw in a nice throwback to this memorable rivalry.
After Michaels saw new horizons as one of the greatest stars in the history of the sport, and Jannetty failed to amount to much more than a talented footnote, the two found themselves reunited on the March 14, 2005 Monday Night Raw, as the Rockers teamed up to defeat La Resistance near Jannetty’s Columbus, GA home.
The Rockers not only set the standard as one of the most exciting tag teams in wrestling’s annals, but they also raised the bar for all tag teams who split up. The two men knew each other so well as a team, that when it came time to face off one on one, their chemistry was impeccable.
Although Marty Jannetty would never see the heights that Shawn Michaels saw in his career, in some ways, you can argue that Marty Jannetty was a true equal to “The Heartbreak Kid”.
Justin Henry is an aspiring wrestling writer that is fascinated by the history of the business, as well as they ways in which it evolves. Henry writes event reviews, historical accounts, and editorials on professional wrestling for both The Camel Clutch Blog (http://www.camelclutchblog.com), as well as his Facebook fanpage, The Cynical Examination ( http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Cynical-Examination/257452252539).