No strangers to controversy, the wild pairing of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, collectively known as “The Rockers,” split in 1992. Michaels went on to become one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time while Jannetty would have personal and professional problems that would result in regular suspensions, firings, and missed career opportunities.
With backstage support, a great look, and incredible skills in the ring, Marty Jannetty appeared to have all the tools required to be successful in a post-steroid scandal WWF. However, a self-destructive nature led to Jannetty being unable to fulfill this potential while his former partner ascended to the main event level. This is the story of a singles career that could have been much more.
Originally billed as the “Midnight Rockers,” the young brash pair of Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty found early career success in the AWA. They originally signed for the WWF in 1987, yet a mix of unprofessional behavior and a few too many late nights partying led to the pair being dismissed a few short weeks later. After working for various small territories, Marty and Shawn found their way back to Verne Gagne’s AWA. However, the once-thriving company was on a steep decline at this point in time. When Michaels and Jannetty requested more money and were greeted by a negative response, they left the AWA yet again.
With seemingly nowhere to work, a prayer was answered in the form of WWF chairman Vince McMahon. McMahon informed the pair that he would give them another opportunity as long as they could curb their party lifestyle and act more professionally. Jannetty and Michaels made their TV debut for the company under the shortened name “The Rockers” in June 1988, and never looked back.
History of The Rockers – Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels
The WWF tag team division in the late 1980s was full of great teams and matches. From 1988 through to their on-screen split in 1992, The Rockers had programs with Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, The Orient Express, The Twin Towers, and Power and Glory. They also had a series of matches with Demolition and The Hart Foundation, the latter actually resulting in a tag team title win in 1990. However, during the course of this contest, the top rope broke. The match was never aired on television so the WWF decided to keep the belts on the Canadian duo of Hart and Neidhart.
Despite the disappointment of not collecting the tag titles, this was not the worst thing to happen in the career of Marty Jannetty in 1990. During a match in December, Jannetty attempted his “Rocker Dropper” finishing move on an inexperienced wrestler named Chuck Austin. Austin, who had volunteered his services to the WWF despite only having six weeks training, came down hard on his head with Jannetty landing on top of him. This unfortunate bump broke Austin’s neck, causing him to become paralyzed. Chuck Austin sued the WWF and Jannetty, with the case coming to a very costly close in 1994, which would affect Jannetty’s career again at that point. You can read further about this unfortunate incident in our article entitled Wrestling Injury Accidents That Ended Careers Too Soon.
As 1991 roared on, there were visible issues on-screen with The Rockers coupled with a few personal issues off-screen between Michaels and Jannetty. In Shawn Michaels’ autobiography, Heartbreak & Triumph: The Shawn Michaels Story, he explains that Jannetty stated the team could get a higher guarantee with WCW, which turned out to be very inaccurate. Jannetty has disputed this, saying it was, in fact, Michaels who wanted to test the waters elsewhere. Whichever version is true, this led to Jannetty asking for their release from the company. When McMahon said he would grant this, Michaels was apparently visibly shocked and called the WWF Chairman himself to explain it was, in actuality, Jannetty who was the driving force behind a potential departure.
Eventually, the duo decided to stay with the WWF, but Jannetty had started slipping back into old habits. Regularly out partying and overdoing it, Marty was becoming a bit of a problem. This caused him and Michaels to clash a few more times, with the most famous being an incident with Roddy Piper in a hotel room where the police had to be called. According to Michaels in his autobiography, an intoxicated Piper was being very vocal about how Michaels was the future of the business. An equally inebriated Jannetty took offense to this and challenged Michaels to a fight, something Shawn wanted no part of. This did not stop Jannetty from still trying and he attacked his partner leaving a decidedly wobbly Roddy Piper to separate the pair. During this melee, the police arrived and wanted to arrest Jannetty, but luckily for the bleary-eyed Marty, Randy Savage arrived and convinced the police that this was all part of the show. After collecting a few autographs from “The Macho Man,” the police left. However, the damage was done.
Michaels wanted to quit the WWF over the incident, seemingly done with his long term partner’s antics. Ultimately, as we are fully aware, Shawn did not do this. But a plan was put in place shortly after for The Rockers to split. Jannetty in various shoot interviews states that he believes this incident was the main reason for the popular tag team parting ways.
On-screen, there were a few scripted misunderstandings during matches. During a rare singles match for Shawn, Jannetty rolled him back into the ring thinking he was helping his partner. This actually led to Michaels’ opponent, Ric Flair, being able to easily pin him. Another disagreement took place at 1991’s Survivor Series pay-per-view. Michaels took an accidental knock to the face as Jannetty brawled with one of the Nasty Boys which led to his elimination from the match. A very boisterous discussion followed as fans of the team watched on, surprised by the on-screen unraveling of the popular duo.
In December that year, the infamous Barber Shop split took place (however it was not aired until January 1992.)
The Infamous Split of The Rockers
In one of the most memorable turns in history, the pair seemed to reconcile their differences before Michaels superkicked his partner in the face and threw him through the Barber Shop set window. Jannetty even bled, which was unusual for this time and made the moment even more dramatic. In that instance, The Rockers were done. Something of further interest in this segment, when watched back, is the difference between the two which was evident even then. Michaels oozes charisma, coming across as cocky and conceited. Jannetty, oddly, seems more wooden in comparison.
The scene was set for the former partners to do battle. A brilliant moment in WWF television signaling the end of a much-loved tag team. Jannetty was garnering a large level of sympathy for the beating he sustained while Michaels strutted around riling up even the most reserved of fans. This angle was red hot, and fans were desperate to see Marty Jannetty get his revenge. Yet, we had to wait a while, as Jannetty’s poor decision making and personal issues again provided a setback.
On January 25th, 1992, mere weeks after the Barber Shop segment aired on television, Jannetty was arrested. Marty was charged with resisting arrest and possession of cocaine after police were called when Jannetty got physical with some security at a Tampa Bay nightclub. This led to Jannetty being suspended by the company while under house arrest. A huge turning point in Jannetty’s career, the start of his singles push was stalled for months.
To be fair to the WWF creative team, the way Marty Jannetty made his return was brilliantly handled. In October of ’92, Shawn Michaels was in the ring with new manager Sensational Sherri, going through his posing routine into a mirror Sherri was holding. The camera angles were perfect for fans watching at home as Jannetty appeared in the reflection behind Michaels. Jannetty then attacked Shawn, by this point the Intercontinental Champion, and swung Sherri’s mirror at his former partner. Michaels, however, pulled Sherri in front of him and she took the full force of the blow. The feud between the two former partners was on, albeit several months after the original plan was shelved.
WATCH: Marty Jannetty returns to attack former Rockers partner Shawn Michaels
This led to an Intercontinental Title match at the 1993 Royal Rumble. Jannetty, still dressing like he was in his tag team days and using The Rockers old music, was not actually first to the ring despite being the challenger. The first entrance was made by Sherri, who stood in a neutral corner for the contest. As the match wore on, the commentary team was undecided of Sherri’s allegiances. At the end of the contest, with the ref down, this became more clear. Sherri attempted to hit Michaels with one of her shoes as he was being held by Jannetty, but the champion moved. Sherri struck Jannetty, and Michaels took full advantage of this and pinned his former friend. This should have led to more matches between the pair, as Jannetty was not beaten clean in any way shape or form. However, Marty’s self-destructive nature reared its ugly head yet again. Or at least, so it would first seem.
Jannetty was fired very quickly after the match over allegations of being drunk or hungover during the contest. Jannetty has always denied this and has stated he believes that Michaels himself started this rumor. However, around this time Jannetty had been sleeping in locker rooms and arguing with backstage producers in such a way that complaints were made to Vince McMahon about his conduct by Ray Stevens, a former wrestler and now WWF employee. Whether it was that Jannetty was impaired, Michaels starting rumors, or Jannetty’s own reputation working against him, Marty was once again gone from the WWF.
According to WWF producer Bruce Prichard on his podcast Something To Wrestle, during this period, Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig spoke with Vince McMahon and went to bat for Jannetty. Hennig explained he did not believe Jannetty was under the influence and that Michaels had, in fact, lied to cover up his own condition during the match at the Rumble. Due to Hennig’s testimony, Jannetty was rehired again.
Jannetty made the latest of his returns on an episode of Monday Night Raw on May 17th, 1993. With adversary Shawn Michaels in the ring declaring he can beat anyone and issuing an open challenge, Jannetty came through the crowd and accepted. Later in the show, Jannetty beat Michaels for the Intercontinental Title in a very good yet slightly short match with assistance from Mr. Perfect. Incidentally, this was also the same episode of Raw where Sean Waltman wrestling as “The Kid” upset Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) in a great early ’90s moment. Marty’s first and only singles title run in the WWF would be short-lived, however, with Michaels winning the championship back at a house show a few weeks later.
During this period of 1993, Jannetty put in some very good performances on television. He had another match with Michaels that was again better than the slightly off Rumble contest. Jannetty also faced Doink the Clown in a two out of three falls match on Raw that was surprisingly good. The man under the green wig at this time was the very talented Matt Borne, and his facial expressions and vicious offense worked excellently with the way Jannetty bounced around the ring and sold the moves he was having inflicted upon himself. This match still stands up today, some 25 plus years later, as a testament to how good Jannetty could be on certain occasions, as well as how talented the late Borne was.
WATCH: Marty Jannetty faces off against Doink The Clown in a 2 out of 3 Falls classic encounter
Marty Jannetty – Life After The Rockers
Despite a short-lived title run and these good in-ring showings, Jannetty in this era did not feel like a star. Still coming to the ring dressed in his Rockers gear and to the Rockers entrance theme (yes, still) he came across a little stale. By the time SummerSlam ‘93 rolled around in August, Jannetty was being used less and less. At SummerSlam itself, Marty was used to further push the giant Ludvig Borga. The Finnish monster squashed Jannetty fairly quickly, yet Marty still managed to show some positives in this performance. Borga, as yet not very experienced in this world, looked an absolute killer as Marty threw himself all around the ring making Ludvig’s offense look highly effective.
Later that year, Jannetty put in another good showing at the Survivor Series pay-per-view in a match worth revisiting. The odd teaming of Jannetty, Ramon, The Kid, and Randy Savage took on the even more bizarre combination of IRS, Diesel, Rick Martel, and Adam Bomb. This mish-mash of styles and characters somehow clicked and they put forward a surprisingly entertaining 25 minutes.
Marty, however, was floundering. Looking for a new direction for the former Rocker, WWF paired him and Sean Waltman together as a tag team. This came across as a short term experiment yet the crowd reactions for the pair of underdogs were very good. Jannetty again seemed to be onto something and the pair even won the WWF tag team titles in early 1994, before dropping the championship back to former holders the Quebecers a week later.
Jannetty and “The Kid” continued to work tag matches for a few weeks putting on some exciting showings before Marty hit the self-destruct button yet again. In February 1994, Marty Jannetty was arrested on a European Tour for attacking hotel staff over a phone call he was trying to make to his sick father that was not connected correctly. This, coupled with the unfortunately timed conclusion of the Charles Austin lawsuit, led to Jannetty being gone from the WWF once more.
Jannetty worked for ECW for a time, as well as taking (and on occasion no-showing) some independent dates before another return to the WWF in September 1995.
However, this Marty Jannetty was not the same competitor from his Rockers days, nor could he compare with the Jannetty that put on very good singles matches in 1993. Marty seemed a touch slower, a touch off. Whether this was brought on by his party lifestyle, injuries or even just the advancement of time, Jannetty was simply not as exciting as his former self had been. Sadly, the comparisons did not stop there as Jannetty’s ex-tag team partner Michaels was displaying everything Marty was not in the main events of the time. As quickly as he had returned, Jannetty was struggling for direction again.
Working various tag matches in 1995 with Ramon, Sycho Sid, and The 123 Kid offered a small peak, yet this may have been down to the talent he was sharing the ring with, as shown by the dip in quality with his next venture.
Jannetty in early 1996 started working with Al Snow, then going by the name Leif Cassidy, as a team called “The New Rockers.” This again failed to recapture the previous magic displayed by Jannetty in his late 80s to early 90s prime. Later that year Jannetty left the WWF again, yet this time of his own request as he asked for his release.
After again working a few independent dates and showing up in ECW again, Jannetty resurfaced to the mainstream on WCW television. Primarily working as enhancement talent to the bigger stars of the time, Jannetty almost seemed revitalized. Wrestling a new wave of talent such as Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and Raven, Marty performed at a higher level than his last WWF run before picking up an injury in a match on Monday Nitro against Konnan. While injured, Jannetty was released from WCW.
As the years progressed it appeared Marty Jannetty was finished as a regular contracted performer for any of the big leagues in America. Again, working and sometimes no-showing independent dates seemed to be where Jannetty’s career was settling before making another surprise return to the WWF (now the WWE) in 2005. Jannetty actually returned to team with old partner, friend, and foe Shawn Michaels in a one-off Rockers reunion, defeating La Resistance on Monday Night Raw. The following week Jannetty wrestled again, this time against Kurt Angle, as the Olympic hero geared up for his WrestleMania match against Shawn Michaels.
On Smackdown that day, March 17th, 2005, Jannetty turned back the clock. This match is an excellent contest and part of a brilliant build to the Angle vs. Michaels classic at WrestleMania that year. Marty Jannetty was then being used for several weeks in some high profile moments. Sharing the ring with Michaels in a feud against the Spirit Squad, Vince McMahon, and even attempting to break Chris Masters’ “Master-Lock” hold, in an odd turn of events, Jannetty vanished from television. The feud with the McMahons carried on, but with Triple H alongside Michaels, and WWE.com reported the company had severed all professional ties with Jannetty, with no further explanation.
A few months later, the same website stated Jannetty was coming back to the company in a temporary role with a longer contract as a possibility in the future. However, it seemed Marty pressed the self destruct button yet again, as it was reported the following week he had been released. A while later, Jim Ross reported on his blog that Marty Jannetty had some further legal issues meaning he could not travel. After another one-off on Raw in 2009, Jannetty was gone for what now seems like the final time.
Marty Jannetty Today
In more recent years, Marty Jannetty has worked occasional independent dates and been a guest at signings and conventions. However, he has maybe been more noticeable for a very odd post on his Facebook page. The post went on to talk about his adult daughter and a DNA test showing they are not actually related, and asked if it was okay to have sex with her as he was physically attracted to her. Jannetty himself has stated publicly that his account was hacked and this wasn’t him making these comments.
Marty Jannetty’s career can be summarised in several ways. He was capable of providing great entertainment for the audience in a tag team as his Rockers days showed. When the mood took him, and with the right opponent, Marty could also put on excellent one on one matches. However, a party lifestyle he could not leave behind coupled with a penchant for making bad decisions seemed to scupper any real singles career in the WWF.
A career of several high points, but possibly also a career of unfulfilled potential.
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