For many wrestling fans of my age, The Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) were a staple of our childhood. However, while Michaels rose to super-stardom his parter faired less well despite numerous chances with the WWF/E. In this piece we look at Marty Jannetty’s various runs.
Although Jannetty did have an early NWA title shot against Ric Flair, it wasn’t until he and Michaels, then known as The Midnight Rockers, reached the AWA in 1986 that their careers began to take off. The pair electrified crowds with their high flying offence and quickly became tag champions at the company.
Despite still carrying the AWA gold, the Rockers – as they were now known – debuted in the WWF defeating the team of Jose Estrada, Sr. and Jimmy Jack Funk. Soon after, however, the duo were fired for their wild partying ways and they wound up wrestling in Continental Wrestling. Despite how they previously left the AWA, they would soon return to the promotion.
By 1988, the duo began to ask Verne Gagne for more money and a guaranteed contract. When the request was denied, they found themselves once again leaving the AWA with the WWF once again calling them – under the proviso they reigned in their hard partying ways.
For the next three years, The Rockers were one of the most popular WWF acts. As is the norm, the company began to book tension between the pair culminating in Jannetty inadvertently causing Michaels to be eliminated at the 1991 Survivor Series. Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake invited the pair onto his ‘Barbershop’ segment in order for them to reconcile their differences but instead Michaels superkicked his former partner and threw him through a plate glass window.
However, it is wildly attributed backstage disputes that drove the pair apart. According to Michaels’s book, Jannetty had claimed that World Championship Wrestling were willing to give them a very high guaranteed contract but when Michaels inquired about it turned out to be an exaggeration. Jannetty counters by stating HBK was the driving force behind the move but had Jannetty do the phone call to ask for a release from their contract. When Vince McMahon actually agreed to let them go Michaels appeared shocked according to him, and later went to McMahon unbeknownst to him to explain this was Jannetty´s idea only and that he had no intention of leaving the WWF himself. Eventually it was decided that The Rockers should split with Michaels turning heel to feud with Jannetty.
After selling the injury, Jannetty returned to feud with his former partner that was supposed to lead to a match at WrestleMania VIII. However, Jannetty left the federation for personal reasons after being suspended by the WWF, due to an incident outside a Tampa night club that occurred on January 25, 1992.
He would return in October 1992 attempting to strike Michaels with his mirror, but inadvertently hitting Sherri when Michaels pulled her in front. He would challenge Michaels to a match at the 1993 Royal Rumble but lost after interference by Sensational Sherri backfired. The feud was supposed to continue but Marty was released again after rumours circulated stating that he had been under the influence of alcohol or other drugs during the match, leading to its supposed low quality. Jannetty, instead, blamed lack of sleep and blames the starting of the rumours on Michaels.
Another return occurred in May 1993 when he appeared on the promotion’s newish Raw programme answering a Shawn Michaels open challenge and pinning him to win the Intercontinental Title. However he lost it a few weeks later, back to Michaels, following interference by Diesel.
Jannetty remained with the company until early the following year when he disappeared off TV around the time the hearing into Charles Austin’s – who suffered a broken neck in December 1990 following a Jannetty Rocker Dropper – injury was heard. He remained out of the spotlight until he turned up in Extreme Championship Wrestling in early 1995.
The former Rocker returned to the WWF in September 1995 teaming up with Razor Ramon during November and December of the year as they feuded with Sycho Sid and the now heel 1-2-3 Kid. The following February he turned heel and teamed with Leif Cassidy as part of the New Rockers but with increasing frustration over that pairing, he left after the 1996 Survivor Series.
It would be several years before he would return to WWE screens. On the March 14 20015 edition of Raw he returned to team with HBK – performing as The Rockers – against La Résistance with Jannetty scoring the win for his team after he used his signature Rocker Dropper.
WWE soon signed him to a new contract, but due to a domestic incident, he was arrested and unable to meet the commitments of his WWE contract, leading to his release on July 6. On the February 20 episode of Raw, Shawn Michaels was pitted against four of the five members of the Spirit Squad in their in-ring debut. After he had used Sweet Chin Music, Michaels was attacked by all five members until an unknown man came storming in to the ring to defend Michaels. During the melee, it was revealed that it was Marty Jannetty coming to defend his former tag team partner. Later on Raw, Vince McMahon came out to mention that he would offer Jannetty a full-time contract. McMahon added a stipulation, however, as Jannetty had to join Mr. McMahon’s “Kiss My Ass Club” the following week on Raw.
Jannetty refused, and McMahon instead offered Jannetty the possibility of breaking Chris Masters’ signature submission hold, the Master Lock. Jannetty appeared to almost break the hold, but Mr. McMahon (who was officiating) hit Jannetty with a low blow. Unable to break it, he was only released from the hold when Michaels ran in to save him. Shortly after Michaels had saved Jannetty, Shane McMahon ran in the ring with a steel chair and knocked out Michaels. The former Rockers were supposed to continue a program with the McMahons, but Jannetty was absent from the next episode of Raw and instead Triple H and Shawn Michaels reunited as D-Generation X. On March 3, WWE announced that it had severed all professional ties with Jannetty without further explanation.
On September 15, it was announced on WWE.com that Jannetty had signed a new contract and would be returning as a veteran to work with younger talent. However, according to Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Jannetty was rumored to have been released yet again on September 29. The January 2007 issue of WWE Magazine confirmed this. On October 19, 2009, Jannetty made an appearance on Raw and losing in a match against The Miz.
Overall, the WWE career of Marty Jannetty can be filed under missed opportunities. With his focus on the ring, and a curb on outside activities, Jannetty was one of the finest. One only needs to cast their eyes on his work with performers like the 1-2-3 Kid in 1995.