Rockers Kick Off (January 12, 1992)
The year 1992 kicked off in sensational fashion in the World Wrestling Federation when tag team specialists The Rockers – Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty – split up on The Barber Shop. In the lead up to the Barber Shop segment – taped December 2, 1991 and aired January 12, 1992 – there had been clear dissension after a series of losses. WWF Magazine also did a story discussing the issues between the long-time partners.
On the Barber Shop, Marty demanded an answer either way. After telling Shawn he could go it alone and walk off, or stick together and keep “rocking and rolling the way The Rockers can do,” Marty turned his back. Shawn thought it over a second and pulled him around to face him. He then extended his hand and to the delight of the crowd, The Rockers shook on it. All seemed well, until it wasn’t.
A few seconds later, Shawn gave the definitive answer by nailing Marty with a superkick to the chin. Then taking him by the hair, led him over to a plate glass window which made up the set of The Barber Shop, and sent Marty head first through it. As host Brutus Beefcake came to Marty’s aid, Shawn picked up a copy of WWF Magazine, and tore it half in front the camera, throwing the portion of Marty away and keeping the half with his picture. Due to the assault, Jannetty couldn’t take his place in the Royal Rumble, just a week later.
It was not only shocking to see a long-time team split in this fashion – they had been together since 1985 – but blood was clearly seen streaming down Jannetty’s face, which was not typically done in the WWF at that time. Nor was it commonplace to see someone go through a pane of glass as a final exclamation point.
The signs were there that Shawn would turn, as he came out with a black leather jacket. This was apparently Roddy Piper’s, who allowed Shawn to wear it feeling it would give him more of a heelish edge. Ironically, it was Piper who instigated a real-life brawl between the two in May 1991 when, during a drinking session, is said to have talked up Shawn as having a great future in the business, but not saying anything about Jannetty. This led to Marty challenging Michaels to a fight, which Michaels turned down, but got a fight anyway.
It was unlikely that Jannetty was angry solely on Piper’s comments. Prior, the decision had been made to split The Rockers, as Shawn had wanted to break away and become a single’s competitor. So in Piper talking about Shawn and not Marty, it perhaps struck the latter that he would dwindle away once the team was disbanded, while the former would have a bright future.
Sadly, this would end up being the case. Any wrestling fan knows that Shawn Michaels went on to become one of the greats, while Marty Jannetty’s career stalled and spluttered, not helped by a series of incidents outside the ring.
The planned feud between the two was set back when Marty was arrested in Tampa, Florida right after the split, and didn’t return until October. By this point, Shawn was the Intercontinental champion and had Sensational Sherri as his manager. As per their routine, Sherri held a mirror shaped like a heart – since he was also going by the nickname The Heartbreak Kid – so Michaels could preen and check himself out before his match.
Instead, Marty unexpectedly got in the ring and took the mirror away, looking to give Shawn a taste of what he’d done to him on The Barber Shop. As Jannetty swung, Shawn cowardly pulled Sherri in front him, and she took the mirror to the face. She left Shawn to support Marty’s bid for the Intercontinental Title, but after a few unsuccessful challenges, Jannetty was then fired for being drunk during a match.
When it was determined they had possibly made a mistake firing Marty, he was brought back AGAIN to restart the feud on the May 17, 1993 edition of RAW, where dressed as a fan, he challenged Michaels on the spot for the title. Shawn digressed and made excuses, but Vince McMahon reminded him he had just said in their interview he would take on anybody. Later in the night, Marty returned in his ring gear, and after timely interference from Mr Perfect, dethroned Shawn for the title.
Unfortunately, this would be the high point for Jannetty. Three weeks later, he dropped the IC Title back to Shawn, his one and only WWF singles championship. For the rest of his run, he was mostly used as a preliminary wrestler to talent the company wanted to get over, and put in a series of different tag team combinations, including The New Rockers with Leif Cassidy (Al Snow). In 1998, he signed with WCW for a year where he was utilised even less.
Of course, history tells us that Shawn Michaels did live up to the prophesy that was apparently foretold by Roddy Piper. He became a bonafide legend, a controversial character who had his detractors, but generally considered one of the all-time greats. Marty would unfortunately be the poster child for situations when tag teams split and one partner goes on to stardom, while the other fades into the void. But not for a lack of talent, it must be said, but perhaps due to mindset and poor choices outside the ring.