Since splitting from tag team partner Shawn Michaels way back in 1991, Marty Jannetty has been haunted by comparisons to "The Heartbreak Kid." After all, Michaels went on to win three WWE Championships and a World Heavyweight Championship, and he is recognized as "Mr. WrestleMania" and is arguably the greatest wrestler of all time.
Anyone attempting to compete with a resume as vast and impressive as Michaels' is sure to pale in comparison.
Jannetty may not have gone on to enjoy the success that his longtime partner and friend did, but he was still a valuable member of Vince McMahon's company throughout the 1990s. A former Intercontinental Champion who never hesitated to put others over himself, Jannetty was key in helping develop young talents poised to make an impact in the company.
A household name who has competed in the AWA, WWE and WCW, not to mention territories across the country, Jannetty continues to work indy companies to this day.
One of the more underrated and under-appreciated stars of his generation—when he had his head on right and showed up—enjoy a trip down memory lane as we look back at some of the greatest matches and moments of Jannetty's career.
The Rockers vs. Doug Somers and Buddy Rose
Jannetty and Michaels had competed in territories for years before joining Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association in 1986. One of the top teams in the promotion at the time was Doug Somers and Buddy Rose. It was only a matter of time before the duos clashed, and they did so in some violent, bloody wars.
Sherri Martel seconded Somers and Rose and was often heavily influential in the outcome of the matches. The heels proved to be thorns in the side of the Midnight Rockers, but on January 27, 1987, Jannetty and Michaels won the war when they captured the AWA Tag Team Championships.
They won the titles for a second time on December 27, 1987.
WWE: The Early Years
Jannetty and Michaels made their WWE debut late in 1988. They appeared in several squash matches and competed at that year's Survivor Series match, but their first real exposure came at WrestleMania V when they met Akeem and Big Boss Man, known collectively as the Twin Towers.
The Rockers provided the Towers with a tougher fight than imagined. The heels were big, bruising competitors who used their size and girth to their advantage. To counteract, Jannetty and Michaels used speed and agility. Unfortunately, size and strength proved too much for the underdog babyfaces to overcome, and the Twin Towers escaped Atlantic City with a victory.
The team's first real feud came in 1989 when they engaged the Fabulous Rougeaus in a program. In terms of importance, the rivalry was third or fourth among tag teams, a testament to the depth of the division at the time. The duos exchanged wins leading into SummerSlam.
The Rockers teamed with Tito Santana to take on the Rougeaus and Rick Martel in a six-man tag match. With so many talented competitors competing in one match, expectations were high. The wrestlers delivered a fun, entertaining match on the undercard of the event.
The heels won the match as the Rockers continued to chase that elusive win.
The Rockers vs. The Brain Busters
One of the greatest rivalries the Rockers competed in during their WWE days also involved Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, the Brain Busters, managed by Bobby Heenan.
The teams worked the house show circuit across the country, delivering show-stealing performances on a nightly basis. The heels typically emerged victorious, but their decision to return to Jim Crockett Promotions meant that Jannetty and Michaels would finally score that big win that would put them on the map in WWE.
On the November 25, 1989 episode of Saturday Night's Main Event, the Rockers defeated the Brain Busters in a two-out-of-three falls match to bring their program to a decisive end.
As the Rockers continued to grow, develop and improve as a team, it became abundantly clear that they had earned a run with the WWE Tag Team Championships. On October 30, 1990, Jannetty and Michaels challenged Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, the famed Hart Foundation, for the titles during a television taping.
The match, billed as a two-out-of-three falls match, should have been a Match of the Year candidate featuring the two best teams in wrestling. Unfortunately, the top rope broke in the middle of the match and hampered the entire bout.
Rather than having a competent referee who understood that the match was being taped and could be stopped then restarted after the rope had been fixed, the match went on as was and suffered tremendously.
After years of hard work, Jannetty and Michaels achieved their goal of capturing the sport's most prestigious tag prize. Unfortunately, the match was so bad that the decision was made to never air it, and the titles were returned to Hart and Neidhart.
The Rockers would become the best team in WWE over the course of the next year, wrestling phenomenal matches against the Nasty Boys, Power and Glory and Demolition. They overcame a Michaels knee injury but, as it turned out, could not overcome The Heartbreak Kid's greed and ambitions.
The Barbershop Window
The most infamous breakup in tag team history came in late 1991 when Jannetty was betrayed by Michaels, ending the Rockers' run as a team. Jannetty suffered from Sweet Chin Music and was put headfirst through the window of The Barber Shop talk show set.
It was a shocking moment despite a WWE Magazine article that questioned whether or not there was dissension within the team.
Michaels would go on to achieve singles success, winning the Intercontinental Championship and becoming one of the breakout stars in the company while Jannetty disappeared from television for nearly a year.
Return to WWE, Part I
Jannetty returned to the Vince McMahon-owned company in late 1992, setting up a match between he and Michaels for the Intercontinental title at Royal Rumble in January 1993. Instead of that match centering on the emotional, heated feud between the former partners, "Sensational" Sherri played a large role, and the program failed to live up to expectations.
When Jannetty returned during an episode of Monday Night Raw in May, fans were treated to the match they deserved. Marty returned under a disguise, then accepted Michaels' challenge to face anyone, anytime. By the end of the night, he would be the new Intercontinental Champion, to the delight of the fans in attendance.
After the feud with Michaels wrapped up, Jannetty worked several high-quality matches with Doink the Clown. While the pairing does not seem like one that would work, Jannetty and the wildly talented Matt Osborne (the man under the mask) delivered several great matches.
A loss to Ludvig Borga seemed to indicate that Jannetty was on his way down the ladder, but a pairing with newcomer 1-2-3 Kid resulted in a hot babyface duo that challenged the Quebecers for the WWE Tag Team Championships.
On the January 10, 1994 episode of Raw, Jannetty and Kid captured the titles in one of the rare feel-good moments in the show's history. Unfortunately, it was a hotshot title reign as they dropped the titles right back to the Canadians a week later.
Return to WWE, Part II
After a brief return in 1995, Jannetty made a full-time return to WWE as part of the New Rockers. With Leif Cassidy (a future Al Snow) as his partner, the grizzled veteran helped add legitimacy to a tag team division that ranks as one of WWE's worst.
Their matches against the Smoking Gunns, the Godwinns, the Bodydonnas and British Bulldog and Owen Hart were hardly memorable, and Jannetty's final run with the company ended unceremoniously in the fall of 1996.
In 2005, Jannetty was welcomed back to WWE with open arms when he met Kurt Angle one-on-one as part of the build to Angle's WrestleMania 21 match against Michaels. With a potential spot on the roster at stake, Jannetty turned in a fine performance. His match with Angle introduced a new generation of fans to the tag team specialist and made him one of the most buzzed-about stars for a short period.
He reunited with Michaels shortly thereafter and defeated La Resistance in tag team action.
In 2006, he popped up on Raw once again when he was interjected into the feud between Michaels and McMahon. His inability to keep a straight face when confronted with McMahon's backside during a segment in which the boss was trying to induct him into the Kiss My A** Club is the most notable aspect of that return.
Jannetty continues to work independent promotions and make autograph appearances across the country. While he is remembered for his work between the ropes, his partying and substance abuse is legendary. That he was not always the most reliable worker in terms of showing up in condition to compete hurt him throughout his career.
Had he had his head on straight, who knows what Jannetty could have achieved. As it stands now, he will be remembered as "Shawn Michaels' Partner."
Even if he was so much more than that.
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