The rockers were a unique tag team in every sense of the word. Their career together was a script written by destiny. It could not have been written better. As you will travel through their career, every emotion of this story and a reflection of boyhood dreams will be self-evident.
1980’s was an electrifying decade in many respects. Economy was booming and consumer was jolly. The decade however belonged to a very different phenomenon by the name of Michael Jackson. His dancing shoes made the world stand on its toe. Entire generation of the decade zoomed along with him.
Being a mirror of society, pro-wrestling could not have been aloof from it. In many gimmicks that incarnated themselves from the atmosphere around, there was one tag team called the midnight rockers. They represented the youth and energy of their time. Clearly inspired from the rock-stars, this tag team oozed the exuberance of inexperience.
This team consisted of two superlative athletes, Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels. Both were highflyers and used high impact areal moves. They changed the traditional ethos of masculinity, which were rather a rule in those days.
The Rockers were a gem of their times. I will try to capture as many as possible colors of their aura here.
First off, let us have a look at their early career.
Before the Dawn
Marty Jannetty began his wrestling career in April 1984 with NWA’s Central States division. He wrestled in singles and tag team competition with various stars until 1985.
Shawn Michaels whereas, was trained under Jose Lothario. Shawn made his foray into pro-wrestling scene through Mid-South Wrestling and Texas All-Star Wrestling (TASW) promotions in October 1984. After having mild success with the promotion, he joined Central States Wrestling in 1985.
It was at that time, Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels first met and struck up a friendship. Marty was teaming with Central States booker”Bulldog” Bob Brown when Shawn first arrived. Once Team Marty and Brown broke up, Michaels and Jannetty started teaming up. They were not given any particular name during this period.
Both of them tested a success soon enough when they beat the Batten twins for Tag team titles. However, the glory lasted for very short time. They dropped the belts to Batten twins in a rematch only a week later.
Shawn left the CSW in sometime and joined Texas-All Star Wrestling. There he teamed up with Paul Diamond. ‘The rockers’ was not even a distant possibility at the moment.
But the destiny! Well that bitch does not follow a script. She had a different dice in her hand.
The Inception of ‘Midnight Rockers’
In the latter part of 80’s a very different drama was being played. It was way bigger than Shawn and Marty. The juggernaut of WWF was crushing its competition around the country. Its competitors were left desperate to find a way to survival. One of the biggest promotions, the AWA had to suffer horrendously in the meanwhile. It was searching for any and every possible solution.
Their need brought them to Marty and Shawn. Both of them were signed by AWA in early 86.
Greg Gagne had suggested some terrible names for this tag team, so to avoid any such damage, the duo itself came with the name of Midnight Rockers. These two guys brought the much needed energy to AWA. Their stupendous ring work and boyish charisma mesmerized the audience. They soon began to feud with Doug Sommers and Buddy Rose, who were a premier tag team.
Soon enough when latter became tag team champions, the midnight rockers found themselves chasing the elusive titles. They kept chasing the belt for a long time.Finally, in January 1987 the Midnight Rockers defeated Rose and Somers to claim the ultimate glory.
A teaser of future
It was after claiming the gold; they realized what a sinking ship AWA was! They knocked the WWF door with AWA title and were happily taken in by dear Vinnie. This action necessitated them to relinquish tag team title. Midnight Rockers happily obliged.
The marriage with WWF however turned out to be four-night stand as they were fired for excessive partying and ultimate indiscipline.
Boys were back with a lesson. However, the returning to home was not so simple due their actions. They had to wait at the doorstep called Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) for a while before AWA signed them back. Midnight Rockers had good run in CWA. They Feuded with teams like Nasty boys and gave some super performances. They also turned ‘Heel’ during the same time. They defeated Rock ‘n’ Roll RPMs to capture Southern Tag Team title. It was during the same period they started reappearing at AWA. Funnily, they were heels in CWA and faces in AWA simultaneously.
In December 1987, The Midnight Rockers defeated The Original Midnight Express to reclaim AWA tag team title. Since they were holding both the titles, they had to vacate CWA belt. In coming months they had a brief feud with monumental Rock n’ Roll express.
Shawn and Marty demanded Gagne to raise their pay at that time. He flatly refused to oblige. These issues laid to final departure of Midnight Rockers from AWA.
Looking back we can only predict what would have happened if they had stayed. God forbid, but we might have never had HBK. So thank you Mr. Gagne.
At the Grandest Stage of Them All
Eventually VKM signed these two boys back on the condition of discipline. He shortened their name to simply ‘The Rockers’. They officially made their television debut on the June 18, 1988 version of WWF Superstars of Wrestling and pay-per-view (PPV) debut at Survivor Series in 1988.
Soon enough they started feuding with Brain Busters. This Feud produced some of the greatest matches of those times. This feud attracted enormous amount of fan reactions. It made WWF to take notice of these young teams.
At their WM debut, they competed with Twin Towers. However, the feud was short lived as they began a fresh feud with The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers. This feud was a reason that ‘Iron Match’ was introduced to WWF. Incidentally, this is the same match that Shawn made famous in future. In the end Rockers lost the feud and refreshed their feud with the brain busters once again. In the concluding match Rockers defeated BBs.
Rockers started a feud with the Orient Express now. This feud produced some amazing house shows matches that propelled the popularity of Rockers to new heights. The Rockers and the Orient Express gave a high profile, highflying match at the Royal Rumble in 1990.
A Title Reign That Does Not Exist
WWE’s records do not mention the Rockers as tag team champs. However, on October 30, 1990 Rockers defeated the reigning champions The Hart Foundation in a two out of three falls match in Fort Wayne, Indiana to win the title. Jim Neidhart was allegedly fired at that time. That was the reason of title change. But in rapid consequent developments this title change was erased from all the records and television editions. Belt was back to the Hart Foundation.
Shawn afterwards blamed the backstage politics for this saga. If it was Hart foundation who played dirty, then Montreal Screw-job well gets another hue added to its darkness.
After the Title fiasco, differences began to brew between the duo. WWF realized it too. In those days WWF had a process called build up. They took it slow and added elements of dissension every other episode. It is said that Marty was interested in higher pay and was willing to leave the company. Shawn on the other hand was willing stay. Fittingly enough Rockers had their last tag match against Legion of Doom at Royal Rumble 1993.
End of the Rockers
The final split came on Brutus Beefcake’s "Barbershop" where Beefcake interviewed the Rockers about their problems. Out of nowhere, Shawn blasted Jannetty with a Super kick and threw him through the glass window on the set to finally break the glass ceiling.
This image became the career-defining frame for Shawn Michaels as he went on to become the ‘Heart Break Kid’ Shawn Michaels. Rest is of course history.
Marty became IC champ once and feuded with Shawn for a while. But then he left. He made several comebacks afterwards only to leave abruptly. Some lame attempts of reuniting the Rockers doomed as they should have been.
In their day, Rockers were a fresh breath of air in hard stoned faces. They were human and every single fan could relate to them. They were immensely popular. They had a speed that few could match. They provided Many OMG moments that were not seen before. They had many Double moves, which made jaws to drop.
Alas, all the good things got to end some day. And they indeed did.
This is how Story of Boyhood dreams started and it is here it ended.
Behind the Scenes
As mentioned earlier, Rockers portrayed a gimmick that was their reality.
In his blog, Marty writes,” during the long journey of planes, there are three kinds of boys. One, who roam around and look for chicks, second who search for somebody to party with, third who search for a victim to play a rib on. We were all three of them.”
As we say beauty lies in the eyes of beholder, I would say greatness lies in perception of perceiver.
In Pro-wrestling greatness cannot be inferred from the result. Win ratio cannot define determine caliber here. In this sport, what matters is how the result is achieved. The process is paramount.
If Win ratio is the criteria, Goldberg is the greatest of all time. Had championships been a criteria to decide the greatest, Great Khali becomes greater than Arn Anderson, Ricky Steamboat, Owen Hart and Curt Henning to name a few. Therefore, I will leave it up to you my dear reader to choose your criteria.
Hence, I say that in ring work, ability to tell a story and emotions they brought to the table allow The Rockers to stand on the highest podium and make them the one.
Thank you for reading.