Marty Jannetty, The Life and Downfall of the Forgotten Rocker!
Over the many years of watching pro wrestling, I have seen many tag teams come and go. Some of these teams were good, and some of these teams weren’t so good. Either way, it’s a common occurrence to see teams split up.
When teams split up in wrestling, it usually happens for a couple of reasons. One of the main reasons though, is because a team has run its course and they both go on their separate paths.
The story that is told when this happens is often the same one. One wrestler goes on to become bigger than the other. Why this happens, is a question that I don’t think we will ever be able to answer.
In some cases it is clear as day, when one wrestler is better than the other, and then it is just natural that the better wrestler will succeed over his former partner. With some teams though, both are equally as talented.
The one team in particular that comes to my mind is the Rockers, or if you prefer the Midnight Rockers. Whatever name you call them, one thing that can’t be argued is they were a great team.
When fate put Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels together, they would form a team that would become lightning in a bottle. Whether it was the NWA, AWA, or the WWF, these two would rock the wrestling world for years.
The breaking up of the two would shock the wrestling world. Most felt that they would go on to become one of the best tag teams in the history of wrestling. This would obviously would turn out not to be the case.
As we all know, HBK (Shawn Michaels) would go on to become one of the WWF/WWE’s most decorated superstars. He is known to all as Mr. Wrestlemania, and will most likely be inducted into the HOF as soon as he retires.
The story of Marty Jannetty is a much more somber tale. To say his life and career has been an emotional roller coaster would be a vast understatement. He has had his good times, bad times, and everything between.
Jannetty would start his training in the early 80s. Trained by Jerry Oates, he would quickly turn heads. He made his ring debut a short time later with the NWA in 1984.
He would start off his career in the tag ranks. His first of two partners before teaming with Michaels would be Tommy Rogers. They would form a team called the Uptown Boys.
The Uptown Boys would start a long feud with The Grapplers; they would go on to feud for a bit, before taking the tag straps that year in 1984.
They would only hold these titles a few months before dropping them back to the Grapplers. The feud with the Grapplers would end after they reclaimed the belts a short time later.
The Uptown Boys would drop the tag titles a little later to Gypsy Joe and Mr. Pogo. This would lead into a feud with Gypsy Joe. It was during his battles with Joe that Jannetty would capture his first singles title by beating him for the TV championship.
Jannetty’s first partnership would end when Rogers left the promotion. This would leave Jannetty solo again for a while. He wouldn’t have to wait long though before he would find a new tag team partner.
His next tag partner would be “Bulldog” Bob Brown. The two of them would continue to fight for the tag belts against Gypsy and Pogo. All the while Jannetty was still defending his TV title.
These two would go on to remain partners for a while and regain the tag belts. It would be the third in Jannetty's short career. 1985 would continue to be a big year for Jannetty.
He would end his partnership with Brown, and the tag titles would become vacated. He would also end up losing the TV title to Gary Royal in 1985. These two events would play a key part in Jannetty’s career, though.
Although partnerless, Jannetty would accomplish his biggest feat in his early career. In September of that year, he would win the heavyweight title by beating Mr. Pogo. This would be the first of his only two heavyweight title runs.
1986 would end up being another career year for the young Jannetty. He would win the heavyweight title once again when he beat The Shadow. What would be the most important aspect of his year would be his new tag partner.
It would be the year that Jannetty would be teamed up with Shawn Michaels. These two would go on to form the team known as the Midnight Rockers.
The pairing would be an instant success, and they would win the NWA Central States tag titles a short time later.
This would ultimately be a short run for both though, because a short time later they would leave the NWA for greener pastures, and sign with the AWA.
In the AWA, the Midnight Rockers were an instant hit with the fans. With their high flying style, the Midnight Rockers would soon become fan favorites. In most of 1986 they would spend it feuding with guys like Doug Somers and Buddy Rose.
In 1987, the Midnight Rockers reached their goal, defeating Rose & Somers to win the AWA Tag titles. The feud between the two teams continued for the next year, with the Midnight Rockers & Ray Stevens beating Somers, Buddy Wolfe, & Kevin Kelly at Superclash 2.
A few weeks later, the Midnight Rockers lost the AWA Tag Titles to Boris Zhukov & Soldat Ustinov. This was because the Midnight Rockers were leaving the AWA. They signed a contract with the WWF in the summer of '87.
This would be a short lived run for the dynamic team. The reason being, it was reported they were parting too hard and weren’t focused on their ring work. This would be the first of many public reports of the Rockers wild life style.
They wouldn’t have to wait to long for work; the AWA would take them back with open arms. The Midnight Rockers were a hot ticket, and Verne Gagne needed all the help he could get competing with the WWF.
Shortly after their return, the Midnight Rockers beat the RPM's for the AWA Southern Tag Titles, adding another title to their names. Only a few weeks later though, they would lose the belts back to the RPM's, continuing the feud between the two teams.
Another match between the two would take place with the Midnight Rockers winning the belts. Jannetty and Michaels would hold the Southern Tag Titles for the next month but they had other plans as well, they wanted to unify the AWA Tag belts.
At the end of December 1987, they would get their chance; they beat the Midnight Express to unify the AWA Southern and World Tag Titles. The Midnight Rockers continued to defend the AWA World Tag Titles into the next year.
Their run would end in 1988, as Jannetty & Michaels lost the belts to Bad Company. The Midnight Rockers wouldn’t regain the gold. This would hardly matter though; because a short time later they were once again hired by Vince McMahon.
Jannetty & Michaels signed with the WWF, would come in as the Rockers. They soon became one of the WWF’s hottest commodities.
They would bring their high flying offense to a whole new set of fans. The Rockers were reaching new levels of fame never seen before.
They were not only becoming the new faces of tag team wrestling, but they were also the new role models for the younger fans to admire.
They would quickly learn that with fame comes a heavy price, and the Rockers were feeling the pressure. Jannetty's partying was soon reaching the point of no control. It was a life style that would send him on a path for self-destruction.
This would be the beginning for Jannetty's downfall. While he was still sharp in the ring, his behavior in the back was changing drastically.
In 1988 the Rockers would be part in 8-team elimination match at Survivor series. It would be a short showing for them though that night. Both the Rockers and the Brain Busters would end up being disqualified after refusing to listen to the ref.
Their feud with the Brain Busters would go on for the rest of that year. In 1989, Jannetty would enter the Royal Rumble at the 14 spot. Michaels was already in the ring when he got in. They would team up to eliminate Ron Bass, but they wouldn’t advance much further.
As popular as the Rockers were though, they were not receiving the push that many fans felt they deserved. They were still feuding with the Brain Busters, and weren’t even close to getting the tag titles.
At Wrestlemania 5 they would end up losing to the Twin towers. Things wouldn’t fare much better for them at Summer Slam of that year. They would end up losing their six-man tag match against Martel and the Fabulous Rougeaus.
They continued to feud with the Brain Busters, and they would finally get the upper hand on their nemeses. The Rockers would go on to beat them in a best out of three falls. The only drawback was that the Brain Busters were no longer the tag champs.
The Rockers joined Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart & the Ultimate Warrior the next month in the 1989 Survivor Series Match against the Heenan Family, consisting of Andre the Giant, Haku, Arn Anderson, & Bobby Heenan.
It would be an ugly night for the Rockers, as both men would end up getting pinned. Marty Jannetty would get the worst of it though. He would end up being pinned by Bobby Heenan.
In 1990 it would turn out to be a bittersweet year for the Rockers. For the most of that year they were involved in minor feuds and barely involved in story lines. They fought teams like Power and Glory, the Oriental Express, and Demolition.
Later in that year it would appear that they were finally going to capture the tag straps. They had a taped match with the Hart foundation, and would win the belts. This match would be made null and void though after Jim Neidhart re-signed with the company.
The company’s explanation for the reversal of the match was due to the ring being faulty. This would be the closest the Rockers would ever get to the belts again.
In December 1990, an event transpired that would haunt Jannetty for a very long time.
In a match against Charles Austin & The Genius, Jannetty used his finishing move, the Rocker Dropper. Instead of landing right, Austin fell badly, and broke his neck.
Austin would go on to sue both Jannetty and the WWF. Jannetty would be forced to pay over $1 million in the lawsuit.
The Rockers would still remain together going into 1991. Things were starting off good for the team that year. At the Royal Rumble, they would go on to pick up their first PPV win in years, by beating the team of the Oriental Express.
This would be followed up with a big win at Wrestlemania VII. That night they would go on to beat Haku and the Barbarian. Over the next few months, the Rockers continued to rack up victories.
It had seemed by many that the Rockers were once again on their way for a big push. Little did the wrestling world know, but some big changes were about to be made. The downfall of the Rockers would start at the 1991 Survivor Series.
The Rockers teamed with the Bushwhackers against the Beverly Brothers & the Nasty Boys. During the match, both Bushwhackers would be eliminated; the Rockers would have to fight an upward battle taking on four wrestlers.
The Rockers would go on to put a splendid comeback together. Towards the end of the match Jannetty would accidentally hit Michaels. This would be the start of the Rockers break up.
After a month of playing the angle out, the break up would take place on the Barber Shop. It would at first seem that they were going to work things out. That was when the turn would happen; Michaels would superkick Jannetty through the window.
This was supposed to lead into a high profile feud between the two. This would never happen though, because Jannetty's personal problems were growing out of control. In 1992 the WWF would release Marty Jannetty.
He would be given a second chance in late 1992 and be brought back. They would start off quickly with where they left off. At the 1993 Royal Rumble he would face Michaels and lose. The feud was supposed to continue, but Jannetty was let go again after showing up to Raw stoned.
It would appear that it would be the end for Jannetty’s career with the WWF. This would not be the case; he would be given yet another chance by Vince McMahon. At first it would seem that Jannetty had changed his ways.
His first taste of solo success would come at the hand of his old partner. In attempt at a fake shoot, Jannetty would come out from the crowd and challenge Michaels for the IC title. He wound up winning the title that night on Raw.
This would be a short-lived victory for Jannetty, because only a few weeks later he would drop the title back to Michaels. After dropping the belt, Jannetty would get into some minor feuds. He wound up fighting guys like Doink the Clown and Ludwig Borga.
It wouldn’t be too much longer though before Jannetty was getting pushed again. This time his push would come in the tag ranks. He would be teamed up with the 1-2-3 kid towards the end of that year.
These two would quickly become fan favorites. After a short period of time they found themselves in contention for the tag titles. They would face the Quebecers and beat them to become the WWF tag team champions.
In a way it was a little ironic, after all the years of chasing the tag titles he would win it with someone besides Shawn Michaels. This would make Jannetty a tag champ with four different partners.
His run with the Kid would only last a week. They would end up losing the titles back to the Quebecers at the Royal Rumble. He and the 1-2-3 Kid would break up shortly after that. Then Marty Jannetty just disappeared.
While it was never confirmed, most believe the reason why was because of the Austin court case.
After spending some time in the Independent scene, Jannetty came to Extreme Championship Wrestling in 1995.
Jannetty would quickly be thrown into the title picture upon arrival. He would go onto challenge Shane Douglas for the heavyweight title.
At the end though, Douglas would go on to keep his title, and Jannetty would then go back to the Independents scene for a while. He would finally resurface back to the WWF in 1995.
When Jannetty returned, he would instantly start feuding with his former partner, the 1-2-3 Kid. This would lead into a match at the 1995 Survivor Series. During his match, he would end up getting eliminated by his former partner.
For the next year or so, Jannetty was pretty much pushed as a low mid carder. During this time they would pair him with Leif Cassidy to form the new Rockers. They would never achieve the success hoped for.
They would have some minor feuds with the Godwins, and the Smoking Gunns. They did wrestle for the titles once, but ended up losing to the Smoking Gunns. The New Rockers would disband in 1997, and Jannetty was again out of the WWF.
This time his departure was due to managerial decisions. He felt that the New Rockers weren’t getting over and wanted to break the team up. In the end, management refused to oblige him, so he quit.
Jannetty wrestled with the NWA for a little while before coming to World Championship Wrestling in January 1998. He had a couple off notable matches against such wrestlers as Chris Jericho and Booker T.
Jannetty would get injured a short time later and was released by WCW.
He began touring the independent scene. He was wrestling in New Breed Pro Wrestling, where he won the Heavyweight Title in October '99. He also briefly reappeared in Extreme Championship Wrestling.
He would continue to have some mild success in the Indies, but he would never reach the success he had before. In 2004 Jannetty would have a break down. He had reached dangerous levels of depression.
He even went as far as calling all his friends and family and telling them he was going to kill himself. It was a desperate cry for help from a broken-down soul. His cries would not be unheard though.
Marty Jannetty would get a call that he never expected. His longtime friend and tag partner, Shawn Michaels called him by chance just to check up on him. It would turn out to be a life-changing moment for Jannetty.
After hearing the disparaging news of his former partner, Michaels would go to his aid, this time as just a friend. He would be re baptized as a born again Christian. At the service along his side was none other than HBK and Sting. It was a heartfelt moment for all parties involved.
In 2005, Michaels was in a feud with Kurt Angle, with the two signed for a match at Wrestlemania. Angle announced in his promo that he would do everything that Michaels had in his career in only a month's time.
One of the things Angle spoke about was facing Michael’s old partner, Marty Jannetty. Jannetty showed up on the next Raw, where Michaels let him know that he would be making his first return on the show in a tag-team match.
The Rockers would reunite to take on La Resistance; Jannetty would still look good after so many years away from the WWF. Jannetty would get the victory, after landing the Rocker Dropper on Conway.
Jannetty would also go on to have an outstanding match with Kurt Angle. In fact he performed so well in the match he would be offered another contract. Unfortunately, his troubled past would catch up with him again.
He was arrested due to a domestic disturbance and was unable to make the show. He was released a short time later by the WWE. He would once again have to return to the independent scene.
After that he has made some brief appearances with the WWE. One time was in 2006, there was supposed to be a Rocker re-union, but Jannetty failed to show up for Raw. He was unable to make the show without breaking his parole.
In 2007, Jannetty was supposed to come back again for the WWE. These plans would be foiled again after Jannetty failed another drug test. Vince has since then severed all ties with the former Rocker.
Throughout Marty Jannettys life he has been given many chances. Sadly this once great wrestler just can’t seem to beat his demons. It is sad but far too often problem for many people in life.
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