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WWE Classic of the Week: Marty Jannetty vs. Shawn Michaels, Royal Rumble 1993

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2015

Credit: WWE.com

For any tag team, there comes a time when personal aspirations and goals supersede the aims of the duo.

One member of the tandem may have dreams of making it as a singles star, while the other would be more than happy to continue on with the team, enjoying the success the duo had to that point and building on it in the future.

It was no different for The Rockers, who had developed into one of the best tag teams in all of professional wrestling by the time 1991 rolled around. Their WrestleMania VII match against The Barbarian and Haku is one of the underrated gems from that show, and matches against The Orient Express, The Nasty Boys and The Hart Foundation proved their ability to work quality matches with teams of different sizes and styles.

But Shawn Michaels did not see himself as a tag team wrestler in the long run. He wanted to achieve success on his own, to win singles titles and follow in the footsteps of Bret Hart, who was enjoying a run as intercontinental champion by the time late '91 rolled around.

The only way to do so would be to betray Marty Jannetty, the man he traveled the country with, the man he considered both a friend and mentor.

He did just that, in grand fashion, setting himself off on a path toward greatness and ending Jannetty's chances of ever capturing the elusive tag team championships with his most recognizable partner.

At the 1993 Royal Rumble, the former partners battled in their first pay-per-view bout, with Michaels' IC title on the line. With The Heartbreak Kid's former manager Sensational Sherri at ringside, her allegiances unknown, there was considerable mystery surrounding the contest.

Who would leave with the gold, and who would be left dismayed, the victim of a potential double-cross by Sherri?

We will find out in a moment.

But first, their story.

Background

On December 2, 1991, Shawn Michaels split from Marty Jannetty during an edition of Brutus Beefcake's talk show segment, "The Barber Shop." After feigning a reconciliation, he planted his partner with a tremendous superkick and tossed him face-first through a glass window, bloodying him in one of the greatest segments of television ever produced by WWE.

There was no better way to introduce the cockier, egotistical, narcissistic and arrogant Michaels to the WWE audience. After years spent as a Rocker, he embraced his inner villain and adopted The Heartbreak Kid gimmick.

With Sensational Sherri by his side, Michaels' credibility as a singles competitor skyrocketed. A victory over The British Bulldog on October 27, 1992Β for his first Intercontinental Championship, during the final Saturday Night's Main Event broadcast, only solidified the Texan as the future of the industry.

Despite headlining the Survivor Series pay-per-view against Bret Hart in his first shot at the WWE Championship, there was still a dark cloud hanging over Michaels in the form of Jannetty, who had not been heard from since the bloody and violent end of the Rockers.

Shortly after Michaels' title win, Jannetty returned to WWE, challenging Michaels to a match at the Royal Rumble for his IC title.

Unfortunately, an attempt to bash Michaels in the face with the mirror he typically used to check himself out with backfired, as Jannetty accidentally broke it over the head of Sherri.

That Michaels pulled his valet into harm's way earned him her scorn and created questions as to whether she would stand by his side come the much-anticipated January 1993 bout or whether she would support his former partner in his quest to avenge the assault from "The Barber Shop" and wrest the title away from HBK.

The Match

Analysis

Despite an outstanding story, the match at the 1993 Royal Rumble failed to deliver on its promise.

Michaels was still finding his feet as a singles worker while Jannetty, for whatever reason, appeared "off." Despite this, they managed to have a good match that kept fans guessing. The presence of Sherri at ringside kept the mystery as to whom would leave victorious, and the finish kept Jannetty strong.

Sherri entered the ring and attempted to blast Michaels with one of her shoes but accidentally caught Jannetty in a moment that echoed the challenger's return the previous October.

Michaels worked over Jannetty's shoulder, an odd choice given the eventual finish.

The match was neither Michaels nor Jannetty's finest performance, but it did lay the groundwork for two superb matches that would come later in the year on WWE's revolutionary new television program, Monday Night Raw.

By then, they would brush off the sluggishness of their Rumble bout and deliver the matches and performances so many expected of them.

Aftermath

In May 1993, Michaels had become one of the top heels in WWE, and during an episode of Raw, he mistakenly issued a challenge to anyone for an Intercontinental Championship.

Jannetty answered the challenge, disguising himself as a fan before entering the ring and coming face-to-face with his former friend.

Later that night, he stunned the wrestling world by defeating The Heartbreak Kid for his one and only singles title win.

After dropping the title back to Michaels, courtesy of interference from newcomer Diesel, Jannetty would have one last shot at regaining the title on July 19, 1993.

He would lose that match and languish in WWE's midcard before departing the company in early 1994.

Michaels, on the other hand, would go on to become one of the greatest Superstars in WWE history.

In the wake of the Rockers' split, every singles star born of a tag team has been compared either to Michaels or Jannetty.Β