Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tag Team Tuesday: The Rockers

Today Tag Team Tuesday features... The ROCKERS!

Holy Crap! Just look at those two! The picture screams ROCK!

The Wrestling Gods looked down upon the Kansas City area in 1985 and saw Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels. The Wrestling Gods combined voices boomed from the heavens like thunder! "These men will rock! Let it be so!"

And it was so. Well, at least half of it was so.

Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels became friends and eventually formed an unnamed tag team in the NWA's Central States Wrestling. May 15, 1985 the duo defeated Brad & Bart, The Batten Twins, to win the NWA CSW Tag Team Championship. While they only held the belts for a week, gold looked good on the pair. Unfortunately, Michaels left CSW to return to his home state of Texas and work for Texas All-Star Wrestling.

During the mid 80s Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA) had been drained of talent by the WWF. The AWA was eager for young talent that might remain loyal. Jannetty and Michaels were teamed up again. Verne's son, Greg Gagne, was one of the bookers in AWA and suggested a name for the duo - The Country Rockers.

Jannetty and Michaels were more hard rock than country rock and came up with the name The Midnight Rockers based partially on the Judas Priest song "Living after Midnight."

Verne, who had been an old man since his teen years, was confused and thought the fans might mistake the name for rocking chairs. (No joke) Greg convinced him is was cool and the Midnight Rockers were formed.

The two developed the hard partying, live life to the max, pretty boy image and started wearing matching, hideous outfits. I guess they were tolerable for the time. No, then again, not really.

The team was soon locked in a feud with one of the top AWA teams, Doug Somers and Buddy Rose. On April 20, 1986, the two teams met at one of AWA's attempts to look cool, the WrestleRock stadium show. The Midnight Rockers lost in front of 22,000 fans.

When Somer and Rose defeated Scott Hall and Curt Henning for the AWA World Tag Team Championship the Midnight Rockers found themselves in a feud for one of the top tag titles in the business. The four men brawled throughout '86. On January 27, 1987 the Midnight Rockers won the AWA Tag Team title from Somers and Rose.

Verne Gagne was successful at finding new talent and pushing them to the top... unfortunately, wrestlers are carny at heart. Jannetty and Michaels knew the AWA would not last against the growing juggernaut of the WWF. When Vince McMahon made the two an offer they signed while still holding the AWA tag belts. They did the right thing and dropped the belts in May, 1987.

Five days after losing the AWA Tag titles the Midnight Rockers were in the WWF. They immediately challenged the WWF World Tag Team Champions, The Hart Foundation for a title match. Four days after the title match the Midnight Rockers participated in their first TV taping for WWF's Wrestling Challenge.

This match is important because it was a first for Marty and Shawn... it was their first taped appearance and the only taped appearance they would have as The Midnight Rockers. A week later they were fired for acting like dicks and concentrating more on partying than wrestling.

The duo traveled Alabama and Florida while working for Continental Wrestling. When Bob Armstrong took the book for Continental, Marty and Shawn were given two weeks notice and sent packing.

The two could not return to Verne, not after the way they screwed him over. Instead, they found their way into an AWA affiliate, Championship Wrestling Association (CWA) in Memphis, Tennessee. They were familiar with Memphis from having worked there on occasion while under contract with the AWA.

This never happened.
In Memphis, the Midnight Rockers feuded with The Nasty Boys and The Nightmares. They turned heel to feud with the Rock 'n' Roll RPMS (Tommy Lane and Mike Davis). During this feud, the Midnight Rockers won the AWA Southern Tag Team Championship on October 26, 1987.

Their popularity allowed them to split their time between the AWA and the CWA. In Memphis, the Midnight Rockers were heels, in actual AWA territory, they were faces.

When they defeated the Original Midnight Express (Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose) for the AWA World Tag Team titles the Rockers had to vacate the AWA Southern Tag Championship. Again, the boy's loyalty to Verne Gagne was tested. They were once again popular in the AWA territories. Marty and Shawn felt they deserved more money. When they did not receive the raise, they left the AWA once again. They dropped the belts on March 19 to Badd Company (Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond).

Jannetty and Michaels were contacted by Vince McMahom. The big VKM told the boys they could return to the WWF IF they conducted themselves in a more professional manner. By May 1988 the Midnight Rockers were just the Rockers. They made their first PPV appearance as 1988s Survivor Series. They were part of a 10 man tag team. This match set up a feud with the Brain Busters .

Their house shows with the Brain Busters were fan favorites during 88 and early 89. In fact, on January 23, 1989 a match between the two teams was rated as one of the 50 greatest matches in the Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) 10th year anniversary issue.

For some reason, instead of of continuing the feud with the Brain Busters, WWF booked The Rockers against the Twin Towers, Akeem and Big Boss Man, at WrestleMania V. The Rockers started a storyline with The Rougeau Brothers. The Rockers and the Rougeau's fought the first Iron Man match in the WWF. Oddly, these matches were not taped or televised.

On August 28, 1989, the Rockers and the Rougeau's feud went to SummerSlam. The Rockers teamed with Tito Santana and the Rougeau's teamed with Santana's ex-Strike Force teammate, Rick Martel. The Rockers lost. Which seems like a brilliant bit of destroying heat, considering that the Rockers were about to feud with the Brain Busters again.

In late '89, the Brain Busters lost the WWF Tag Team Championship to Demolition. The fact that they stalled the the Rocker/Brain Buster feud meant that the Rockers were no longer chasing the gold. The Rockers were part of the '89 Survivor Series' main event. The Ultimate Warriors (The Ultimate Warrior "Team Captain", Shawn Michaels, Marty Jannetty, and Jim Neidhart) vs. The Heenan Family (Bobby Heenan "Team Captain", Andre the Giant, Haku, and Arn Anderson.)

Tully Blanchard was supposed to be part of the 4 on 4 match, but he failed a drug test right before the PPV. Heenan, reluctantly, replaced Tully but the Brain Busters were over in the WWF. This allowed the Rockers to feud with one of the greatest tag teams ever, The Powers of Pain !

Unfortunately, this feud only lasted from December of '89 until February '90.

The Rockers would chase WWF gold against various opponents including the Hart Foundation. On October 30, 1990 The Rockers defeated Brett Hart and Jim Neidhart to win the WWF Tag Team Championship. However, the WWF never recognized the Hart's loss. Even though the Rockers defended the titles against Power and Glory (Paul Roma and Hercules) on November 3, 1990.

Michaels believes Brett Hart was able to influence McMahon to disregard the win on a technicality. During the match between the Rockers and the Hart Foundation, the top rope broke and the match was placed on hold until the ring could be repaired.

Despite their popularity and contribution to the industry, the Rockers are not counted as ever winning the WWF Tag Team Championship. Terrible, just terrible, teams like The Bodydonnas and the Nasty Boys have held tag team gold in the WWF! Hell, the Smoking Guns had the belts 3 times!

Not too cool. I realize that it is ancient history, but I would like to see Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels recognized while they are still alive.

The history of the Rockers more or less ends here. After this, the Shawn screwed Jannetty over several times, while Jannetty let himself and Michaels down by abusing the wrong drugs. Shawn Michaels went on to have considerable singles success, while Jannetty may or may not work at a car wash. Or a Sonic drive-in.

My personal memories of the Rockers consist of some pretty cool moments. I was always excited to watch one of those Rocker/Brain Buster matches. The mix of new school/old school was exactly one of the dynamics that makes a tag team match work. All the competitors were excellent workers and there is nothing to fault.

In case you were not aware the Rockers appear on the Tag Team Tuesday banner. That's them on the right. They were a bit more sedate as far as costumes went but they still had the high flying, quick paced, awesome tag style that made them immediate darlings among the new, young fans of WWF.

Please sign this petition dedicated to restoring The Rocker's win to WWE's records so Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels can take their rightful place in history as Tag Team Champions.

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