Ten Best Tag Teams of All Time #6 – The Rockers
One of the most exciting tag teams in the history of professional wrestling, The Rockers brought an energy that pulsated through the fans. Before their epic breakup, the Rockers were involved several exhilarating matches with some of the top teams in the business– particularly the Hart Foundation.
Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty began teaming up in 1985 as part of the National Wrestling Alliance’s Central States Wrestling territory in Kansas City. On May 15, 1985, they defeated the Batten Twins for the NWA Central States Tag Team Championship. After losing the titles back to the Batten Twins a week later, Michaels left for his home state of Texas and joined Texas All-Star Wrestling. At that point, it looked like this team was never meant to be.
In early 1986, Jannetty and Michaels were both signed to American Wrestling Association, as Verne Gagne’s promotion was in need of adding new talent to replace stars that were signed to World Wrestling Federation. After rejecting the names of “Country Rockers” and “U.S. Express” Jannetty and Michaels chose Midnight Rockers after Judas Priest’s “Living After Midnight” single. The Midnight Rockers would move quickly up the ranks, before losing to one of the top teams in the business– Doug Somers and Buddy Rose– in front of 22,000 fans.
By 1987, the Midnight Rockers beat the team of Somers and Rose to win AWA Tag Team Championship. After winning the AWA tag titles, Jannetty and Michaels realized AWA was a promotion in decline and decided their best bet would be to join WWF. They received an offer from Vince McMahon and even signed while still holding the AWA titles.
They made their debut five days after dropping the AWA title, facing the Hart Foundation– the WWF Tag Team champs at the time. They defeated the team of Jose Estrada Jr and Jimmy Jack Funk at their first TV taping, but they were fired not long after because McMahon didn’t like their heavy partying and what he felt was a lack of focusing.
They then moved to Memphis promotion Championship Wrestling Association. The Midnight Rockers began a feud with The Nasty Boys, followed by a feud with The Nightmares. They then turned heel and attacked the Rock ‘n’ Roll RPMs, and eventually defeated them for the AWA Southern Tag Team titles on October 26, 1987. With their success, the Midnight Rockers were signed back up by AWA. Whenever they wrestled in Memphis they were heels, but they were faces whenever they were in AWA territory.
In 1988, McMahon contacted them and was willing to bring them if they showed more professionalism. They came back as just The Rockers and made their pay-per-view at the 1988 Survivor Series. They had a feud with The Brain Busters with a series of great matches, including one that was considered one of the 50 greatest matches of all time.
They competed against the Twin Towers, Akeem and Big Boss Man, at Wrestlemania V. They then started a storyline with the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, which started when the Rougeaus attacked Michaels with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone. They fought a series of “Iron Man” matches that were never televised or released on videotape.
By current records, The Rockers never were WWF Tag Team champs, but on October 30, 1990, they did actually defeat the reigning champs of the Hart Foundation team of Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart in a two out of three falls match to win the title. They even defended the titles versus Power and Glory on November 3, 1990. After that match, it was decided by WWE that they would not recognize the title change and returned the belts back to the Hart Foundation. The reason given was because during the match the top rope broke off, making the a mess that would take too much to edit for TV. The match can be seen in its entirety in the DVD Shawn Michaels Story: Heartbreak & Triumph. Since it was never edited, the can be seen with no sound or commentary.
In December 1991, the team began to have issues backstage. Jannetty began to make monetary demands, claiming to have an offer from WCW, and even went as far as quitting on behalf of the Rockers. Michaels stated that the WCW offer was greatly exaggerated and decided to sign and stay with WWE. This became an issue between Jannetty and Michaels.
On TV, the rift was never mentioned but the team began showing signs of dissension. At Survivor Series, Jannetty caused Michaels to be eliminated by accidentally one of the Nasty Boys into him– they argued after the match. The Rockers wrestled one more televised match, facing the Legion of Doom for the WWF tag titles but lost the match– leading to another arugment about who was to blame.
On Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake’s Barbershop segment (taped on December 2, 1991 but airing on January 12, 1992) the split became official when Michaels superkicked Jannetty and threw headfirst through the window in the set. Michaels then turned heel and was supposed to start a rivalry with Jannetty, but Jannetty left WWF for personal reasons.
Officially, the Rockers would forever be known as one of, if not, the greatest tag team to never win the WWE tag titles. There is no doubt that their high-flying style and energy won fans over and was a huge part of their popularity.