Shawn Michaels has gone down as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, but he was fired by the WWE after his debut, alongside The Rockers partner Marty Jannetty. The pair came into the company in 1987, just five days after dropped the AWA World Tag Team Championships to Boris Zhukov and Soldat Ustinov on May 25, 1987.
They were still called “The Midnight Rockers” at this point – a clear play on the legendary tag team called “The Midnight Express” – and had all the tools to be a top tag team in the world. With the AWA on the decline, collapsing under the weight of the growing WWE, they decided to try their hand up against tag teams like The Hart Foundation and The British Bulldogs by signing for the WWE.
Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty were brought into the WWE in mid-1987, just days after dropping the AWA Wolrd Tag Team Championships. Straight away, they were put into a match with veteran tag team wrestlers Jimmy Jack Funk and Jose Estrade, in a dark match during the June 3rd, 1987 WWF Wrestling Challenge taping.
Michaels and Jannetty were billed as The Midnight Rockers in this match, which is one of the few times they used their full name in the WWE.
Little is known about this bout, other than that it took place at the Rochester Community War Memorial in New York, and that the pair came out victorious in their debut in the company. Over 8000 fans saw them pick up a debut victory in the company, although their celebrations would not last long.
The Rockers Were Fired By The WWE
The Rockers were fired after their first match in the WWE, which is a shock when you consider how much of a legend Shawn Michaels has become in the business since then (the less said about Marty Jannetty, the better).
Reports about why they were fired so soon into their WWE run differ wildly, although there is one story that most historians seem to agree is closer to the truth than any other.
Despite being known for their wild partying and excessive drug use in the WWE, The Rockers were on their best behavior during their first stint in the WWE. Not wanting to rock the boat, they tried their best to act respectful and get along with everybody (although they later revealed that they came across as rude in their early days, due to being too afraid to speak to anybody in the locker room).
After their first match in the WWE, The Rockers went out to a bar with the rest of the WWE wrestlers in Buffalo, New York. Their opponent for the night, Jimmy Jack Funk, took an instant dislike to the young team, and made his mission to make their nights miserable, and ultimately get them fired by Vince McMahon.
Funk mocked the duo, goading them into getting into a fight with him. He was reportedly kept “messing” with Shawn Michaels, even biting into a glass bottle to challenge Michaels to do the same. Shawn Michaels then broek a glass over his own head, which seemed to placate Funk. However, Michaels later went home with a girl while he was waiting for Funk, which angered the wrestler and ultimate got back to McMahon.
The Rockers later flew to WWE headquarters in Conneticut, to see Vince McMahon in person. They hoped they could save their job by talking to him, man-to-man, but it was no use. He let them go just weeks into their new job, and sent them packing back to the AWA and fired The Rockers from the WWE.
Marty Jannetty Talked About What Got The Rockers Fired
During an interview with The Hannibal TV, Marty Jannetty spoke about what got him and Shawn Michaels fired from the WWE in 1987, chalking it up entirely to the actions of Jimmy Jack Funk being angry at Jannetty ditching him for a woman he met in the bar.
He claimed that the incident led to a screaming match in catering, backstage before a WWE show. Word got round that Janetty claimed Funk was a “jobber”, and that he was disrespecting the rest of the boys by claiming that he should be a star in the WWE.
“We made it through that and that night we went to the club in Buffalo. Terry Garvin told us that we had to get in with the guys, so we’re fraternizing and catching up with the boys. Jimmy Jack Funk didn’t like us at first. He thought we were pretty boys. Look at this face, he must’ve been drunk! He was messing with Shawn going, ‘C’mon, I heard you boys were some badass partiers! Let me see you do this.‘”
“Then he takes a glass and bites it. Shawn ain’t never seen it and he’s like “No, no.” Then he shoves Shawn, breaks another glass and goes, “Come on, punk. I thought you could party!” Finally, Shawn takes a champagne glass and breaks it over his head. Then Jimmy Jack was in love. “Oh, you guys are pretty cool!” Then he starts hugging us and is happy because Shawn broke a glass over his own head.“
I end up with this one girl and Jimmy Jack goes up to me and says, “Let’s go to Denny’s and get something to eat.” I was hungry, so I was okay with that. He goes upstairs to get his wallet and then the girl, who had a low-cut top and was rubbing on me, she was like “Let’s go, let’s go.” I said we were waiting for Jimmy, but she asked, “Do you want to go with him or do you wanna go with me?” So, I went ahead and got in the car with her. She went the wrong way and had to turn back, so then Jimmy Jack is out there and sees us. He got very upset about this as it happened to be one of his girls. That’s when everything went wrong. He thought I was disrespecting him.
At catering here comes Jimmy Jack right in my face. I still had a buzz going and I was hungover. So, it slipped my mind that it had happened. He goes, “What are you doing, you punk?” It was right in front of everyone, all of the boys. Everyone was watching us. I thought he was kidding since we had a good time that night before the girl, and I was confused while he was yelling at me. “Punk, I know what you did!” He goes, “I know you told the limo driver that I was a jobber and that you should be beating me! That you was a star.”
“That’s all not true and that’s the worst shit you could say in front of the other guys as we just got there and aren’t family yet. Then Shawn comes up here and he goes, “And this one was throwing drinks at the bartender and getting us kicked out of the place,” which didn’t happen at all. He just destroyed us in front of the boys. Last thing he said to us was, “You’ll see tonight who is the jobber.” Then I looked at the sheet and our first match was against him.“
“Jimmy Jack has apologized to me since then, but we got let go. After we did our match, and it was good. Jimmy Jack was a very good worker. I remember leaving that night and Vince was like, “Rock ‘n’ roll! Have a good time, but don’t party too much.” Talk about mixed messaging. Then Terry Garvin goes, “Marty, y’all need to pay your own way and fly in to have a meeting with Vince.” He was saying this was a chance to save your job. We did that, flew to Connecticut…but he said that we were done.“
They Beat The Hart Foundation For The WWE Tag Team Championships… or Did They?
Vince McMahon gave The Rockers another chance in the WWE, re-hiring them one year later once the heat with “the boys” had died down. They were pushed straight away, with McMahon clearly seeing the potential in having two of the best workers in his company, especially with the steroid trial looming in the near future.
Just three years later, the WWE planned to give The Rockers the WWE Tag Team Championships. A feud with The Hart Foundation was in the works, giving an early preview of the infamous feud between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, before tension had risen to boiling point between the two legends.
The Rockers won the tag team championships in 1990, in a match against the Hart Foundation. Bret Hart later said that it was one of the most hotly anticipated tag match in WWE for years, and the two teams were ready to put it all on the line.
While The Rockers won the tag team titles, they never got to be the champions.This one is one story that you would not believe. Despite being one of the best tag teams of the 1980s and 1990s in WWE, the Rockers never had a run with the WWE Tag Team Championships.
Their fast-paced matches and impressive double team moves wowed fans, who had never seen workers like Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels. However, the Rockers never officially won the WWE Tag Team Championship.
The key word here being OFFICIALLY...