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The Shawn Michaels Story Part One: The Early Days of Shawn Michaels and the Rockers

······································································································································································ Date: Friday, October 10, 2008 —— Comment: Reactions —— Discuss: Forum

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With Shawn Michaels suffering what was originally thought of as a career threatening torn tricep, “The Piledriver Report” decided to take a look at the long and illustrious career of the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. This week, we take a look at Shawn Michaels’ formative and tag team years with Marty Jannety. This is Part One of a Four Part Series.

He is arguably the greatest all-around performer in professional wrestling history. He definitely is among the most controversial wrestler of all-time. He is the "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels. It was reported earlier this week that Shawn Michaels suffered a torn tricep at the RAW tapings. The fear in the WWE was that Shawn's injury would require surgery, and he would be on the shelf for 4-6 months. After a visit with the doctor, the rumor going around is that Shawn suffered a slight tear, will not need surgery, and may not even need to take any time off.

This latest news is the best possible new that the WWE, Shawn Michaels, and his fans could have possibly have hoped for. However, Shawn's latest injury reminds us of a harsh reality. A reality that may come sooner rather than later. While Shawn Michaels' "retirement speech" was part of an angle, the storyline hit a little too close to home for fans of the "Heartbreak Kid."

Shawn Michaels is 43 years old. Over the years, Michaels has suffered injury after injury. Before WrestleMania 13, Michaels suffered what he thought was a career ending knee injury. There was the famous back injury that kept Shawn out of the ring for over four years. In 2004, Shawn suffered a torn meniscus that kept him out of action for a few months. In 2006, Michaels had surgery on his injured knee. In 2007, Shawn underwent another knee surgery. Now, Shawn has the slight tear in his tricep.

While Shawn still puts on some of the best performances in the company, he seems to be wearing down. This leads us to the very real possibility of having a professional wrestling industry without the "Heartbreak Kid" plying his trade. We already experienced this from 1998 until 2002. This was the time of the highly successful "Attitude Era."

The "Attitude Era" in the WWF featured some of the greatest wrestling action in the company's history. The WWF was loaded with talent. Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, the New Age Outlaws, Edge/Christian, the Hardys, the Dudleys, the Undertaker, Kane, Mankind, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Kurt Angle were many of the top stars that helped lead the WWF past WCW in winning the battle of the "Monday Night Wars." Sure, this was probably the most exciting time to be a wrestling fan of the WWF. However, something was missing. The missing piece was the "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels.

While Shawn was still hanging around as the WWF Commissioner, among other roles, HBK was not in the role that the fans' wanted to see him in. The fans wanted the old Shawn Michaels back. We clamored for the "Show Stopper," the "Headliner," the "Main Eventer." We wanted to see Shawn Michaels dropping the elbow, and super kicking his enemies. We didn't want to see Shawn as the "Commish." The fans wanted to see the man who would label himself as the "Icon of Professional Wrestling."

Long before Shawn became an "Icon," he started his career by training under Jose Lothario. After training with Jose for about two months, Jose told him the best way to learn is to get in the ring and do it. Shawn Michaels started his professional wrestling career in 1984. Ever since then the fans have been spoiled watching the career of one of the best ever. During the early stages of his career, Shawn bounced back and forth through several different wrestling promotions. He made his wrestling debut in Mid-South Wrestling, followed by a short stint with Texas All-Star Wrestling. He would then move on to Central States Wrestling. He also had several stints in World Class Championship Wrestling.

Shawn garnered his first national exposure in the American Wrestling Association, where he teamed with Marty Jannety as the Midnight Rockers tag team. The Apter magazines called them a rip-off tag team. We were told they took the "Midnight" from the Midnight Express, and the "Rockers" from the Rock and Roll Express. What these mags didn't tell you were that Michaels and Jannety were so much more. They made tag team wrestling an art form. They would practice wrestling moves by first using dolls. If they were able to visualize the moves play having action figures do the moves first, then they knew they can do them. The duo performed double team moves in unison like they were gold medal synchronized swimmers in the Olympics. Their hard work paid off. On January 27th, 1987, the duo beat Doug Somers and Buddy Rose to capture the AWA World Tag Team championships.

Their work in the AWA got them noticed by Pat Patterson. Patterson convinced Vince McMahon to bring the two young guns to the big promotion in the Northeast. A couple of months after WrestleMania III, the "Midnight Rockers" made their official WWF debut. Unfortunately for the talented duo, their stint in the World Wrestling Federation would not last very long. According to Shawn Michaels in his DVD "The Shawn Michaels Story: Heartbreak and Triumph," Jannety and himself were greeted with a cold reception. They had a reputation of being partiers and "punks." Their first night with the company, the team decided to keep a low profile. However, they were told that they had to go out after the matches and hang out with the wrestlers. They had to be "one of the boys." They decided to go, and were met by an intoxicated Jimmy Jack Funk. The fake Funk family member started to antagonize Shawn and Marty about the party rep, while he was "chewing glass." Shawn couldn't take it anymore, so he broke a glass bottle of his own head as a way of telling him "see we're crazy." The Rockers then left. The next night at catering, the team was met by Jimmy Jack Funk. Funk started asking them what their problem was, and started to exaggerate the story from the night before. A few days later, they get a call from Terry Garvin saying that Vince was going to let them go because of the bar incident. Thinking they did nothing wrong, they set up a meeting with Vince. They had on snakeskin boots, and when Vince walked up to them, saw the boots, and said "nice boots. They're made for walking you know." He told them he was just kidding. They walked into Vince's office, and were then fired.

They headed to the Continental Wrestling Federation. During this time, Shawn got depressed from the wrestling business, and started to party harder, and got into the drug culture. It was also during this time that Shawn was thinking about "ending it all." When Bob Armstrong took over the booking, he informed Shawn and Marty that he was bringing in a new team, and giving them their two weeks notice. The immature Shawn Michaels told him to forget the two weeks; the Midnight Rockers are gone now. From there they headed to Memphis where Shawn's depression was lifted, as he was having fun again. In Memphis, they soon feuded with the Nasty Boys and the Rock and Roll Express. Soon the Midnight Rockers were bouncing back and forth between Memphis and the AWA. While in the AWA, the Midnight Rockers would beat Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose for the AWA Tag Team titles on December 27th, 1987. They would win the belts a third time in a match against the Rock and Roll Express on February 22nd, 1988, after the titles were held up on February 15th, following a controversial match between the same two teams.

On July 7th, 1988, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannety made their return to the World Wrestling Federation. This time, instead of coming in as the "Midnight Rockers," Vince McMahon had them drop the "midnight" from their name to be called "The Rockers." The "Rockers" first major feud in the WWF was against former NWA World Tag Team Champions Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson. The two teams put on some of the greatest tag team matches of that time. Blanchard and Anderson brought in the technical science and experience to help guide the younger Michaels and Jannety. The Rockers brought high-flying action and energy to the table in this feud. Their Madison Square Garden house show match on January 23rd, 1989 was rated as one of the 50 greatest matches in "Pro Wrestling Illustrated's"10th year anniversary issue.

Their next feud would be against the Rougeau Brothers. The feud was set up when the Rougeaus assaulted Shawn with manager Jimmy Hart's megaphone and drew blood. Their war led to a match that would become more famous when Shawn Michaels would get his push towards his first WWF World title run. During the Rockers/Rougeaus feud the concept of the "Iron Man match" was introduced to the WWF. The two teams wrestled in five Iron Man matches against each other, although none of these matches were ever televised or released on a commercial video tape.

Following their feud with the Rougeaus, the Rockers reignited their feud with the Brain Busters. The two teams battled with one another until late 1989 when Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson left the WWF. The next team the Rockers feuded with was the mid-card tag team called the Orient Express. Their high flying feud lasted for over a year.

Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart were involved in their first controversial moment with one another inside of a wrestling ring. On October 30th, 1990, Vince McMahon was putting the tag title straps on the Rockers during a Saturday Night's Main Event television taping. The Rockers fought the Hart Foundation in a two out of three falls match for the titles. During the match, the top rope broke by accident. This led to an awful match between the two teams. After a few days to think things over, Vince decided that he could not air the match, and returned the belts back to the Hart Foundation. There are two trains of thought as to why the Harts did not just drop the belts to the Rockers at a later date. According to Shawn Michaels in his autobiography, the Hart Foundation politicked to keep the belts. However, other claims that the WWF had actually fired Jim Neidhart, forcing the title change, but after the match the two sides came to an agreement and Neidhart was brought back.

By the end of 1991, it was time for the Rockers to go their separate ways. While Shawn had always wanted to eventually break into singles competition, it was a behind the scenes incident that helped speed up the process. According to an RF Video shoot interview with Shawn Michaels, the WWF had several wrestlers do a photo shoot to appear on the cover of a Wheaties cereal box. Jannety found out that each wrestler was paid $5,000.00 for the shoot, except Marty and Shawn were paid $2,500.00 each. The office explained that was because the Rockers were paid $5,000.00 as a team. The only flaw in this reasoning was that Road Warrior Animal and Road Warrior Hawk were EACH paid $5,000.00 grand apiece, despite being part of a tag team. Marty Jannetty told Shawn that he had an offer from WCW with a very high guarantee. When Michaels kept pressing Marty for information, he finally admitted that their was no such offer. Meanwhile Marty was quitting the WWF on behalf of both Rockers. When Michaels learned about Marty's exaggeration, he told Vince McMahon he was not interested in quitting the company. He decided that he wanted to guide his own career. They decided to split the Rockers up by turning Michaels heel.

Michaels' heel turn was a slow process, as the duo started to argue in the ring, and make innocent mistakes that would cause dissention between the two. Their disagreements took a head in Brutus Beefcake's interview show called "The Barber Shop." The segment aired on January 12th, 1992. After it appeared that the team had worked out their problems, Shawn Michaels super kicked Jannety, and then threw him through the plat glass window of the "Barber Shop" set.

From green rookie to working the indies to forming a dynamic tag team with Marty Jannety, Shawn Michaels career was just getting started. Part Two in the look back at the career of Shawn Michaels examines the birth of the "Heartbreak Kid" and his road to main event status.

by Ronny Sarnecky of 411Mania.Com

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