Marty Jannetty was featured in the headlines recently after seemingly confessing to killing a man over 40 years ago. Prior to that, he was best known for his various stints in WWF where he teamed with Shawn Michaels as part of The Rockers.
Despite their success and popularity, The Rockers never won a WWF Tag Team Championship. They also were apparently on the low end of the pay scale when it came to tag teams in WWF. Jannetty talked about how he and Michaels requested a raise from Vince McMahon when he joined Wrestling Insiders “Party With Marty.”
“We had to meet with Vince and said, ‘What can we do to elevate ourselves from mid-carders? At least can we get to the upper mid-card?’ I think that’s where we were, but we wanted to dip into the high cards and the money would come with that. Because as you move up, the money comes with it. So, we had a meeting with Vince,” recalled Jannetty.
“We told him and he was happy, but we said, ‘Don’t give us anything.’ This is true; we didn’t want anything just given to us. ‘We’ll do more work ? whatever it takes to get up there. We’ll work in double shifts all the time. Anything – Whatever it takes. We’re not saying just give us anything, let us know what to do and we’ll do it.’ That basically was our meeting and he was happy about it. We believed him, and we left happy figuring, ‘Okay, maybe we’ll get to go up the ladder or something now.'”
Unhappy with their pay and their slot in WWF, The Rockers intended to give their notice to Vince McMahon and leave the promotion. Jannetty recalled a phone conversation he had about quitting with Pat Patterson. His partner, Shawn, was right next to him during the call.
“I’d go to the payphone and call the office and Pat Patterson ? who I love to death ? Pat Patterson answers. I asked for Vince,” said Jannetty. “Pat Patterson says, ‘Marty! What’s going on? How are you doing?’ I said, ‘Hey, I need to speak to Vince.’ ‘Oh, Vince is kind of busy right now Marty. Can I help you?’ I said, ‘Yeah, me and Shawn just want to know how to put in our notice. Can we do it in writing or do we verbally?’ He goes, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ, Marty, hold on!’ And [the phone goes] right to Vince.”
Jannetty says that back then, you would give your 90-day notice and then the promotion would beat you down for all 90 days to hurt your momentum for the next company that signs you.
“So, I said, ‘Vince, we want to do this properly. Do we need to write? How do we give our notice?’ ‘Well, what’s the problem?’ I said, ‘No, there’s no more talking’, and Shawn was standing right here. So, he’s not hearing Vince’s part because there was no speakerphone on the payphone, but he’s hearing what I’m saying,” stated Jannetty. “I said, ‘No Vince, we already talked about this and the money situation, and there’s no more talking. We just saw our contract agreement for this commercial, and you kind of lied to us, and so, we’re just going to put our notice in.’
“He says something to the effect of, ‘Well, do you want to come in and talk at TV?’ I said, ‘There’s no more talking.’ Now Shawn is hearing this and he’s just sitting there not saying a word, just listening, and I said, ‘So how do we do this notice?’ He goes, ‘Well, let me look. I really wish you would reconsider.’ I said, ‘No, we’ve done everything right’, and he’s looking and you hear him flipping pages. He goes, ‘Well, Survivor Series is in three weeks. I’ll let ya’ll finish up there.'”
Jannetty was ecstatic with a 3-week notice instead of being beat down for 90 days. But as he was thanking Vince over the phone with Michaels right next to him, HBK got the wrong idea from Jannetty’s reaction, and thought that Vince had maybe given them a raise.
“So, me being glad we’re not getting beat for 90 days, I’m happy,” said Jannetty. “Shawn ? when I said he’s letting us finish up at Survivor Series ? this was Shawn’s reaction, ‘He’s fu–ing going to let us quit?’ As soon as he said that, I’m like, ‘What do you mean let us quit? Didn’t you just tell me to come over here and tell him we quit?’
‘But he’s going to fu–ing let us?’ ‘Like, come on, Shawn, he was doing us a favor. Do you not see that?!’
“‘He was fu–ing going to let us quit!’
There was then another phone call between Jannetty and Vince in which Michaels was not present. It was then when Jannetty realized that Michaels had different plans in mind in terms of his future with the company.
“[Vince] says, ‘Marty, I really don’t know what to say about the decision you made. You’re welcome to stay on and wrestle singles’, and I was like, ‘No, Vince. Thank you, but Shawn and I made this decision together. I’m not going to go behind his back.’ He goes, ‘Well, that’s kind of funny. I just talked to him and he said that he had nothing to do with that. That was all your doing. So, he’s going to stay on.’ ‘Huh!?’ I didn’t even say bye. I hung up and called Shawn,” said Jannetty.
“I said, ‘Shawn, tell me that ain’t true. Tell me it ain’t true.’ He was quiet. I said, ‘You called Vince and said that was my idea, you had nothing to do with it, and you’re going to stay on?’ He says, ‘Marty, on the flight home, I got to think about it, and man, you’re single and I’m married. You know, your house is paid off, I’ve still got to pay on mine. I just can’t quit like that.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s fine! Why didn’t you tell me that rather than tell me to call Vince and say we quit?’ He got real quiet and he’s just saying he was sorry.”
When the Rockers split up, their careers took two vastly different paths. Michaels became one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling history, while Jannetty was essentially a journeyman performer who struggled to stay in the mid-card.
Jannetty recalled the conversation he had with Vince McMahon about Michaels’ prospects as a singles competitor compared to his own.
“Shawn has actually told it in a couple of interviews. While he was good as he could be, he was very good. I was teaching him a lot in the younger years. He eventually passed me, and then I’m learning from him,” admitted Jannetty. “But at the beginning, to that point, I brought him there and now they’re going to run with him. I said ‘Vince, can I talk to you after the meeting?’ Vince did say, ‘We see this superstar in Shawn, and Marty, we don’t quite see that with you right now.'”
The Rockers infamously broke up on “The Barbershop” segment, in which HBK hit Sweet Chin Music on Jannetty before throwing him through the Barber Shop window. Jannetty discussed the conversation the two of them had about how to do the split, and whose idea it ultimately was.
“We were talking about how to do the split, and then we came up with doing Piper’s Pit or Beeefcake’s thing. Then we thought about the barbershop and what if? We started coming up with throwing one of us ? ‘You throw me through the window.’ Basically, I suggested it to him,” stated Jannetty. “He just wanted to go to the Barbershop and do it. I didn’t mention the superkick, but we did everything together.
“I said, ‘What if you end up throwing me through the window, and I come back, and I got some blood and stuff?’ He goes, ‘You can’t bleed on TV.’ I said, ‘It’ll be an accident, and then you can pick up a bottle of alcohol and pour it on me.’ He said, ‘That sounds good, but the alcohol might be overkill.’ But basically, what I’m saying is, we put the story together. It was my idea, and the next thing I know, he’s off telling everybody, ‘I came up with the idea.'”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Wrestling Insiders “Party With Marty” with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.