For a long time, there seemed to be only one defining trait of Marty Jannetty that everybody knew: he wasn’t Shawn Michaels. After the break-up of their tag team The Rockers, it became a trope for fans to witness how one partner excelled while the other faded into obscurity. Then, Jannetty’s personal struggles brought him back into the news cycle, through bizarre behaviour and a recent headline-grabbing suggestion that he may have murdered someone. Enter Dark Side of the Ring in their season finale with “The World According to Marty Jannetty,” digging into his life in their signature style.
The show opens with another former partner of Jannetty in Al Snow. Having formed the short-lived New Rockers team with Jannetty, Snow recalls when Jannetty turned his ankle, starting down a path of injuries that would affect him until the present. Orthopaedic surgeons, and former high school classmates of Jannetty, Leland and George McCluskey, recall his skill at all sports, along with his wild side even then. Marty tells a story of mixing two chemicals in the high school lab that the teacher specifically said not to do, causing an explosion that blew out a window and pushed back a student, which Dark Side recreates in an over-the-top action sequence.
Follow that with Karen Walker, Jannetty’s friend, who warns that you can’t believe 99% of what he’s talking about. That may well be the “viewer’s discretion” warning for this episode: believe what you will, but take into account Marty’s love for spinning tales. Mike Moran joins the episode, recalling meeting Jannetty in 1984, and backing up Marty’s story that his mom was abusive, driving Jannetty to pursue athletics and get out of his hometown.
Jannetty debuted in Mid-South Wrestling where he was tasked with mentoring a young, nerdy-looking Shawn Michaels, with them soon forming the Midnight Rockers tag team. Pat Tanaka, along with Brutus and Missy Beefcake, lend their voices and remember the buzz that the duo created along their way to joining the WWF.
Karen sets up the story of Jannetty and Michaels’ first run as WWF employees, partying hard to celebrate and finding themselves booted out after only a week. Jannetty attributes some of his misadventures to what he calls “GAT” — which is God’s Amusement Toy. He explains that God likes to use him and put him into situations for his own amusement. Snow and Moran, for their part, say that Jannetty’s got to let GAT go and accept responsibility for his actions.
After a year, The Rockers get another shot at the WWF, enjoying success until December of 1990 when Chuck Austin famously suffered a broken neck while taking a Rocker Dropper. Jannetty explains that Austin understood the nature of the move and was ready for it, while archival footage of Austin sees him expressing having had reservations about doing it.
The result of a trial awards Austin $24 million dollars, which would then be settled down to $10 during an appeal, with Jannetty responsible for 5%. This would come out of Jannetty’s royalty cheques for a while, causing financial stress at the same time as arguments and fights started becoming regular occurrences between the Rockers backstage.
Jannetty re-tells how Vince McMahon gathered them backstage and explained that he saw a future star in Michaels, but not in Jannetty. This, of course, leads to a break-up on The Barbershop set, one of the most famous heel turns of all time.
The episode balances Jannetty’s many returns to the WWF, then landing in the WCW, all the while landing in jail for drug and alcohol usage, and performing stunts like rising a moped into a hotel in India, which is captured on video.
As Jannetty is hitting rock bottom and contemplating suicide, he gets a call from Michaels out of the blue, inviting him to a Christian retreat for athletes. They made some peace, and in 2005 the WWE invites him to take part in a Rocker reunion on Raw. The reunion goes well, with WWE ready to offer him a contract, but Jannetty gets in a fight with a women he’s seeing, and when police are called in Marty ends up in prison. Moran says this was his friend’s last shot in the WWE.
Becoming essentially housebound due to injury, Jannetty takes to social media and the show puts up some of his salacious, attention-grabbing posts, some of which Marty cops to and some he credits to hackers.
The one that grabbed the most attention was his sort-of confession to murder, claiming that he made a man “disappear” when he was defending himself at the age of 13. With police investigating to see if this claim was true, Marty says he turned around and called it a wrestling storyline to escape the attention.
Expanding on the hypothetical situation, Jannetty visits the bowling alley where this story may have taken place, telling how he was in a co-worker’s car to buy weed. When the seller put his hand on Marty’s crotch, it escalated to where the man took Marty behind the building and tried to take his pants down. Jannetty says he grabbed a rock and hits his attacker in the head.
Seeing the man had died, Jannetty gets an unnamed family member to help him take the body to the Chattahoochee river. He pauses here to remind the Columbus police department that this whole tale is just a storyline for wrestling. A statement from the police reads that an investigation turned up no evidence, cold cases, or missing persons that lined up with Jannetty’s “confession” — and that’s where we leave Jannetty for now.
With no Shawn Michaels featured except in archival footage, which is understandable, and no family members of Jannetty involved, this feels like a very insular episode of Dark Side — a trip through Marty’s mind with some friends urging the viewers to not take him too seriously. Given that, if you find Jannetty’s claims and stories either amusing or fascinating, then this season finale was for you.
With that, season four of Dark Side of the Ring is a wrap — stick with SlamWrestling.net for any news about a new season in the future.
- Slam Wrestling’s Dark Side of the Ring story and review archive
- Aug 5, 2020 Marty Jannetty admits making man ‘disappear’ in bizarre post
- Oct 26, 2013 KC’s Breaking Kayfabe with Marty Jannetty is wildly incoherent
- Sep 8, 2009: Marty Jannetty DVD full of excess
- Slam Wrestling’s Shawn Michaels story archive