By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
The Hart Foundation © vs The Rockers 10/30/90
WWF Tag Team Title Match
There is little doubt that the Rockers are probably the best tag team to have worked under the WWF/E banner without winning the WWF Tag Team Titles. Though an obvious attempt to ape the Rock and Roll Express and the other ‘blowjob babyfaces’ of the time period, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty were two of the most exciting wrestlers on the roster during a time period that the WWF still seemed to specialise in lumbering heavyweights.
That is not to say that the Rockers didn’t once defeat the champions in a match in the center of the ring for the titles and walk out as champions, but a combination of NBC’s timekeeping and Jim Neidhart’s lucky escape from the employment line meant that the title change never existed.
The Main Event IV was the site of this phantom switch, though the match never aired on television due to NBC’s desire for the show to be kept to an hour long rather than the ninety minutes of action the WWF had taped. Thus, the title change was dropped from the broadcast. In hindsight, this would end up being a decision that allowed the WWF to return the titles to the Hart Foundation a week later, once the company had come to an agreement not to terminate Neidhart’s contract – the main reason for the Foundation dropping the titles in the first place.
One of the reasons given for the decision not to air the title change – outside of the belts going back to Bret and the Anvil – was the relative quality of the contest which didn’t live up to the expectations of Vince McMahon. Instead, McMahon used a broken rope in the second fall as kayfabe ground for the match to be considered null and void for those who officially witness the Rockers’ victory in the first place.
A two out of three falls contest, the match would be released in unedited form on the Shawn Michaels ‘Heartbreak and Triumph’ DVD boxset. After the early exchanges had seen both teams have brief moments of superiority, the Foundation would take over with Neidhart using his power and Bret his precision on offense to take the battle to Michaels. Michaels would kick out of a pinfall attempt following a piledriver, however, and Hart’s focus on remonstrating with the referee saw Michaels make the tag to Jannetty and his reversal of a sunset flip into a cradle gave the Rockers the first fall.
At the start of the second fall, it was Jannetty’s turn to feel the force of the champions’ methodical onslaught. A big Irish whip into the corner sent Jannetty crashing into the canvas, yet several suplex reversals allowed him to tag out to Michaels. This ended up with all four men in the ring and a missed Neidhart charge into the corner caused the top rope to completely snap on one side of the ring.
As Hart tells it, a front facelock on Michaels was an opportunity for them to communicate with the referee in an effort to get him to fix the top rope issue. However, either they never made it clear enough or the referee just froze out there, but nothing was resolved and the match continued. In a unique spot, Hart would end getting Irish whipped into the middle rope chest first, a play on his usual high impact bump. Minutes later, after some spots with very tentative use of the ropes, the Foundation were back on level terms after a Hart Attack on Michaels.
The aesthetic and sense of quality that the WWF tried to exude were the only real things to take a hit in the second fall, but that perhaps was enough. Seemingly thrown by the experience as a whole, the last fall also didn’t quite live up to the quality of what these two teams could offer and had shown up until then. A sloppy finish – Michaels springing into the ring to dropkick Jannetty out of the Hart Attack and into a pin – didn’t help matters. It may have won the Rockers the match, but it didn’t look pretty.
The Rockers would actually defend the titles against Power and Glory before being stripped of the gold the following week. The story went that McMahon planned to give them a run with the belts at some point further down the line, but that reign never did come to fruition. In some ways, you could argue that it wasn’t necessary; the Rockers were a team who were better chasing the big heel teams rather than being on top. Even so, the lack of a legitimate Rocker’s title win does seem a missed opportunity when looking back on the era.