Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty vs Civilian

Shawn Michaels and especially Marty Jannetty are no strangers to the police, lawsuits, and out of the ring scuffles. In this case, however, they really did do nothing wrong.

Fight: Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty vs Civilian

Date: December 8, 1991 (unconfirmed)
Location: Arco Arena in Sacramento, CA
Source: John Clark’s Wrestling Flyer Interview Collection #1


The timing of this one is funny, because it “exposes” the business. In the days before Monday Night Raw, all WWF television was taped days in advance. In early December of 1991, the Rockers did an angle where Shawn Michaels threw Marty Jannetty through the glass window of the Barber Shop (a talk show segment hosted by Brutus Beefcake, one of the many attempts to re-create the success of Piper’s Pit). It was the official breakup of the Rockers, which had been teased for weeks.

That angle, however, didn’t air on television until the following month. So until it aired, Michaels and Jannetty were still friends and still teamed up on the road. You know, because unless it happens on television, it didn’t really happen.

So on December 8, the WWF had a matinee show in Sacramento, CA. They had already taped the breakup angle, but it hadn’t aired yet. The Rockers were still teaming together, and had a match that afternoon against the Nasty Boys. They still teased tension in the match, which was the angle on television at the time. The Rockers lost when Jannetty unintentionally caused Michaels to get pinned by one of the Nasty Boys.

The Incident

The trouble started before the match even took place. As Michaels and Jannetty were going to the ring, a guy in the audience took a big gulp of beer and spit it right into Jannetty’s face.

While the natural inclination would be for the wrestler to slug the guy, Jannetty was temporarily blinded and couldn’t see a thing. By the time he cleared it out of his eyes, Michaels had pointed the guy out to security. Unfortunately the guy happened to be 6’-4” and 250 lbs, which was at least as big, or bigger, than most of the WWF roster at the time. This is possibly why Michaels never went after him, although Michaels was smart to do nothing because not only would he have possibly been injured in front of the fans (thus exposing wrestlers as wimps who can’t win a fight against a civilian), but he also would’ve been sued and ended up paying a fortune.

The cops took the guy back and held him while the Rockers had their match with the Nasty Boys. When they got backstage, the cops informed Jannetty that they had the guy and that he could charge him with assault because one of the cops had witnessed the whole thing. They also told Jannetty, however, that they’d much prefer it if he instead just went and met with the guy and ‘gave him a scare.’

Jannetty wondered how he, at about 6’-0” and 215 lbs, was going to scare a guy who had him by about four inches and forty pounds. He also wasn’t really sure what they meant, saying, ‘What am I supposed to do? Go over and yell at the guy? What if he gets up and beats the sh*t out of me?” But he finally agreed and went with Shawn to see the guy. He was locked up in a little room, and there was no security there and he wasn’t handcuffed or anything. Unbelievable this was allowed to happen, especially in a major market like Sacramento where things are supposed to run a lot more orderly.

The cop escorted the Rockers to the room and shut the door behind them. At this point it had to be a joke by the police, who were probably thinking how these big, tough wrestlers should have no problem with a regular guy, knowing full well Jannetty wasn’t one of the bigger wrestlers (although Jannetty was certainly good with his hands and had boxing experience).

Jannetty was saying things like, “What’s wrong with you! What’s the deal with the beer!” The guy, probably drunk and certainly pissed about being in custody, shouted back, “F*ck you!” and took a swing at Jannetty.

Jannetty wisely ducked, and knocked the guy down with one punch. Michaels and Jannetty then got the cops, who wrote up an incident report saying Michaels and Jannetty had pushed the cop aside and ran into the room and put the boots to the guy. Obviously that’s not what happened, since the cop escorted the Rockers to the room. Jannetty said the incident report was a complete lie.

The civilian ended up suing Jannetty for $1.5 million. We couldn’t find any information about what happened with this lawsuit, or if Michaels was also sued. At the time Jannetty told this story, he said he knew the guy wasn’t going to win, but that it was still going to cost Jannetty $20,000 just to hire a lawyer. Since this incident never received much exposure, most likely the case was thrown out of court or the guy simply lost the case. It was still a lot of money out of Jannetty’s pocket.

Jannetty has gotten into a lot of legal trouble over the years, most famous of which is the Chuck Austin lawsuit in which Austin won millions after breaking his neck from the Rocker Dropper (Billy Gunn’s Famouser). In this case with the civilian, however, Jannetty did nothing wrong and was the victim of a corrupt legal system. In hindsight he should’ve just charged the guy with assault. He’s also lucky he ducked that punch.