Shawn Michaels’ WrestleMania Career – The Rockers vs. The Orient Express: WrestleMania VI
At Wrestlemania VI in Toronto, Canada, Shawn Michaels entered the Skydome with Marty Jannetty as The Rockers would compete against the debuting Orient Express. Mr. Fuji had sold off The Powers of Pain tag team and brought in Sato and Tanaka to form the Orient Express. Mr. Fuji would showcase his new acquisitions as the WWF’s newest threat to the tag team division. To begin their quest for tag team glory and dominance, they would have to contend with The Rockers. On the same night that a young Edge and Christian saw the Ultimate Warrior defeat Hulk Hogan in front of almost 68,000 people, there was a rare electricity in the air of the Skydome. On that same night, Shawn Michaels would gain more experience as a tag team specialist on the grandest stage of them all.
The young Shawn Michaels waits on the apron as Jannetty starts the match with Tanaka. The pair would feel each other out with a few strikes until each team would demonstrate their teamwork. The Rockers gaining the upper hand on a seamless double hip toss, elbow, missionary press throw and crossbody to the outside combination. This match is established early as synchronicity vs. brutality. The Twin Towers match a year prior was quickness against power. These teams have a much better match-up. The match would turn as Jannetty would fall victim to the antics of Mr. Fuji. Jannetty would take some punishment from both Sato and Tanaka until pulling off an awesome corkscrew reversal to turn the match’s momentum, make the tag and bring in Shawn Michaels.
Michaels would have some good offense against both Tanaka and Sato, including a perfect swinging neckbreaker. However, good tag team wrestling would take control of the match for the Orient Express. The Express would take turns pounding on Michaels with various moves until the crowd let their collective voice be heard in the Skydome. Michaels would fight through and eventually land a big enough clothesline to give Jannetty the hot tag.
Jannetty was anything but lethargic as he took on both Sato and Tanaka on his own burst of offense. Michaels would reenter the match quickly and the pair dominated, until Mr. Fuji would once again distract Jannetty with his cane. Jannetty would pursue Fuji on the outside long enough for Sato to surprise him from behind with powder that blinded him. Michaels would do what he could, but since Jannetty was the legal man and blinded, he couldn’t answer the referee’s count of ten. The Rockers would lose the match by count out. Under the sea of boos from the 68 thousand strong, The Rockers would lose for the second consecutive year and regardless of his involvement, Shawn Michaels had no wins and two losses to his name at Wrestlemania.
The fact is The Rockers couldn’t have won this match. The count out victory by the Orient Express did three things really well for them. It demonstrated Mr. Fuji as a heel manager, Sato and Tanaka got a decent debut win and the trio gained heat by cheating to win over a fan favorite tag team. As far as the Orient Express were concerned, the match worked really well. For The Rockers it was another loss on the Wrestlemania stage. For Shawn Michaels, it is kind of a grey mark on his Wrestlemania record because this contest was really about Jannetty. He carried the bulk of the offense, got the hot tag and was responsible for the loss. The loss was not the fault of Michaels in performance, or in character. It was just an unlucky loss for HBK. I never took the time to look and understand that The Rockers were essentially stepping stones of the late 80’s and early 90’s tag team division. It isn’t one of my favorite era’s of tag team wrestling and seeing Shawn Michaels used as a stepping stone is disheartening to me. You can still see the fire, natural charisma and tools that are going to make Shawn Michaels become Mr. Wrestlemania, but in his match at Wrestlemania VI, he looks like a guy who doesn’t have direction. It’s funny because later on in a feud with Randy Orton, Michaels slaps him across the face and tells Orton that, “If you are going to use me as a stepping stone, you had better step hard.” It just looks weird on paper that Shawn Michaels as 0-2 at Wrestlemania in the beginning. It is clear that no one at the time saw Shawn Michaels as anything more than a solid tag team specialist. Soon that is all about to change and we’ll see the heart of Shawn Michaels break through to better things.