THE MIDNIGHT EXPRESS: This name is synonymous with mayhem, violence, and creativity. It is also synonymous with tag-team excellence. The names of "Ravishing" Randy Rose, "Loverboy" Dennis Condrey, "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton, "Sweet" Stan Lane and James (Jim) E. Cornette have carved a place in wrestling history that will never be taken away.
The Midnight Express was formed around 1983. The team was originally a three-man team which featured Rose, Condrey and mid-level wrestler Norvell Austin (no relation to Steve Austin). This threesome was mildly successful in regional federations in the south. Later, after this team split, Dennis traveled up to the Mid-Southern (USWA) area where he started teaming with Bobby Eaton. By this time, Eaton was being managed by Jim Cornette. This team became the second Midnight Express and quickly won the Mid-South (UWF) Tag Team Titles. It was also during this year that their legendary feud with the Rock n Roll Express began. A feud that would go on periodically for over seven years. They also butted heads with the Fabulous Ones. This team was the tandem of Steve Keirn and Stan Lane (the latter would later go on to team with Eaton to form the third Midnight Express). They also won the World Class Tag Team Titles in a classic feud with the Fantastics in 1985. It was also in 1985 that they made their move to the NWA.
At this point, their arch-rivals the Rock n Roll Express were also in the NWA and were involved in a classic feud with Ivan and Nikita Koloff over the NWA World Tag Team Titles. Meanwhile, The Midnights were feuding with Jimmy "Boogie-Woogie Man" Valiant and Miss Atlanta Lively (Ron Garvin in drag). Both came to a conclusion at Starrcade '85 as the R n R's won the World Tag Titles for the second time and the Midnights were humiliated by Valiant and Garvin in an "Atlanta Streetfight Match." After Starrcade, the two team could not ignore each other anymore and, by January 1986, the warfare began in earnest.
In January of 1986, the second version of the Midnight Express ("Loverboy" Dennis Condrey/"Beautiful" Bobby Eaton), along with Jim Cornette, started to challenge then -NWA World Tag Team Champions and longtime rivals, The Rock n Roll Express.
At first, the feud was just an exchange of insults and words. But it soon turned physical as the Midnights and Cornette attacked the Rock n Roll Express during a taping of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (a predecessor to WCW Pro Wrestling), severely injuring the throat of Ricky Morton. Morton and Robert Gibson gave the Midnights a title match in Atlanta, GA at the Omni on February 2 as part of a television taping for a TBS special entitled "SuperStars On The SuperStation." This taped card also featured The Road Warriors VS. Ivan & Nikita Koloff, Dusty Rhodes VS. Tully Blanchard for the Georgia National Heavyweight Title and Ron Garvin VS. Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Title. It also pre-dates The Clash Of The Champion specials in origin. As for the Express/Express match up, the match was full of high flying and brawling, like a team of raccoons going through your garbage cans. It ended when Morton was nailed by Dennis with Cornette's infamous tennis racket. Bobby made the cover and new champions were crowned. This match was shown a few days later on February 6 on TBS.
It was expected that the Rock n Roll's would be challenging night and day in re-matches for the title. But that was not the case as Morton and Gibson became embroiled in a vicious feud with the Four Horsemen. Meanwhile, the Midnights had battles with The Road Warriors and America's Team (Dusty Rhodes and Magnum TA). Neither of these teams, however, were able to challenge regularly for the titles because of various feuds they were involved in. The Warriors were still feuding with the Koloffs, Magnum was being challenged for his NWA US Title by Nikita Koloff and Dusty was still feuding with the Four Horsemen. Also during their six month reign, they developed two finishing manuvers:
1. Full-Nelson Face Slam- This move is rarely used these days. What happened here was Dennis would hook on a full-nelson and put his right leg in front his victims left leg. He would then lean his victim back and fall frontwards, driving his opponents head face-first into the canvas.
2. The Rocket Launcher- This move is used less frequently as well. It is just a top-rope splash from Bobby Eaton with an assist from Dennis.
After a six month reign at the top, the R n R's regained the titles in Philadelphia, PA on August 8, 1986. After a few rematches, this version of the Midnights would not meet the R n R's ever again.
One of the downfalls of the Bobby/Dennis duo was Cornette's habit of getting his troops in trouble. One good example was on TBS when he interrupted "Precious" Paul Ellering, the manager of the Road Warriors, and was greeted with a slap. Cornette responded with an attack on the Road Warriors by the Midnights. A month later, Cornette signed a contract for the Midnights to meet the Warriors at Starrcade '86 in Atlanta, GA. Cornette, however, did not read the fine print as it was stipulated that the match would be a SCAFFOLD match in which both members of a team had to be thrown off the scaffold to lose the match. The Warriors went on to Starrcade and won this classic encounter. I cite this incident because this version of the Midnights was never the same after that.
In January of 1987, signs of the Midnights demise began to be apparent when they challenged then-NWA US Tag Team Champions Ron Garvin and Barry Windham. With all due respect to Garvin and Windham, the Midnight should NOT have had the trouble with them that they did because the US Champions had not been together that long. Still, their inability to defeat Garvin and Windham was the main reason cited by Jim Cornette and his mother that a change was in order. As a result, Dennis Condrey was fired and replaced by "Sweet" Stan Lane (who was wrestling in Florida as a solo wrestler after finishing his long-time partnership with Steve Keirn in the Fabulous Ones). Thus, the third incarnation of the Midnight Express was born!!!!
Their first real test as a team was at the second annual Jim Crockett Senior Memorial Cup in Baltimore, MD. They defeated the Garvins (Ron and Jim Garvin) in their opening match and defeated the Road Warriors in the quarterfinals before losing to Dusty Rhodes and Nikita Koloff in the semi-finals. Still, that was a sign of things to come.
In April 1987, the Midnights won a tournament for the vacant US Tag Team Titles (The previous owners, Ivan Koloff and Dick Murdoch, were stripped of the titles when the NWA suspended Murdoch for giving Nikita Koloff the brain-buster suplex on the concrete floor). This tournament featured the first confrontation between this Midnight Express and The Rock n Roll Express. The Midnights won this first battle by disqualification. They would go on to win the tournament by defeating Ron Garvin and Barry Windham in the finals. During the Great American Bash of that year, the Midnights met the R n R's again. By this time, Ricky and Robert had won their fourth NWA World Tag Team Championship by defeating "Ravishing" Rick Rude and Manny "Ragin' Bull" Fernandez. They met on July 4, 1987 in Atlanta, GA for both the World and US belts on the same card that the first ever WarGames: The Match Beyond took place. The match ended with the R n R's winning by disqualification, which left both teams with their respective belts.
In the Fall of 1987, Jim Cornette started making noise that the R n R's were avoiding the Midnight Express. Rick Morton responded to that charge with a right hand to the face!!! That would prove to be a mistake for the R n R's because later that evening, while they were coming to the ring to defend the belts against Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson of the Horsemen, the Midnights attacked Ricky and Robert.
Bobby Eaton injured the left shoulder of Ricky Morton with an arm-bar takedown (which he called "Divorce Court"). Needless to say, the Midnights practically handed the Horsemen the World Tag Team Championship (the full story can be found on Earl's Illustrated History Of The Four Horsemen page) as Ricky was unable to continue during the defense. The two express' met at Starrcade '87 in Chicago, IL in a scaffold match. The R n R's gained some measure of revenge but the Midnights are one's that had the last laugh because the R n R's never again became World Tag Team Champions after the September incident.
During the rebirth of the Midnight Express, where was Dennis? Well, he took a few months off from wrestling (March 1987 to July 1987) and when he returned, he brought along a forgotten face: "Ravashing" Randy Rose. They went to the AWA (which is now defunct) dubbing themselves The "Original" Midnight Express. Along side of them was Paul E. Dangerously (who would later go on to bigger fame as leader of the Dangerous Alliance and as an executive of ECW). They would use pattened Midnight Express manuvers and would even make references to the "other" Express (a not-so-subtle warning to Jim Cornette's Midnight Express).
While obviously not as talented as their NWA counterparts, they were the most dominant tag-team in that area at that time. I mean, look at who the champions were: Boris Zukov and Soldat Ustinov!!! Even these old-timers would beat them!!! They finally achieved their goal in October of 1987 when they defeated Jerry "The King" Lawler and "Superstar" Bill Dundee for the AWA World Tag Team Titles. The would hold those belts until January of 1988 when The Midnight Rockers (Shawn "Heartbreak Kid" Michaels and Marty Jannetty) defeated them in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After that, the "Original" Midnights and Paul E. left the area and spent the next nine months in regional federations. All the while, though, they never forgot Jim Cornette's Midnight Express.
Meanwhile, Jim Cornette's Midnights had a landmark year in 1988. They set a record for the longest reign as US Tag Team Champions (12 months). They also rekindeled an old feud with the Fantastics (Tommy Rogers and Bobby Fulton). This feud produced some of the finest tag team matches ever and was definitly a show stealer at both the Clash Of The Champions I. and The Great American Bash 1988. The teams traded the US titles twice during this series.
Later that summer, Jim Cornette began lobbying for a NWA World Tag Team Title shot at Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson (ironically, the same men they helped to win the titles almost a year ago). Blanchard and Anderson was reluctant at first but finally relented, figuring that they would have no problem with "Sweet" Stan and "Beautiful" Bobby. The logic here was that because the Midnights were US Champs, they were "second-best." That would prove to be their undoing because on September 10, 1988, the Midnights won the World Tag Team Titles. Thus making them the first team ever to hold the World and US belts at the same time (the Steiners are the only other team to accomplish this)!!! Of course, they had to relinquish the US belts because of a NWA rule that you could not two titles at the same time (Lex Luger's recent run as WCW Television Champion and WCW World Tag Team Champion is an example of changed times).
Unfortunatly in October of 1988 in New Orleans, the Midnights lost the World belts to the Road Warriors who had just turned heels at the time. They didn't just beat the Midnights, they whipped their a**es!!! Bobby Eaton was a mess after that match!!! Unknown to Stan, Bobby and Jim, their worst moment was yet to come!
And Here We Are
We're The Princes Of The Universe
Here We Belong
Fighting For Survival
We've Come To Be The Rulers Of Your World
(excerpt from Queen's "Prince's Of The Universe")
Well, "Loverboy" Dennis Condrey and "Ravishing" Randy Rose were not looking to rule the world but they were looking to "rule" as the only Midnight Express. In order to do that, however, they would have take care of Jim Cornette's Midnight Express.
In the fall of 1988, Cornette's Midnights ("Beautiful" Bobby Eaton/"Sweet" Stan Lane) had won the NWA World Tag Team Title. They, however, lost them a month later to a very angry Road Warrior team that literally destroyed them!!!
During a TBS taping for World Championship Wrestling, Cornette recieved an unexpected phone call during one of his men's matches. Cornette hung up on his caller and whispered something to Eaton. When asked by announcer Tony Schvonie about the phone call, Cornette was evasive (as usual). But then, Cornette suddenly shouted "Jesus Christ!!!" and watched in horror as the "Orginal" Midnights and Paul E. Dangerously showed up and gave Bobby, Stan, and Jimmy a vicious beating. The war of the Midnights was on!!!!
The first official meeting between the two teams took place at Starrcade '88: True Gritt. It was wild encounter with both teams using both their individual skills and patented Midnight Express manuvears. The end came when Rose got caught with the "Double Gouzzel" (combination clothesline/schoolyard trip) and was pinned. Again, however, the "Original" Midnights got the last laugh as they again delivered another beating to Jim Cornette and his Midnights. They would continue to battle for almost two months with both team gainning their share of victories. The end came at Chi-Town Rumble '89 in Chicago when the two teams met in a six-man tag where the loser of the fall had to leave the NWA!!!! Paul E. tried to pull a fast one by replacing Condrey with Jack Victory. It didn't matter though as Jim Cornette's Midnights pinned Randy Rose, putting an end to the "Original" Midnights in the NWA. Thus, quoting the phrase, "there can be only one."
After Chi-Town Rumble '89, The Midnight Express (Bobby, Stan and Jim) were looked upon as faces. Although their feud with the "Original" Midnight Express was over, their feud with Paul E. Dangerously was not!! In fact, Paul E. brought in a new tag team from the now-defunct World Class area in Texas. The team was the Samoan Swat Team (Samu and Fatu). Their first encounter with the SST was at the Clash Of The Champions VI: Ragin' Cajun broadcast from New Orleans, LA at the Superdome. Once again, the Midnights had an important match on an historic card (this card feature the famous two out of three falls NWA World Title match between then-champion Rick Steamboat and Ric Flair)!!! The Midnights, sadly, did not have a good afternoon this day as the SST dominated the matchup and went on to pin the Midnights.
Soon afterwards, the Midnights left the NWA and it was rumored that they would be headed to the WWF. That rumor would soon be shattered, however, when the NWA held a tournament to crown new NWA World Tag Team Champions. The previous champions, Mike Rotunda/Steve "Dr. Death" Williams, were stripped of the titles because of a controversial finish during a title defense against the Road Warriors at WrestleWar '89 in Nashville, TN on May 7. The Midnights made their return to the NWA during this tournament. They first defeated Butch Reed and some jobber to go on to the quarterfinals against the SST. In an upset, the Midnights defeated the SST with some assistance from the Road Warriors (the same men who brutalized them almost a year ago to win these same titles)!!! Sadly, the Midnights would be defeated by the Fabulous Freebirds (Jim Garvin/Michael Hayes) with some assistance from Paul E. Dangerously and Terry "Bamm Bamm" Gordy.
This would not be the end of the feud with the Freebirds or the SST. On July 23 of that year, the Midnights would team with the Road Warriors and Steve Williams to battle the SST and the Freebirds in WarGames/The Match Beyond at the Great American Bash in Baltimore, MD. The Midnights' team won this encounter when Hawk made Garvin submit with a neckbreaker. Once again, the Midnights had a big match on an historic card. This card also featured then-US Champion Lex Luger VS. Rick Steamboat, then-NWA TV Champion Sting VS. The Great Muta in their first ever meeting and then-NWA World Champion Ric Flair VS. Terry Funk in one of the wildest title matches ever!!! Off the subject, this is one card I would like to discuss at length one of these days. Anyway, the Midnights gained some measure of revenge against the Freebirds in this match but their championship woes continued. One could sense that a change was soon coming.
In 1989, the Midnight Express team of "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton, "Sweet" Stan Lane and manager Jim Cornette were faces (in fact, I think this is the only combination of the Midnights that ever were faces). But, like a lot of long-time rulebreakers, they just weren't as effective as faces. They were losing to teams with various skill levels like the Freebirds (the team of Jim Garvin and Michael Hayes, who were beneath the Midnights in my opinion), The Skyscrapers and the Samoan Swat Team (both of whom had tremendous power and skill, now these teams I could understand them losing to).
Then, in the Fall of 1989, a new tag team showed up by the name of the Dynamic Dudes (Shane Douglas/Johnny Ace). Off the subject, they were one of the worst tag teams I had ever seen. Me and my step-brother could've beat these guys!!! Anyway, Cornette took a job as the Dudes "advisor." Well, this didn't set in too well with Bobby and Stan. In fact, by November, the Midnights were challenging the Dudes to a match to see who would retain the services of Jim Cornette. The match took place at the Clash Of The Champions IX: New York Knockout. The match was surprisingly even (which, in my opinion, was a bunch of bullsh**!!! A weak Midnight team should've crushed the Dudes). Anyway, the end came when Bobby tried to use Cornette's tennis racquet on Douglas. Cornette stopped Eaton from using the racquet on Shane and told him to continue wrestling. When Shane went back to the action, Cornette used the racquet on Shane!!!! Needless to say, the Midnights got the win and the dark side returned!!! Interesting enough, the Midnights still got cheered for months after the incident, even though they were officially heels again. Just shows you that today's fans are concerned with talent, not whether a team is a face or heel.
The Midnight Express team of Bobby, Stan and Cornette had regained their status as one of the most controversial teams with their betrayal of the Dynamic Dudes. They also regained their status as one of the most feared teams as well.
By early 1990, they were back in the limelight and were ready to regain some tag team gold. That chance came in March of 1990 when they challenged then-US Tag Team Champions "Flyin" Brian Pillman and Tom "Z-Man" Zenk to a match on World Championship Wrestling on TBS (the show is now known as WCW Saturday Night). Pillman and Zenk won this encounter by DQ due to outside interference. However, the Midnights got the last laugh when they put Pillman in the "spedge-o-matic" (bearhug/legdrop of the top rope combination) with Cornette's tennis racquet on Pillman's throat!!! He suffered throat injuries as a result.
The rematch was held at Capital Combat '90 in Washington D.C. That night, the Midnights regained the US Titles when Stan did an Antonio Inoki-style kick to Zenk's head, allowing Eaton to get the pin.
The Midnights also became the first (and only) three time US Tag Team Champions. They reigned for almost four months until August 1990 when the Steiners defeated them in the Meadowlands in New Jersey. That was to be the last tag team title that the Midnights would ever hold. They had some rematches against the Steiners with limited success and no gold to show for it.
There last appearance was at Halloween Havoc '90 in a losing effort against Tommy Rich and Rick Morton. This is not the way this team should've went out but, even in defeat, their brillance showed in that match.
The Midnights split for good in November 1990. You know the old saying, "you don't miss your water until your well runs dry." Well, that's how I feel about all of the Midnight Express combinations. Hell, I even miss the "Original" Midnights!!! Any of these versions could probably whip most of the tag teams running around now!!! So, I guess it's true. Nothing lasts forever, not even in pro wrestling.
Midnight Express Book Of Lists
by Ervin Griffin Jr.
We have now come to the final chapter of my series on the Midnight Express. The Book of Lists will cover championships won to particular moments in the history of the Midnights. The lists will cover all the versions of the Midnights, so I will refer to Dennis/Randy as "Original" Midnights, Dennis/Bobby as Midnights II and Bobby/Stan as Midnights III.
Of course, you can't have a tag team without members so here are all of the men (wrestlers/managers) that made the Midnight Express name legendary:
1. Norvell Austin
2. "Ravishing" Randy Rose
3. "Loverboy" Dennis Condrey
4. "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton
5. "Sweet" Stan Lane
6. James E. Cornette (M)
7. Paul E. Dangerously (M)
The Midnights have had classic matches over their seven year span. Here are ten of their greatest:
1. Midnights II VS. The Fantastics at the 1984 Parade Of Champions in Dallas, TX. Fantastics regain the World Class Tag Team Championship.
2. Midnights II VS. The Rock n Roll Express in Atlanta, Ga on February 2, 1986. Midnights win the NWA World Tag Team Titles.
3. Midnights II VS. The Road Warriors in the quarterfinals at the 1986 Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament. Road Warriors win by DQ.
4. Midnights III VS. The Rock n Roll Express in Atlanta, Ga on July 4, 1987. The match up was a double-championship contest. The Midnights put up their US Tag Team Titles against The Rock n Rolls NWA World Tag Team Belts. The R n R's won by DQ, thus both teams retained their belts.
5. Midnights III VS. The Fantastics on March 27, 1988 at the first Clash Of The Champions. The Midnights won by DQ.
6. Midnights III VS. Tully Blanchard/Arn Anderson on September 14, 1988 in Philidelphia, PA. Midnights win the NWA World Tag Team Titles and, in doing so, became one of two teams ever to hold the NWA World and US Tag Belts at the same time (the other team was the Steiners).
7. Midnights III VS. "Original" Midnights at Starrcade '88 in Norfolk, VA on December 26, 1988. Midnights III win.
8. Midnights III VS. Ric Flair/Barry Windham at The Clash Of The Champions IV in Chatanooga, TN. Flair/Windham win by pinfall.
9. Midnights III VS. Jim and Ron Garvin at the 1987 Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup. Midnights win by countout.
10. Midnights III VS. The Southern Boys at The Great American Bash in Baltimore, MD on July 7, 1990. Midnights win by pinfall.
The Midnights have also wrestled on some significant cards as well:
1. Midnights II VS. The Rock n Roll Express on February 2, 1986. That was also the first time that TBS had a prime time wrestling special. The card also featured Dusty Rhodes VS. Tully Blanchard, Ric Flair VS. Ron Garvin, and the Road Warriors VS. Ivan and Nikita Koloff.
2. Midnights III VS. The Rock n Roll Express on July 4, 1987. That card also featured the premiere of the WarGames/The Match Beyond. The participants were Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger and JJ Dillon VS. The Road Warriors, Nikita Koloff, Dusty Rhodes and Paul Ellering.
3. Midnights III VS. The Fantastics on March 27, 1987. This match was not only featured on the first Clash Of The Champions, it also featured the team of Lex Luger and Barry Windham winning the NWA World Tag Team Titles from Tully Blanchard/Arn Anderson and the legendary NWA World Title match between Ric Flair and Sting.
4. Midnights III VS. Samoan Swat Team on April 2, 1989. This match took place on the same card as the famous two out of three falls NWA World Title match between then-champion Rick Steamboat and Ric Flair.
5.Midnights III joined up with The Road Warriors and Steve Williams to face The Freebirds (Jim Garvin, Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy) and the Samoan Swat Team in WarGames/The Match Beyond at the Great American Bash in Baltimore, MD on July 23, 1989. Also fetured on this card was a spetacular NWA TV Title match between then-champion Sting and The Great Muta (which ended in a no-contest), a brutal US Title match between then-champion Lex Luger and Rick Steamboat and a wild NWA World Title match between then-champion Ric Flair and Terry Funk!!! That last match I mentioned also produced the best aftermatch brawl I have ever seen with Ric Flair and Sting on one side and Terry Funk and Muta on the other!!!! The only thing that I have seen that comes close since is the recent brawl on RAW where the Undertaker, Sid, Bret Hart and Steve Austin went at it!!!
The Midnights have also created some unique moves as well:
1. The Rocket Launcher-A top rope splash with an assist from the other team member. This move was used by all of the Midnight combinations.
2. Double Gouzzel-This move was used by Midnights III. They would set up the helpless opponent in the center of the ring. Stan would clip the opponents' feet from underneath him and, at the same time, Bobby would hit the opponent with a clothesline.
3. Full Nelson Face Slam-This move was used by Dennis Condrey. He would lock his victim in a simple full nelson. Then, he would step over his opponents' left leg and fall forward!!! Ouch!!!
4. Spedge-o-matic - Possibly the most lethal of the Midnight manuvears!!! Exclusively used by Midnights III. Stan would first get his opponent in a bearhug. Then, he would lean over forward to expose the victims head and neck. When he did, Bobby would jump of the top rope with a legdrop!!! Decapatation time!!! Don't need the gallows for this one!!!
5. FlapJack - Used by all of the Midnight combos. They would whip the opponent into the ropes, pick him straight up by his legs and drop him face first into the mat!!!
Well, those are my list. If you have a question, comment, criticism or just want to talk pro wrestling, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ervin Griffin Jr. is a regular contributor to Solie's Wrestling Newsletter as well as the Ringside Insider and other publications. He has also helped to enliven the discussion on the Readers Forum since its inception.
Copyright 1996 - Jump City Productions