Volume 2, Issue 124
February 6, 1997
The History of the Midnight Express
Part 2: The Rise and Fall Of Dennis and Bobby
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. 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, as you will see in Part 3.
If you have a question, comment, criticism, suggestion or just want to talk about pro wrestling in general, please e-mail me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ervin Griffin Jr. is a regular contributor to Solie's Wrestling Newsletter as well as the Ringside Insider and other on-line publications. He has also helped enliven the Readers' Forum since its inception.
A question was posed to me a couple of weeks ago by a very good friend of mine. I was reminded that it had been ten years to the day that I sat at home on a Saturday morning and began to follow Professional Wrestling on a regular basis. I was asked what my initial reasons had been, and why I wanted to follow the wacky world of wrestling anyway. And if that wasn't enough of a challenge, this friend wanted my take on what direction I thought the sport was headed, and what if anything, was lacking and in need of repair. Of course, how does one put ten years into perspective just like that? How could I return back to that 11- year-old boy I was, just starting to follow this "new" interest?
I find it very amusing that the moment one stops thinking about something and sets it aside for later retrieval, that which was once impossible becomes clear. All at once that child that had been so buried, so hidden, decided to make his presence known. Only problem was it was during a meteorology quiz! I suppose some good was had by that timing, considering the fact that I had my head in the clouds already talking about cloud- cover, and weather elements. At that moment, in that class, my focus was as clear as the maps we were discussing.
As the memories flooded back to me (and I promise, that is the last weather element in this column :-) I began playing back the first few shows I watched of the WWF, NWA, and AWA. The Hart Foundation had just come off a shocking win of the WWF Tag Team straps against the then darlings of the WWF, The British Bulldogs. Bobby Heenan had just finalized the biggest deal in wrestling, that only many years down the road, would we fans realize changed the course of wrestling today. Heenan had just signed Andre the Giant. Jimmy Hart and Adrian Adonis were continuing to embaress and raise the wrath of one Roddy Piper.
In the NWA, the Four Horsemen were on a roll. The Road Warriors were dominating the Tag Team scene.
Without realizing it, I had answered the first question. The answer is that it had been the real heat that was generated from within the ranks of wrestling. The Horsemen VS. Dusty Rhodes. Andre VS. Hulk. Harts VS. Bulldogs. The drama was all there. Excitement at every turn.
Does anyone find it surprising that in almost every heat generated angle at that time, there was an outside force helping to generate that heat? There was always a guiding light. There was always someone other than the wrestlers themselves to help storylines. Of course I am talking about wrestling managers. Many wrestling fans probably have let this thought slip from their collective heads as of late.
Wrestling managers have been around for the better part of forty years. The earliest record I could find of an active manager was Bobby Davis in the late 1950's, when he managed Champion Buddy Rogers. From the tapes I have viewed of Davis, as well as some documented encounters that I have read from others in the sport, Davis was a loud-mouth, but conservative in his out of ring antics. The nearest comparison I could make to relate Davis with today's crop of managers, would probably be somewhere between a Jim Cornette, and Clarence Mason.
There is no question that many men and women have come and gone in the managerial ranks since Bobby Davis. This subject could be discussed in many different ways, but rather than expound on all the colorful faces and personas in managing, I will concentrate on three wrestlers with their respective managers.
It is not without good reason that King Kong Bundy has lasted as long as he has in the sport of Professional Wrestling. Bundy has managed to combine his brute strength, along with his enormous girth to win many a match. But what would Bundy be like without the guiding forces outside the ring? With managers such as Gary Hart, and Jimmy Hart, Bundy was able to have quite a successful run throughout the southern promotions like the WCCW in Texas, and The Memphis based CWA. Bundy at one point was even a part of Paul Ellering's Legion Of Doom with Jake Roberts, Hawk and Animal.
IT is important to note that 1986 was the shining moment in this big man's career. Bundy did the unthinkable. He put the then WWF Champion Hulk Hogan out of action for several months. But who was behind Bundy's shining moment? Bobby Heenan. Heenan gave Bundy the added inspiration, the added killer instinct he needed to get the job done. When people flocked to LA to watch the long awaited cage match between Hogan and Bundy as part of Wrestlemainia II, (Editor's Note: I was there) they wanted not only Bundy to get his just desserts, but also they wanted Bobby Heenan to pay dearly as well. The fans got their wish that night.
Don Muraco is considered as one of the most vicious men in this sport's history. But what was Muraco without a strong managerial force outside the ring? Probably the greatest success Muraco had in wrestling was when he was with his first manager, The Grand Wizard of Wrestling. The Wizard knew how to get the best out of his men, and it was no different with Muraco. He guided this minimal talented wrestler to Two Intercontinental Titles. After the Wizards death in 1983, Captain Lou Albano, and Mr. Fuji took over where he had left off. I can't recall anytime that the Magnificent Muraco was without a manager in his career.
Probably the greatest success story for the managerial side of the sport of wrestling, has to be the Honky Tonk Man. Jimmy Hart was the manager of this WWF Intercontinental titleholder. Never before or after his stint in the WWF has Wane Farris had the success as he enjoyed with Jimmy Hart in the WWF. Say what you will about Hart's annoying laugh, and the megaphone which has made many a wrestler suffer from headaches. Who else could of planted the seed to hit Jake Roberts over the head with a guitar? Who else would have helped this otherwise boring grappler hold onto a title for nearly 24 months?
In keeping with the theme of this column, the one thing I think is missing in the sport is Managers. Right at this time, hardly any heat is being generated in the WWF. The fans are confused. The fans are lost and will latch onto any sense of good VS. Evil. Why? I think a huge part of the downfall and confusion stems from a lack of strong personalities outside of the ring. Today's manager is either too sexy, or too outlandish to take seriously. Today's wrestler is forced to make or break his or her own persona, instead of relying on the strengths of a Johnny Valiant, or Bobby Heenan to take some of the pressure off. Gone are the days that a young photographer named Paul Heymon could pick the brains of some of the craftiest men in the sport.
One last point. I have heard a lot of talk about this current NWO Angle. Many of the fans have expressed how they wish this angle would just disappear and go away. But as was evident on last Monday's Nitro broadcast, the NWO has really started to draw that line between good and evil. A line that has been sorely missed here over the passed year or so. It is interesting to note that with this heat there is yet again a guiding force outside of the ring, in Eric Bischoff. Say what you will about the storyline, but Bischoff in my opinion is doing what should have been done sooner. He is bringing back the heat. He in his own way, is the manager of a very important stable of wrestlers. I only hope that other promoters take note and bring back a very important part of the sport, that of the wrestling manager.
And with that, the eye on wrestling is closed until next time.
Jeremy Hartley has recently returned to the ranks of wrestling commentators after a prolonged absence and Solie's is proud that he has chosen our publication as a vehicle to again enter the frey. Welcome Jeremy!
I have received some criticism from a few readers regarding my commentary on Vince McMahon in the Monday Night Wars edition for this week. They told me that they disagreed with my position that the WWF had implied that the RAW program was a "live" broadcast. I also was taken to task for suggesting that Vince was using "bait and switch" tactics by calling the program "Royal Rumble RAW" - implying on last weeks program that they were going to show the entire event and then giving us less then ten minutes of clips.
In one instance the complainer was writing from Canada. I have received an email from my Toronto correspondent, Mark Paar, letting me know that, in Canada, they were given an abbreviated one-hour version of the broadcast which omitted the offending statements.
I have since gone back and reviewed my tape of the RAW program and found at least four occasions where the announcers either stated or implied that the broadcast was "live". In one such instance the statement was made that the 25,000 + fans at the arena for "this evening's program" had set an attendance record for a "Monday night event in the Skydome".
Clearly, the WWF has frequently implied that a RAW program was "live" while showing us taped matches. Sometimes this practice is revealed by circumstances. Take for instance the incident a few weeks ago where Rocky Maivia was seen during an altercation in the backstage area of a supposed "live" program coming to us from the East Coast, only to be seen moments later in the background of a Shawn Michaels interview shoot purporting to be "live by satelite from San Antonio" - revealing Mr. Maivia's apparent mastering of the ability to teleport himself half-way across the country in a matter of minutes...
One of my correspondents ended his missive with the statement that the "WWF is correctly accused of a number of ills, but intentionally deceiving their fans in really more of a WCW trait." It always amazes me that these "WWF-only" fans seem to think it is necessary to counter with a criticism of WCW whenever their hero McMahon is taken to task. In fact, I am frequently surprised by the vitrol that is constantly spewed at Bischoff and company by these folks.
I am roundly excoriated on a regular basis for my supposed anti-WWF biases, meanwhile, 3/4 of the Internet Wrestling community thinks its okay to call Eric Bischoff "an idiot", "a moron" and other more colorful descriptions which I deem unprintable in this definitely "G-Rated" newsletter. I strive for balance because I am truely a fan of both organizations and feel that there is plenty of blame to go around for the outrages they both seem prone too, regardless of the opinions of my detractors. I will admit that I often feel that the WWF's offences are generally more egregious.
Example: Recently there was the incident in which Hunter Hearst Helmsley won the IC Title from Marc Mero with the assistance of Mr. Perfect. Shortly thereafter, Curt Hennig left the WWF in the middle of the storyline. The scenerio then laid out was that Helmsley had "used" Hennig to secure the Title and then callously tossed him aside. We were treated to a re-writing of history wherein the attack on Mr. Perfect, which Helmsley perpetrated on that same evening, was twisted around to be portrayed as a genuine Pearl Harbor job that took place after the match - a supposed demonstration of Hunter's "betrayal" of his mentor. In fact the incident occured just before the match and was cooked up between the two to lure Mero into putting up his Championship. At least that was the original storyline.
Then there was the infamous Pillman/Austin "shootout" wherein Steve Austin commited felony breaking and entering with intent to cause harm, while Pillman got ready to shoot him with a starter pistol. Of course they conveniently "lost their satelite feed" at the very moment the gun was about to go off. Later, having "restored the satelite transmission" we are treated to Kevin Kelly very carefully referring to the non-existant gunshots as "explosions". To quote the Gorilla..."give me a break!" Vinnie later added to this deception by disavowing any prior knowledge of how the incident was going to play out - pure, unadultrated hogwash, and another typical demonstration of his utter contempt for the intelligence of his fan base in my opinion.
Anyway, that's the way I see it...
editor Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
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