Volume 2, Issue 131
February 19, 1997
The History of the Midnight Express: Part 4
Ervin Griffin Jr. is a regular contributer to Solie's Wrestling Newsletter as well as the Ringside Insider and other publications.
Collision Course I: The Return Of The "Original" Midnight Express
Last week, I discussed the firing of "Loverboy" Dennis Condrey and the hiring of "Sweet" Stan Lane. 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 defunt) 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!
Next week, Collision Course II.: There Can Be Only One.
If you have any questions, comments, critisism, information or just want to talk to me about pro wrestling in general, please e-mail me at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Shawn Michaels Retirement
Solie's is pleased to welcome back Jeff Yelton who contributed the well received series on Wrestlers' Entrance Music that appeared on these pages several months ago. This 2-part series offers some thoughts about Shawn Michael's recent retirement.
On February 13th, 1997, a tearful Shawn Michaels forfeited the WWF Title due to a serious knee injury. And the WWF lost one of its biggest stars, and all-time greats.
How long, exactly he will be gone is a matter of much speculation. But it was clear from the emotion Shawn poured into his monologue that it was not just about the knee injury. It was about something else.
You see, Shawn Michaels was the guy in whom Vince put his company's reputation on, and Shawn's back was breaking under the strain. First, he had to deal with people (like myself) who resented his "pretty-boy" status and his "Heartbreak Kid" persona on the top of the most prestigious wrestling organization in the world. I didn't mind his little cutesy stuff when he was the Intercontinental Champ. That was where stuff like that belonged, away from the WWF Title.
But as the year went on, and Shawn gained more respect from all the "smarts" out there, he faced something new,...predictable, Hoganesque booking. He would always get pounded on, then, incredibly, and invincably, come back to win going away. Pulling great matches every time out against such diverse athletes as Kevin Nash, Goldust, Vader, and Mankind take its toll on the body, and on the mind. At midyear, the strain had not shown on Shawn, and he was still the happy-go-lucky guy he purported to be.
But then, Bret Hart came back, and started trashing the personal, out-of-ring persona of Shawn Michaels. And from the language, and the reactions of both men, it was clear that this was -not- a work. Bret Hart, I think, resented having to job to Michaels at Wretlemania XII in "overtime" of their Ironman match, and deservedly so. The match should have ended with Shawn getting the pin at 59:59 of the match-up. I don't know how much of Bret's disgust at losing was a work, or how much was real, but we now know he didn't really want Shawn to wear the belt.
But when he came back, it seemed like Shawn started losing it, the drive, the happiness he enjoyed while wrestling. It seemed as if every big match, he tried to outdo anything the Hitman had ever done in the ring, and that's a lot! Plus, I think that despite the who gives a crap looks that Shawn gave Bret over his comments, that they really got to him, and that Vince McMahon, playing on this obvious distaste Bret had for Shawn, kept it going to an unhealthy level.
Enter Sid. Sid Eudy has been a lotta promise and no results for over five years. He -shoulda- been WCW champion, and he would've been had he not tried to shiskabob Arn Anderson with a pair of scissors in a hotel room, or get run off by Brian Pillman with a squeegie. He -shoulda- been WWF champ, but in the biggest moment of poetic justice in WWF history, Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan combined to eliminate him from the 1992 Royal Rumble. Sid left the WWF after first, facing Hogan at Wrestlemania 8, then doing some jobs to the returning Ultimate Warrior.
Sid's next comeback in the WWF after his WCW mess with Arn was eventful, but Vince could not let him have the WWF belt, and I think that got to Sid. So, he quit. And we didn't really miss him that much.
But when the Ultimate Warrior went back to his old, tired, crybaby act in the summer of 1996, who should return to save the day? Sid, of course. And bringing Sid in as a face was a major gamble. Not that he wouldn't get the fans behind him (fans have always liked big guys who kick evil butt), but that he wouldn't succumb to the jinx that has surrounded his career.
Sid's good behavior was rewarded when he pinned Shawn at Survivor Series 1996 to take the WWF belt. It was deserved, and it gave Shawn some time to think. Think about life, and his career, and all the burdens of carrying the WWF in the wake of all the big-money defections to WCW. Think about Bret Hart's big mouth, and the knowledge that Bret would eventually take the WWF belt back from him after Shawn would beat Sid at Royal Rumble 1997.
You can see the tiredness in the tapes after Royal Rumble. In his interviews, his appearances,...I hate to say this, but Shawn appeared to be on his way to a nervous breakdown.
And that is the tragedy of this whole deal. No, Shawn did not have the busiest schedule of any WWF champion. He didn't wrestle 2 times a night like Hogan, Savage, and Bret did before Vince cut the number of house shows he was doing sometime in 1994. But he did have the greatest workrate of any WWF champion EVER. I hate to say this, as I didn't agree with giving Shawn the belt, but he was the hardest-working champion I'd seen since Ric Flair used to defend his title in the many different organizations that made up the old NWA. Shawn was that good, that dedicated.
I have no qualms that if he chooses to, he will come back, and unlike Scott Steiner, who's agility left him with the surgery, that Shawn will not be a shell of his former self. I just hope that he doesn't have to carry the WWF again.
Vince, to his credit, realized that he couldn't overdepend on one man so much and made an intelligent decision to push five men, Sid, Bret, Steve Austin, Vader, and the Undertaker, as future champions. But it was too late to help Shawn.
So, as Shawn takes some much-needed time off, we hope that he will come back, just so we can see his high-flying antics again. I don't like him as much as Bret Hart, but the void that he left is bigger than he is, much bigger.
THE EYE on WRESTLING
Jeremy Hartley is a regular contributor to Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
At long last wrestling fans, I believe I have figured out the motive of the WWF. It must be since they have a lack of starpower within the federation these days, they need to make up for it by including stars in other areas. These other stars you may ask? The * sign in the record books have replaced the stars in the ring. Sure. Steve Austin won the 1997 Royal Rumble. However... Sure. This passed Thursday night, Sid should have been awarded the WWF Championship belt via forfeit, when Michaels was unable to defend. However.... And finally, Bret Hart can now say that he is once again, and for the fourth time, World Champion. However.... It is these "howevers..." that are killing the WWF, and the WWF title picture.
Although nobody has ever seen the World Famous "wrestling RULE BOOK," the "rules" have been followed through the years, with not that much variation. According to this "rule book," if a Champion is unable to defend his title against a specified opponent, the title is forfeited to the champs opponent. For years, none has questioned, or restructured this rule, and for good reason. I will say this as plain as I possibly can. Sid should be champion tonight whether you like or dislike the big man. The fact is, Sid arrived to the arena, primed and ready to fight for the title, and Michaels was unable to fulfill his contract against this contending monster. What bothers me is that none of these so-called commentators on the broadcast, or even Gorilla Monsoon, seems to realize the simple truth. You don't screw with wrestling tradition.
In my opinion, this "final four" match was a complete farce, and an insult on the intelligence of the true wrestling fan. Correct me if I am wrong here, but it wasn't too long ago that a title, no matter what the circumstances were, was to be decided with a elimination tournament. With a tournament, the competitors were on an even playing field. Championship match rules were always in effect, and if one was thrown to the floor, the fight would continue until there was a pinfall, or dq or other means of winning a fall. The "final four" encounter did nothing to determine who the better man was. All it did was show that someone could get clothslined over the top rope to the floor. That display, does not make a champion. The over the top rope elimination rule is wonderful, but only for battleroyals and Royal Rumble matches.
With all that said, allow me to touch on a few quick points. First, as I noted above, Sid should be champion right now. I guess I should make the point, that I am not a Sid fan. The title needs to be held by a representative who is a good interview, as well as a good package in the squared circle. What bothers me about this, and why I keep harping on Sid as champ is simple. Wrestling promoters such as Vince McMahon are now getting away with changing the "rules" to push a storyline. Whatever happened to the storylines fitting into the rules?
Probably the thing that sticks out in my mind, is the fact that a prestigious Championship was allowed to change hands with the Over the top rope rule. During the "Final Four" match, not one shoulder was pinned to the mat. Back a few years ago when Ric Flair won the WWF title in the Royal Rumble, his victory was justified a bit in my book, only because he stayed in the ring for over 60 minutes. Bret Hart can now walk around and parade up and down with that belt all he wants. In my opinion, he lucked into that belt. Now that he has it, let's hope he will bring class to something that is in dire need of some touching up.
And with that..
The Eye on Wrestling is closed until next time.
Note: If you wish to contact me on any of my columns either past or present, please feel free to do so. Comments, questions, criticisms, ETC. can be mailed to: email@example.com.
Solie's Mailbag: For those of you interested in Wrestling Simulation League I received an email from regular reader Grimmy Dee. The text of his message can be found at this location. He is looking for participants and some help sorting out the wrestlers to be represented. Check it out!
I just want to mention again that I will be at SuperBrawl this Sunday. My seats are way up in Sting territory (Section 111) but I will be wearing a Solie's Vintage Wrestling T-shirt and hanging out in the concourse before and after the event so if you plan to attend keep an eye out for me - I'd love to meet some of you in person. I am also going to try and attend the Hitman's Extreme Sports Network radio broadcast with Harlem Heat at Planet Hollywood on Saturday morning in San Francisco.
Anyway, that's the way I see it...
editor Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
(Editor's Note: If you have found anything I have said here to be particularly offensive please read this disclaimer).
Come join in the liveliest discussion of Wrestling Topics on the Web!!
(Please watch your language - we have children surfing in here!)
Copyright 1997 - Jump City Productions