Midnight Express Page 2
The Midnight Express hit the Mid-South area with a fury and almost immediately began challenging the Mid-South tag champions, Mr. Wrestling II and Magnum T.A. The Midnight's used lots of opportunities to get to II and T.A. They tarred and feathered T.A. and took belts to II and T.A. Eventually the Midnight's won the Mid-South tag titles when II turned on T.A.
No sooner had the Midnight's won the titles than they were challenged by The Rock 'n Roll Express. Condrey, Eaton, Morton and Gibson had often worked with and against each other in various combinations through the years. They were very familiar with one another and the matches they began to have, booked Memphis-style by Dundee, were unlike matches that had been held in Mid-South in years. The Rock 'n Rolls appealed to the younger female set while Cornette and the Midnight's did nothing but irritate the fans.
The feud continued for months with the tag titles bouncing back and forth between the two teams. Eventually the feud came to a turning point. The Midnight's had won the tag titles and Cornette decided to throw a party to celebrate on TV. As often happens, the party got spoiled when the Rock 'n Roll's rushed in and smashed Cornette into the cake face first.
At the end of the TV show, Cowboy Bill Watts, who also served as commentator was still chuckling about the cake incident and even aired a replay of it. Cornette stormed out and claimed he would sue everybody in sight because of the incident. Watts shrugged off Cornette’s rant but Cornette grabbed Watts and continued his tirade. Watts warned Cornette and turned away but Cornette grabbed Watts again. This time Watts turned and popped Cornette in the mouth sending the manager sprawling.
On the following TV show, Watts conducted an interview with the area’s lead heel, Butch Reed. Cornette came out and just outside of camera range began needling Watts. As Watts was preoccupied with Cornette, Condrey and Eaton rushed in and clobbered him, leaving him busted up in the ring. In a very subtle move, Reed, the area’s lead heel, briefly watched the attack on Watts, shook his head and walked away in disbelief, putting over the fact that not even the number one bad guy in the territory wanted to be a part of what was going down.
Later, Watts returned and vowed to climb back in the ring one last time to get even with Cornette, Condrey and Eaton. Watts even suggested that he would put up controlling interest in Mid-South sports to get the Midnight's and if he lost, he would work for Cornette. However, if the Midnight's lost, Cornette would have to wear a pink dress. For a partner, Watts turned to Mid-South superstar Junkyard Dog, in his guise as Stagger Lee. The event billed as "The Last Stampede" drew record gates around the Mid-South area.
After the run with Watts, the Midnight's would continue to feud with the Rock 'n Rolls. By the end of 1984 though, the Midnight's were about to move on.
Dallas, Texas was the next stop for the trio of Condrey, Eaton and Cornette. The World Class territory had been run for years by Fritz Von Erich and featured his sons, Kerry, Kevin and Mike. The territory had caught fire when the Von Erich's feuded with the Fabulous Freebirds (Buddy Roberts, Terry Gordy and Michael Hayes) in 1983. Business was down some when the Midnight's entered but business was still good.
The stay in Dallas was pretty uneventful. The Midnight's were mainly featured against The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers). As World Class slowly slipped into oblivion, Cornette and the Midnight's accepted an offer to go national.
The summer of 1985 saw the Midnight's begin working for Jim Crockett’s promotion, based in the Carolinas, which was featured on the superstation TBS. The Midnight's first worked a program against Jimmy Valiant and Billy Graham before popping huge crowds in a revival of their feud against the Rock 'n Roll Express.
The years with Crockett saw Eaton get greater recognition as a solid performer and also as someone who made the performance of others better. During the time with the NWA, Eaton and Condrey paired off against The Road Warriors, Dusty Rhodes, Baby Doll, Magnum T.A., Barry Windham, Nikita Koloff, The New Breed (Chris Champion and Sean Royal) and others. The Midnight's also played daredevil some by appearing in scaffold matches from time to time, most notably at Starrcade '86.
Possible trouble was looming in 1987. Dennis Condrey abruptly left the team without notice. Why he left is still speculative… some say he was tired of the travel. Others say he was miffed that the trio had passed up a chance to work for the WWF. Other reasons have also been given but whatever the reason, Eaton was without a partner. Fortunately, it wasn't a problem for long.
Cornette reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out former Fabulous Ones tag member Stan Lane to team with Eaton. There’s a lot of debate over which Midnight's team was the best, Condrey and Eaton or Eaton and Lane, and it's a debate that will remain unanswered here. Some say Condrey was probably better on the mat than Lane but Lane was more charismatic than Condrey. Some say Condrey and Eaton had known each other longer and their style together complimented the other but Lane brought freshness to the combination. Whichever way one leans on this subject, one thing about the in-ring product remained constant regarding the Midnight Express… Bobby Eaton was still around, and with Lane's help they held the NWA U.S. Tag Team titles three different times.
1988 saw The Midnight's get cheered when they downed the combination of Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson to win the World tag titles. The Midnight's held the titles through the fall but ran into the Road Warriors in New Orleans on October 29.
Booker Dusty Rhodes decided to turn the Road Warriors heel. The Warriors had destroyed Sting in a match prior to the match against the Midnight's. In New Orleans, the Warriors attacked Eaton early and destroyed him. He fought bravely and even made a tag when he should have stayed out. Finally, a weakened Eaton was pinned and the Warriors became tag champions solidifying the Warriors heel turn and also solidifying the Midnight's as babyfaces. (This is a rare and risky occurrence in wrestling turning the good guys bad and the bad guys good in the same match but it was pulled off without a hitch in this case.)
Suddenly, the Midnight's were fan favorites. On TBS one Saturday, Paul E. Dangerously appeared out of nowhere. With him was Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose who claimed to be the Original Midnight Express. The Originals left the Midnight's and Cornette reeling and another great, albeit, short feud was born.
The feud was settled by springtime with Condrey leaving again and being replaced in the blow-off match by Jack Victory which Eaton and Lane handily won.
About the time Dangerously and the Originals appeared, Jim Crockett sold his company to Ted Turner. After a few months of reorganization, the Turner group named George Scott as the new booker.
Scott had been a wildly successful booker for Crockett in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the old Mid-Atlantic area. He had also booked the Georgia office for awhile in 1981. When Vince McMahon started his national expansion one of his eventual additions was George Scott, who booked a good deal of the WWF shows through the 1980s.
Scott was eventually let go by the WWF. He booked World Class briefly and in 1989 was hired to be a part of WCW. At the time of Scott’s hiring, WCW was in a mess. Booker Dusty Rhodes had burned fans in many cities with inconclusive finishes to matches causing fans to feel ripped off at the end of shows. Some of the real good talent had left such as Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson. Some of the remaining talent meant little or nothing to the fans.
Cornette and the Midnight's gave their notice as well. Scott began bringing in stars he had used in the WWF such as Ricky Steamboat, Butch Reed, The Iron Sheik, Bob Orton, Jr. and others. Only Steamboat caught on quickly with the fans and much of that could be credited to the renewal of his long-running feud with Ric Flair. Scott didn’t last very long as booker before being let go.
Cornette and crew returned a few months later as the company was beginning to show some promising signs. Sting was one of the hottest stars in the company and had been placed in a feud with The Great Muta, another breathtaking talent. Terry Funk had come out of retirement to get into a memorable feud with Ric Flair. Terry Gordy had reunited with Michael Hayes as the Freebirds and they added Jim Garvin as their third partner. Fatu and Samu teaming as The Samoan Swat Team were added to the roster as was Brian Pillman, Sid Vicious and a tag team billed as The Dynamic Dudes.
The Dynamic Dudes were Johnny Ace and Shane Douglas who were given a gimmick of riding skateboards. Together they were a pretty good team. The Dudes admitted one of their favorite teams was The Midnight Express and even went so far as to ask Cornette to serve as their manager. Cornette said he only managed one team, the Midnight's, but that he saw promise in the Dudes so he would agree to be their advisor. Eaton and Lane were skeptical. Cornette then secured a world tag title match for the Dudes against champions The Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin). Announcer Jim Ross asked Eaton and Lane what they thought about Cornette’s advising of the Dudes but neither responded. Cornette denied there was trouble between the two teams but Lane refused to high five Cornette after a TV win and later Lane and Eaton were late in helping the Dudes fend off an attack by the Freebirds.
Cornette had had enough and forced the issue on TV. Lane complained that Cornette was spending his time with the Dudes. Eaton joined the fray by saying Lane and Cornette sounded ridiculous arguing. Cornette deferred to Eaton saying Eaton had seniority in the team and his (Eaton’s) opinion was therefore valuable. Eaton then said he felt that Lane had a valid point in his complaints about the Dudes.
The Midnight's were in trouble. Lane began ignoring Cornette and Cornette quit accompanying the team to ringside. Suddenly on TV it was announced Eaton and Lane had signed a match to face Ace and Douglas on the November Clash of the Champions special. Lane had gone behind Cornette’s back and signed the match. Cornette, who had accompanied the Dudes to the ring on a few occasions, was in a pickle. He thought the Dudes had potential yet was angry with the Midnight's for being jealous. The storyline was juiced up some when it was also revealed that Lane and Ace had once been rivals over a female years before and that the animosity had carried over from that. Cornette decided he would not appear for the Clash match but Lane pulled out a contract that stated Cornette was bound to appear at ringside. Cornette then agreed to appear during the match - in a neutral corner.
The November 1989 Clash is probably most remembered for the incredible "I Quit" match between Ric Flair and Terry Funk and rightly so. Not far behind though in the memory bank is the showdown between The Dynamic Dudes and The Midnight Express, mainly because of the great job of hyping the match (done slowly and gradually over the course of roughly two months) and the performance of all involved.
When match time arrived, Cornette appeared in a neutral corner. The Midnight's were aggressive in the match and took every fair and unfair advantage. This seemed to disturb Cornette. Eventually, Eaton pulled out a chain and prepared to use it. Cornette hopped into action, snatched the chain away from Eaton and threw it away. Cornette then ordered Shane Douglas to go after Eaton. As Douglas turned away, Cornette leveled Douglas with his tennis racket and Eaton covered Douglas for the win solidifying the heel turn by the Midnight's and Cornette and setting up matches between the two teams for weeks to come.
1990 saw The Rock 'n Roll Express return to WCW and their feud with The Midnight Express re-ignited off and on all year. It also saw the Midnight's battle for the U.S. tag titles against the newly formed team of Flyin’ Brian Pillman and "Z Man" Tom Zenk. Other competition was provided for the Midnight's by the team of the Southern Boys (Steve Armstrong and Tracy Smothers) and Rick and Scott Steiner.
As the year drew to a close, Cornette and Lane both opted to leave WCW while Eaton decided to remain behind and try a solo career. After a seven year run as one of the greatest tag teams of all time, The Midnight Express came to an end.
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