Wrestler of the Day – December 30: Rock and Roll Express

The next to last entry is one of the most influential tag teams of all time: the Rock and Roll Express.

The Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) got started in Memphis in 1983 and got into a huge feud with Lanny Poffo and Randy Savage, who had started an outlaw promotion based out of Lexington, Kentucky and were then brought in to Memphis for a HUGE feud. Here they are on June 25, 1984.

Randy Savage/Lanny Poffo vs. Rock and Roll Express

Gibson and Savage get things going and it’s clear that this is going to be white hot. They trade headlocks until Gibson grabs an armdrag and makes the tag. Morton hiptosses Randy as Poffo comes in for a failed save attempt, sending the brothers out to the floor. We settle down with Poffo flipping head first over the top to face Morton. Poffo tries flipping again but starts jawing with Gibson, allowing Morton to get behind him for a trip, sending the Poffos outside again.

Back in and we get a crisscross but Morton makes a blind tag, allowing Gibson to drop toehold Poffo down. Randy gets knocked off the apron and the fans are getting louder and louder. It’s amazing how precise the Express really is. They start working on Lanny’s leg and even get in a shot on Savage for a nice touch. It’s back to Savage who has to yell at the fans before he gets in.

We hit the stalling again to fulfill the Memphis requirements. Robert finally misses a charge into the corner and Lanny stomps away to take over. Gibson will have none of that though and slides over for a tag so Morton can beat up both brothers. Everything breaks down and the Poffo patriarch Angelo sends Morton into the post to really take over.

Back in and Lanny misses a dropkick in the corner but Savage is right there with a top rope ax handle to keep the Express in trouble. He misses a middle rope elbow (still refining the idea I guess) but Ricky is busted BAD. Ricky Morton starts playing Ricky Morton but avoids a Swanton (in 19 freaking 84!) from Lanny, allowing the hot tag to Gibson. A quick backdrop sends Gibson over the top though and that’s a DQ back in these days.

Rating: B+. This is what a white hot crowd can do for you. The action is hot and fast but the crowd carried it on beyond whatever they were going to be able to do on their own. Poffo and Savage were white hot as heels and they were in there with the biggest face tag team of all time at that point. What more could you possibly ask for?

I don’t usually do this but I have to mention the post match brawl with Savage piledriving Morton through the announcers’ table. In today’s product, this would be the equivalent of Pillmanizing a guy’s neck. Morton was out for the better part of ever and the fans just went SILENT. That was a huge spot in Memphis and one of the more famous moments ever for the Express.

It was off to the NWA soon after this and we’ll start at Starrcade 1985.

World Tag Titles: Rock N Roll Express vs. Ivan Koloff/Nikita Koloff

The Rock N Roll Express are two pretty boys named Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson who could fly around a ring as well as any pair of guys you’re ever going to be lucky enough to see. They’re also challenging here and this is in a cage. I believe you win by pin or submission only. Ricky and Nikita start things off and the fans are already chanting USA. Ricky, a far smaller man, is shoved down by the more powerful Nikita. Morton fires off a quick dropkick and we’re at a standoff.

Nikita pounds Morton down and kicks him in the ribs before bring in Ivan. Ricky starts speeding things up by flying around and hitting a quick cross body. Ivan crotches him on the top rope and it’s time for Morton to play Ricky Morton. For those of you unfamiliar, Morton was so good at being beaten down and making a comeback that the beatdown leading to the hot tag is called Playing Ricky Morton.

Actually scratch that as Robert comes in for a quick rollup and a double chop to the head gets two on Ivan. Robert sends him head first into the cage and Morton does the same. The Express starts doing their double teaming jazz as is their custom. It’s off to Nikita though and there’s the bearhug on Robert. Nikita rams him into the cage back first and does the same with Robert’s head for good measure.

Back to Ivan who is busted open as well. Robert is sent into the cage yet again and an elbow drop gets two for Ivan. Off to Nikita for some biting to the head before Ivan comes in for some slow power offense. Robert rolls away from a legdrop but Nikita comes in for a chinlock. Gibson is busted open as well, which seems to be a requirement tonight.

A kick to the back keeps Gibson down and Ivan gets two. Back to Nikita for some more choking but Ricky makes the save. Don Kernoodle, the Express’ second, starts a USA chant as the referee is knocked down. He can’t make the count on Robert but as he gets back up, Ricky makes a blind tag and rolls up Ivan for the pin and the titles out of nowhere.

Rating: B. Good old fashioned tag match here with the Express getting destroyed until the very end where they won on a pure fluke. The fans were WAY into the Express at this point and Morton would even get a program with Ric Flair. The Russians were a great old school tag team idea with both guys looking like monsters and acting like it as well. Also this was nice to see a change in the usual Express formula with Gibson getting beaten down instead of Morton.

If you’re any kind of a wrestling fan, you’ve heard of the feud between the Rock and Roll Express and the Midnight Express. This is one of the greatest combinations of all time and you could count on them having a great match every time. There they are on a special called Superstars on the Superstation on February 7, 1986.

World Tag Team Titles: Rock N Roll Express vs. Midnight Express

If this is anything lower than a B+, it’s a failure for these guys. These teams completely revolutionized tag team wrestling and basically invented the tag team formula you see in every major tag match. This is the less famous version of the Midnights with Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey as the challengers. It’s a brawl to start with the Midnights taking over on Gibson but Morton comes back in to take everything to the floor. The fans are NUTS for the Rock N Roll here.

Back in and the champions quickly clean house, sending the Midnights out for a consultation with Jim Cornette. We finally start with Gibson vs. Eaton as things slow down a bit. Gibson blocks a hiptoss and throws Eaton down before hitting a sweet flying headscissors. Off to Morton who punches both Midnights down and works on Bobby’s leg. They head back to the floor with Morton backdropping Eaton onto the concrete before pounding him against the barricade.

Back in and it’s a double tag off to Gibson vs. Condrey. The Rock N Roll takes over on Dennis’ leg with some slingshot splashes and elbows onto the knee for two. Gibson cranks on the leg before Morton comes in, decks Eaton, and cranks on Condrey’s leg as well. Condrey fights up and hits a knee to Ricky’s ribs but hurts his own leg so bad that he hits the mat. I miss selling like that in today’s product.

The champions take turns working on the leg with Ricky coming in off the top with a knee drop on Condrey’s leg. Dennis finally gets over to Eaton without too much resistance and we’re back to even for a bit. Eaton takes him into the corner for some HARD right hands, only to be taken down by a suplex. Back to Gibson whose dropkick is caught in a catapult, sending him face first into a forearm from Condrey. Dennis comes back in as we take a break.

Back with Eaton holding Gibson in a chinlock before it’s off to Condrey for the same hold. Morton gets drawn into the ring, allowing Eaton to drop a top rope knee to Gibson before Condrey puts on the chinlock again. Gibson finally fights up with a knee lift but Condrey rakes the eyes to stop a tag. Back to Eaton who gets two off a neckbreaker and puts on another chinlock.

Robert fights up and gets a quick two off a sunset flip but Condrey punches him back down. The Midnights miss the Rocket Launcher and there’s the hot tag off to Ricky. Everything breaks down and the double dropkick (Rock N Roll’s finisher) hits Eaton but it takes the referee out as well. Cornette brings in the tennis racket and Condrey BLASTS Morton in the back of the head, giving Eaton the pin and the titles. Keep in mind that this is 1986 when titles NEVER changed hands on TV.

Rating: B+. Yeah it’s still awesome. These guys just know how to work together and the crowd was way into this. The matches would get even better when Stan Lane replaced Condrey which says a lot given how good these guys looked here. Solid match here, which is all you would have expected coming in.

Here they are at Starrcade 1986 against another great tag team.

World Tag Titles: Arn Anderson/Ole Anderson vs. Rock N Roll Express

The Express is defending and this is inside a cage. You win by pinfall here and have to tag in and out so it’s Robert Gibson vs. Ole to start, but everything breaks down in just a few seconds. Arn winds up in there with Robert and Gibson rams his head into the cage a few times to send Arn over for a tag. Off to Ricky vs. Ole but Ole gets kicked in the face, sending it back to Arn.

Things slow down a bit with Arn being afraid to go after Ricky again. Morton grabs the arm and it’s off to Robert for some arm work. He misses a running knee in the corner though and Arn goes after the leg. Ole comes in to cannonball down onto the leg before it’s back to Arn. Robert kicks him into the cage to counter a figure four, but Ole breaks up the hot tag to Ricky.

Back to Arn again as the leg work continues. It’s odd to see the Andersons working on a leg instead of an arm but it’s a limb nonetheless. Robert FINALLY hits an enziguri for the hot tag off to Morton, but Ole immediately sends him into the cage to stop him cold. Now we get to the arm work and things instantly feel better. Arn comes in to stomp Morton down and it’s back to Ole to whip Ricky shoulder first into the corner.

Off to an armbar as Ricky appears to be busted open. There’s the hammerlock slam from Arn but he makes the eternal mistake of going up top. Much like Flair, Arn has almost never been able to hit his shot off the top and it’s the same here. Morton punches him on the way down but Ole breaks up the tag yet again. A shoulder breaker gets two and Arn wraps the bar arm around the top rope. Ricky comes back with a clothesline and both guys are down.

Ole gets the tag and kicks Ricky in the arm to keep him down as the torment continues. Off to another armbar but Ricky gets in a shot to the ribs and several the head to come back. Arn takes Morton down yet again to prevent a tag before hitting the yet to be named spinebuster for two. Ole comes off the top for a knee into the arm and cranks on another armbar. Ricky is in big trouble here.

Back up and Ole collides with Ricky while running the ropes to put both guys down. Arn breaks up the tag (I’m having deja vu from typing that so many times) but Ricky headbutts him down and…..gets jumped by Ole. Out of nowhere Ricky grabs a small package for two as everything breaks down. Ole picks up Ricky for a slam but Robert dropkicks Ricky’s back and knocks him down onto Ole for the pin to retain out of nowhere.

Rating: B+. I really liked the curve ball they threw us in here by not having the hot tag which the standard tag team formula would suggest there would be. This was Playing Ricky Morton as I mentioned in last year’s show and it was done to perfection. He could take a beating like no one else could and the fans totally bought into it every time. Really good old school tag team match here.

From the 4th of July on the Great American Bash tour in 1987.

World Tag Titles/US Tag Titles: Midnight Express vs. Rock and Roll Express

This match happened twice on the tour and I think this is in Atlanta. The Rock N Roll Express are the world tag champions and the Midnights are the US Champions and it’s title for title. Gibson vs. Eaton to start us off and there’s no Cornette here which is REALLY weird to see. Off to Stan Lane who doesn’t have much luck either. He gets sent to the floor and now it’s off to Morton.

A Japanese armdrag gets one for Ricky. Lane makes a tag and Eaton can’t get anything going either. This has been all Rock N Roll so far. Back to Morton who gets into a test of strength. I love seeing that from smaller guys. Ricky literally climbs up onto Eaton’s shoulders and drops over the back. I’m not sure what the point of that was but it looks cool.

Sweet rana gets two for Morton and it’s back to Gibson. A rana misses there and Lane cheats to save Eaton so that the Midnights can take over. I’m not sure what to make of Gibson being the one beaten down but it’s certainly happening. The Midnights beat down Gibson as only the Midnights can do even though they never really do since it’s always Morton getting beaten down but who cares. Hot tag brings in Morton (that may never be said again) and house is cleaned. A double dropkick gets two on Lane and everything breaks down. Bubba comes in with a Bubba Slam and it’s a DQ.

Rating: B-. This is one of those matches that is always good and this is no exception. They know how to have great tag matches and this is something that you flat out did not see back in the day. The Rockers claim to have introduced this style but if they did then they never watched the NWA because these guys were doing it years before that. Good match, bad ending.

Let’s throw in a gimmick at Starrcade 1987.

Rock N Roll Express vs. Midnight Express

This is another Skywalkers (scaffold) match which is an odd choice for these guys. These two teams redefined tag team wrestling with their incredible series of matches, so the company decides to put them in a match with no wrestling involved in it at all? The Midnights are the now Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane and they’re the US Tag Team Champions but this is non-title. They also have Cornette and Bubba with them.

Both teams are skeptical to go up but after over a minute and a half of waiting, everyone goes up top. Actually scratch that as Bubba pulls Morton down as he’s climbing and spikes him down onto the mat to give the Midnights a two on one advantage. Bubba tries to climb up as well but Morton gets up and steals Cornette’s tennis racket. A few shots to the back keeps Bubba down and Morton climbs up, still holding the racket. Eaton gets whacked a few times as well as the fighting really gets going.

Morton knocks Eaton around with the racket as Gibson pounds on Lane on the other end of the scaffold. Eaton busts out his trusty powder to blind Ricky and now Gibson is double teamed. Ricky gets the tennis racket back to stagger Bobby with as all four guys head back to the ends of the scaffold. Eaton drops the racket to the mat as Lane climbs under the scaffold.

Cornette throws the racket up to Eaton again so he can pound on Robert’s back. Morton heads under the scaffold to get at Stan, eventually kicking him down to the mat. Eaton and Gibson are up top still though until Ricky goes up too. The Rock N Roll finally knocks him down over the edge and down to the mat for the win. I know the ending sounds sudden but there really isn’t much else to it than that.

Rating: D+. Just like last year, what can you really expect from a match like this? They can’t do much without risking a very serious injury but you don’t want the fans to be bored out of their minds either. These guys had some of the best tag team matches ever when they were on the ground floor and I have no idea why they were given this gimmick of all things.

The Express would head to the AWA for a little while, including this match at SuperClash III.

Jimmy Golden/Robert Fuller vs. Rock N Roll Express

CWA vs. AWA here I think. Golden is Bunkhouse Buck and Fuller is Colonel Robert Parker. Why in the world this is going on last is beyond me. There’s a different announcer here too for some reason. I really didn’t want to see Parker in trunks. Golden and Morton start us off. Technical stuff to start and the Express clean the ring out quickly. Back to the starters as the crowd is gone after the real main event.

They fight over a front chancery as the fans chant boring. Morton gets a nice counter into a suplex kind of move as we get heel miscommunication. Off to Fuller and Gibson for a crisscross. It’s pretty clear Fuller isn’t the most sound wrestler in the world. Oddly enough Gibson is portraying Morton here and Golden throws on a bearhug. Double team abdominal stretch goes on after some cheating by the not Express’ manager. Hot tag brings in Morton to clean house and the double dropkick takes down Golden. We go to the floor and it’s thrown out.

Rating: C-. Just a tag match here with a bad ending. I have no idea what the point of having this on here to end the show was, especially when it’s just another match. Golden and Fuller were nothing of note and would be in WCW a few years later. The Express would go on to the indies forever and have some more time in WCW.

Back to WCW with this match at WrestleWar 1990.

Rock N Roll Express vs. Midnight Express

This is another one of those matches where the starting rating rises up from a C to a B. These guys feuded for probably 6 years on and off and had more classics than you could shake a stick at. Why you would want to shake a stick at it is beyond me but you get the idea. Gibson vs. Stan gets us going. Lane dives to the mat and they counter each other a lot. Gibson counters a counter and drops a fist onto Lane’s head to take over.

Cornette gets in an argument with Nick Patrick and wants to box him. This is an old spot they did which always gets a big reaction. Cornette is dispatched quickly and it’s Morton vs. Lane now. The fans are into this too. Bobby gets knocked to the floor and Lane shoves him down as well. We never got a big singles match between those two and I think that’s for the best.

Lane vs. Bobby now and they speed things up. Nothing seems to be coming out of the shove from a few moments ago. Off to a test of strength and Morton is losing. He climbs up Bobby, stands on his shoulders, and jumps onto Lane in the corner. Gibson runs off Lane and the Midnights are knocked to the floor. Cornette tries to get in and falls over the top rope so Gibson knocks back down. Both Midnights are double clotheslined to the floor as well and it’s been one sided for about the first eight minutes.

Back in now and it’s Gibson vs. Lane but Lane still can’t get anything going. Morton comes in for a double elbow but gets sent outside. Never mind again as Lane goes into the post. Now it’s Eaton again and it’s a slugout. Terry gets into this and they both tumble to the floor. Outside Lane slams Morton and the Midnights take over.

Now we get into a much more traditional tag match which was popularized if not perfected by these teams, making this a fun match. Morton is sent to the floor and rammed into various metal objects. He manages a sunset flip but Cornette grabs the referee. Morton tries an O’Connor Roll but Lane makes a blind tag and hooks a neckbreaker for two. Eaton goes after the arm with a single arm DDT and into a hammerlock.

Lane comes in for a quick reverse chinlock before bringing in Eaton for a top rope elbow. Back to the arm by Lane. Man the Midnights tag in fast. Eaton works on the arm again with the hammerlock and the Midnights set for the Rocket Launcher. It hits the knees though and here’s Gibson. Everything breaks down but he’s still 2-1. The Midnights load up the Flapjack but Gibson rolls through for the pin on Lane.

Rating: B+. Oh come on it’s the Midnights vs. Rock N Roll. There’s practically no way that this can be screwed up. It’s a great speed match and they know each other so well that they’re going to have a good match through familiarity if nothing else. Fun stuff here but somehow not their best work together.

Time for a change of pace at Capital Combat in June 1990.

Rock N Roll Express vs. Freebirds

The Freebirds are Garvin and Hayes here and this is a Corporal Punishment match, which means a strap match. They can beat on each other with them or whatever they like but aren’t attached. We get Badstreet USA so this is already a success. The Birds get pyro which was a rare thing back then. I love how in recapping the night, Ross talks about Robocop and Sting and the US Tag Title match in the same manner, as if they were the same amount of time.

The straps are attached to the ring posts. Why? No reason is given but whatever. We finally get to the straps as the Express are dominating. Ross of course talks about the woodshed. That’s some weird obsession he has. This is kind of disjointed as it’s a segment and then a whipping and then we repeat. We get a whip duel between Gibson and Hayes which is kind of cool.

Ross says one of his favorite teams is the Steiners. Not sure what that has to do with this match but whatever. The heels take over and Ricky Morton plays Ricky Morton. Playing Ricky Morton means getting the living tar pounded out of you for a LONG time before making the hot tag. It was designed and more or less invented in the Express vs. Express matches and has been a staple of tag team wrestling ever since.

If you ever hear of someone playing Ricky Morton, it’s a guy in a tag match, 99% of the time a face, being beaten down really badly. The straps are kind of awesome actually as at least they make a really loud sound so you can tell it’s painful. That’s better than nothing at least. Garvin goes up and that completely fails which you would think would set up the hot tag to Gibson.

Nope not yet which isn’t incredibly surprising. In a nice idea, Morton goes to the wrong corner. That’s not bad at all. There’s your hot tag to not a ton of heat actually. Ross calls it The Sleep again. That’s just weird to hear. It really is. Hayes gets his DDT but doesn’t cover. This allows Morton, the illegal man, to come off the top with a sunset flip for the pin. Nice ending.

Rating: B. Not as good as the previous one, but then again the Freebirds aren’t as good as Zenk and Pillman in the ring. This came off fine although the straps weren’t used as much as I would have liked them to but I can live with that. This was fine for what it was though and was a very good use of nearly twenty minutes. The Express was past its prime at this point, but they still make fine tag matches. The ending made up for a weaker match here, which is fine as it’s the last thing you see.

We’ll go back to the guaranteed layup at Clash of the Champions XI.

US Tag Team Titles: Rock N Roll Express vs. Midnight Express

The Midnights are defending as this legendary feud continues. Both teams get quick promos saying they’ll win with an identical train in the background. The image is inverted for the Midnights though, meaning they’re from the other side of the tracks. It’s probably unintentional but it’s a nice touch if it was on purpose. Eaton and Gibson get things going as the announcers emphasize how even these teams are.

The fans chant for the Rock and Roll and Gibson takes over with a hiptoss and flying headscissors. Lane comes in off the tag and scores with a few kicks, only to be taken down by an enziguri from Gibson. Off to Morton as they run the ropes to speed things up. Lane misses a charge in the corner and gets backdropped down, leaving us at a stalemate. Back to Eaton who walks into a dropkick and hurricanrana, sending him into the corner for some consultation with Cornette and Lane.

Stan comes in again but gets caught in a Gibson armbar. Gibson sends him into the corner before it’s back to Morton for an armbar. Morton rolls Stan up in the corner for two as everything breaks down. Ricky is sent to the floor and Gibson gets caught in a double flapjack to give the champions their first control. It only lasts a few seconds though as Morton comes back in for a double rollup to change momentum right back.

Things settle down and Bobby goes up to pull Morton down by the hair. The Midnights double team for a few seconds but Ricky quickly runs over and makes the tag off to Gibson. Everything breaks down again and it’s Robert working on Stan’s leg in the ring. Lane kicks away though and the Rock N Roll collide, allowing Bobby to come off the top with an ax handle to give Stan two. The double dropkick drops Eaton but Lane pulls the referee out for the DQ.

Rating: C+. This was picking up in a hurry near the ending but the first part of it didn’t do much. They needed about five more minutes here to really get something going but those are the perils of televised wrestling. It’s almost impossible to screw up this match though and that’s a valuable asset to have on a card.

Here they are against a different kind of team at the Great American Bash 1990.

Tag Titles: Rock N Roll Express vs. Doom

This is more or less the final run for the RNR and they’re challenging here. Simmons vs. Gibson starts us off. JR talks about Gibson signing in the ring, as in sign language. Gibson speeds things up and gets a rollup for one, which makes Simmons tag in Reed. An elbow puts Butch back into the corner and here’s Ricky. Reed knocks Morton down so the Express double teams him down.

The idea of the match here is very simple: when the Express can double team they win, but when it’s one on one they don’t have much luck. Reed knocks both of them to the floor but it’s Gibson taking the worst of it. Back in a sunset flip gets two for Robert as does a slam for Reed. Morton comes in to speed things up and gets two with an O’Connor Roll on Butch. They speed the clock up to say that it’s been ten minutes.

Reed works over Morton with pure power and brings in Simmons. Morton gets a dropkick but Reed comes in to keep things at the status quo. Reed comes in and slows things back down again, which makes perfect sense for Doom. Gibson has had enough and comes in for some cheating but it doesn’t do enough to get him in legally. Back to Simmons as Morton takes a beating like only Ricky Morton can do.

Reed gets two off a big right hand and it’s time for more chinlocking. Doom does their cheating by throwing Morton over the top while the other has the referee distracted. Shoulder block gets two for Ron. Morton slugs it out with Reed which goes horribly and results in a powerslam for two. Morton ducks another shoulder and there’s the hot tag to Gibson. He cleans house and a sunset flip gets no count on Ron as everything breaks down. An enziguri sends Ron into Teddy to bring him inside. Gibson beats him up which is enough of a distraction for Reed to come off the top and kill Gibson with a shoulder to retain.

Rating: B. Doom was awesome at this point and would soon turn face and fight the Horsemen, causing some AWESOME fights. The Express never really went anywhere after this other than to the indies and other companies. Great match though in the traditional formula that the Express perfected long ago.

The team would head to Smoky Mountain Wrestling for a long time and wound up appearing in the main two companies on some co-promotional deals. Here they are at SuperBrawl III.

Smokey Mountain Tag Titles: Rock N Roll Express vs. Heavenly Bodies

The Bodies are Stan Lane and Tom Pritchard, which makes little sense because Bobby Eaton is with them. I’m kind of glad that they didn’t go with the Midnights here. This one is hard to screw up. I think the Bodies were using the Freebird Rule. Oh ok Eaton is thrown out to a lot of booing. Why in the world are these guys on WCW? I get the history but SMW in WCW? That’s just odd as all goodness. Morton gets a nice hurricanrana to start us out.

They do a cool/funny sequence where Morton has a wrist lock on and keeps swinging Lane around in circles and he can’t catch a tag. The Express is dominating here. Cornette hugging Pritchard is great stuff. Cornette is just awesomeness in a bad suit. Jesse implies Cornette is gay which you have to be a political geek to get. Don’t ask and I won’t tell you about it. The faces haven’t been in trouble yet at all. Cornette gets taken down to a HUGE pop.

The RNRE just standing in the corner is priceless stuff. Cornette finally interferes to break up the hot streak and the tennis racket gets a shot in to draw great heat. We get the eternal question of what is Pritchard a doctor of and Jesse suggests gynecology. That’s just odd to hear on a wrestling show. He’s the doctor of disaster of all things. That’s so indy level I can’t even wrap my mind around it.

The Bodies are the champions here which I completely forgot to mention. This is the same formula that they’ve used for years and it works fine here. Morton gets the tar beaten out of him and finally Gibson comes in for the save. The double dropkick connects but Cornette makes the interfering save. Eaton comes in for the save but it misses and Gibson gets the pin for the titles.

Rating: B-. This was fine. It’s the same thing they did about a million times in SMW so they knew what they were doing. This was all for the live crowd as these teams were more or less legendary in the area. The decision would be reversed later and the Bodies would get the titles back.

And at Survivor Series 1993.

Smokey Mountain Wrestling Tag Titles: Heavenly Bodies vs. Rock N Roll Express

This is part of an agreement the companies had at the time which didn’t quite work that well. The Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) are the champions and they’re defending against the Bodies (Tom Prichard and Jimmy Del Ray). It’s a brawl to start with the Express being sent to the floor. Gibson is pulled back in but Morton pulls both of the Bodies out to the floor. Ricky follows that up with a suicide dive to take both of them out at the same time.

Things slow down and we start with Gibson vs. Del Ray. Things are going to go very fast in this match and that’s exactly how it starts with Gibson flipping out of the corner and hitting a headscissor takeover before bringing in Morton. Prichard comes in and gets booed louder than all of the Knights in the previous match combined. Morton can’t quite get above Prichard on a leapfrog and he ducks a Del Ray superkick which takes Prichard down instead.

Both Bodies get monkey flipped out of the corner and we get the always dumb looking rowboat spot, which is where all four of the heels’ legs are rotated around by the good guys. Gibson works on Prichard’s leg and the Express take out Del Ray in the corner before Morton works on Prichard’s leg as well. Tom finally gets in a shot and it’s off to Del Ray who is immediately armdragged down.

In a nice move, Gibson blocks the buckle before Morton’s back hits it to prevent the Bodies from getting the advantage. It’s all Express other than the first fifteen seconds or so. The Bodies have a quick huddle on the floor and the fans are bored. It’s Prichard vs. Morton now with the heels taking over for the first time since the beginning. Off to Del Ray who is suplexed down onto Morton for two.

Back to Prichard for some more choking. There wasn’t a tag but that’s why the Bodies are heels. Del Ray hits an Asai Moonsault to the floor and it’s back to Prichard in the ring who hits a powerslam for two. Off to a chinlock as this match is turning into an old school tag match of the NWA style. A Trash Compactor (a kind of spinebuster/guillotine legdrop combo) gets two but Del Ray’s powerbomb is countered into a rana for two.

Ricky hooks a small package for another two and Del Ray hits a moonsault press on Morton for ANOTHER two. This is why it’s called Playing Ricky Morton people. The guy was a master at it. A double DDT puts the Bodies down and Morton rolls over to make the tag to Gibson.

Now we get to the point of the match: Prichard throws Morton over the top, which is a DQ in SMW, but this is in the WWF. Gibson gets confused and decked for his confusion as Morton gets beaten down even more. There’s the double dropkick to Prichard but it only gets two. Del Ray comes off the top with a tennis racket (Cornette signature) shot to Gibson for the pin and the title.

Rating: B-. This was a strange match as from a technical standpoint it was quite good and in SMW it would have been the main event of a big show, but we’re not in SMW. We’re in the WWF here and these people don’t mean anything. There’s a deep history here of a ton of matches with various gimmicks to them, making this a huge feud. The problem is all we’re told is they’ve been feuding for years. It’s the same issue you have with Japanese wrestlers: just being told how great they are doesn’t mean anything to most fans. We need to see these things, not be told about them.

They would pop up in WCW as jobbers, including this match which could have made a fortune eight years earlier. From Nitro on June 3, 1996.

Rock N Roll Express vs. Ric Flair/Arn Anderson

If this was 1986, this would be able to sell out every arena in the south. Flair and Anderson come out in football…….GOOD FREAKING GRIEF Liz looks good in red leather. Her hotness went WAY up around this time and this is no exception. The audio is messed up here so it sounds like the announcers are about a mile away. Flair teases throwing his jersey to the crowd and then hands it to Liz on the floor. Classic.

Morton and Anderson start us off, despite no one caring about the Express here. WCW’s infinite brilliance continues as they have a countdown clock going in the corner to the second hour and then in the middle of the match pyro and fireworks go off because THE HOUR CHANGED!!! It makes Arn visibly jump. Good thing he was standing by himself and not like, piledriving someone right? For the life of me I never got why that was such a big deal.

Flair vs. Morton now and Morton can’t throw convincing punches at all. Gibson vs. Anderson as I have a feeling we’re in for a long one here. Cross body gets two for Gibson and we’re off to Flair again, who is caught in the figure four rather quickly. Anderson gets caught in one by Morton in a spot we saw very often with these two over the years. Flair gets in the referee’s face and gets shoved to the floor by the striped shirt guy.

After a break the audio is fixed and Morton hits an armdrag to Anderson. Bischoff shows off his ability to tell us what we’re seeing and it’s back to Flair again. Morton hammers away as we talk about the football thing to no end. We actually hear about a WCW charity show in Buffalo. That’s rather awesome. There’s the hammerlock slam by Anderson and it’s arm working time.

Off to Flair and the Horsemen keep their awesome tag work going. Powerslam gets two. The idea here is that Heenan might be managing the Horsemen at the PPV but he won’t say it. Chinlock time which eats up a good while. Morton grabs a sleeper which gets him nowhere. Figure four is reversed for two and a sunset flip gets the same for Morton.

Back to Anderson and Heenan strolls down to ringside to talk to Woman and Liz. And now, back to the match. Morton takes down Anderson with something we don’t see and it’s off to Flair and Gibson. Double dropkick to Flair as Heenan is apparently sitting at Flair’s VIP table. Woman pops up for the distraction and a rake of the eyes, allowing Arn to hit the DDT on Gibson to end this.

Rating: C+. It’s the Rock N Roll Express using the Rock N Roll Express formula. Were you expecting anything different here? Not much to complain about here as it’s nearly 20 minutes of these four. These practice matches are working rather well and this was no exception. Fun stuff here but a bit long for modern wrestling.

And to the WWF for that bizarre NWA invasion angle. From Saturday Night Raw on February 21, 1998.

NWA Tag Titles: Rock N Roll Express vs. Headbangers

Mosh and Gibson start us off but it’s off to Thrasher quickly. There’s something funny about the Express coming out to the Rockers theme song. Cornette distracts the referee and Morton can cheat to shift the advantage. It’s so weird to see the Express as heels and with Cornette.

Mosh gets beaten down for a bit until he gets a double DDT to break the Express’ momentum. Lukewarm tag to Thrasher who cleans house. Stage Dive (powerbomb/guillotine legdrop combination) gets two as Gibson is thrown over the top so it’s a DQ win for the champions. Totally predictable ending.

Rating: D+. Just a basic match that existed to show that the NWA had different rules. It was pretty clear there was going to be a screwy finish as soon as Kelly talked about there being different rules in the NWA than in the WWF. Not a terrible match but there was nothing of note here at all.

We’ll wrap it up at In Your House XXI as I don’t think there’s a ton of interest in two guys in their 50s touring the indy circuit.

NWA World Tag Team Titles: Rock N Roll Express vs. New Midnight Express

The New Midnight Express is comprised of Bombastic Bob (Bob Holly) and Bodacious Bart (Bart Gunn). The original version was managed by Cornette and feuded with the Rock N Roll Express (challengers tonight) for most of the 80s in a feud that revolutionized tag team wrestling. The Rock N Roll Express comes out to the Rockers’ (a WWF tag team) music. Bob and Robert Gibson start things off with Gibson shoulder blocking Bob out to the floor.

Back in and the formerly very fast Rock N Roll Express are just kind of quick here with their signature double leg snap into a rolling double punch to the Midnight on the apron. The fans just do not care here and it’s rather sad to see. Ricky Morton comes in and works on Bob before sending him into Bart, starting an argument between the champions. Bart comes in and puts on an abdominal stretch as I think this is a way to replicate the original feud but it’s just not working at all.

Cornette gets in an argument with the referee and comes into the ring for a boxing match which is an old signature spot of the feud. The referee is ready to go and Cornette runs away to wake up the crowd a bit. Cornette drops back to the floor and trips Morton, allowing Bart to hit a knee to the back, sending Ricky to the floor. The Midnights double team Ricky for two and Bart’s powerslam gets the same.

Bob misses a top rope legdrop though and it’s off to Gibson with no one reacting at all. Everything breaks down with the Rock N Roll in control and hitting their double dropkick on Bart. Gibson has to avoid a Cornette elbow drop but the distraction lets Bart bulldog Gibson down for the pin to retain.

Rating: F. This match wasn’t so much bad as it was pitiful. This was a tag team trying to get back to its old level of glory and just not being able to do it anymore. The match wasn’t horrid, but the idea of the match just didn’t work at all. The NWA angle never worked and had to have been a way to humiliate Cornette instead of help the company at all.

I don’t know what else you want me to say about these guys. The Rock and Roll Express are one of the best and most influential tag teams of all time and you can see so many of their ideas in wrestling today. You can thank them for the face in peril spot and the classic tag team formula which we’ve seen for the last fifteen years minimum. That series they had with the Midnight Express is as good of a pairing as you’ll ever find and it more than holds up today. If you love tag team wrestling…..well you’ve probably seen these guys before. Go watch them again because you’ll learn something new.

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