Posted in: Chair Shots Chair Shots Presents: Kickin' It Old Skool- The Midnight Express Feud
Jan 6, 2013 - 9:49:19 PM
Welcome back everybody to Chair Shots! I’ve been gone for a bit, due to the holiday madness, and every form of illness possible putting me on the shelf for a week, but I’m back and ready to deliver all sorts of creamy goodness to my readers (wait, that sounded really bad!). Before we get into it, I’d like to congratulate Doc and Al Laiman for their MP victories as the Best MP Writer and Best MP Series (30 Thoughts) in the Columns Forum End of Year Awards. All the winners were well deserved and you’ll see some of the columns up here for your reading pleasure, so please check them out. Secondly, the Columns Forum has started their latest NxT Tournament, where several Pro’s (MP and seasoned CF writers) will help mentor newer writers for a shot at the Main Page. If you’ve ever thought about writing about what we all love, go to the CF and check out the thread started by my buddy zzzorf. It’s worth a go, and if you get anything out of it at all, it’s a big win.
While I was down for a bit, Doc posed a question about great tag-team battles and it got me thinking about some of the greatest tag teams I’ve ever seen. It’s no surprise to anyone that I am a huge Midnight Express fan. The team of “Sweet” Stan Lane and “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton were two of the best in-ring tag-team competitors I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing. What a lot of people don’t remember though, is that before Stan Lane, there was another member of the Express by the name of Dennis Condrey. What fewer people remember is that before Bobby Eaton and Jim Cornette were brought on board, the Midnight Express was Condrey, Randy Rose, and Norvell Austin. This version only existed for a little over a year before Condrey and Eaton paired up and became the Midnight Express that became known worldwide.
For around 3-4 years, Condrey and Eaton became stars, with arguably one of the best managers in the business by their side- the tennis racket wielding loudmouth James E. Cornette. But in 1987 things fell apart, and Cornette “fired” Dennis Condrey. In reality, Condrey took a little time away from the business to recharge his batteries. In came one of the best tag-team replacements ever to happen, former Fabulous One Stan Lane. It wasn’t long before Dennis Condrey was a forgotten name in the NWA. The Midnight Express went on to have one of the best runs of any tag-team in NWA history, but a storm was brewing, and it was brewing up north.
I have had the pleasure of seeing The Midnight Express in both its Condrey and Lane incarnations, and I must say with no disrespect to Dennis Condrey, I’ve never seen a team work better together than Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane. They re-invented the double-team move, often debuting a new move each and every time you saw them. They had swagger, and cockiness and were without a doubt at the top of their game. For 12 months in 1987, the Midnight Express held the US Tag Team Titles, defeating team after team after team. But something was happening in the AWA that had murmurs and whispers floating down to Georgia, something that the Midnight Express wouldn’t feel until about a year later.
You see, up north in the AWA, Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose had re-formed, and were calling themselves the Original Midnight Express. They were using all the classic Express moves, and even some of the newer ones that Lane and Eaton were using in the NWA. They weren’t subtle about calling out the “other Express” as imposters. To make matters more interesting, The Original Midnight Express were now being led by an abrasive mouthpiece by the name of Paul E. Dangerously (now known as Paul Heyman). Condrey and Rose won the AWA tag-team titles, and continued to call out Cornette’s men. After leaving the AWA, Condrey and Rose bounced around the regions for a while, still throwing out the names of Lane and Eaton in disparaging terms.
Let’s just think about this for a minute. When was the last time you saw a feud build for several years, across multiple federations, all the while maintaining business as usual. This could never be done today. It would be like the WWE forming a new version of The World’s Greatest Tag Team and feuding with Haas and Benjamin in Ring of Honor, all without acknowledging anything was really going on. Now whether or not the AWA and the NWA were working together at the time to spark this feud between the Express teams is not completely known, but the AWA was being raided big time at this point, and any exposure for them was good, so it wouldn’t have surprised me had that happened. This would be something that would seriously be considered a shock if any company or companies could pull something like this off today.
Fast forward to late 1988, and I’m sitting in my girlfriend’s room at her Mom’s house watching the SuperStation TBS. The Express had just lost their World Tag Team Titles to the Road Warriors and Cornette and his men were in a foul mood. Stan Lane was involved in a singles match when Cornette receives a phone call, live on the air. You can hear it in his voice that he’s rattled and I knew immediately who was on the other end of the phone. Cornette hangs the phone up in anger and calls for Bobby Eaton to his side. The next thing you know, Dangerously and The Original Midnight Express invaded the SuperStation, attacking Cornette, Lane, and Eaton. I sat on my couch shocked. Had this really just happened? These guys weren’t even in the NWA and they were attacking Cornette and his boys. Cornette was bleeding like a stuck pig and nobody knew what had just happened. It’s worth seeing for yourself, so check it out below.
The Express vs. Express feud lasted for the better part of the next year with both sides claiming victories along the way. I had the pleasure of seeing one of these battles live, and the two teams went at it for the better part of 35 minutes, trading moves back and forth until Cornette’s team scored the victory that evening. While Condrey and Rose were certainly not as talented in the ring as Eaton and Lane, they certainly earned my respect on that evening. The feud ended with a “Loser Leave the NWA” match, ensuring that at least one of the Midnight Express teams would be gone forever. Paul E. tried to weasel his way out of it by replacing Dennis Condrey in the match with Jack Victory, but it was Rose who got pinned so Rose had to leave the NWA. Dennis Condrey hung on for a little while, before he too left the NWA, and pretty much the major wrestling scene all-together.
There are so many things that wrestling organizations today can learn from that feud. First off, there’s certainly a place for managers in todays’ wrestling landscape. This feud was good to begin with, but without Cornette and Dangerously involved, the enjoyment factor would have been cut in half. Except for Lane, none of the other three were great talkers, so having Cornette and Paul E. spark the feud was all kinds of goodness. Secondly, this is how you do a feud. Whether intentional or not, this feud was built for years before it finally came to a head. When the two teams finally clashed, it was like a minor explosion in the squared circle. We see so many matches week after week where top stars face each other, that when they get to their “big” PPV encounter, not many people care. The reason Ryback and Team Hell No vs. The Shield at TLC was so good, is because nobody had seen it before. It built for several weeks, without The Shield having an actual match. There was anticipation, and it was palpable. Take notes WWE, TNA, RoH. There are a lot of things to be learned from Kickin’ It Old Skool!