Recently @ZoltantheRaven bought the Legends of Mid-South Wrestling bluray (he’s a huge wrestling fan and I’d happily dub him a historian) and although I usually watch wrestling with him, he encouraged me to select a match, watch it, and write about it – all on my own. Despite my protests of not knowing any of the terminology or jargon to write a proper review, he still pushed for me to try it. I am a huge proponent of couples watching wrestling, but that’s a topic for another time because now it’s time to get to the real meat of this review – The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express vs. The Midnight Express.
I watched the brief introduction to the rivalry between these two tag teams and quickly became excited to actually see them all in the ring together, especially upon learning they were the guys who started scaffolding matches. It seems Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson, The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express, were quite the ladies men back in 1984 so I saw this as a good sign for my choice! Not to mention one of the matches included on the bluray features the note “Jim Cornette In A Straight Jacket” so I was anxious to see what I was in for.
Jim Cornette was the manager of The Midnight Express, featuring “Loverboy” Dennis Condrey and “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton. I definitely would not have chosen those adjectives to describe them but you have to love an interesting manager. I feel like we see less of this now, with Paul Heyman being the only manager that jumps immediately to mind.
The first match up was the Mid-South Tag Team Championship Match in May of 1984. The Midnight Express would offer up $50,000 if they lost, while The Rock ‘N’ Roll Exress had the tag team belts to lose. No disqualifications, one fall, television time remaining. Right off the bat the referee took a tennis racquet wrapped in metal beads away from manager Jim Cornette, which while disappointing, left me excited to see what other antics he’d be up to.
Right away you can spot the differences between classic wrestling and today’s wrestling. Obviously the glitz and glamour are absent but the raw look and style of the cameras add to the overall feel of a wrestling match. These guys are going to fuck each other up and it’s not going to be pretty! The wrestlers themselves are smaller, they appear closer to the look of an average male, not the bulging muscle behemoths from other matches. Also incredibly interesting is the crowd. I saw ZERO children and a large amount of old ladies. Old ladies?! Yup. Actually, there were lots of women! The absence of any signs also delighted me because if you’ve ever sat behind someone at a show with a poster board sign, you know how fucking obnoxious it is. They should be banned from all events, end of story.
I should point out that the older ladies in the crowd seemed to be the ones who got into the matches the most. They even showed two lively grandmas presenting Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson brand new, red sparkly vests for the event. They were huge fans who had made these vests to replace ones torn up in a previous match. What devotion!
Can we talk about the ring itself? The old school style mat is pretty hardcore, you not only see how hard these guys hit but you hear it, too. It seems like these older mats maybe have more bounce to them? I like it, I think it adds to the rough and tumble effect. The turnstiles also stand out, being a shiny, silvery metal – without any padding. This becomes important later on in the match when we discuss another favorite element of mine – blood. When these wrestlers get thrown over the side of the ring, you really get a chance to see not only how far they fall (about 8 feet) but you also hear it. Without so much crowding, it’s much easier to see what’s going on outside the ring. The announcers table wasn’t in the way and the crowd is pushed back further than in matches today. There’s room for the wrestlers to move around on the concrete and they aren’t often being thrown out onto tables. You really get a sense of how raw the event is when Condrey actually almost takes out a cameraman, something I feel like doesn’t happen today because the matches are more polished. Cameras have designated set-ups and this kind of real interaction rarely happens.
Overall I’d have to agree with the statements given about Rock ‘N’ Roll Express and Midnight Express in the bluray’s introduction of their rivalry – the guys gel well. Their executions were smooth and the timing was excellent for almost all their moves. The excitement really kicked in when Gibson pushes Eaton into a post, cutting his forehead open. If you know me at all, I’m a huge fan of blood in sports. As a major hockey fan I believe it’s not a true match until there’s blood on the ice and I feel the same can go for wrestling. Gibson follows up soon after by placing Eaton in a sleeper hold, however allowing Eaton to kick the referee back and out of the ring. Jim Cornette seizes this opportunity to grab a rag, soak in some kind of liquid, and rush into the ring where he places the rag over Gibson’s face which knocks him out and causes the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express to lose the match. No disqualifications!
Now, I’ll tell you that no one in the building was nearly as rambunctious about all of this than the old ladies. They went crazy! They just love the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express and aren’t afraid to show it! In the midst of all the craziness the announcers are just hung up on the smell – “The smell you sometimes smell in a hospital!” one exclaimed. They were really hung up on what could possibly be on Cornette’s cloth. After returning from a commercial break we’re told they consulted with a medical professional in the crowd and have agreed the chemical was ether. Thanks, announcers.
I think was Jim Cornette talk after the match was one of the best parts, he seems to have been quite the character and explained he was just rushing in to perform first aide on Eaton’s bleeding forehead but obviously this isn’t true. It was an interesting story for Cornette’s character though and I ended up laughing right along with him.
The match was fun and a great set-up for the next event with Jim Cornette in a straight jacket suspended above the ring…but that’s for another review! Happy Wrestling!