Wrestling Rarities – The Midnight Express
By Dave Newman on 7th November 2020
After a busy week and a few aborted attempts to write some reviews of cartoons, shoot interviews and YouTube compilations, which I might return to another time, I figured I’d have a palate cleanser and review some good old fashioned rasslin’! This is a set produced, published and sold by Jim Cornette via his website, with some more obscure footage. I’m skipping the first disk for now as it’s got four Rock ‘n’ Roll Express matches and two Road Warriors matches and the second disk has a more varied collection of stuff.
The Midnight Express vs. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express – 16/08/86 – Philadelphia – Two Out of Three Falls
This is camcorder footage, although pretty decent quality. The crowd are so loud you can’t hear Corny doing his introduction and the screaming for Ricky and Robert is so loud you can’t hear Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King. The MX are defending champs at this point. Corny antagonises Ricky and gets flipped off. Bobby and Ricky start out. Even just for simple feeling out stuff and keeping it clean the crowd are hot and then get even hotter for clown stuff like Bobby running into Dennis and Dennis getting atomic dropped into the corner face-first. Robert hold a front facelock on Dennis as the heat just won’t die down even on simple stuff. Five minutes pass as Ricky keeps at it with three atomic drops on Dennis, which he sells like he’s shit himself. The Midnights are getting absolutely nothing to the joy of the crowd until Bobby elbows Ricky in the back of the next off an attempted back body drop. Dennis comes in with elbows and cranks in an abdominal stretch with amazingly no assistance from Bobby! Bobby comes in for a Divorce Court and Dennis returns to work the arm as Corny ribs George Napolitanos at ringside by telling him to get out of the way. Ricky gets the tag to Robert after Bobby runs into an elbow and Robert immediately gets a small package out of nowhere for the first fall to a big pop at about ten minutes in.
Second fall, Robert starts off with Bobby by doing a “Kiss my ass!” gesture to him which Dennis makes an hilarious “Ooh! That was naughty!” face to. Dennis comes in and almost gets small packaged again, but Bobby makes the save and then Robert takes a tumble over the top rope via the ropes being lowered and Dennis equalises the fall with a series of backbreakers at about two minutes into the second fall.
Dennis puts the boots to Robert with Bobby. They continue to pound the back. Dennis plants Robert with a powerslam and they hit the Rocket Launcher on him, with Bobby’s knees looking to land right in Robert’s back. That gets two with Ricky saving. Bobby follows with an elbow that Corny’s album notes helpfully tell us that made Robert feel like lightning was coming out of his dick. A kneelift finally gets Dennis down and Robert makes the hot tag to Ricky. Ricky in with a missile dropkick for the win, but the partners interfere and Bobby gets an elbow to Ricky’s neck for almost two. Dennis then knocks Ricky out of the ring and tries to slam him back in, once again taking a small package as Ricky rolls through and losing the tag team titles to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express at about twenty minutes in. A great match with nobody doing anything too high risk but having a crowd behind them that’s eating up every single thing. Corny has a tantrum afterwards like a baby.
The Midnight Express and Big Bubba Rogers vs. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and Dick Murdoch – 27/01/87 – Rock Hill, S.C. – Elimination Match
Very late days for Bobby and Dennis before Dennis disappeared. This is from the Crockett TV tapings but with Japanese commentary from international TV. Robert and Bobby start, with Bobby eating a dropkick right in the mouth. Dennis comes in and tries to hit Robert, but accidentally hits Bobby and then Bubba, with Bubba walking in like he’s going to kill him for it and Dennis trying to hide in the corner like a naughty schoolboy. They “make up” with Corny’s blessings, but Dennis scowls at Bubba in a great bit. Ricky comes in with his headbutts and punches as Captain Redneck holds him by the neck. Ricky gets a punch on Bubba too and then wisely runs away. I imagine Vince McMahon just creamed himself at the prospect of getting Ray Traylor, because you had a guy that could come in as a monster heel and still be tough enough that he could be an incredible babyface, which is exactly what happened. Murdoch and Bubba get a “big man” stand off that kinda goes nowhere because Bubba’s in no mood to sell. Robert comes back in and gets swarmed by the MX. Bobby gets a Flair pin in the corner that eliminates Robert and Ricky rolls up Bobby to get rid of him as he waves off Robert in a great moment. Bubba and Murdoch come in to replace them, with Dick getting a big slam on Bubba, and then they roll out to both get counted out in a bit of a lame spot. Dennis comes in with his big backbreaker on Ricky and then throws him out for Bobby and Bubba to work over. Ricky sunset flips back in, with Jim holding Dennis’ hand to stop him going down. Tommy Young kicks the hand to break the link and counts the winning fall for Ricky. Fine match, decent action, better for all the little touches that Condrey was able to put in and the nice finishes.
The Midnight Express (challengers) vs. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard (champions) – 10/09/88 – Philadelphia
History before, but REAL history here. Dennis is long gone, with Stan Lane fully installed. Tully and Arn had gotten pissed off with management and given their notice and were on their way to the WWF. Picture and sound quality isn’t quite as good on this, but it’s workable. Arn’s angry promo is mostly inaudible, but you can hear him telling Cornette to “sit your fat ass down”. Corny’s easier to hear with his taunting JJ about looking like Foster Brooks. Stan and Arn start, with Stan trying his martial arts kicks. The crowd is as hot as before. I said yesterday in the “little things” thread that you need to watch Arn for his body language, because even with his face a blur you can tell when he’s chickening out, when he’s angry, when he’s griping, when he’s cocky. He takes one of his goofy flip bumps off a “karate” kick to the back, so Tully comes in to replace him and is immediately kept off his feet and flailing back. Bobby comes in to do the drop toehold/elbowdrop double team and knocks Arn off the apron multiple times with punches to the crowd’s delight.
The ref gets accidentally knocked down to allow Arn and Tully to do their slipped in knee routine and Arn gets the DDT on Stan to turn the tide, mocking his hip wiggle dance in a bizarre moment. You just don’t imagine some people doing stuff like that. Stan tries a comeback with a cross bodyblock, but Arn catches it and gives him a big backbreaker and he and Tully work over him in the corner. Bobby somehow gets the tag and comes in with a bulldog on Arn and hits a missile dropkick for two. Tully breaks up an abdominal stretch and comes in, dropping Bobby back into the corner with his jaw hitting the turnbuckle. Arn gets the spinebuster to really put him on death’s door. Bobby takes a big bump out to the guardrail off an Arn knee to the back. Bobby fights back against Tully as he tries to catch him coming in, leading to the ref taking a big tumble out too before everyone gets back in.
Tully rakes Bobby’s eyes inside the ring and Arn goes for the spinebuster again but gets bulldogged down. Stan comes in with the Bret Hart comeback on Tully. Arn sends Bobby in one last time to try the spinebuster but takes a neckbreaker. Alabama Jam at the same time as Tully gets the slingshot suplex on Stan. Double three-count on Arn and Stan, but after a moment it’s decided that the one that counts is the former, and Bobby and Stan get their first and only world tag team championship reign together for a big pop. Really good match with the MX as the good guys and the Horsemen taking a beating in their swan song. Corny jumps for joy and even kisses and hugs the ref in celebration.
Jim Cornette vs. JJ Dillon – 15/10/88 – Philadelphia – Cage Match
The plan was to do a comeback with Bobby and Stan against Tully and Arn in a cage plus Corny against JJ, but Tully and Arn were gone so they got replaced with the Fantastics and this ended up as the main event instead. If you’ve seen JJ in the eighties you’ll know what he’s wearing, red and blue trunks with black boots and his “shirt” deal, and Corny is in his red and black bodysuit with about a dozen pads all over his arms and legs. Corny in a tight-fitting outfit isn’t a pretty sight, even in ’88. He gets to make fun of JJ’s gut as he sucks it in a bit. Corny’s plan, as stated on the mic, is to make JJ go more than four minutes so that he’ll have a heart attack and die because he’s an octogenarian. JJ does star jumps to warm up and Corny does girl push-ups to counter, then gives JJ the finger. JJ draws a line in the sand and offers Corny over, then goes “Boo!” as he gets close to scare him off. Corny is too weak and JJ is too heavy for a slam, so JJ gets one instead that Corny almost manages to flip over on. Luckily his fat ass takes the brunt of it. He’s foolish enough to go for a test of strength, which JJ forces him right down on, sticks his tongue out at him, treads on his fingers and pulls his hair on. JJ blocks a punch and sends Corny flying with a slap. Stan comes out for moral support in his Zubaz and tank top, then distracts the ref so Corny can punch JJ in the balls. Corny follows with a bad Dusty elbow and a worse Ted Dibiase fistdrop. Another low punch to do it again and choke on the rope. Funny dynamic of JJ being the heel that could wipe the mat with Jim and Jim being the face who has to cheat like mad to get any sort of advantage. Corny gets some powder to counter a comeback. JJ figures “Fuck this!” and goes for brass knucks out of his tights, but the ref blocks it, and Corny counters with a chain of his own. He thinks he’s won, but JJ, who’s even bladed by this point, kicks him in the balls and falls on top of him after a forearm shot to inadvertently get the pin. JJ does his drunk man sell out of the cage. Fine comedy match, with the weasel managers going for all the shortcuts to win.
Stan Lane and Eddie Gilbert vs. Terry Funk and Cactus Jack – 09/11/90 – Drexel Hill, PA.
Jim and Stan had just quit WCW, but Bobby was still a part of the company. They’d agreed to do this match, which was part of a charity show for sick wrestling fan Tom “TR Shock” Robinson, ahead of time, but Bobby apparently tweaked his knee so Eddie replaces him because of his feud with Cacti. The heels are managed by “Dr.” Mark Curtis (Brian Hildebrand), who does his own introduction for his team akin to Jim, who calls him a “faggot”. Brawl to start, with the heels sent flying, prompting a manager challenge between Corny and Curtis. Curtis gets his pink t-shirt ripped off as he eats more homophobic chants. The faces do the Fargo strut in unison, which makes me realise it might be the only time members of the original and New Fabulous Ones ever teamed. Jack throws Stan out and goes for his elbow, but Gilbert punches him and then knocks him down on a sunset flip. Jack’s a very different kind of heel at this point, more cowardly and prone to frustration than the serial killer type he became later. Stan gets his slingshot clothesline on him and Eddie comes in to attack him and a missed charge sees Jack fall out of the ring to eat a racket shot.
Ten minutes in, the Funker comes in with Gilbert. He bounces off the rope and it snaps, loosening them all. He throws chairs in out of frustration, which Eddie and Stan take a seat in. He then gets some stiff chops on Eddie, throws him out and piledrives him on the floor, before adding a shot to Bobby Eaton too. Neckbreaker back in for two. I can’t say I was a massive Eddie Gilbert fan, but he knew how to work like a good babyface from underneath. Funk tumbles out and comes back in to be Melvined by Stan, who uses the ropes to also choke and punch him. The ring is breaking down more and more, so they just use the props as much as they can seeing as they’re there. Multiple shots to the post with Curtis running interference in a very prototypical ECW match. Corny goes for racket shots on people that would’ve killed them if they’d hit from the sound. Jack finally gets his elbow off the apron onto Stan as Terry ties up Gilbert with chairshots.
Back into the ring with Terry getting the sleeper on Stan as the crowd is really into it and chanting along. Stan escapes, so Terry headbutts him, knocking himself silly at the same time. Jack comes in and hits his big clothesline. Spike piledriver, which the impact of is killed by their not being a top rope. Jack tries a Boston crab for some reason (well, he is unpredicable!), which Stan fights out of with karate kicks. “The educated feet of Stan Lane!”, remarks the guy holding the camera. Eddie tags in and beats on Jack, but gets a low blow. They get into a punching contest and the ref goes down. Curtis comes in with something, but Corny cuts him off with a slam. Jack takes a chain out of his tights and hits Eddie, but only gets two. Jack goes for a final piledriver, but Stan hits him with the tennis racket behind the ref’s back and Eddie flips over for the pin. The heels beat up the ref in response. Pretty wild match, which I wonder how much it would be different if the ring didn’t break. As is, they made the best out of it and it was pretty fun.
Local area interviews
Corny and the Condrey version of the Midnight Express do interviews for a local area programme. Jim has a very hoarse voice, so isn’t quite as high energy but tries his best still. Jim bluffs the interviewer on being a potential professional tennis player, hence the racket. The interviewer calls bullshit on it as Jim plays oblivious to any accusation of using it to nail people with.
Then another with the same guy on another occasion, with everyone being a bit more comfortable with one another and playing along. The interviewer is even talking about them getting their “ass” kicked. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express are going to be put in the Hall of Fame in Cleveland… as a pair of wax DUMMIES! Jim does his best to try and break Dennis and Bobby and talks about how they’re going to split a million dollars between them by winning the Crockett Cup, but Corny’s going to take the majority third for accounting fees. Pretty funny interview.
One more on another occasion, with the interviewer really having his routine down. Jim rants about a conspiracy to knock them out of the tournament by putting them in the wrong bracket by having them face the Road Warriors and a local referee disqualified them because he was scared to death they were going to kill them and the Roadies are blown up on steroids and just go to the gym two days a week and lift weights and don’t know how to wrestle. Yes, he really said that!
Local news story
From a Charlotte news programme, Jim walks in to a show and talks about everyone loves him as he gets jeered walking in the other side of the fence. A fan at a baseball stadium in Hicksburg says he’s an “egg-sucking dawg”. The interviewer takes him to the tennis court, where he misses the ball every time. Jim tells a part-shoot origin story of being a photographer who figured he could make more money as a manager, as long as he didn’t get hurt (part of that didn’t work out for him). B-roll footage shows him getting the shit kicked out of him by the Fantastics. In a second part, he narrates footage while talking about injuries and how much money can be made. Magnum TA’s car injury is brought up and Corny kayfabe wishes him well in his recovery.
The Bottom Line
A fun collection of stuff along the lines of the old Hidden Gems. I might cycle back around and check out the first disk as well one of the weekends.