The Midnight Express (professional wrestling)
|The Midnight Express|
|Name(s)||The Midnight Express
Original Midnight Express
New Midnight Express
Dennis Condrey, Randy Rose and Norvell Austin
In 1980 a new team was formed in Southeast Championship Wrestling (SECW) when Dennis Condrey’s previous partner Don Carson retired. Condrey teamed up with Randy Rose and won the NWA Southeast Tag Team Championship shortly after they started teaming up. The team started a storyline feud with Norvell Austin who was one of the regulars in SECW. Austin recruited various partners such as Paul Orndorff, who were successful in briefly capturing the Southeast tag team gold. In an attempt to throw Rose and Condrey off Austin would adopt the masked persona of “The Shadow” and together with Brad Armstrong defeat the team for the titles on May 4, 1981, holding them until July 27, 1981 before losing the belts back to Condry and Rose. After the title loss Austin turned on Armstrong and joined up with Condrey and Rose to form a stable (group) known as The Midnight Express. In the book The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams Condrey explains that the name did not stem from the movie Midnight Express (although later versions of the Midnight Express would use the film’s theme by Giorgio Moroder as their theme music) but from the fact that they all dressed in black, drove black cars, and were out partying past midnight. Together the three men would win the AWA Southern Tag Team title in the CWA and invoke a rule that’d later be referred to as the Freebird Rule which allowed any two of the three men to defend the titles on a given night so that their opponents never knew what combination to expect. The Midnight Express would lose the AWA Southern tag team title to Bobby Eaton and Sweet Brown Sugar before returning to SECW in the spring of 1982.
Upon their return to Southeastern Championship Wrestling the Midnight Express would quickly regain the Southeastern Tag Team title from Robert Fuller and Jimmy Golden on September 27, 1982. The Express then became involved in a feud with the Mongolian Stomper and his storyline son “Mongolian Stomper Jr.” whom they would lose the Southeastern title to but ultimately regain as they sent Stomper and Stomper Jr. packing. After having dealt with the Stompers the Midnight Express’ next challengers came in the form of the odd duo of ”Dizzy” Ed Hogan and local workhorse Ken Lucas. Hogan and Lucas won the tag team title in June only to see the Midnight Express use their 3 on 2 advantage to regain the titles. Despite holding the titles once more in July 1983 it was not long until the Midnight Express finally got the better of their challengers by reclaiming the titles for good by the end of July 1983. The Midnight Express’ final feud in the SECW was with the local heroes Jimmy Golden and Robert Fuller who managed to drive the group out of SECW, at least in storyline terms. After dropping the Southeastern Tag Team titles to Brad and Scott Armstrong, Austin, Condrey and Rose went their separate ways.
Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton
When Bobby Eaton was sent to Mid-South Wrestling under promoter Bill Watts as a part of a talent trade it was decided that he should be part of the new version of the Midnight Express. Eaton teamed with former rival Dennis Condrey under the management of Jim Cornette to form a new version of the Midnight Express. The Express had up until this point been a group of wrestlers, but once Eaton and Condrey joined together the Midnight Express worked exclusively as a two-man team. To compliment “Loverboy" Dennis, Eaton was nicknamed “Beautiful Bobby", a nickname he still uses. The Express was first booked in an angle (storyline) with the Mid-South Tag Team champions Magnum T.A. and Mr. Wrestling II. The highlight of the angle saw Eaton and Condrey tarring and feathering Magnum TA in the middle of the ring. The Express won their first tag team championship when Mr. Wrestling II turned on Magnum TA and attacked him during a match, allowing Eaton and Condrey to walk away with the titles without much opposition.
With Mr. Wrestling II and Magnum TA splitting up, the Midnight Express needed a new team to defend their newly won titles against. This team was The Rock 'n' Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson), whom they started a long-running series of matches that would run well into the 1990s and span several wrestling promotions. The two Expresses had a series of matches which differed so much from the way tag team wrestling was traditionally presented at the time, that it gathered a lot of attention both locally and nationally. The two teams feuded throughout 1984 in Mid-South Wrestling before the Midnight Express left the promotion to work elsewhere. The Midnight Express versus Rock 'n' Roll Express series of matches was so well received by the fans that independent promoters all over the United States still book that match today, 20 years after the rivalry started.
The Midnight Express had a short stay in World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas where they feuded mainly with The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers). When opportunities in WCCW looked to go nowhere the Midnight Express started to look elsewhere for employment and what they found would give the team national and international exposure.
In 1985 Eaton, Condrey and Cornette signed with Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP) and thus were exposed on a national level through JCP’s television shows that were broadcast on SuperStation TBS. Shortly after joining JCP, the Midnight Express reignited their feud with the Rock 'n' Roll Express from whom they won the NWA World Tag team titles in February 1986. Eaton and Condrey lost the titles back to the Rock 'n' Roll Express six months later. Besides feuding with the Rock 'n' Roll Express, Eaton and Condrey also had long-running feuds with The New Breed (Chris Champions and Sean Royal) as well as The Road Warriors (Animal and Hawk). The feud with the Road Warriors included a high profile Scaffold Match at Starrcade 1986, which the Midnight Express lost. Early in 1987, Dennis Condrey suddenly left JCP without giving any reason. After missing the March 25 show in San Francisco, CA and other shows in the following week, the decision was made after he missed the March 31 tapings that a change was needed.
Dennis Condrey and Bobby Eaton are regarded as the most decorated tag team of all time, compiling a total of 50 tag team titles.
Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane
After Condrey's departure, Eaton was left without a partner. As a possible replacement, "Sweet Stan" Lane, who had worked against Eaton and knew him well, was suggested. J.J. Dillon approached Stan Lane in Florida telling him that Dusty Rhodes wanted to talk to him. At the time, business was going badly in Florida and Lane's longtime partner Steve Keirn had already quit wrestling. Lane took the opportunity and made the jump to Jim Crockett Promotions after meeting with Rhodes and Eaton in Charlotte. Eaton and Lane's familiarity with each other showed as the new version of the Midnight Express gelled from the beginning. According to Tim Horner, he was also considered to replace Condrey, but Stan Lane just happened to call the office at the right time. Lane debuted as Condrey's replacement on April 4, 1987 in time to join Eaton in facing the Road Warriors that night in Boston, MA. They quickly meshed as a team, reaching the semi-finals of the Crockett Cup Tag Team Tournament on April 11, 1987 in Baltimore, MD.
On May 16, 1987 the combination of Eaton and Lane became champions as they won the NWA United States Tag team titles for the first time, a title they would win three times during their time together. A year later the team was cheered on despite being heels as the Midnight Express won the NWA World Tag Team Titles from the Horsemen Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard on September 10, 1988. The Midnight Express' run with the titles only last a little over a month-and-a-half before the Road Warriors (who had recently turned heel on Sting) took the gold from them in a brutal match up that saw the Express further their turn to face.
Lane, Eaton and Cornette completed their turn to babyface when they entered into a feud with a team newly arrived from the AWA. "The Original Midnight Express" was a reunion of Midnight Express founding members Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose, who had been teaming up before Condrey and Eaton became a team. The duo was led by longtime Jim Cornette nemesis Paul E. Dangerously in a storyline that saw the originators trying to prove they were better than the new version. The surprise appearance of the Original Midnight Express gave Dangerously’s team the initial momentum in the feud, but soon after Dennis Condrey left the promotion once more before a "loser leaves town" match that would see the wrestler that took the losing fall getting fired. This forced the bookers to bring in Jack Victory as a replacement as Condrey’s disappearance cut the promising feud short. Cornette contends in a "shoot" interview that backstage politics and animosity between the Original Midnights, promotion head Jim Crockett, and head booker George Scott is what led to the feud being cooled off and Condrey once again leaving the promotion. Rose ended up taking the pin in the resultant match and was fired from the promotion afterwards.
Due to various differences over the direction of the Midnight Express, Cornette, Lane and Eaton left JCP for a short while, around the time that Ted Turner bought out Jim Crockett and began promoting the federation under the name World Championship Wrestling (WCW). When the issues were resolved Cornette and the Midnight Express returned to the federation and a very strong tag team division. When they returned they took part in the tournament to determine the vacated world tag team titles where they advanced to the finals before losing to the Freebirds with some assistance from the Samoan Swat Team. They would engage in a feud with the Freebirds and Samoans until the 1989 Great American Bash where they teamed up with the Road Warriors and Dr. Death Steve Williams to defeat the Freebirds and Samoans in a War Games match. They would soon turn heel as a result of a feud with the Dynamic Dudes who they duped into thinking that Jim Cornette wanted to be the Dudes manager when in reality he was all along on the side of the Midnight Express during a match between the teams at Clash of the Champions IX show in New York. The Dynamic Dudes would gain a measure of revenge when the Midnight Express laid out an open challenge for any team for $10,000 and after dispatching of a couple of no name teams. The next team was announced from Gotham City and were the Dynamic Duo who of course were the Dynamic Dudes under masks who eventually pinned the Express and won the money. The feud would soon lose steam and was forgotten soon after.
After returning to their cheating ways, the Midnight Express started a storyline with the up-and-coming team of Flyin’ Brian and "Z-Man" Tom Zenk over the United States Tag team titles. The Express won the titles from the young team in early 1990, but lost them to The Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott) three months later. After a loss at the WCW pay-per-view Halloween Havoc 1990 the Midnight Express split up when Jim Cornette and Stan Lane left the federation. For the first time in almost a decade there was no Midnight Express, it was the end of an era in tag team wrestling.
Randy Rose and Dennis Condrey
Dennis Condrey and Randy Rose first teamed up in 1981, thus are the Original Midnight Express. After Condrey left the NWA in 1987, he reunited with Rose in the AWA, where they won the AWA World Tag Team Championship, and were managed by Paul E. Dangerously. In 1988, Condrey, Rose, and Dangerously came to the NWA to feud with Eaton, Lane, and Cornette; however, the feud ended abruptly when Condrey left the NWA, just days before Chi-Town Rumble. After defeating Rose and Jack Victory, Dangerously went on to manage the Samoan Swat Team to feud with Eaton, Lane, and Cornette.
New Midnight Express
The Midnight Express name was resurrected by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in the late 1990s when they put a combination of Bob Holly (as "Bombastic Bob") and Bart Gunn (as "Bodacious Bart") together as "The New Midnight Express" with Cornette as their manager—all as part of the "NWA invasion" angle. On March 30, 1998, they won the NWA World Tag Team Championship from the Headbangers but did not achieve much more success in the WWF. Despite having Cornette in their corner and the name "Midnight Express", wrestling fans consider this incarnation of the team as nothing more than a rib by Vince McMahon on Cornette, and in shoot interviews Cornette has indeed indicated that he never considered the team as continuing the lineage of the Midnight Express, since it was not his idea nor his intention to have "glorified jobbers" like Gunn and Holly take on the moniker (although Gunn and Holly were both former tag team champions prior to being teamed).
Midnight Express Reunited
In 2003, Eaton worked for NWA Mid-Atlantic forming a new version of the Midnight Express with Rikki Nelson. This Midnight Express version was very short lived as Eaton soon started touring with Dennis Condrey (and sometimes Lane and Cornette) as the Midnight Express instead. This version of the Midnight Express still performs together on select independent wrestling cards in the United States.
- Finishing and signature moves
- Signature moves
Championships and accomplishments
- Condrey and Eaton
- All-Star Wrestling (Virginia)
- ASW Tag Team Championship (7 time)
- International Wrestling Cartel
- IWC Tag Team Championship (10 time)
- Jim Crockett Promotions
- Mid-South Wrestling
- NWA Bluegrass
- NWA Bluegrass Tag Team Championship (10 times)
- NWA Rocky Top
- NWA Rocky Top Tag Team Championship (19 time)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked them #21 of the 100 best tag teams during the "PWI Years" in 2003
- World Class Championship Wrestling
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- Tag Team of the Year (1986)
- All-Star Wrestling (Virginia)
- Condrey and Rose
- American Wrestling Association
- Continental Wrestling Association
- Southeastern Championship Wrestling
- Windy City Wrestling
- WCW Tag Team Championship (1 time)
- Eaton and Lane
- Jim Crockett Promotions / World Championship Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI Tag Team of the Year (1987)
- PWI ranked them #32 of the 100 best tag teams during the "PWI Years" in 2003
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- Eaton and Nelson
- Gunn and Holly
1The titles were promoted briefly on Monday Night Raw as part of a deal between the NWA and the WWF. Gunn and Holly were actually the second team to win the titles on a WWF program.
- Royal Duncan & Gary Will (4th Edition 2006). Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
- Greg Oliver and Steve Johnson (2005). "the Top 20: 10 The Midnight Express". The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams. ECW Press. pp. 58–62. ISBN 978-1-55022-683-6.
- Greg Oliver and Steve Johnson (2005). "the Top 20: 10 The Midnight Express". The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams. ECW Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-55022-683-6. "“At once time, we all dressed in black. We had black Lincolns, black automobiles and everything else, and we were all out until midnight, so we went as the Midnight Express."
- Greg Oliver and Steve Johnson (2005). "the Top 20: 7 The Fabulous Freebirds". The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams. ECW Press. pp. 46–52. ISBN 978-1-55022-683-6.
- Greg Oliver and Steve Johnson (2005). The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55022-683-6.
- Watts, Bill; Williams, Scott. The Cowboy and the Cross: The Bill Watts Story: Rebellion, Wrestling and Redemption (Paperback ed.). ECW Press. XIV. ISBN 978-1-55022-708-6. "Bill was the first to promote The Midnight Express – The Rock & Roll Express rivalry that would define tag team wrestling in the decade and that would make such an impression that the independent promoters would still be booking the match twenty years later" Unknown parameter
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- "WCW Halloween Havoc Results (1990)". ProWrestlingHistory. Retrieved 02-19 2007.
- Shields, Brian; Sullivan, Kevin (2009). WWE Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley. p. 221. ISBN 978-0-7566-4190-0.
- "Jim Cornette profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2009-11-20.
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- "Independent Wrestling Results – December 2004". onlineworldofwrestling.com. Retrieved 2008-07-05.