Dusty Rhodes, when he was booking Mid-Atlantic for Jim Crockett, needed to bury the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and Midnight Express, if only because the tag-team war that crossed territories in the mid-1980s started outdrawing Dusty’s chase of Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Title.
The two teams would move on to other feuds – the Rock ‘n’ Rolls, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson, with the Four Horsemen, the Midnights, Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey and manager Jim Cornette, with the Road Warriors – but the hour Broadways that the teams put on against each other from Memphis to the Carolinas pushed tag-team wrestling to main-event status, whether the bookerman wanted to showcase the tag teams or not.
This is the case for putting the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express-Midnight Express feud into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Tag wrestling is seeing a minor, likely short-lived, revival. As of this writing, the feud involving The New Age Outlaws and The Brotherhood is playing on pay-per-views (at least the pre-shows) and Monday Night Raw. It will be short-lived, though, because the feud is merely prelude to a pending series between The Brotherhood, Cody Rhodes and Goldust, as the reason that the brothers will end up feuding with each other.
In the days when the Rock ‘n’ Rolls, the Midnights, the Road Warriors, the Horsemen, the Russians and their like were roaming the earth, tag-team wrestling was as hot and sometimes hotter than what was going on in the singles division. The story about Dusty Rhodes being upset at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and Midnight Express is likely apocryphal, but there’s at least a kernel of truth to the tale. Mid-Atlantic used to run shows in adjoining towns on weekends with split talent rosters, with the A town getting the world singles title match, and the B town getting as its main event the tag-title match. There were occasions when the B towns at the height of the Rock ‘n’ Roll-Midnight feud outdrew the A town up the road with Ric Flair defending against Dusty Rhodes, and whether Dusty wanted to bury the tag wrestlers or not, you can bet that he at least privately seethed at the news when he heard it.
But saying that because the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and Midnight Express enjoyed a brief, but spectacular, run at the top of the wrestling world they should be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame is treating the WWE Hall of Fame like the Baseball Hall of Fame. The WWE Hall of Fame isn’t a place where deserving wrestlers, tag teams, managers and others have plaques on walls; it’s a marketing gimmick that the company uses to push whatever it’s trying to push that particular WrestleMania season.
So the history aside, this is why WWE needs to induct the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express-Midnight Express feud into the WWE Hall of Fame; it’s all about timing. And the timing, the backdrop, to this WrestleMania season is the launch of the WWE Network on Feb. 24. A key selling point to the WWE Network is its archival library, the promotion for which has dictated the returns of wayward legends like Ric Flair, Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels from WCW/WWE past.
Grabbing Morton, Gibson, Eaton, Condrey and Cornette and bringing them back to the fold will help push the 1980s-era wrestling that still sells out legends house shows today, 30 years later.
The case against inducting them into the Hall isn’t hard to make. See above about the 30 years later part to this story. The Rock ‘n’ Rolls had a brief run in WWE in the late 1990s, but basically the two teams have been in the hinterlands of pro wrestling since around 1990. A whole generation of wrestling fans was born and grew up not even having heard of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and Midnight Express.
But how many of those fans are the children of wrestling fans who cut their teeth on wrestling as kids watching Mid-Atlantic at noon on Saturday, watching NWA on the Superstation at 6:05 p.m. Saturday night, and then finishing the day watching World Wide Wrestling at 11:30?
The reason a lot of us – my earliest memories of wrestling are the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express against the Midnight Express with Jim Cornette circa 1985 – became fans are because of what these guys did, how they sold how much they hated each other, kept us building toward the ultimate payoff, and then delivered.
WWE needs to recognize these legendary tag teams in its Hall of Fame. There’s no better time than the present to get this job done.
Column by Chris Graham