The story about that one time Ricky Morton was almost NWA world champ

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(© Destina –

Ricky Morton, WWE Hall of Famer, told me the story, in bits and pieces, over the years, of how he was going to be the NWA world champ, and turned it down, because it would have meant the end of the Rock-n-Roll Express.

When I tell other people the story, I’m met with, Um, OK, sure, whatever.

And I get it. I can see where it seems implausible.

Except that, I can also see where it makes all the sense in the world.

Beginning in 1986, Morton was getting a huge push as a singles wrestler, feuding with Ric Flair that summer, getting title matches during the Great American Bash.

Morton and partner Robert Gibson would win the NWA world tag team titles back from the Midnight Express after the Bash.

Behind the scenes, Morton told me, back when I was working in wrestling, with AWE, part of the creative team that put on the 2011 Night of the Legends pay-per-view, and then in subsequent years on indy shows, that the issue was backstage.

For whatever reason, there was a feeling backstage that the Rock-n-Rolls were a little too over with fans, and politics in the locker room being what they are, there was an interest in breaking the duo up.

Morton got another singles push in 1987, and it sounded tailor-made to put him over to be the world champ. He worked his way through mid-card heels, taking their finishers and kicking out at one, per instructions, to come across strong, before posting victories.

It was the way business was done in the good ol’ days. One step leads to the next, basically.

And then, according to Morton, it was his for the taking, the NWA world title, that is.

And he turned it down, he said, because he didn’t want the company to drop Gibson.

This is where the story ended for me for years, until I fell into the rest of the story.

I was watching an episode of “World Championship Wrestling” from 1986 on YouTube recently, and one of the squash matches featured Ron Garvin.

I wanted to see what was going on with Garvin, so I did a quick search of the interwebs, and landed on his Wikipedia page, which noted something about his brief 1987 NWA world title reign that I’d never seen before.

Apparently, the reason Garvin was a short-term champ had to do with promoter Jim Crockett wanting to book a Ric Flair title win for the main event of “Starrcade,” which that year was going to face a counterprogramming challenge from WWF’s “Survivor Series.”

For Flair to win the title back, he had to first lose it.

The title reign was going to be short, a couple of months, and because of that, nobody wanted it, fearing that winning and then losing the belt in quick fashion would slow whatever roll they were on.

Garvin, 42 at the time, felt like, with his career winding down anyway, why not, it would look nice on the resume.

This sounded like the rest of the story from what Morton had been telling me for years, and another search of the interwebs landed me on a story that backs that up.

And now it all makes sense.

It wasn’t as much that Crockett necessarily wanted to get rid of Gibson, but it would be hard for Morton to go back to being a tag wrestler after even a brief run as the NWA champ.

And Morton’s heart, and head, were in tag team wrestling.

He’s a Hall of Famer now, so things probably worked out for him, though the fact that he likes to tell the story tells you it does still weigh on him a bit.

Can’t blame him for that.

Story by Chris Graham


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