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Breaking news: “Fabulous One” Stan Lane not dead

March 10th, 2011 5 comments

Samuel P. Ticer (not pictured), 65, died Monday in Memphis after a short illness.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal printed the following obituary for “former professional wrestler Stan Lane” yesterday :

SAMUEL P. TICER, 65, died Monday, March 7, 2011 after a short illness. He was married for 24 years to Anna Marie Lehr Ticer and was a Captain in USMC serving two tours in Vietnam. He was a professional wrestler for 13 years under the name of Stan Lane of the Best Tag Team ever to hit Memphis and Mid South Coliseum as the The Fabulous Ones with partner Steve Keirn.

In a touching display, the funeral home featured several pictures of Ticer from throughout his military service as well as publicity shots of Lane and Keirn as the Fabs. As the ceremony closed, Billy Squire’s “Everybody Wants You”–the Fabs’ theme–was played over the funeral home’s modest PA system, while guests could literally pay their respects by purchasing 5″ x 7″ and 8″ x 10″ color photos of the former Southern tag champions at a tastefully decorated gimmick table in the lobby.

Just one problem: The real Stan Lane, who achieved rasslin’ fame not only with Keirn but also as the partner of Bobby Eaton as the Midnight Express,  is alive and well in North Carolina.

Apparently, Ticer had deceived his family for years–perhaps as a joke–that he was the former bearded heartthrob who, along with Keirn, helped set the Memphis territory on fire in fall 1982 by recreating the “Fabulous Fargos” gimmick with the blessing of the legendary Jackie Fargo. Gotta admire the guy in a sense for taking the deception all the way to the grave.

Deep down, I can’t help but think Jimmy Hart had something to do with this. After all, the Mouth of the South has deceived us before with funeral arrangements:

YouTube Finds: Stan Lane humbly speaks about the Midnight Express’ World title win

June 3rd, 2010 4 comments

With Jim Cornette on the sidelines, Stan Lane takes over the promo duties for the Midnight Express following a moral victory over the rival Rock ‘n’ Roll Express in 1987. This clip is notable for several reasons: yet another twist on the Dusty Finish (with an official from the back overruling an apparent World title switch), the future Big Boss Man (Ray Traylor, known then as “Big Bubba Rogers”) makes an appearance, Ricky Morton proves he can sell like no other, longtime WWF ref Dick Wohrle (that name certainly rolls off the tongue) makes a somewhat rare NWA/WCW appearance, Lane shows he’s more than capable on the mic in the aftermath…and obnoxious babyface announcer David Crockett goes ballistic (“Noooo!”) at the apparent injustice. (I cannot confirm if Crockett always wore a Ricky Morton T-shirt underneath his button-down.)

Midnight Special Pt. III

June 19th, 2009 3 comments

Sharp-dressed men: The Fabs sporting their treasured sequined jackets--decidedly flashier than my red silk-satin Fabs jacket.

Sharp-dressed men: The Fabs sporting their treasured sequined jackets--decidedly flashier than my red silk-satin Fabs jacket.

“In most every great tag team, there’s contrast.”
–Jim Cornette, manager of the Midnight Express

Just as the Midnight Express were peaking in Jim Crockett Promotions, Dennis Condrey disappeared without a trace following an MX loss to the Garvins on March 24, 1987, in Lincolnton, N.C. As manager Jim Cornette recalls in The Midnight Express and Jim Cornette 25th Anniversary Scrapbook, “…After calling his house and he wasn’t there, wasn’t rebooked on a later flight, didn’t show up at the arena that night, and nobody had heard from him, we knew something was up—we just didn’t know what.” And with the upcoming Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup tag tournament coming up, the grizzled veteran couldn’t have picked a worse time to pull that ol’ Houdini. Some speculate Condrey was miffed that Cornette and Eaton opted to remain with JCP instead of bolting for Vince McMahon, who had been courting the team. However, Cornette’s account in the book of the MX’s meeting with McMahon dispels that rumor, as the trio collectively agreed to stay put when it became apparent that Vince had never even seen them work, had no plans for them beyond “dolls” (action figures) based on the likenesses and was oddly ambiguous when talking money.

As much as I love Condrey’s work, his departure from the team was a blessing in disguise. Going with the storyline that Jim Cornette’s rich mother, the team’s benefactor, had dictated that her son shake up the team after a series of defeats, the evil manager introduced Stan Lane as the newest member of the Express. Cornette admits in the book that Tom Prichard was his first choice; however, JCP booker Dusty Rhodes, in one of his most inspired moves of that time, instructed his assistant J.J. Dillon to instead offer spot to the former Fabulous One, who was drifting aimlessly in what was left of Eddie Graham’s once-strong Florida territory after Lane’s longtime partner Steve Keirn was eyeing retirement and a career in real estate.

Cornette had photographed and later worked with Lane during a program in which The Dream Team (Bobby Eaton and Duke Myers) feuded with the Fabs over the Southern tag titles. Cornette didn’t need to be sold on Lane—he knew all about how the charismatic former protégé of Ric Flair had caught fire in Tennessee with the Fabs, a gimmick that clicked with fans of all ages. Women adored the Fabs for their looks and style, while the men backed them because they were cocky yet tough/intense enough to back it up. And early ’80s kids like me admired the team because Keirn and Lane were cool and funny—and we all loved doing the Fargo strut, which the duo emulated at the urging of their mentor. (My dad nearly swallowed his chewing tobacco when I performed the strut after blocking a penalty kick as a goalkeeper during one of my soccer games in 1982.) Really, the Fabs were like rock stars—and tales of their infamous exploits in Lane’s van seem to back that up.

Lane and Keirn were so over with me in 1983 that I wore a silk-satin red jacket with “The Fabulous Ones” stitched on the back to show my support. (Hey, I was only in 6th grade, so cut me some slack.) One of my most embarrassing moments as a young Memphis mark: I was in class wearing the jacket when I sneezed loudly one day. My teacher deadpanned: “Wow, class, Scott even sneezes like a Fabulous One.” The laughter of my classmates hit me like Keirn going after Moondog Spot with a 2’x 4’. The horror.

Although Lane would really shine later with Eaton as his partner in the Express, his bouts while tagged with Keirn were above average most of the time. The two didn’t have the timing made famous by the MX; however, the Fabs’ brawls with the Sheepherders (Luke Williams and Jonathan Boyd) and the Moondogs (Randy Colley and the late Larry Booker) were outstanding, with incredible psychology. Ricky Morton could sell, as could Bill Dundee. But Keirn wasn’t that far behind…a true master in getting the fans behind him. Besides, Keirn was a willing bleeder, which fit the Elder Double J’s booking philosophy just fine: young, good-looking babyfaces who bled buckets in putting the heat on the heels.

In one of the most memorable angles ever in Memphis, the ‘Dogs ripped apart the sacred sequined jackets bestowed upon the Fabs by Fargo. When Keirn and Lane tried to intervene, they were assaulted with the cosmic canines’ oversized bones—the two pretty boys bled all over the studio floor as girls in the WMC-TV5 studio cried around the Mid-South area…literally. (And no, smartasses, I didn’t shed a single tear…but recall I was pretty steamed.) Following the commercial break, seasoned-pro Keirn, bleeding, blurted out that the Fabs were “pissed”—definitely a no-no for the time. Still, it was tremendous television.

It’s true that the Road Warriors had a tremendous impact on the business in the ’80s, but the Fabs were just as influential, making it cool to be a young tag team and inspiring performers like the Fantastics, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and countless others—even Mike Rotondo and Barry Windham took to wearing top hats and gloves to the ring in Florida at one point. As huge as the Rock ‘n’ Rolls became on the national stage, fans in Memphis always viewed them as the B-team. More than anything, the Fabulous Ones took the image of the babyface idol to another level—almost like the James Deans of tag-team wrestling.

Ironically enough, promoter Jerry Jarrett’s original plan was to have Keirn and Lane turn heel on Fargo after about six months, take Cornette as their new manager, and then feud with Lawler and Dundee. This explains why Fargo issues the disclaimer before introducing the two prior to the Billy Squire MTV-style video to “Everybody Wants You” that helped get them over initially: “If they ever don’t do what I say, then I’ll have to let ‘em go.” But the Fabs got over so huge that the plan was aborted—and Cornette was stuck with Jesse Barr and Apocalypse (journeyman Mike Boyette saddled with a lame gimmick). That footage of Fargo was, of course, used against Stan and Steve when they eventually left Jarrett’s territory for Verne Gagne and the AWA, which led to the ill-fated introduction of the New Fabulous Ones, Tommy Rich and Eddie Gilbert.

Nine years after the initial plan was laid out, that same footage was again resurrected in 1991, when Cornette became finally became the manager of the Fabs after all those years and turned heel on Lawler in a desperate bid to spark dwindling attendance. Around this time in ’91, I made my debut in as a referee; I was only 19.

Nine years in the making: The Fabs eventually drifted to the dark side, with manager Jim Cornette leading the way.

The first bump I took in the business was at the hands of the heel Fabs. Before the televised bout at the WMC-TV Studio, I listened attentively with Brian Lawler and Tony Williams, the New Kids (and you thought the New Fabs gimmick was lame) as Cornette went over the finish: I’d catch Keirn piledriving Tony and call for the DQ. Keirn would then lay me out and they’d attempt to give Tony another dose of the near-lethal hold before Lawler made the save. Tony later told me that after I left the room, Keirn joked, “I’m gonna knock that yuppie on his ass.” (The boys always ribbed me for wearing a starched Polo button-down, my fraternity pledge pin and Timberland shoes when I refereed—but it paid off later when I shifted to the evil rich frat-boy from Germantown gimmick.) One of my proudest moments ever in the business was when Cornette insulted me on the air during the bout: “Who’s this referee … Beaver Cleaver?” I was so young and skinny back then I could have passed for 16. When Keirn hit me with a stiff forearm, I sold it huge—I could almost hear my Pike fraternity brothers at the nearby University of Memphis campus exploding with laughter. Even after Tony had made it his feet after the piledriver, I remained on the canvas until Lawler picked me up—I’d already seen a few greenhorns been abused for not selling properly.

Condrey and Eaton were very good—but Lane and Eaton were great. While Condrey and Eaton were superb ring technicians, they were pretty vanilla personality-wise, relying on Cornette as a mouthpiece to provide some flash. Lane added some much-needed pizzazz to the team, a good-looking playboy who fit the bill as “The Gangster of Love.” Lane and Eaton took teamwork to a new level, perfecting such finishing moves The Double Goozle, the Flapjack, the Veg-O-Matic and the MX classic finisher, the Rocket Launcher. More than anything, Lane provided a nice contrast to Eaton, who did his talking in the ring. And when Lane and Eaton faced off with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, it was the often the epitome of tag-team storytelling. No wonder they kept stealing the show on WCW cards as late as the early ’90s and continued to have 4-star bouts together in the mid-’90s as part of Cornette’s Smoky Mountain territory.

expresscover

Express delivery: Eaton and Lane delivered NWA World and U.S. tag title reigns to Mama Cornette.

Cornette’s must-read book covers the incarnations of the Midnight Express as only he could, with intriguing insight into the history of the team and their documented drawing power as an attraction in Mid-South and for Jim Crockett Promotions. I’m assuming Cornette will eventually produce a biography, which has the potential to be one of the best books ever on the business thanks to his record-keeping and apparently sharp memory. The MX scrapbook easily has more interesting info about the mid-’80s JCP period than just about any book I’ve read, even booker Dusty’s bio, although that’s not exactly shocking.

Cornette also chronicles his dealings with former WCW head honcho Jim Herd, arguably the most incompetent man ever to run the company—which is saying a lot. Reading about the ineptitude of Herd and others at WCW is almost enough to give me a headache. (Yes, Cornette confirms that Herd did in fact pitch the Hunchbacks gimmick—a tag-team whose shoulders couldn’t be pinned to the mat because of their humps.)

Other material in the book includes actual letters from irate fans, Apter magazine/program reprints and sections on MX ribs (pranks), and lawsuits filed against Cornette and the team. The book also highlights some of the manager’s classic one-liners, including “J.J. Dillon’s had so many facelifts, he’s got nipples on his chin; they had enough skin left over to make a midget. His Social Security Number is 1.” and “Louisiana reminds me of Darwin’s waiting room.” (One of my personal faves regarding Dusty’s younger sibling didn’t make the list: “They used to call Dusty’s sister ‘Federal Express’ ‘cause when she went to a guy’s house she absolutely, positively had to be there overnight.”)

All that said, the book badly needs an editor. If the stories and information weren’t so fascinating, I would have had a difficult time getting past the countless basic grammatical errors and the layout of the book. Really, the presentation reminds me of a local promotion’s attempts at a magazine or photo book in the ’80s—though in a way, I guess that fits Cornette just fine. (Yeah, yeah, I know—my KFR blog isn’t exactly state of the art, either.) I hate to quibble about that, as I’m such an admirer of Cornette’s, but I can only hope his eventual biography will be a more polished final product.

Pick it up today at www.cornettescollectibles.com.