Posts Tagged ‘The Rock ”n” Roll Express’

Kayfabe Code-Breakers: The Fabulous Ones and The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express

February 26th, 2010 4 comments

Beltmaker Neal Snow of All-Star Championship Belts (with an assist from Suicidal Philly Sports Fan), continues his mock-ups of Apter mags that threaten to break the Kayfabe code.

When an unknown wrestler with apparently no background, experience or past calling himself “Harley Race” (frankly, it sounds phony) made his professional debut in the WWF in 1986, he was considered a longshot to win the Former Fed’s inaugural King of the Ring tournament. After dispatching former WWWF champion Pedro Morales (the original “Latino Heat”) to win the event, Race had the audacity to wear a crown and cape a la the very man who lifted the gimmick from Bobby Shane in the first place: Jerry Lawler. When the WWF invaded the King’s backyard for a show in Memphis, Lawler got a court injunction preventing Race from not only being billed as the King but also from wearing the royal regalia. (Lawler had a point, as WWF had been billing Race simply as “The King” in newspaper ads.) I believe the litigation stopped there, with Race allowed to be announced as King in every state but Tennessee. Vince and Co. were truly a royal pain in the arse to the struggling territories in the late ’80s.

Wrestling history might have changed–or least been delayed–had Jim Crockett’s Starrcade ’87 been cleared for more PPV markets; however, the WWF juggernaut put a stop to that. Vince mandated that any cable outlet that carried Crockett’s event could not broadcast his Survivor Series; coming off the heels of the wildly successful WrestleMania III, the cable companies caved, with JCP only getting a fraction of the clearance they had hoped for. Crockett was crushed, as he had been counting on PPV revenue to pay off the balances on several “balloon contracts” he had secured his top stars with. That was a shrewd move by McMahon; however, by this point, JCP and Dusty were their worst enemies with bad booking (Ron Garvin defeats Ric Flair for the World title and the dreaded “Dusty finish” at Starrcade that killed the Chicago market) and ballooning egos (to match those worthless contracts).

The healing power of the Von Erich Christian Coalition was legendary in the Apter mags; tragically, they couldn’t save themselves.

With good looks, MTV-style music videos, flashy outfits and the creative juices of Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler behind them, the Fab and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express knocked the socks of female fans in the Memphis territory, attracting a whole audience demographic: pubescent girls who had no idea had to please them. (Never you mind, Southern girls learn pretty fast.) While both teams worked Monday nights at the Coliseum, the promotion cleaned up on weekend spot shows, sending the Fabs (the A team) to one area on Friday and Saturday nights, and Morton and Gibson to the other. Think Beatle-Mania on a smaller, Southern scale. Even Paul, Ring, John and George would have been envious of the action the Fabs were getting in their van.

File under Apter mags

The Keith Richards of wrestling

November 18th, 2009 2 comments
(Boogie-woogie dance)hall of famer: Morton rocks as the Express keeps rolling at an ACW (Adrenaline Championship Wrestling) show last weekend.

(Boogie Woogie Dance) Hall of Famer: Morton rocks as the Express continues to roll at an ACW (Adrenaline Championship Wrestling) show last weekend.

While I’ve often sung the praises of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, I hate to see how Ricky Morton’s life has turned out. He’s long since pissed away the small fortune he earned as part of one of the hottest gimmicks of the Jim Crockett Promotions era on WTBS. In the last decade, the former teen idol also been locked up a few times for failure to pay child’s support, a debt reportedly as high as more than $60,000 at one point.

Relegated today to the indie scene, Morton still rocks the bandanas gimmick, often working “legends” shows in small gymnasiums in front of a few hundred fans—not exactly what I envisioned years back for one of the top workers of the ’80s. (Photos I came across of the ACW show that Morton appeared on last Saturday night make some of Randy the Ram’s appearances look like WrestleMania by comparison.) Sad part is, Morton can probably still work squared circles around a lot of the boys today. In his heyday, nobody could sell quite like Ricky Morton.

After watching Morton develop from a prelim guy in Memphis in the late 1970s to a superstar on the SuperStation, I recall telling a friend of mine in 1987 that Ricky would be wise to learn from the cautionary tale that is Tommy Rich’s career. After all, fame is so fleeting as a teeny-bobber heartthrob in the wrestling business. By the time I briefly became his manager in 1995, it was clear to me that not only was Morton unable to avoid the same pitfalls as Rich, he had dived in mullet first. During a drive from a show in Jonesboro back to Bartlett, Tenn., Gibson voiced his concerns to me over Ricky’s finances and state of mind, saying that Morton was so desperate for cash that he had pawned his half of the matching bracelets they had bought together to commemorate their NWA World tag title reigns.

Morton is supposedly writing a book, with the working title Sex, Drugs and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. (OK, that title kicks ass.) With the project, it sounds like Morton is owning up to his mistakes while trying to rememeber all the fun he had, so that could be one hell of a read.

Rock on, Ricky. Rock on.