Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: The Rock ‘n Roll Express Shoot Interview

Presented by RF Video
They start by covering the vast amount of areas the Rock and Roll Express worked in back in their prime.

Robert Gibson broke in six years after his brother Ricky entered the sport. Wrestling was his lifelong dream and he loves it.

Ricky Morton’s dad was a drill instructor and pro wrestler. Morton debuted at the age of 14 when he was traveling with his dad and the promoter needed a replacement.

Ricky Gibson teamed with his brother Robert for several years. The learning curb for Rob was rough as the boys worked him over to make him pay his dues.

Both men worked southern promotions. You had to know how to work back then because you worked in front of the same fans week after week. You had to keep the work looking realistic and draw the fans back for more and more.

Gibson formed a team for a few months with Bill Dundee, which he says was a good experience.

Jerry Lawler created the “Rock and Roll Express” tag team. Jimmy Hart and Dutch Mantel were also part of the creative process.

Lawler is a great guy but he had to be the boss and a friend since he helped run the territory. Lawler fired them a few times over the years but it was just business.

“The King” was fantastic. He drew big money in the same towns for 20+ years thanks to being a great worker and talker.

Jerry Jarrett owned the Memphis promotion. He was a fair man and took care of you if you drew money.

Robert formed a brief team with Stan Lane. Gibson just says it was short and fun.

Bobby Eaton worked in many of the same territories as the Express over the years. Eaton was a great worker.

Morton makes fun of George Gulas, a Tennessee promoter’s son who got a heavy push despite being terrible. Eaton was given Gulas as a partner in order to help hide his deficiencies.

The lack of physical size didn’t hurt the Express despite some promoters frowning on them for it. Ole Anderson liked big guys and didn’t understand how the Express were over.

Ole was not selling much for Ricky in a match, so Morton started bumping around like crazy. Ole got pissed off and asked what the hell he was doing, and Morton told him “Somebody’s got to bump!!”

Morton worked a while with Ken Lucas as a partner. Morton credits him with teaching him to work.

Tully Blanchard and Gino Hernandez were headlining in Texas and feuding with them was Morton’s first experience working on top of an area.

Morton also formed a team with Eddie Gilbert in the early 80’s. Gilbert was green at the time but the team worked well. Skandar Akbar and Buck Robley were bookers at the time. Akbar didn’t push Morton but Robley liked him.

Morton and Gibson were working in Oklahoma and Florida separately when Lawler called them up and told them his intention to make them a team. Memphis was running two separate touring groups and The Fabulous Ones were drawing well on one, so Lawler wanted to create another pretty boy team to use on the other squad.

Ricky and Robert had to put the gimmick together on the fly. A trip to a thrift store provided them with the bandannas which became a trademark part of their look.

The promotion built them up on TV and the Express were over right off.

The Express drew money in every Podunk town in the south while the Fabs got to work the bigger towns.

Randy Savage piledrove Morton on a table one night, which wasn’t a common bump in the least, making it probably the most memorable moment of the early days of the Express.

The Express vs. Savage and Lanny Poffo feud made Jerry Jarrett lots of money, some of it he even gave back to the guys. Not enough of it but….

Dutch Mantel is hilarious. Morton drove from town to town a lot with him. They ran into a pimp who was tweaking out on coke. The pimp saw Dutch and screamed “Dutch Mantel! Bad Motherfucker!” in between spasms. Morton found this amusing.

Mantel drew a bunch of money for Memphis in the 80’s. He had to hold up the territory while Lawler recovered from a broken leg during one period.

Bill Watts needed good looking young men to draw in the girls, so Lawler sent him the Express. The territory popped from the Express being on top and the Rock and Rolls stayed longer than planned due to all the money they were making.

Watts had a dress code, but they got to wear jeans thanks to their gimmick.

In a funny moment, Morton notes he has been talking for twenty minutes straight, he tells Gibson to answer this time, Gibson shrugs and says “I’m not sure what to say for that one” and Morton jumps in for another filibuster.

Jim Cornette had a gimmick as a pussy, but the constant attacks by fans on him forced him to learn how to fight.

The Rock and Roll Express feud with Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey is the best series of matches in the history of the Express.

Cards back then only had 4 or 5 matches, so the matches were way longer and guys had to know how to work.

Psychology is a lost art in the modern wrestling business. The fans should dictate how the matches go. Working 40 minute matches all week long teaches you how to work in a hurry.

Morton is scared of heights. The Rock and Roll Express/Midnight Express feud featured a series of scaffold matches in the Mid-South, so Gibson would rattle the structure to freak Ricky out.

The scaffold had a bunch of bolts exposed that cut Morton up one night, so the next night the guys assembling it pounded rubber over them. This caused it to be slippery and added even more danger to the guys working up top.

The scaffold was just a construction site version of the structure. There was no wires or extra support to keep it steady back then.

Hercules stopped to take a piss one night and left his car door open. A truck came by and ran into it, tearing it off. Herc had to drive to the next town with no door in the middle of winter.

The Mid-South territory was full of big guys. Watts told his guys they better sell for the Express if they know what’s good for them. Everybody in the locker room loved them for drawing so much money for everyone.

Ric Flair saw the Express working the Superdome mega shows in the Mid-South and told Jim Crockett to sign them NOW.

The Von Erich boys were flaked out drug abusers. Even when they were suppose to be headlining, guys would find Kerry and others all messed up in their cars.

Morton defends his rep as a drug user. He said everybody was doing drugs and “if I spent $250 on a speed ball, by God I’m going to snort it.”

Ricky buries Kevin Nash for being a big useless overpaid prick.

The Express’ best year was making $120,000. Nash was being paid thousands for being a lazy fuckface. Nash killed WCW by beating Goldberg for the sake of his own ego.

Chavo and Hector Guerrero were amazing workers and the Express loved working with them.

Chavo drew a bunch of money working against “racist” heels in California.

The Road Warriors sold for the Express, and they had good matches. Gibson considers them friends.

The Warriors were heels, so they had a separate dressing room from the babyfaces. The first match the teams had was done before they had ever even met each other.

Morton asks Robert why he’s not answering anything – Robert says “I can’t swear as much as you do.”

Ric Flair would give Morton extra money for having great matches with him.

Ted Dibiase and Dr. Death were facing the Express on the night that Jim Crockett came in to scout them and the heels made them look like a million bucks.

Crockett gave the Express double what they were making in Mid-South, the World tag titles on their first night in JCP and a prominent push on national cable TV.

They became rock stars and it changed their lives.

The undercard guys were making $2000 bucks a night while the Express headlined everywhere.

The fans were bonkers and it still gives Ricky chills remembering the chants.

WCW having so much talent and them managing to lose millions confounds Morton. The backstage politics and huge contracts killed the company.

Morton goes on a rant over WCW’s booking.

Ricky covers the heels that let him kick out of his finisher and made him look strong. WCW should have had guys willing to make stars, not worrying about being the star.

Ric Flair worked Morton nine times in one week, and every match was a one-hour draw.

Crockett flew the Express around on a private plane, which was one big party.

Scott Hall was a great worker who paid his dues.

Magnum TA’s accident really dampened the whole promotion. It was hard to see a friend suddenly not be around under such terrible conditions.

Rick Rude left JCP while tag champ. He took the title belt with him.

Ron Garvin deserved the World title run he had in 87. The Express took him out that night to celebrate. Anyone who knocks this run wouldn’t do it to Garvin’s face.

Rhodes ended up firing the Express in 1987/88. JCP was changing as Rhodes tried to keep the business floating while facing a sudden collapse at the gate.

Morton skirts around why they were fired by Dusty. (Morton refused to lose a hair vs. hair match.)

Verne Gagne wanted the Rock and Roll Express to an AWA contract, but it was too cold for Morton and he wanted none of that.

The Express feuded with The Rockers and the Nasty Boyz while the other teams were youngsters.

In a typical RF Video type of quality control moment, a pizza arrives and the Express start to eat even though the interview is wrapping up.

The Express worked the British Bulldogs one time only. They know it was a good match, but have never watched the tape back.

The Fantastics followed the Express in a lot of places, but they could never draw as well as the originals.

Verne Gagne didn’t pay the Rock and Roll Express for working at his SuperClash 3 PPV in 1988.

The return to WCW in the 90’s was way different as things were now corporate. In the Nitro era, WCW even had signs made to tell the crowd who to cheer for. The Express refused to use them because they could get over on their own.

Final thoughts: This was a rapid fire 90 minutes of straight talk, and a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. As a follow up to this, I’ll be covering the “Rock and Roll Never Dies” documentary in the next few weeks.


Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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