Rock and Roll Never Dies: The Story of the Rock and Roll Express

From Ellbow Productions

We hear various soundbites putting over the Rock and Roll Express. Sound clips from the Mid-South, JCP and other places are used.

Robert Gibson tells of how his brother Ricky started to learn how to wrestle at the age of 14. Robert followed six years later.

The brothers both earned their due by selling programs and setting up the ring.

Ricky Morton’s dad started wrestling in the 60’s. He eventually became a ref, a promoter and ring crew member.

Morton’s dad would set up the ring in random parking lots, then charge zero admission. He instead rented folding chairs out of a truck for a quarter.

Gibson wrestled in high school and he knew he would be a world champion level wrestler.

The pro training was brutal and Robert would have to hide his tears as he biked home.

Morton’s early days was working for Nick Gulas. He was discovered by Jerry Jarrett and brought into Memphis.

The Gibson Brothers were also working in Memphis. Many of the moves Robert learned while with this tandem were later used for the Express.

Ken Lucas formed a team with Morton and became his teacher. Lucas taught Morton selling and psychology. The team traveled from Memphis to Texas to pursue fresh action.

Ricky Gibson ended up getting injured and Jerry Lawler pulled Gibson from Florida and Morton from Texas to form a new team in Memphis.

The Fabulous Ones had gotten over huge for Jarrett and Lawler and the Express were meant to follow in their footsteps.

Lawler and Jarrett had been having some disagreements and Lawler saw the Express as a team that could help him draw should he choose to divide the territory.

Jerry Lawler took over booking duties from Bill Dundee and that started Lawler angling towards possibly becoming a promoter as well. The two parties ended up mending fences soon after.

Jimmy Hart, Lawler, Morton and Gibson brain stormed ideas for a team name and R and R (Ricky and Robert) Express almost became their name before “Rock and Roll” was chosen.

Hart and Lawler both claim to have created the team. Hart was an ideas man and Lawler was the man who called the shots.

Tom Pritchard and Les Thatcher talk about the chemistry the Express shared.

Bill Dundee talks about how Glam Rock was popular among the youth and how the Express latched onto that genre.

The Express went to a flea market to get gimmicks for their apparel.

Gibson says they gelled right away as a team and worked their way up the card.

The Fabulous Ones had been positioned as main eventers, and the Express weren’t given as strong of a push as the Fabs.

The Express were better in the ring than the Fabs and attracted the young girls compared to the Fabs who had older fans.

Once the Express branched out to new territories, they were seen as a revelation and got over like gangbusters.

Bill Watts invited them to the Mid-South. Watts ran shows seven days a week.

With no highways, the guys had a brutal travel schedule over the large territory.

Bill Dundee left Memphis to become Watts’ booker and the Rock and Roll Express, Midnight Express, Buddy Landell and others went with him.

Eaton and Condrey give their versions of how they ended up working for Watts.

The influx of talent lead to Mid-South having their best financial year ever in 1984.

The territory was full of monsters, but Watts warned the heels to make the Express look good.

The guys never got stiff with them either as the Express were big draws and nobody wanted to lose money.

Magnum TA and Mr. Wrestling II feuded with the Midnight Express to get them over before the Rock and Roll Express showed up.

The Rock and Rollers feuded with Crusher Darsow and Nikolai Volkoff in order to put the smaller guys over the monster foreigners.

Watts made music videos to put the Express over, as well as getting them gigs on local rock stations.

Dundee compares the Express to Elvis Presley’s breakout success.

The Express was making so much money that they aborted their return to Memphis in order to stay with Watts.

The Rock and Roll Express and Midnight Express met for the first time during a TV Taping for the Mid-South. The feuds all intermingled and Watts, JYD and other teams all got a piece of the Midnight Express before the Rock and Roll got their big feud with them.

The Express vs. Express feud was full of excitement, high spots, twists, turns, big fan reactions and lots of money drawn.

The fans tried to attack the heels on a nightly basis. Cornette would have to sometimes manage from the ring apron because the fans were so out for blood.

Riots were broken up by the other heels because even the cops hated the Midnight Express and wouldn’t help them when the fans attacked.

The cops would find the heels outside of the arena while driving and make their lives as miserable as possible. Condrey was threatened to be put into a jail cell with a murderer for speeding because the local sheriff was upset that they had used ether to beat the Rock and Roll Express for the tag belts.

Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes saw both Express teams while touring Watts’ territory and they started to try and woo the tandems to join JCP.

JCP ran the same videos that aired in Mid-South to put the Express over. The Rock and Rollers ended up being over before they were ever in front of a live JCP audience and won the World titles their first night in.

Ivan Koloff says he knew they had to be good if Watts was using them on top.

George South talks about being a jobber in an early Express squash match and not knowing what to expect from the young high flyers.

Baby Doll, Koloff and Jimmy Valiant talk about how the title change was a LONG match that took up almost the entire hour of TV.

JCP aired on TBS and everybody became megastars off the TV.

The crowds were crazy loud for the Express vs. Express feud and the guys couldn’t hear one another from two feet away.

They set records all over the territory for money and fans being drawn. Some house shows were even put on closed circuit at a nearby arena because of demand for tickets.

The Express were out drawing the “A” shows that featured Dusty Rhodes, The Road Warriors, and Magnum TA.

Booker Dusty Rhodes was pissed that the Express was out drawing him.

Tommy Young talks about how Ricky and Robert drew fans that had never come out to JCP events before.

Young compares the Express vs. Express series to Flair vs. Steamboat.

Dennis Condrey had been on the road for 16 years and was burned out, so he quit. Stan Lane was brought in as a replacement and he fit the Midnight Express like a glove.

Rhodes tried to split the Rock and Roll Express apart and work singles matches against Ric Flair and others. Morton thinks he was trying to kill the Express off out of spite.

Morton claims that Rhodes wanted to make him the World champ after beating Flair but he refused because Gibson was going to be fired if Morton remained a singles worker.

Rhodes then went the other direction and pushed the team hard again with a “Super Summer Sizzler Tour” where the Express were going to hit a number of small towns on a tour bus facing off with the Andersons.

The fans filled small arenas to the brim night after night to see the Express. The undercard was largely weak but it didn’t matter.

The Express even filmed commercials for Hardees during this period.

They go over how crazy the ladies were for them during their hey day.

Magnum TA talks about how much sex he and the Express had with all the ring rats.

Morton talks about going to a bar with drugs everywhere, a big steel door to keep the public out, and a intergender bathroom with glass for walls so you could watch everyone go to the restroom.

The Crocketts sold Rock and Roll Express posters and fan club memberships for twenty dollars a piece. Supposedly JCP sold over a million subscriptions and only paid the Express twenty grand for it.

The Express were working nine days a week, and a lot of the money that should have gone to the wrestlers instead went towards the Crocketts buying planes and other such things.

Ricky and Robert got upset over the pay days, and Rhodes tried a power play against the Express and ordered them to job clean to the Powers of Pain. Around the same time Rhodes asked Morton to lose a hair match and Morton balked. One thing led to another and the Express were fired.

The Express went to the AWA right away, meanwhile JCP collapsed without the Express around.

Wahoo McDaniel was booking the AWA and called them in. The AWA was in too cold of an area in the US and they quit soon after.

Six months after being fired, JCP resigned them. That ended quickly. The Express floated around for a year and a half before going to WCW.

With a lack of a push behind them, the Express started to fade. Robert Gibson injured his knee and was out for months.

Gibson gets this part of the story totally wrong as he says the Express were World tag champs and still working for Crockett at the time of the injury.

Morton says WCW tried to kill him off by turning him heel and joining the York Foundation.

Morton got a big contract to agree to doing the heel turn. This split the Express apart for a while. Gibson was fired soon after recovering.

Smoky Mountain Wrestling reformed the Rock and Roll Express and got back into the groove of feuding with Jim Cornette.

Cornette admits the only three things that actually drew in SMW was The Express vs. The Heavenly Bodies, Tracy Smothers vs. Tony Anthony and Bob Armstrong.

The Express vs. The Bodies ended up making appearances on WCW and WWF PPVs.

We see a modern day indy show with a handful of people meeting the Express. It’s actually kind of sad to see them working in this little dumpy place after hitting the highs they did. I suppose you can look at it as coming full circle.

Final thoughts: For a Kickstarter produced documentary, this was overall fairly well done. Jim Cornette and others provided video clips that helped weave the tale as we went along. The clips did repeat a fair amount and some were shown out of context, but those are minor quibbles.

Written by Andrew Lutzke

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

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