For any fan out there who is not familiar with the old-school NWA, then I have two words for you.
The glory days of Jim Crockett Promotions may be in the rear view mirror, but they are not forgotten, especially by this fan.
I spent most of my childhood watching the best wrestling promotion in the world, featuring some of the greatest talent the business has ever known.
The Nature Boy Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, The Rock & Roll Express, The Four Horsemen, Ivan and Nikita Koloff, The Road Warriors, The Midnight Express and the list just keeps on going. This was the cream of the crop in the wrestling industry, and each worker gave everything they had to the fans who paid to see them night in and night out.
Long before Vince McMahon coined the phrase “sports entertainment,” the NWA was an entertaining sport, delivering high drama, and intense action, to fans all over the world.
With the recent announcement of the Horsemen into WWE’s Hall of Fame, I found myself reflecting back on those days and found that, despite how many have been honored over the years, some continue to wait their turn.
Here are just a few.
Jim Ross has historically been hailed as the voice of WWE, and for very good reason. But when it comes to Jim Crockett Promotions, there was Gordon Solie, and Bob Caudle.
Gordon has, of course, already been inducted, and rightfully so. His voice provided the backdrop for many great moments in the company, and Georgia Championship Wrestling is all the more memorable because of his work.
But for me, Bob Caudle did just as much to endear fans to the NWA product and make it very worthwhile to watch.
Bob represented the average fan. His voice was easy and did not distract from the match he was calling. His verbiage was simple and his delivery was straight and to the point. He made fans feel connected to the workers he interviewed, and his voice is so recognizable that once you hear it, you don’t forget it.
These days, commentators are physically attacked, insulted and made to look ridiculous on the air. For Bob Caudle, he had an air of respect and professionalism about him that simply would not fit into WWE’s idea of how to present its announce team talent.
Bob was a classy commentator whose work made the NWA even more important and more highly regarded. He is an announcing legend and should be recognized as such.
Now, this is a tag team.
Beautiful Bobby Eaton, Loverboy Dennis Condrey, Sweet Stan Lane and Ravishing Randy Rose are the four men most closely associated with the Midnight Express team. Eaton and Condrey, and later Eaton and Lane, are perhaps the two best known versions of the Express.
The first two that I remember seeing were Bobby and Dennis.
Highly skilled and highly efficient, Jim Cornette’s Midnight Express were meticulous in their ring work, with no wasted movement to speak of. When the bell rang, they were all business, and to watch one of their matches was to see what tag team wrestling is all about.
To watch them take on the Rock & Roll Express was to watch a clinic on tag team wrestling. In fact, if you didn’t know a thing about tag team wrestling, or are too young to remember the days when it did matter, then these two teams can teach you everything you need to know.
When Dennis left the team, and was replaced by Stan Lane, my first thought was, “Oh no, the band is breaking up.”
But then I saw them working together, and they produced a career’s worth of number one hits.
I cannot end this particular slide without going back to Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton, two men that I had the pleasure of working and hanging out with in an independent promotion some years back.
The Rock & Roll Express more than did their part to earn the acclaim they have been given over the years, and I would love nothing more than to see them on the Hall of Fame stage with the men of the Midnight Express.
Chief Wahoo McDainel was a no-nonsense type of wrestler, an old-school worker who gave as good as he got in the ring.
He was one of the best ring technicians on Jim Crockett’s payroll, and when he wrestled, it was hard to take your eyes off of him.
He was just a tough guy, hard as nails from a pro football career in which he had a huge fan following. The same fans who chanted his name in those days, likely followed him when he made the transition to pro wrestling, and he never made them regret it.
Wahoo was one of those guys who a promoter wished he could clone and fill his locker room with. He was that good, not only physically, but psychologically as well, as he had a great head for the business.
You know the chop that Ric Flair has utilized for the majority of his career, so much so that despite who throws one in the ring, the crowd almost always responds with a big “Whoo”?
Wahoo gave him that chop. When I hear that crowd response today, I do, of course, think of Ric.
But I also think of Wahoo. He was one of the best.
How are The Fabulous Freebirds not in the Hall of Fame?
No one can argue their contribution to the business. No one can argue their love of the sport. And no one can argue with the undeniable swagger and style they brought to every promotion they worked for.
Michael P.S. Hayes, Terry Bam Bam Gordy and Buddy Jack Roberts were the baddest of the bad. They were cool, and they knew it.
The fans knew it, too.
Despite how much the crowd booed them, the truth is that many of them loved what they saw, because they recognized what the Birds were doing in the ring and for the business.
The Freebirds brought Rock & Roll to the table. And it has been there ever since.
They lived the lifestyle, both in and out of the ring. Their gimmick was not a gimmick—it was them, all day, every day. Fans knew that when they paid to see the Fabulous Freebirds, they were getting the real deal.
Jimmy Garvin cannot be left out of this equation, as he did join the group later, in which he and Hayes worked as a duo for the most part. Garvin was another fun-loving guy who also deserves some recognition for what he gave to the business.
The original three, however, are the ones that fans, both young an old, are still talking about to this day.
First, the answer.
Now for the question.
Who’s the man who nearly overcame WWE and could have kept Vince McMahon’s company in the mid-to-low visibility range for the duration of its existence?
For those of you who immediately said Eric Bischoff, understand that while Eric was so focused on ratings during his stint in WCW, all Crockett was ever concerned with was making money.
The difference may not be so obvious. But the truth is that Crockett made money because he had the best talent in the world sitting in his locker room. Ratings did not count for all that much, but selling out arenas did.
His primary focus was not obsessing over WWE and what they were doing on a weekly basis. His concern was with growing his own business and putting out the best possible product that he could.
And for a great while, Vince could not keep up.
Sadly, however, bad business decisions eventually caused the end for his company and led to Jim selling out to Ted Turner, who created WCW.
The rest of that story, of course, is history.
For Jim Crockett, his legacy is still very much intact as one of the most successful wrestling promoters of all time. He accomplished quite a bit with NWA, and now it’s time to stand up and recognize him for his hard work during those years.
If anyone deserves the monkier of wrestling legend, it’s Jim Crockett.
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