Bobby Eaton Shoot Interview
By Brandon Truitt
Jan 13, 2003, 17:30
This week's shoot is brought to you by OZ: Seasons One and Two, both on DVD for about $55 each at your local store.
The reason it is the sponsor this week is that I watched both seasons within a week instead of finishing the Paul Orndorff shoot interview and, therefore, I'm posting the Bobby Eaton one I was planning on holding back.
The Orndorff shoot should be posted next week. I've gotten about halfway through it and it's pretty informative, despite the fact that he has an ego comparable to Dusty Rhodes and Hulk Hogan.
While some old-school wrestlers are bad about the "Back in my day, we didn't have no 2 minute TV matches every Monday... We wrestled an HOUR at the show every night, did it twice on Sundays, and we didn't get a day off for three months!" shit, Paul takes it a bit beyond by trash-talking how all of today's guys work because of the highspot style that is used today. He must have conveniently forgotten that he was a member of WCW management when the Power Plant trainees were told that if they put a wrestling hold on someone, they'd get fired.
It also seems to me the only matches he's watched since he retired were the New Jack vs. Vic Grimes series because EVERY time he trash-talks guys he mentions people jumping off balconies.
He also claims that certain wrestlers, while good in the ring, only became legends in the 1990's because all of the "true stars" left the company.
Interested in knowing more about shoots? Drop me an e-mail, read the archives, buy me stuff, or
buy yourself stuff at the Wrestling Observer Store at Highspots.com.
Bobby Eaton Shoot Interview (Highspots Video)
As a note before we start, I’ll say that if I misspell any names, it’s because I’m not a big fan of the Memphis territory even though it’s produced many of my favorite wrestlers who saw success elsewhere.
The tape opens with a bad music video montage of the Midnight Express circa 1987, as it is the Eaton and Stan Lane version of the group, and is nearly 10 minutes long.
The interview opens with the standard question of how he got started in the business. He was always a big sports fan and would go to the matches in Alabama every Friday night and got to know the promoter, Gus Gulas, who was the brother of the famous Tennessee promoter Nick Gulas. Gus eventually got him on the ring crew and, between setting up and match time, they’d work out in the ring doing all kinds of crazy moves. He starts making jokes about how bad the truck was that they used to transport the ring with. One night, he came to the arena and found that one of the wrestlers had no-showed. Since the guys knew he’d been working out in the ring, they asked him if he wanted to wrestle and he jumped at the opportunity. They eventually started booking him more often until he was booked every day of the week.
Who were his favorite wrestlers growing up? Jackie Fargo, Al Green, Don Green, Lynn Rossi, The Interns with Ken Ramey, etc., who were just guys who got pushed around that time. He explains the whole Interns gimmick, as he says Ramey would go to the ref for the pre-match instructions then go instruct his Interns to do the exact opposite of what he’d been told. He puts over Tojo Yamamoto as a guy who helped him out by teaching him psychology and says they became very good friends. He mentions that he’d have liked to be a football player as well as a wrestler, but things just didn’t work out and his wrestling career just took off.
What was the locker room atmosphere like? It was very secretive. No one ever dressed together, etc. because kayfabe was in full effect. Tojo had told him that if he ever did something to sacrifice the business, there were guys who’d seriously mess him up.
Were there a lot of old-school people who thought “It’s all going to end!” once kayfabe started dying? Yes, and even today he doesn’t like to sit down talking with his opponent laying out their match that night with a bunch of people watching.
Where was the territory where he got his first big push? Mid-South in Louisiana, as Bill Watts had brought in him, Dennis Condrey, Jim Cornette to manage them, and Bobby’s father-in-law Bill Dundee as a booker in exchange for sending Jim Neidhart, Rick Rude, and a few other people who weren’t worth too much back then to Jerry Jarrett in Memphis. Bobby, Dennis, and Cornette as a group helped draw some of the biggest crowds in Mid-South as the Midnight Express against both the Rock and Roll Express and the team of Bill Watts and Stagger Lee (Junkyard Dog under a mask). He says that Cornette went crazy down there because “those people in Louisiana were insane.” He says that Watts didn’t say who was going to be the main event of his big Super Dome shows until the day of the show due to his TV airing on Saturdays. He feels that if the Midnights vs. Watts and Lee match had been promoted as that main event ahead of time, like most main events are these days, that they would have drawn even more money. (As it turned out, the Superdome was the only arena where the Midnight Express didn’t set the record gate because it BARELY missed the high mark set by the Junkyard Dog vs. Michael Hayes feud where the Freebirds “blinded” JYD with hair cream.)
Jim Cornette- He’d been a hanger-on in Louisville, where the Jarretts ran shows each week, and he eventually became a manager for them down in Memphis. He suggests that they talk to Cornette about setting up a shoot interview and offers to drive them there just so he can sit there and listen to it. (As it turns out, Cornette has done MANY shoot interviews over the years. I’d say that he’s done at LEAST four separate ones as an individual, as well as some fan-cam ones filmed at the Smokey Mountain Wrestling Fan Week Barbecues in 1994 and 1995. Of those, my personal favorites are the eight hour one done in late 2000 as well as the 1994 SMW Fan Week BBQ)
What were his early impressions of Dennis Condrey? It was a lot of fun working with him. They had a lot of chemistry and it showed in the ring. It made it easier for them to come up with ideas in the match when they worked together so well. They didn’t get on each others nerves by travelling together for so long because when they day was over, they’d both go to their homes and they wouldn’t hang out together. Dennis and Cornette had a LOT of arguments, though.
Bill Watts- Watts threw his hamstring out while kicking them when he came out of retirement to wrestle them. He got along with Watts’ sons very well. He doesn’t hold anything against Watts because he gave them a big push and it paid off VERY well. He jokes that he saved a lot of money there because he never had time to spend it, as Watts always had them on the road.
World Class- Bill Watts sent them to work for Fritz Von Erich in a talent exchange against their will. They had actually cut a deal with Dusty Rhodes and Jim Crockett to come in to Mid-Atlantic before they found out what Watts had in mind, so they were VERY pissed. As a result, they gave their notice the first night they were in World Class so they could move on to greener pastures in Mid-Atlantic soon thereafter.
Georgia- Because they’d had to cancel their earlier start date for Mid-Atlantic, Crockett sent them to the Atlanta territory (which was also owned by Crockett but run separately at the time) before they could come to Mid-Atlantic. Once Crockett decided to move everyone from Atlanta to Charlotte, Bobby decided he had enough of moving and bought a nice house there.
How did he meet his wife? One night, he was calling up Bill Dundee, his booker in the Jarrett’s Memphis promotion, and ended up talking to Bill’s daughter. Eventually, they started dating on the sly because Bill had forbade his daughter to date wrestlers. Once Bill found out, he told her “Well, if you have to date or marry a wrestler, at least it’s Bobby.” (As a rule, EVERYONE in the business loves Bobby because he’s an incredibly nice and humble guy in addition to being a good worker.)
How was Charlotte different than Louisiana? The Rock and Roll Express, their eternal nemesis, had come into the territory earlier than they had and had won the belts from the Russians (Ivan Koloff and Nikita Koloff) after a hot feud. Once they came in, they rekindled their feud from Louisiana and they all ended up making BIG money.
Did they ever get bored by being programmed against the same guys, in the same position, for so long? No, because it was easy and the fans loved it. He starts talking about how part of the tension between Condrey and Cornette was over how Cornette got a lot of the heat out of the three of them.
The Skywalker match against the Road Warriors at Starrcade 86- He’d been in a scaffold match in Tennessee before so he wasn’t freaking out too bad, but it was a higher scaffold than normal for the Skywalker match. He says that particular match probably killed off a lot of towns because you’d think that a guy would be dead after falling from so high, but they got up and wrestled again the next night. He talks about how he knew he and Dennis were going to fall off but that the office had decided late in the game to have the Road Warriors grab Cornette by his arms and legs and throw him off, hoping that Big Bubba Rogers (The Big Bossman) could catch him. As it turned out, Cornette just grabbed onto the edge of the scaffold and fell straight down, Bubba missed catching him, and Cornette SERIOUSLY screwed up his knees as a result. “He fell like one of those dummies on the Three Stooges”, so if the Road Warriors had tossed him off they’d have probably killed him.
They take a break here to show that Skywalkers match from Starrcade 86. They also show the Road Warriors pre-taped promo in which they go old-school David Letterman and toss pumpkins bearing the names of the Midnight Express off a building to show what will happen to them. The actual match is several minutes of stalling, both Midnights falling off, Paul Ellering chasing Cornette up, the Road Warriors tossing him off, then Cornette limping off into the sunset yelling in falsetto at Bubba. (In his own interview, Cornette says that Bubba, who had little experience in the business, misinterpreted “I’m shooting, I’m shooting.” as “I’m shitting, I’m shitting.” He didn’t realize that Cornette was really hurt until Cornette was able to muster up the strength to say “Bubba… CARRYMYGODDAMNASSOUTTAHERE!”)
Why did Dennis Condrey leave in late 1986? “Dennis let me out of the car one night and said ‘See you tomorrow’, then I didn’t see him for two years.” He says that Dennis never talked about why he left, so he figures that Dennis doesn’t think it’s any of his business. Stan Lane had been working in Florida around that time and Crockett had just bought the territory, so he was able to come in and be plugged in the spot Dennis left behind.
What are his memories of teaming with Arn Anderson and Steven Regal (William Regal)? He and Arn were a good team together and actually won the tag belts, but they never won a match after that. He and Regal had a lot of fun with the Bluebloods gimmick, as they brought them down to Florida and filmed a lot of vignettes where Lord Steven had to turn a redneck Bobby Eaton into Earl Robert Eaton. When the were in Los Angeles for Bash at the Beach 1995, they had a vignette exploring the city where they pointed out such landmarks as the Viper Club (where River Phoenix OD’ed), the corner where Hugh Grant got busted with a prostitute, and the late Nicole Simpson’s house. When they went to the Simpson house, there was still police tape up from the murder so, while Regal was talking, Bobby went up to a bush and pulled a knife out of it, got HUGE eyes, and put it back.
They then cut to the footage of the Bluebloods Go To LA vignette, which is the ONLY reason to actually watch that piece of shit pay-per-view Bash at the Beach 1995. They start out by going to “Grant’s Tomb”, the street corner where Hugh Grant got caught with a prostitute. Bobby then asks Regal if they could come back after dark and if he could borrow $20. They then go to the Viper Room. Next is the Bundy estate where Nicole Simpson died and Bobby looks in the hedge, pulls out a knife, throws it back in, and walks off. They then go to downtown Hollywood in search of Sir Lawrence Olivier’s stone on the Walk of Fame. They then end up back at the pub for drinks and badmouth the city. Not exactly comedy gold, but certainly worth a watch at least once.
Smokey Mountain Wrestling- Stan and Cornette left WCW abruptly in 1990 and Cornette went on to found SMW. Once Bill Watts took over WCW in 1992, he started a talent exchange agreement with Cornette and sent Bobby over for a few months. He puts over Cornette for running a territory in an area where wrestling isn’t seen as “sports entertainment” but rather as life. “There was a lot of fightin’ going on” due to the rabid nature of the fans.
Working in WCW as long as he had- He was one of the trainers at the Power Plant, but “Sarge” Dwayne Bruce was the guy who did most of the work. He mostly just worked tryout matches with guys they were interested in, including Bill Goldberg. Something happened and he’s not sure what, but he got released and figures that they were telling him in their own way that he wasn’t doing as good a job as he should.
Next is a break where they show a Lane and Eaton era Midnight Express video package to the tune of “The Boys are Back In Town” and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” amongst other songs.
Does he think his release was a surprise? Yes, it was a big shock because he’d been a company man and he’d been told that he’d have a job as long as he wanted one. It hurt his feelings more than anything, especially since it didn’t really hurt his budget.
Does he think that today’s top guys feel the business owes them a living? Yes, and he feels that’s the wrong attitude because, if anything, they should owe the business for giving them a living.
He’s having a lot of fun on the indy circuit because he’s allowed to go out and work a match with a young kid who’s into it rather than being given two or three minutes to make some green kid look good on TBS or TNT.
Had he heard about how Paul Heyman had wanted him to come to ECW badly but WCW hadn’t let them? Yes, and he’d worked there a few times but he doesn’t know why he was never allowed to. He’s tried talking to him lately but has never gotten a call back, and figures it may have to do with his current troubles. He has a bunch of Paul E stories, including one where Paul cussed out Ric Flair and was throwing around trash cans and so forth. Paul E even bit the head off of a squeegee guy while taking him to the hospital one night. He says that Paul E. had a short fuse and that Cornette was the same way. He says that Cornette talks a good fight but can’t do shit… he just gets HIM into fights.
Injuries- He’s fractured his fibia and tibia, torn up the joints around his collar bone, tore up his knees, etc.
They then cut to a US Tag Title match from Capital Combat 90, pitting the Lane and Eaton era Midnight Express against Brian Pillman and Z-Man (current Internet columnist Tom Zenk). Cornette is put into a cage at ringside. This is a good match but, due to time constraints and the low video quality of the match, I’m not going too in-depth on it. The finish comes as Stan gives Zenk an enziguri and Eaton rolls him up for the pin.
Ric Flair- What you see on TV is him. Nice guy. He IS the Nature Boy. Once night, Flair actually took a dive into a Whirlpool like it was a 12-foot swimming pool. He also threw great parties.
Dusty Rhodes- He was all right. They’re good friends, and he’s worked for him in Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling recently. One night, Dusty was wrestling Tully Blanchard and had him in the figure four when the Midnights rushed the ring. He threw BOTH Midnights and Cornette out of the ring while he was on the ground keeping Tully in the figure four.
Magnum TA- His car accident was a true tragedy.
The wrestlers in World Class- Kerry Von Erich was a good wrestler but did some weird stuff.
Road Warriors- Very stiff in the ring. You looked forward to wrestling them as much as you would to the Steiner Brothers.
Junkyard Dog- He just did what he could do, which was pretty limited, but he was successful.
Why do you think that WCW business hit a wall in the late 80s / early 90s? The storylines were terrible and when you combine that with business already being down, it wasn’t pretty. He can’t even remember many storylines from that time, so that shows how memorable they were.
The nWo- Got along with them.
Eric Bischoff- He got along with him fine when he was just a peon calling the worst WCW show, so he didn’t have problems with him when he became his boss.
They then cut to another Midnight Express video package, although this one includes both Eaton and Condrey footage as well as Lane and Eaton footage. It’s to the tune of “Money for Nothing” amongst other songs. I wouldn’t have a problem with these being on here if there was just one of them, but THREE of them taking up about 10 minutes each is a bit much. Also, as Cornette says in his own interview, these videos which were cutting edge then are now “GAY AS SHIT.”
The WWF vs. WCW- Everyone knows what’s going to happen in WCW but ANYONE can win in the WWF. For example, if they put him in there with Lex Luger, people may know they’ll get a good match but they already know the outcome.
Midnight Express (Lane and Eaton, with Cornette) vs. Barry Windham and Ric Flair, with JJ Dillon. This is from Clash of the Champions 4: Seasons Beatings. Windham comes in as the US champion and Flair is the NWA champion. This is a GREAT match but, like in the case of the Midnights vs. Z-Man and Pillman, I’m not going to do an extended play by play. During mid-match, Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) starts cutting a promo on Cornette and his “fake” Midnight Express to build the match between them and Paul E’s Original Midnight Express (Randy Rose and Dennis Condrey) at Starrcade 88. Eventually, Windham picks up the pin on Eaton after Flair waffles Eaton with one of JJ Dillon’s shoes.
Do any of the young guys out there impress him? He likes all of him, but he especially likes Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Dean Malenko, “Pretty much all the guys WCW got rid of.” He knew that Benoit was going to be a big star because he’s great in the ring and people will like him no matter what he does. He feels that Eddy is a natural heel and will do well in the WWF.
Working with the Luchadors- They paired him up with Rey Misterio and the other ones after they got tired of wrestling each other all the time. He said it scared him a bit wrestling with Misterio because it was like trying to wrestle his 17-year old kid. He feels that Rey was over more while he was still under the mask, which the WWF definitely felt when they brought him into the company about six months ago.
Tag matches vs. singles matches- “I can come up with good ideas in a tag match, but I suck at singles matches.” I think it’s a product of him being a tag guy for so long that he’s become great at it, while he’s only had a few abortive singles pushes.
The WWF- He’s never wrestled there, although he had a few chances to go there. He enjoyed being at home to see his kids grow up as well as getting guaranteed money from WCW, so he never took them up on their offers. He understands why WCW would want to release him but wishes they’d given him some notice that he was going to be leaving. He agreed to be enhancement talent because he was under the impression that he guaranteed a job and that, if he put over guys that the company was going to use to draw money, it would be beneficial for the company as a whole for him to do it. Unfortunately, being a good company man ended up getting him released.
Does he have anything he wants to say to the fans? He just wants to say he appreciates the support he’s gotten from the fans over the years and that he’d like to continue entertaining them.
We then get a final video package to Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” and the Rolling Stones’ “Gimmie Shelter”. I will say this much… whoever made these videos for Crockett and/or Turner sure knew how to pick music. I just wish they’d done one of these to the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Unfortunately, this shoot is just like everything people have said about Bobby Eaton over the years… he’s a great wrestler and a nice guy, but very bland. In addition to that, this is a pretty short tape (2:40 running time, although probably 1:30 of that is matches and video packages).
On the plus side, though, you get some pretty good matches on here that are a pain in the ass to find these days, as it’s hard to come by a LOT of the good pre-nWo WCW matches. Even if you don’t get the interview, try and find copies of the Midnights vs. Pillman and Z-Man match from Capital Combat 90 and the Midnights vs. Flair and Windham match from Clash of the Champions 4: Seasons Beatings.
Very slightly recommended, and that’s mostly for the matches.
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