In celebrating Bobby Eaton’s belated birthday (yesterday, May 14) here are a few thoughts about a tag team great.
[adinserter block=”1″]Arn Anderson once said that if Bobby Eaton ever concentrated on singles competition, he would be one of the best wrestlers of all time.
Ironically, Eaton never jumped into singles wrestling full time and Anderson may have been the greatest singles competitor in wrestling history to never hold a world title.
There have been many cases of wrestlers who never took that shot and ventured out on their own as singles competitors, so we will never know how good they could have been. Eaton falls in that category. So does Ricky Morton. Shawn Michaels proved he could be great at both. So did Steve Austin and Ricky Steamboat.
Eaton originally teamed with Dennis Condrey and, later on, with Stan Lane. He has also worked with a number of other tag team partners, including Koko B. Ware, Steve Keirn, and “Lord” Steven Regal.
In his career, Eaton wrestled for extended periods of time for various wrestling promotions: Mid-America Wrestling, Continental Wrestling Association, Mid-South Wrestling, World Class Championship Wrestling, Jim Crockett Promotions, World Championship Wrestling, and Smoky Mountain Wrestling. He has also made brief guest appearances for Extreme Championship Wrestling and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
In addition to appearances for a considerable number of independent wrestling promotions over the years. He currently performs part-time, teaming with either Lane and/or Condrey under the Midnight Express name.
Soon after Eaton joined Mid-South Wrestling under promoter Bill Watts, he became part of the Midnight Express. Eaton teamed with former rival Dennis Condrey under the management of Jim Cornette to form a new version of the tag team. The Express had previously been a group of wrestlers consisting of Condrey, Randy Rose and Norvell Austin, but with Eaton’s arrival, the Midnight Express worked exclusively as a two man team. To complement the nickname “Lover Boy” Dennis, Eaton was nicknamed “Beautiful” Bobby, a nickname he still uses when wrestling. At first, The Express was booked in an angle with the Mid-South Tag Team Champions Magnum T.A. and Mr. Wrestling II.
The highlight of the angle saw Eaton and Condrey tarring and feathering Magnum T.A. in the middle of the ring. The Express first won the tag team title when Mr. Wrestling II turned on Magnum T.A., attacking him during the title match and allowing Eaton and Condrey to win the title without much opposition.
With Mr. Wrestling II and Magnum T.A. splitting up, the Midnight Express needed a new team to defend their newly won title against. They began a long series of matches against The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) which ran well into the 1990s and spanned several wrestling promotions. The two teams feuded throughout 1984 in Mid-South Wrestling before the Midnight Express left the promotion. The Midnight Express versus Rock ‘n’ Roll Express series of matches were so well received by the fans that independent promoters all over the United States still book those two teams against each other today, 20 years after the rivalry started.
In 1985 Eaton, Condrey and Cornette signed with Jim Crockett Promotions and were given National exposure on JCP’s televised programs on SuperStation TBS. Shortly after joining JCP, the Midnight Express reignited their feud with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and won the NWA World Tag team title from them in February 1986. During the course of their heated angle, Eaton and Condrey lost the title back to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express six months later. Eaton and Condrey also had long running feuds with The New Breed (Chris Champion and Sean Royal) as well as The Road Warriors (Animal and Hawk). The feud with the Road Warriors included a high profile Scaffold match at Starrcade 1986, which the Midnight Express lost.
When we discuss great tag team wrestlers, where should we rank Eaton? He and the likes of Ricky Morton are at the top of the list, but where? Are they better than Shawn Michaels? Does he compare with Bret Hart, a tag team specialist who left the division to win world titles? Is he in the same ballpark of the Hardy’s, Jeff and Matt, or the Dudleys or even Edge and Christian? All these performers became singles stars.
I saw Eaton in two singles matches in the late 1980s or early 1990s (not sure when) against both Anderson and Kevin Sullivan. Eaton, who was never an Adonis of any kind and looked more like he belonged in the trailer park (6’ and 230 pounds with a really bad mullet), was a mat technician. Hold, counter hold, and arm bar, drop kick. Dory Funk, Jr. would be proud. While Stan Lane may have been the more flamboyant of Eaton’s tag team partners and Dennis Condrey the silent stand-in, it was Eaton who was the better part of the team.
[adinserter block=”2″]When you look at video of the past, forget the bad body image, the mullet and the color pink. Jim Cornette did wonders to help Eaton’s career along. But when it comes right down to it, Eaton as an old school wrestler, a high – effort guy who understood the business. There aren’t many today who would remain loyal to tag teams (The Usos). The fact Eaton, Morton and others did was a testament to how much they respected the business.
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